There’s a handful of decisions to make when crafting candles; to vessel or not, to scent or not, natural or synthetic wax, and so on.
Choosing a wick is one of the most critical decisions. The common options are wood wicks and cotton wicks, and you obviously want the better one for your candles.
So, are wood wicks better than cotton wicks? Wood wicks are not better than cotton wicks nor is it the other way round. Each wick has its unique properties that are suitable for different consumer preferences.
Your choice will be pegged on certain variables including the type of wax you use, the jar size, your budget, the purpose of the candle, and so on.
If you’ve always wanted to learn more about wood and cotton wicks, it’s your lucky day. In this article, we’ll compare wood wicks vs cotton wicks, their pros and cons, and how to choose between them.
What Are Cotton Wicks?
Cotton wicks need no introduction as they are the traditional wick. The very first time you encountered a candle, it was likely a cotton wick candle.
The cotton wick is usually a cord of braided cotton threads and may contain paper or other fibers at the core.
The cord is often waxed to support an upright posture. Still, it remains flexible and requires some tools to hold it straight while pouring wax.
It can be rather finicky to set for first-timers, but it is not hard once you get the hang of it. Unfortunately, once the wax melts into a pool, a flexible cotton wick could curl or lean, causing a potentially dangerous candle.
A cotton wick is easy to light and has a characteristic tall bright flame. It burns hotter, pretty cleanly, and doesn’t need much maintenance as it is self-consuming.
Sometimes though, if the wick becomes too long, it may mushroom, causing the production of soot. Mushrooming is when carbon builds up at the tip, and the wick must, therefore, be trimmed using scissors or clippers.
The blackness of soot is not only an unpleasant sight, but if it is a scented candle, it also interferes with the aroma.
Getting your hands on cotton wicks isn’t a challenge. They are readily available as there are a ton of cotton wick manufacturers and distributors.
They come in a wide array of sizes with small increments. So if you are a beginner in candle making, you must experiment reasonably across a series of sizes to find the right one.
The good news is cotton wicks can be purchased for next to no cash. You get so much for so little.
They are sold in packs and if you divide the number of wicks by the price, it comes to something like $0.10 or less a piece.
You must beware that not all cotton wicks are 100% cotton. Most especially if your candle-making business is built on eco-friendliness, or you are making candles for personal use or gifts and are worried about toxicity.
Some cotton wicks have synthetic cores, and even metals like lead or zinc that prevent the wick from being consumed too quickly. However, these components can produce harmful gases when burnt.
Let’s round all this up to the pros and cons.
Pros Of Cotton Wicks
- Very cheap
- Hassle-free lighting
- Low maintenance
- Bright and resilient flame
- Works regardless of the type of wax
Cons Of Cotton Wicks
- Flexible, may curl/lean after wax melts
If you’d like to see a tutorial on making candles with cotton wicks, watch this video from SoyYo Candle on YouTube.
What Are Wood Wicks?
After the cotton wick dominated the candle market for many decades came the fancier option —wood wicks. Wood wicks are a fresh and trendy alternative that screams sophistication.
Wood wicks are slabs (or tubes) of dry wood with fine measurements, usually between 0.30-0.75 inches wide. Thickness varies as well, with the maximum being .04 inches.
They are popularly made from balsa, cherry, maple, rosewood, or birch, but there are many types of wood wicks.
The wicks are set at the candle’s center to soak up melted wax as fuel and burn, similar to cotton wicks. The difference is in setting them.
Crafting with wood wicks is such a breeze since they are rigid and need no centering tools to hold them still. Not that securing cotton wicks is an extremely difficult task, but a no-tools process is certainly admirable.
Besides, wood wicks stay centered and upright even after the wax melts. On the flip side, relighting a wood wick can seriously test your patience, mainly because folks are familiar with igniting cotton wicks in one go.
With wood wicks, it is not as straightforward. Because they are denser, you may need up to four attempts and some babysitting to get it lit.
When lit, a wood wick flame burns lower and neater than its counterparts. Being a fussy to light couple with a low flame, it is best for an indoor setting candle where there’s little or no movement or wind to put it out.
The extensive width variety of wood wicks makes them great for broad diameter jars to prevent tunneling. The lower and wider flame creates the needed wider melt pool.
After considerable burn time, a wood wick begins to char and may leave ash on top of the melt pool.
Charred wicks should be trimmed (usually after every use) by breaking off the darkened part or using clippers. Maintaining a length of about 1/8th of an inch is standard practice.
You must note wood wicks are wax picky, and that different wood wicks work best with specific kind of wax. Wood wicks generally perform best in natural waxes and natural blends. Only single ply wood wicks behave well in paraffin wax.
If you think wood wick candles are attractive, they have a lot more to offer than style. The wick burns with whispering or crackling sounds that many find appealing.
Also, wood wicks, when used with scented wax, offer a slightly better scent throw than cotton wicks. Since the flame burns lower and smolders, it warms up the entire wax allowing it to gradually release aroma and not burn it off rapidly as cotton wicks do.
Wood wicks are still a novelty and not as readily available as cotton wicks. They are yet to hit many local retail stores. Perhaps because only one US company has the patent to produce them and others have entry constraints due to stringent patent laws.
Being produced from a sole source, hunting for them can turn out to be a tall order. At the same time, wood wicks are comparatively expensive, which is expected with scarcity.
This reflect on the high price tags put on wood wick candles. The wicks are thereby preferred for making high-end candles that will fetch a good return on investment.
100% natural wood wicks are both a sustainable and eco-friendly option. Notwithstanding, some wood wick suppliers may treat them with borax, artificial oils, or other chemicals to improve the quality of the flame.
It is best to research the purity of wood wicks as well as cotton wicks you intend to buy if the thought of harmful gas emissions bothers you. Any treatment or components should be organic.
Pros Of Wood Wicks
- Rigid, no need for clips while setting and stays centered
- Even and clean burn
- Great scent throw
- Elevates value of candles
Cons Of Wood Wicks
- Difficulty relighting and staying lit
- High priced
- Few distributors making them hard to come by
- Struggle with some types of wax
- Inconsistent results
For a tutorial on making a candle with a wooden wick, take a look at the video below from Cosy Owl on YouTube.
Which One Should You Choose?
As a budding candle connoisseur, you can see that the choice of wick determines the type of candle you will make. It also influences the end-users experience and even costing among other things.
Having looked at the qualities of both wood and cotton wicks, it should be easier to decide which one to choose.
This side-by-side comparison should get you even a step closer.
|Characteristics||Wood Wicks||Cotton Wicks|
|Aesthetic||Unique and modern||Simple and traditional|
|Sound||Pleasant whisper or crackle||No sound|
|Wax compatibility||Natural or natural blend waxes||All types of waxes|
|Burn time||Slow||Fast, but can be slowed down by keeping the wick short|
|Ease of setting||No tool setting||Requires a wick bar, clip, or other wick centering tool|
|Ease of lighting||It takes several tries to ignite||Ignites in the first instance|
|Maintenance||Regular and precise trimming to remove char is necessary to stay lit||No maintenance needed to stay lit at whatever length|
|Availability||Very exclusive and available only from select suppliers, thus scarce||Readily available online and in local craft stores.|
So which is the best wick for you?
Choose cotton wicks if you are:
- Looking for simplicity and good lighting over luxury
- Low on budget
- A beginner still experimenting with candling
- Using a variety of waxes
- Looking for consistency
If you are making simple candles to produce a warm, well-lit atmosphere without the fuss of regular maintenance, go with a cotton wick.
Anyone starting out with a low budget will also appreciate how affordable these wicks are. They are experimentation and cost friendly.
In addition, cotton wicks work well with all types of waxes, even synthetic ones like paraffin wax. They are also perfect for outdoor candles as the flame is more resilient.
Choose wood wicks if you are:
- Creating candles for a luxurious experience indoors
- Not constrained by finances
- Making scented candles
- Patient and don’t mind regular maintenance
- Pouring in wide vessels
If you are making high-end luxury candles rather than candles for mere illumination, go with the wood wicks. They are a timeless beauty and ambient.
The sounds produced evoke nostalgia, flooding memories of a fireplace. In addition, they also perform better at throwing scent, thus recommended for scented candles.
Wood wicks are also best when using natural and natural blend waxes. If you plan on making candles in wider jars, a wood wick would be perfect for creating larger melt pools.
Hopefully, this information will make you a much better candle maker as you can now choose a wick like a pro. Wood wicks vs cotton wicks, none is better than the other. It all depends on the variables.
Both have the potential to make fantastic candles, so if you’ve been longing to try either, go ahead and feed your curiosity. Happy candle-making.