Paper Wicks Explained: A Must Read Guide

In the world of candles, the choice of wick is as important as the choice of wax. Among the variety of wicks available, paper wicks have gained increasing popularity due to their unique properties and benefits. They are known for their sturdy structure, clean burn, and ability to work well with a range of waxes. But what exactly are paper wicks, and why are they considered an excellent choice for candle makers? This article delves into the world of paper wicks, shedding light on their construction, types, applications, and advantages. We'll also provide insights on how to choose the right paper wick for your candle needs. Let's embark on this enlightening journey.


Understanding Paper Wicks

With all of the different types of wicks available to choose from, it’s important to under stand what each wick type is as well as what their strengths and weaknesses are. Let’s dive deeper into paper wicks.

What Are Paper Wicks?

Paper wicks are specialized wicks used in candle making. They are typically made up of two components, an outer cotton braid and an inner paper core. The paper core provides the wick with a firm structure, allowing it to stand upright even when exposed to the heat of the flame. This makes paper wicks an excellent choice for candles that need a stable and consistent burn.

The paper core also contributes to the burning characteristics of the wick. It doesn't burn as hot as a pure cotton wick, resulting in a slower, more controlled burn. This makes paper wicks ideal for use with natural waxes, such as soy and palm, which have a lower melting point than paraffin wax.


The Role of Wicks in Candle Making

Wicks are fundamental to the functioning of a candle. They serve as the mechanism that transports the fuel, in this case, the melted wax, to the flame. As the wick draws up the wax, it gets vaporized by the heat of the flame and then combusted, producing light and heat.

The type of wick used can influence several aspects of the candle's performance, including its burn time, the stability of the flame, and the amount of smoke produced. For instance, paper wicks, with their slower burn rate, can extend the life of the candle. Their sturdy structure also ensures a steady flame, reducing flickering.

Furthermore, the compatibility of paper wicks with natural waxes also means they produce less soot and smoke compared to other wicks when used with these waxes, contributing to a cleaner burn. In this way, the choice of wick can significantly impact the quality and characteristics of the finished candle.

How Are Paper Wicks Made?

The process of making paper wicks involves several key steps. Firstly, a paper core is prepared. This is typically done by taking a sheet of specially treated paper and rolling it into a tight cylinder. This paper core forms the heart of the wick and is responsible for its unique burning characteristics.

Next, the paper core is surrounded by a cotton braid. The cotton is tightly woven around the paper core in a specific pattern that ensures the wick's rigidity and strength. This weaving process is crucial as it gives the wick its structural integrity and enables it to stand upright even in the heat of a flame.

Once the cotton is braided around the paper core, the wick undergoes a priming process. This involves soaking the wick in a wax solution which helps it burn more evenly and efficiently. After the priming process, the wick is left to dry before it can be used in candle making.

In some cases, the paper core might be braided in an uneven pattern. This results in a wick that curls as it burns, contributing to self-trimming characteristics. This is an optional step and is typically done for specific types of candles or for aesthetic purposes.

Overall, the process of creating a paper wick is a meticulous one, involving careful selection of materials and precise construction techniques. Each step contributes to the final performance of the wick, ensuring a slow, steady burn that is ideal for natural wax candles.

stacks of paper

Differentiating Between Paper Core and Cotton Core Wicks

Understanding the difference between paper core and cotton core wicks is crucial in candle making. While they may appear similar, their burn characteristics and applications can vary greatly.

Paper core wicks are designed primarily for use in candles that require a strong, supportive wick, such as votives, pillars, and containers. Their firm structure allows them to stand upright even when exposed to the heat of the flame, providing a stable and consistent burn. Additionally, the paper core allows for a slower, more controlled burn, making these wicks ideal for natural waxes like soy and palm.

On the other hand, cotton core wicks consist entirely of cotton fibers. They tend to burn hotter and faster than paper core wicks, making them suitable for candles made from harder waxes like paraffin. However, they lack the structural strength of paper core wicks, and hence, are not typically used in larger candle formats.

A Deep Dive into the Types of Paper Core Wicks

  • Paper Core Wicks: These are widely used for different types of candles, including votives, tea lights, and molded candles. They are made from a cotton outer braid surrounding an inner core made from paper, known for their rigidity and slow, controlled burn characteristics.

  • 36-24-24 Paper Core Wick: This is a specific type of paper core wick. The numbers typically refer to the dimensions or properties of the wick, such as its thickness, length, or burn rate.

  • Flat Braid Wick with Paper Threads (ECO Wick Series): This is a flat cotton wick braided with thin paper threads that gives the wick a rigid structure. It's an excellent choice for soy candles.

  • Zinc Core Wicks: While not entirely made of paper, these wicks have a core made of zinc, which is the most rigid among all cored wicks. However, they are sometimes surrounded by a cotton or paper braid for added stability and burn control.


    The Versatile Applications of Paper Wicks

    Paper wicks are a popular choice in the candle-making industry due to their versatility and adaptability. They provide a consistent and controlled burn, making them suitable for a wide array of applications.


    Paper Wicks in Votives, Pillars, and Containers

    One of the most common uses of paper wicks is in votive, pillar, and container candles.

    Votive Candles: Votive candles are small, often used for religious ceremonies or to create ambiance. Paper wicks are an excellent choice for these candles due to their controlled burning characteristics. They help ensure that the votive candle burns evenly and completely, maximizing the lifespan of the candle.


    a bunch of votives together


    Pillar Candles: Pillar candles are larger and often used as centerpiece decorations. They require a sturdy wick that can stand upright throughout the entire burn process. Paper core wicks, known for their rigidity, are ideal for this purpose. They maintain their structure even in the molten wax pool, ensuring a steady, consistent flame.


    a lit pillar candle


    Container Candles: Container candles, such as those in jars or tins, also benefit from the use of paper wicks. The rigidity of the paper wick helps it stay centered in the container, promoting an even burn and preventing the formation of tunneling or soot.


    a lit container candle


    The Compatibility of Paper Wicks and Natural Waxes

    Paper wicks are particularly compatible with natural waxes, such as soy, beeswax, and coconut wax. These waxes tend to have a lower melting point than paraffin wax, requiring a wick that burns at a slower rate to avoid excessive melting and pooling. Paper wicks, known for their slow, controlled burn, are well-suited to these types of waxes.

    Moreover, the rigidity of paper wicks can prevent them from drowning in the melt pool, a common issue with softer natural waxes. This makes them a popular choice among candle-makers who prefer using natural ingredients.

    The versatility of paper wicks makes them a favorite in the candle-making industry. Whether it's for votive, pillar, or container candles, or for use with natural waxes, paper wicks can enhance the burning experience and aesthetic appeal of candles.


    Advantages of Paper Wicks

    The use of paper wicks has several advantages, particularly in terms of environmental impact and candle making benefits.


    The Environmental Impact: Low Smoke and Clean Burn

    One of the most significant advantages of paper wicks is their low smoke production and clean burn. Unlike some other types of wicks, such as those made from metal, paper wicks don't produce black soot or release harmful substances into the air when burned. This makes them a more environmentally friendly choice for candles.

    Paper wicks also tend to burn cleaner than other wick types. They create a steady flame and burn uniformly, reducing the amount of unburned wax left behind. This not only minimizes waste but also results in a more aesthetically pleasing candle.


    Why Opt for Paper Wicks in Candle Making?

    Paper wicks are a popular choice in candle making for several reasons:


    • Versatility: As previously mentioned, paper wicks are versatile and can be used with various types of candles, including votives, pillars, and containers. They're also compatible with different kinds of wax, including natural waxes like soy and beeswax.


    • Ease of Use: Paper wicks are easy to handle and install in candles. Their rigidity helps them stay upright and centered during the candle-making process, which can simplify the overall process.


    • Controlled Burn: Paper wicks are known for their slow and controlled burn. This helps ensure that the candle burns evenly and lasts longer, providing a better experience for the end user.


    • Cost-Effective: Despite their many benefits, paper wicks are relatively inexpensive compared to some other types of wicks. This makes them a cost-effective choice for both hobbyist and professional candle makers.


    a large amount of lit candles

    Closing Thoughts

    The role of paper wicks in candle making cannot be overstated. They offer numerous benefits, from environmental impact to the ease of use in candle manufacturing. But what does the future hold for paper wicks in the candle industry?


    The Future of Paper Wicks in the Candle Industry

    According to recent market reports, the global candle wicks market is set to embark on an extraordinary journey of growth and transformation from 2023 to 2030. This growth is driven by several factors, including the increasing popularity of natural waxes like soy, coconut and beeswax, which are compatible with paper wicks.

    Furthermore, regulatory measures are influencing the choice of wick materials. For instance, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has banned the manufacture and sale of lead-cored wicks1, pushing manufacturers towards safer alternatives like cotton wicks, wooden wicks, as well as those made from paper.

    Innovations in wick design are also shaping the future of paper wicks. For example, in Japan, the wicks of traditional candles are made from Japanese paper and rushes, reflecting a unique blend of tradition and innovation that could inspire new trends in the global candle market.


    Wrapping Up: The Importance of Paper Wicks

    Paper wicks are more than just a functional component of candles. They contribute to the aesthetic appeal of candles, influence the burning characteristics, and play a significant role in the overall user experience. Moreover, they align with growing consumer preferences for environmentally friendly and natural products.

    As the candle industry continues to evolve, paper wicks are poised to remain a fundamental part of this transformation. Their versatility, compatibility with various waxes, and the clean, controlled burn they provide make them an indispensable tool in the hands of both hobbyist and professional candle makers.


    1.  CPSC