What Is The Part That You Light The Candle Called?

Candles are a common household item used for lighting, decoration, and fragrance. They consist of a wick surrounded by wax, which acts as fuel for the flame. When the wick is lit, the heat of the flame melts the nearby wax into a liquid that is then drawn up the wick through capillary action. This wax vaporizes and ignites at the flame to release energy in the form of light and heat. The key components that make up a basic candle are the wick and wax.

The Wick

The candle wick is the part of a candle that you light in order to burn the candle. It is a specially designed string that sits in the middle of the candle wax and absorbs the melted wax, bringing it up to the top of the wick. When you light the wick, this creates a small flame that melts more of the wax to fuel the flame (Nuhrhome, 2022). The wick serves as a continuous fuel source for the flame and allows the candle to burn evenly down until it’s gone.

person lighting candle wick with match

Wicks are typically made of braided cotton, but can also be made of paper, wood, or silk. The wick needs to be stiff enough to stand upright when embedded in the wax, while also being flexible and absorbent. It acts as a pipeline, drawing the liquid wax up to the top using capillary action. This allows the melted wax to vaporize near the flame, helping sustain the burn. Without a proper wick, the candle would tunnel or form a cavity rather than burning evenly.

Purpose of the Wick

The primary purpose of the wick in a candle is to allow capillary action so that the fuel (wax) can travel up the wick and be burned. Capillary action refers to the ability of a liquid to flow against gravity in narrow spaces, and relies on the adhesive intermolecular forces between the liquid and the surrounding surface. In a candle, the wax melts into a liquid state due to the heat of the flame. The melted wax is then drawn up the wick fibers via capillary action. As the wax reaches the flame, it vaporizes and combusts.

Without a wick, the melted wax would simply pool at the bottom of the candle and no combustion could occur. The wick provides a continuous flow of fuel to sustain the flame. The size and material of the wick determine the rate of capillary action. Cotton and paper are common wick materials, as they provide excellent capillary action for wax. A properly sized wick is crucial for controlling the size and brightness of the flame.

Location of the Wick

The candle wick is located at the top center of the candle. According to Candle wick – Wikipedia, the wick protrudes from the top of the solidified wax or fuel to allow easy lighting, and to draw the fuel up to the flame by capillary action during burning.

Without the wick in place, it would be very difficult to light the candle, as the wax itself does not readily sustain a flame. The wick provides a continuous source of fuel to keep the candle burning. It brings liquefied wax up to the flame as the heat melts the top layer of wax.

Most candles have the wick centered in order to promote even burning across the top surface of the candle. A centered wick helps prevent tunneling, which is when the wax burns unevenly around the sides of the wick.

Wick Materials

Candle wicks are usually made of braided cotton. Cotton makes a good wick material because it has a natural stiffness that allows it to stand upright in the wax or oil. The braided structure also promotes an even burn. According to this source, cotton wicks are “widely used and highly regarded for their clean burn and excellent capillary properties that soak up wax and disperse heat”: https://smellscandle.com/blogs/news/what-are-candle-wicks-made-of-everything-you-need-to-know

Other materials like wood, paper, and fiberglass can also be used for wicks, but cotton is the most common. Cotton’s natural properties make it ideal for delivering an even, consistent flame in candles.

Wick Sizing

Choosing the correct wick size for your candle is crucial for proper burning. The general rule is that larger candles need thicker wicks. This allows more wax to melt at the top of the candle and prevents tunneling, where the edges get too hot and melt faster than the middle.

Use a wick sizing chart like the one from Candleers to determine the right thickness. Measure the inside diameter of your candle container and match it to the recommended wick size.[1] For example, a 2-inch diameter container would need a CD or ECO 10 wick.

Beeswax and soy wax candles often require a larger wick because these waxes are harder than paraffin. Refer to manufacturer guidelines, but you may need to go up 1-2 sizes on the wick chart.[2]

Testing is key – try making candles with different wick sizes to determine the best fit for your wax type, fragrance load, and vessel size. This will ensure proper melt pool size and burn time.

Trimming the Wick

Trimming a candlewick before every use is very important for optimal candle performance.1 Keeping your wick trimmed to 1⁄4 inch (3mm) will help the candle burn cleaner and prevent excess sooting.2 Trimming also allows for an even, consistent flame.

Always trim the wick while the wax is in a solid state, not while burning. Use sharp trimmers designed specifically for wick trimming to get a clean, straight cut.

With a neatly trimmed wick, you can expect optimal wax pooling, reduced mushrooming, and a cleaner burn with less soot and smoke.

Lighting the Wick

The wick is the part that you light to start burning a candle. According to instinks.com.au, “Every candle has a wick. This is the part that you light with a match or lighter to get the candle going.”

To properly light the wick:
– Hold the flame against the tip of the wick until it ignites and starts glowing red. Be patient as it may take a few seconds to catch.
– Try not to let the match or lighter flame touch anywhere else but the wick so you don’t create additional wick points that will cause the candle to tunnel or burn unevenly.
– Make sure the wick is trimmed to 1⁄4 inch before lighting. Long wicks will produce more smoke and sputtering flames.

For candles in jars, jackpotcandles.com recommends angling the match alongside the wick if it is hard to reach down into the jar. The flame just needs to make contact with the wick to light it.

Once lit, let the wax pool and melt completely across the top before extinguishing the flame. This will help the candle burn evenly next time.

Wick Maintenance

Proper wick maintenance is key for optimal candle performance and to prevent issues like tunneling. As the candle burns, the wick will get longer and may start to bend over into the melted wax or mushroom at the tip. This can lead to an uneven flame, smoke, or the candle going out.

For best results, trim the wick to 1⁄4 inch before lighting for the first time and prior to each burn after that. Using scissors or nail clippers, carefully snip off any excess charred portions of the wick. This helps the wick stay upright and burn properly. According to Wharfedale Candle Co., “Keep the wax pool clear of wick trimmings and matches, as debris in the wax can act as a secondary wick, encouraging your candle to tunnel.”

With periodic trimming, you can promote full wax pool melting, minimize smoking, and make your candle last longer. Allow the wax to fully harden between burns before trimming the wick.


In summary, the wick is an essential component of a candle that serves several important functions. The wick works by drawing up melted wax via capillary action and ensuring an even, controlled burn of the candle. It is located in the center of the candle and made from materials like cotton, wood, or paper that don’t burn too quickly. Proper wick sizing relative to the candle diameter helps prevent issues like tunneling. The wick must be trimmed to an optimal height before lighting to promote complete melting and an even flame. Lighting the wick starts the combustion process that melts the wax to fuel the flame. With regular trimming and maintenance, the wick enables the candle to burn cleanly and safely.

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