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One of the most important components of a

candle is the wick. The wick is the fuel (candle


wax vapor) delivery system to the flame that
allows a candle to burn. Before we explain how
candle wicks burn, we will share with you the
history of candle wicking. We will finish this class
by helping you choose the correct wick for your
candles.

Egyptians made a form of candle wick by taking


fibrous reeds, called rushes, dipping them in
animal fat, and lighting them. Since these rushes
were fibrous in nature, they allowed the fat to be
absorbed by the plant and provided the fuel that
the flame needed to keep the rushlight lit. Years
later, the Romans created an improved wicking
system by loosely weaving fibers together. This
provided for longer burn time, with the function
of the wicking remaining the same.

Modern-day wicks are tightly woven or braided threads of cotton or other fabric
material; sometimes including a core (cotton, paper, zinc). The woven material of the
wick is then treated with a chemical solution to make them flame retardant. This
process is called
mordanting. Wicks are made fire retardant so that the fuel (the wax) travels up the
wick, forms a vapor fuel and the fuel is burned. If the wicks were not made fire
retardant, the wicks would burn themselves out before the wax of the candle could be
used as fuel. Some candle wicks include a core that the threads are woven around;
providing the wick with the ability to stand up. By the way, candle wicks made in the US
do not contain lead. Lead core wicks were banned in the US back in 2003.

Before wicks are used, they typically undergo a


process called priming. Priming involves dipping
the wicking into wax. You see, when the threads
of a wick are woven, there can remain very tiny
air pockets within the threads of the wick.
Priming simply fills in those air pockets. It is
important to understand that a candle wick is
considered primed after being in contact with
melted wax for approximately 5 minutes (which is
long enough for the air pockets to escape).
There is no need to coat a wick with massive
amounts of wax when priming. The fuel of the
candle actually comes from the candle wax of the
candle traveling up the wick to the flame, not
from the wax used during priming. Candle wicks
are assembled using machinery, so there will be
times when wicks will have more priming wax on
them, and times when they have less wax on
them. This extra wax, or lack of does not affect
the performance of the wick burn. It is the woven
fibers of the wick that determine proper burn
time.

Once wicks undergo priming,


they are then tabbed.
This involves placing one end of the wick into the
hole of a metal wick sustainer tab and then
crimping the tab of the wick sustainer. This
attaches the wick tab to the wick. Wick sustainer
tabs allow wicks to stand up in candles. Wick
sustainer tabs typically come in the following
sizes: 20mm, 15mm, and 30mm self-centering.
The size of the wick sustainer tab refers to the
diameter of the wick tab.
The neck size of the wick tab, which typically is
3mm, 6mm, or 10mm in height, controls how far
down the candle will burn; extinguishing the wick
before it hits the very bottom of the candle. This
helps prevent candle glass from getting too hot
and potentially breaking.

When choosing the proper size of wick for


your candle, please understand that as the
number on the wick size goes up, so does
the area it is capable of melting when burning.
Example: A CD-10 wick will burn a smaller
diameter than a CD-12. A zinc core 44-24-18z
will burn a smaller diameter than a zinc 51-3218z wick.
Using the proper size wick is very important!
In the event that you use too small of a wick,
your candle wax will not burn all the way
across your candle, and you may not have
sufficient scent throw. If you use too large of a
wick, your candle will burn too fast, and you
will have increased mushrooming (carbon
build up) on your wick.

A burning candle is an example of a chemical


reaction between three major elements: oxygen,
hydrogen, and carbon. The wax in a candle is
composed of atoms of hydrogen and carbon.
When the wick is lit, wax begins to melt, and the
carbon and hydrogen atoms move up the wick to
react with the oxygen atoms in the flame.
Actually, the flame you see on a candle is proof of
a chemical reaction of carbon and hydrogen
atoms with oxygen. The heat from the wick
causes the carbon and hydrogen atoms to break
apart, and combine with oxygen to form a gas.
This is called pyrolysis. You will notice that the
flame of a candle is different colors. The blue part
of the flame is the hottest part of the flame. The
flame is blue because of sufficient oxygen being
provided in the reaction.

You will have an excessive number of carbon


atoms that group together to form soot. Since
soot is black in color, it easily absorbs heat; and
this heat allows them to glow. It is these carbon
molecules that create the yellow, orange, and red
colored portion of the flame. When soot particles
glow because they are hot it is called
incandescence.
Ultimately, a burning candle gives off water vapor,
and carbon dioxide (the very same gas we exhale
when we breathe).

Over the past decade, there has been a steady climb


in the sales of soy wax candles; claims being made
that soy wax candles are somehow better for you
than paraffin candles.
Putting aside all bias and focusing on science alone
will allow us to make the following conclusions:
1. All waxes are primarily hydrocarbons, whether
the wax is of animal, vegetable, or petroleum origin.
The chemical composition of all waxes used for
candle-making is similar.
2. All waxes produce a yellow flame due to the
presence of carbon.
3. No specific type of wax or wax blend is
considered "best" for candlemaking. All candle
waxes - when provided in high-quality format - have
been shown to burn cleanly and safely.

4. No candle wax has ever been shown to be toxic or harmful to human health.
5. There is no such thing as a soot-free wax. All organic compounds when
burned will emit some carbon (soot) due to incomplete combustion.
In fact, we all experience small levels of carbon in our air everyday simply by
cooking our food. It would be ridiculous to tell people to stop cooking their food
to avoid carbon in the air. How about carbon dioxide- the air we all exhale?
Should we all stop breathing to prevent putting this carbon in the air? It is time
for science and common sense to unite!

The science behind a burning candle is important to understand because for a wick to
perform effectively, it is reliant on other components of the candle. Some fuel sources
will easily travel up the wick and produce the fuel vapor needed to keep the wick
burning (refined paraffin wax is a good fuel source). Other waxes, such as soy wax, will
require a larger wick to allow for pyrolysis to occur. That is why at Natures Garden, we
suggest that candle makers wick-up when making vegetable wax candles.

Other candle components that affect the efficiency of the burning wick are fragrance
and coloring. Fragrances are composed of a combination of essential oils, resins, and
other aromatic chemicals (ketones and aldehydes). Some of these fragrance
ingredients will easily travel up the wick and react with the oxygen, others do not
travel up the wick as easily. Each component of a fragrance oil has individual flash
points (the temperature at which its vapor will combust).

When a fragrance oil contains higher


levels of heavy base notes, such as musk,
vanilla, amber, the candle may require a
larger wick to allow for pyrolysis to occur.
Lighter, lower flash point fragrance
components will easily travel up the wick
and burn.
Special care should be taken when using
citrus type fragrances that have a low
flash point. If the wick size is too big, it
may cause the citrus fragrance to give off
a petroleum aroma instead of a citrus
aroma. Using too big of a wick with low
flash point citrus fragrances can also
create a fire hazard; causing the entire top
of the candle to ignite.

Coloring can also affect candle wicking.


Candles require the use of dyes
specifically formulated for candle making.
Any coloring that contains water or
glycerin will not work in candles. Color
pigments, mica pigments, and titanium
dioxide do not work well in the interior of
candles. These pigments clog the candle
wick; causing increased smoking and
potentially causing your candle wick to
stop burning. If these types of pigments
are used during candle making, they are
used only for coloring the outside of the
candle by dipping the candle. Crayons are
an example of color pigments suspended
in a wax medium. It is never a good idea
to color your candles with crayons as
suggested by some media sources.

There are literally hundreds of types of wicks you may


choose for wicking your candles. Most of the wicks on the
market are made from braided or knitted fibers that allow for
a slow, consistent burning candle.

Candle wicks are typically one of the following types of


wicks (provided by the national candle association) :
Flat Wicks. These flat-plaited or knitted wicks, usually made from three bundles of
fiber, are very consistent in their burning and curl in the flame for a self-trimming
effect. They are the most commonly used wicks, and can be broadly found in taper
and pillar candles.
Square Wicks. These braided or knitted wicks also curl in the flame, but are more
rounded and a bit more robust than flat wicks. They are preferred for beeswax
applications and can help inhibit clogging of the wick, which can occur with certain
types of pigments or fragrances. Square wicks are most frequently used in taper
and pillar applications.
Cored Wicks. These braided or knitted wicks use a core material to keep the wick
straight or upright while burning. The wicks have a round cross section, and the use
of different core materials provides a range of stiffness effects. The most common
core materials for wicks are cotton, paper, zinc or tin. Cored wicks can be found in
jar candles, pillars, votives and devotional lights.

At Natures Garden, we offer several


varieties of wicks based on our own
successful testing.
HTP wicks- These wicks are created with a flat
braided cotton fiber design, but also have paper
fibers contained with the braid. These wicks provide
a cleaner burn, controlled curling, and self trimming
capabilities. Typically used when a hotter burn is
necessary. Used with all types of waxes.
Zinc Core Wicks- These wicks are made with a
cotton fiber braid, surrounded by a zinc core. Zinc
wicks are known for allowing wicks to stand up in
applications, and are thus frequently used in
container candles. In the event that you are using
vegetable waxes for your candles, you will want to
wick up on the size of your zinc core wicks, as they
do not burn as hot as other varieties of wicks.

CD Wicks- These wicks are a flat braid wick composed of cotton with special paper
woven around them. These wicks provide excellent capillary action. CD wicks provide a
hot burning wick and provide for significant rigidity. These are our favorite types of
wicks here at Natures Garden. Used with all types of waxes.
Hemp Wicks- These braided wicks are made with natural fibers of hemp instead of
cotton. Hemp wicks provide for a hotter burning wick and increased rigidity. Used with
all types of waxes.
Wooden Wicks: Composed of wood, these wicks provide 100% rigidity in candles.
These wicks do not require any type of trimming, produce no mushrooms, and allow
for a fast melt pool.

To help you choose the best type/size wick for your


candle applications, please visit our wicking chart.
We provide this chart simply as a guide. It is not
meant to be a substitute for your own testing. Testing
is your responsibility. In addition, Natures Garden
offers sample packs of our wicks for you to try prior
to committing to larger-sized packs of wicks.

Thank you for your patronage


and support over the years!
Due to this support, Natures
Garden has become the largest
distributor of fragrance oils in
the USA; serving more than
80,000 customers! We could
not do any of this without YOU!
42109 State Route 18
Wellington, OH 44090
1-866-647-2368
1-440-647-0220 (fax)
www.candlepro.com

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