A common complaint about candles is that they aren’t burning right. You finish work, go to light your favourite scented candle, and find that the wick is too short to light, or the flame is way too small. No matter how many times you try to relight the wick, it just won’t catch the flame. This is frustrating for the best of us, but there are a number of things you can do if your candle wick is too short.
When the candle wick is too short, the combustion process will not be complete. Incomplete combustion leads to an uneven flame.
Before we get into these things, let’s talk about why a candle wick burns out in the first place.
If the wick is too short for the candle, you will only get a small amount of wick visible above the candle wax. A tiny piece of wick is going to produce a small flame and will not let the wax fully melt across the diameter of the candle. This leads to something called tunnelling where only the wax at the centre of the candle burns, causing it to tunnel downwards instead of burning evenly across the top of the candle.
If the wick is too long for the candle, it can fall over or curl round. This affects the way the candle burns and makes the flame flicker a lot more than it should.
Your candle wick can break off if it has been burnt for too long because carbon builds up on the wick and makes it easily breakable.
What can you do if your candle wick is too short?
Burn the candle
The first option to try when your candle wick is too short is to burn your candle for 20-30 minutes and see what happens. The candle might sort itself out. Make sure to keep a close eye on the candle.
It’s important to let a candle burn all the way across the top when you first light it. If you blow it out before it reaches the full diameter of the candle, it will only ever burn down to where the first burn’s diameter ended. If this happens, you will end up wasting a lot of wax at the bottom of the candle.
Keep the wick upright
If the wick has simply fallen over, carefully lift it back into an upright position. You can use your hands or some tweezers. Be careful not to snap the wick as you do this.
Trim the wick
The candle wick should be around ¼“ long. If it is longer than this, trim the wick with scissors before lighting it. Be sure to regularly trim your wick and never burn your candle for too long.
Melt the wax
If the wick won’t light at all or if it has broken, melt a bit of the wax on the top of the candle with a heat gun and pour it out to create more room for the wick. You can also scrape the wax away near the wick when the candle is cool.
After you’ve done this light the candle and allow it to burn. At first, the flame will be messy, but over time it will calm down and burn more evenly.
Replace the wick
If you have tried the above options and nothing has worked, you could completely replace your candle wick. The wick is usually sealed in on the bottom and sometimes also at the top. It might take a bit of time to get the wick loose to pull it out. If that doesn’t work then you need to use a drill.
Carefully drill down the candle by the side of the wick. Remove the existing wick and place in a new one. Alternatively, you could remove the existing wick using this method, trim it down, and place it back into the candle.
If your candle wick is too short, don’t worry! You can still save your candle. Following these tips can save your candle hours of burning time, and means you do not waste a bunch of wax at the bottom of the candle.
Why is my wick breaking?
Wicks break if they are too long for the candle. As the wick burns, carbon builds up on the wick, which makes it more brittle. The material that the wick is made out of also affects how brittle the wick is.
What is the best type of wick to use?
I did a whole article all about how to make your own wick and the best materials to use. Most wicks are made out of cotton twine or wood, but you can use everyday items such as shoelaces. There are also a bunch of different pre-made wicks you can buy online.
If you want a standard candle, a cotton wick is a great material to use. If you prefer a more natural, woody scent, go for a wooden wick.
Why is my candle flame so high?
If the flame is high and flickering, it means the wick is too long for the candle. Make sure to trim the wick so it is no longer than ¼“ above the top of the candle wax. If this doesn’t work, replace the wick with a smaller one.
Why is my candle wick smoking?
This usually happens if you haven’t burnt your candle for long enough. If you burn it for lots of short burns, it leads to incomplete combustion. This causes the flame to produce soot, making the air smoky around the candle. Burning the candle for long enough will stop this from happening. Trimming the wick will also remove this problem.