We know... the anxiety surrounding wick choices is probably a thought that keeps you up into the wee hours of the night. No? Hmm... must just be us, then. Whatever the case, there is much debate in the candle making community on which kind of wick is better, ranging from maintenance to burn ability and everything in between. Since we both acknowledge and understand the controversy surrounding appropriate wick materials, we've decided it’s best to shed a little professional light on the pros and cons of both. This way, you can weigh the differences and decide which wick works best to solve your candle woes! (now, try saying that ten times fast... we’ll wait.)
First, let’s determine which wicks you may currently have in your candle collection. The easiest way to tell is by using a couple of your senses— sight and touch (or taste if you’re into that sort of thing). Cotton wicks are typically white in color and have a fine coating of wax around them. Cotton wicks are also very bendable, making it easy to pinch between your fingernails. Wooden wicks are usually a shade of brown when unused and (not surprisingly) feel like wood— hard and unbendable.
Okay, now that we’ve pinpointed our wick materials, let’s dive right into the pros and cons of both, shall we?
The Wooden Wick
Let’s start with something nice and sturdy. Wooden wicks are typically marketed as “crackler candles” because, when lit, they have a pleasant fireplace-esque vibe. (charming, no?) Another upside to this wick choice is the stronger scent and burn time. Wooden wicks burn much more slowly than cotton which heats the wax of the candle differently and more evenly. Instead of burning, wooden wicks allow the wax to melt, meaning you get a stronger-smelling, longer-lasting candle. They’re also a bit cleaner, with less sticky black residue left over after each burn. (great for candle-loving clean freaks!)
As much as we love the idea of a candle being melted to it’s full, glorious-smelling potential, wooden wicks have some drawbacks, too. The first being how frustrating they can be to relight. Cotton wicks, no matter how many times you use them, relight very easily with a plethora of different kinds of flame (lighters, tapers, matches, etc.). Wooden wicks, however, are a bit more persnickety. After it’s first light, you’re looking at around 20-30 seconds of holding a flame to the used wick to get it lit again and almost never with a match alone.
Another downside is their intolerance for breezes of any kind, which can be irritating on days you really want a fresh breeze in your home. Since now we know how long it can take to relight them, you can imagine how frustrating it would be to have your candle extinguish right after you finally got it burning.
The Cotton Wick
One of the biggest pros people assign to cotton wicks is their low maintenance, which is why they are (literally) the core of all our famous Kalamazoo Candle Co. candles. Being made of braided fabric, they are incredibly easy to trim and relight no matter how many uses they’ve had. Another pro to a cotton wick is their ability to stand up to any kind of airflow or breeze, making them great for outdoor candles or even those days where you have your windows open.
For those of you who are interested in making candles of your own, you’ll appreciate the cost effectiveness of cotton wicks compared with their wooden counterparts. There are more purchasing opportunities for cotton wicks and, if you’re looking to make a lot of candles, keeping your cost low on your wicks gives you a chance to get better wax or higher-quality fragrance oils. (#protip)
This all sounds pretty great, right? Well, for every pro there must be a con (that’s science... or philosophy... one of them). A downside for some people is that cotton wicks can get messy. Because they are fabric, you’ll notice that your wick will create a kind of black, ashy mushroom as it burns. Yes, this is easy enough to snip off, but it does leave some residue that some find less than appealing. Since cotton wicks are our preference here at Kalamazoo Candle, we highly advise that you dip your wick to extinguish the flame, rather than just blowing it out. This cuts way down on the ash residue and keeps your candle much cleaner.
Another issue people report is that these cotton wicks produce taller flames than woody ones, which can burn up the scent of your candle more quickly. If you’re the type of person who loves to leave your candle burning for hours at a time (guilty), you may notice that the next time you light it the smell is a bit fainter. (Yes... cotton can be rude that way) Not to climb up on our soap box again, but here goes. Proper wick maintenance can keep this from being your issue. Keep those babies trimmed down to about 1⁄4 inch to help reduce the high flame and keep your candle burning low and slow.
So, now you know, and can properly weigh the pros and cons of your wick choice prior to purchasing that candle you can’t live without. We hope that we’ve done our due diligence in educating you on which wick will work best in your home but, honestly, we can appreciate both! Of course, the next step is to understand how to properly care for your wick... and we’ve got your back on that, too. Check out our Candle Burning Tips for the ins and outs of candle care to help you get the most out of your favorite Kalamazoo Candles! Missing the necessary candle care tools? No sweat. From wick trimmers and dippers, to lighters and warmers, our Accessories Page has it all.