Anyone who has burned candles for any length of time will most likely run across the dreaded drowning wick or two. I can tell as you read this…you’ve been there. You skip home, happy as a lark with your purchase in hand. You can’t wait to light that oh-so-yummy candle that you know will change the world. Well, your world at least. The flame dances high and you inhale all the goodness therein. But then, you notice the flame retreat. Oh no! Soon, the wick is nothing but a smoldering blue ember. The candle kiss of death. You scream. You cry. You blame yourself, the store clerk, your mailman…anyone who happens to be in your unlit path. You curse the candle gods and swear you’ll never waste your money again on such tom-foolishness.
While I feel your pain, all is not lost. There are some things you can do to regain the upper hand with this troublesome candle. Continue reading below for a few tips to get you started.
Mind your lengths
My suggestion when starting a candle is to not trim the wick on the first burn, unless the wick is unusually long (say an inch or longer). This will give you ample time to get a feel for how the wax will melt in relation to wax type and the wick size. If there is any black soot or an abnormally high flame, you can always extinguish the wick, snip a little off, and relight quickly (before the wax starts to harden). This tip applies to the first burn only – you should always trim your wick on subsequent burns. Of course, this tip is for drowning wick prevention. What do you do once the problem has started, or what if your problem is from another source?
Don’t Cry Over Poured Wax
If your candle wicks have started to drown, try pouring out some of the wax to bring those flames back to life. Carefully try to pour the wax out right after the flame has been extinguished. This helps get the most wax out from around the problem area. However, if you don’t have a cool spot on the candle to hold it, wait and let the wax gellify a little bit. You can still accomplish your task! Get a spoon and start scooping away. You want enough wax from around the wicks to give them a little more length. The next time you relight your candle, take care to look at the wick length and don’t automatically trim it. You actually want the wick to be a little bit on the longer side so that the melted wax doesn’t come and wash away your flame. If there is ash on the wick tip, you do want to clip that part off, because it won’t burn properly in any case.
Do not try putting that wax back into the candle jar later – you’ll snuff out your wicks again. That wax does not have to go to waste, however. Whenever I have to do this, I pour my wax out into a bowl that goes on a wax warmer. That way, I can enjoy the scent as a wax melt at a later date.
Depending on how bad of a problem you have on your hands, you might have to do the pour-out two or three times in order for it to “take.” Unless you have a really crappy candle, though, this trick works most of the time.
Q it up
I’ve posted before about using the Q-tip as a method to save a drowning wick. You can read that full post here, but in essence, you’re attempting to remove some excess wax as in the pour-out trick, but on a smaller scale. Dip that Q-tip into the wax melt pool to soak up some of the wax. It gives your wick more length and you should notice a boost in your flame. This trick works most of the time for me.
Check the perimeter
Did you start out with a candle tunnel, and then notice your drowning wick a few burns in? It may be that the wax on the sides has started to melt, runs down into the “well,” and overcomes the wick. You’ll be fighting a losing battle here. Don’t try the foil trick or any other method to fix your tunnel at this point. The best course of action would be to remove the wax that has built up on the sides. You can carefully use a scraper to get that wax off the sides, or you can use a tool such as The Candle Scoop (read our review of the Candle Scoop here). Keep your wick a little on the long side, and you might have to combine this trick with a pour out.
If you have your drowning wick candle sitting in a beautiful candle holder or a vent lid on top, try changing it up a bit. Remove the candle from the hurricane or even take off the vent cap. In a candle holder or hurricane, the amount of oxygen getting to the wick is impeded somewhat. Allowing the wick full access, so to speak, may be just the spark that struggling wick needs.
Don’t be afraid to dig
You can dig a new little well around your wick, so that more of the wick is actually exposed upon relight. There are some candle saver tools you can purchase to do just this, or you can use something relatively sharp like a pair of scissors. If you use this method, try to focus more on width than depth. While you do want more of the length of the wick exposed, you don’t want it sitting so far down in a deep well that it will just drown again as soon as the wax melts. Start small and see if that helps. You can always extinguish the flame and try to take out a little more if at first you don’t succeed.
These are just a few of the handy tips I’ve learned through the years. Sometimes one trick will do, sometimes it will take a variety of combinations. But most often I can fix the problem if I just toil away at it long enough. Truthfully, I don’t always have the patience, and I sometimes just end up sticking the entire candle jar on a warmer.
Do you have a trick for drowning wicks?
Happy candle burning ~
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