Candle wick

The piece of string in a candle which burns when lit.
For other uses, see Candlewick (disambiguation).

Wick of a candle
Candle wick in a candle

A candle wick or lamp wick is usually made of braided cotton that holds the flame of a candle or oil lamp. A candle wick works by capillary action, conveying (\"wicking\") the fuel to the flame. When the liquid fuel, typically melted candle wax, reaches the flame it then vaporizes and combusts. The candle wick influences how the candle burns. Important characteristics of the wick include diameter, stiffness, fire-resistance, and tethering.

Dipped candles hanging by their wicks

History of the Candle Wick

Wicked candles initially started to be used by ancient Egyptians in 3000 B.C. Wicked candles were assumed to be made by waxes from available plants and animals in this time period.


Fine wire (such as copper) can be included in the wick. This provides two advantages: it makes the wick more rigid, letting it stand further out of the liquid wax, and it conducts heat downward, melting the wax more readily. The latter is particularly important in candles made of harder wax.

Stiffeners were once made of lead, but these have been banned in the US for several years by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, due to the concerns about lead poisoning. Other core stiffeners, such as paper and synthetic fibers, may also be used. The CPSC was petitioned to ban candle wicks containing lead cores and candles with such wicks by Public Citizen, the National Apartment Association, and National Multi Housing Council on February 20, 2001. The ban against manufacturing, importing, or selling candles in the US with lead wicks became effective in October 2003.

Pretreatments of wicks

Virtually all wicks are treated with various flame-resistant solutions in a process known as mordanting. Without mordanting the wick would be destroyed by the flames and the flow of melted wax to the flame would cease. Beyond that, wicks can be treated with substances to improve the color and brightness of the flame, provide better rigidity to keep the wick out of the melted wax, and improve the flow of that wax up the wick. Common treatments are borax and salt which are dissolved in water in which the wicks are soaked.


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