What to do if the candle wick is too short.

Two of the most common complaints about candles are that the fragrance isn’t strong enough and that they don’t burn right.

Candles, like most everything else, are made of multiple components.  The main 2 parts are the wax and the wick.  Then there can also be fragrance oil, additives, dyes, and a container (ie. jars, ceramic pots, buckets, etc).  All of these different parts of the candle can have an effect on how it burns.

But before we look at tips on how to fix a candle wick that is too short…

Lets examine some reasons it gets that way in the first place.

1. The wick was trimmed too short either by you or it came that way from the manufacturer.

Lets face it, we have all done it… oops.

2. The wick broke off.

After the wick has been lit and is black, it become brittle.  If it gets bumped it could break off and be too short to produce the right size flame.

3. The candle was not allowed to burn long enough to create the full size liquid pool and has begun to tunnel.

4. The wick is not the correct size for the candle and the flame stays small and the wick short every time you light it.

If the wick was plenty long enough and burns down to nothing when lit never really melting the wax, it is possible that the candle is faulty.

All four of these problems can cause the candle to start tunneling which will only keep making the wick shorter.

Next I’ll show you some ways to fix the candle.  The methods described can be used regardless of the type of wax used in the candle.

So how do you fix a candle with a wick that is too short?

The methods to fix your candle are the same for reasons 1 and 2 above.  For number 3, check out this post on how to fix a tunneling candle.  Fixing reason number 4 is a little different and takes a bit more work, we’ll get to that method later.

If your wick was cut too short or broke off start by trying these simple things to fix it…

Light the wick and let it burn for 20 to 30 minutes checking the flame height occasionally to see if it looks as big as it should.  Sometimes they work themselves out.

If the flame looks small and weak, extinguish it and carefully pour the liquid wax out of the candle on to a paper plate to cool then throw it away.  It will be pretty warm so be careful.  Thanks to a tip from Andrea over at candlescoop.com, you can also use a q-tip to soak up the liquid wax to remove it.  Be sure to blow out the flame first!!!

You will now have an indent in the wax exposing more of the wick.  Re-light the wick and allow it to burn for another 20 to 30 minutes and check it again.  If the flame dances around a lot, produces a lot of soot, or looks too big, you may have to trim the wick back a little bit because now it could be too long.

This method should only be used a couple times consecutively.  Doing this over and over again will only result in a tunneling candle which is a melted hole right down the center.  If it hasn’t worked in the first few times, it most likely won’t on the 50th try either.


Time to get serious.


 If you still aren’t having any success getting the candle to burn the way it should it is time to get more aggressive and start carving.

That’s right, we are going to remove 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch of the wax off of the top which will lower the level of the candle and make the wick stick higher out of the top.

Try not to cut or break off the wick.  If you break the black part of the wick off it is ok, you will just have to carve a little more wax off the top.

Here we go…

For container candles which are usually made out of softer waxes us a regular kitchen knife or flat head screwdriver.  Stick the tip of the knife into the wax on the back side of the wick (the side furthest from you) and push it toward the side of the container.  BE VERY CAREFUL that you don’t push too hard and smash the side of the container with the knife.  Starting on the back side of the wick will help make sure you don’t cut it by pushing the knife through it accidentally.

It is ok to dig out the wax at an angle, leaving it a bit higher near the wick and lower at the side of the jar.  When you light the candle the wax will run away from the wick to the sides of the container and eventually level it all out.

Do this the entire way around the candle, dumping the wax into the trash or better yet, a zip lock bag to use in a candle warmer later (if the wax is scented of course).  The top of your candle will look terrible when you are finished but don’t worry, it will be alright.

Light the candle and keep an eye on the flame to see if it stays the right size.  If it doesn’t…

read the next section.

For pillars lay the candle on its side and using a serrated knife “saw” down through the wax, you don’t have to take off  very much, it is actually more like shaving the wax.  Carefully shave down toward the wick trying not to cut it.  Rotate the candle between each cut in order to try and keep the top of the candle as level as possible.  Ideally you want the outside edge of the pillar to be slightly higher than the wax around the wick (concave-ish).

Unlike container candles you don’t want liquid wax running toward and over the edge of your pillar candle, that would be messy.

Keep shaving until you get the wick to stick at least 1/4 inch out of the wax.

Now you can light the candle and keep an eye on the flame to see if it stays the right size.  If it doesn’t…

read the next section.

For taper candles warm up a pairing knife by running it under some hot water.  Doing this will help keep the candle wax from chipping while you cut it.

Dry off the knife then cut around the taper, making sure not to cut the wick.  The easiest way to do this is hold the knife with the blade facing up, put the top end of the candle between your thumb and the knife, hold the bottom of the taper in your other hand.  Twist your hands in opposite directions while putting a little pressure on the candle with your thumb to remove some of the wax.

Light the wick and watch to see if the flame stays the right size.  If it doesn’t…

read the next section.

As long as the flame stays a nice size relative to the diameter of the candle, you should be done.  Watch to make sure the liquid wax pool reaches the edge of the container your candle is in, or NEAR the edge for pillar candles before you blow it out.  A good rule of thumb is that for every inch in diameter your candle is, you will need an hour for the pool of wax to reach the edge. So for a 4 inch diameter candle in about 4 hours the wax should be near the edge.

None of these suggestions worked.

If nothing you have tried so far has worked than most likely the reason the wick won’t stay the right length is that it is not the right size for the candle.

At this point, you have about 3 to 4 options depending on the type of candle.

1. Throw the candle out and buy a new one.

2. If it is a scented candle, use it in a candle warmer or tart burner.

3. If you are lucky enough to live near a candle manufacturer, take it to them, they can probably switch the wick for you.

4. Try to fix it yourself.

Options 1 – 3 are pretty self explanatory so lets work on #4.

You need to swap the wick in the candle with a larger one.

You will want to have some extra wicks which you can pick up from most craft stores or a candle manufacturer like Keystone Candle, a flat head screwdriver, and a pair of needle nose pliers.

Changing the wick is pretty easy on jar candles because the wax is usually softer.  Use the screwdriver to scrape some of the wax away from around the wick so that you can see some of the white below the black burned part.  Then use the pliers to grab the wick at where it is white.

If you try to pull on the burned bit it will just break.

With slow firm pressure pull on the wick until it pops out of the wax. Most wicks in container candles have a metal tab on the bottom of them to keep the flame from actually touching the glass.  This will NOT come out and that is ok.

Once the old wick is out, slide your new wick down into the hole until you feel it hit the bottom.  Trim off the excess wick and you are done.

Candles made of harder wax like pillars can be a bit more difficult.

The wick is usually sealed in on the bottom and sometimes also the top.  You may have to dig around the wick on both ends to get it loose enough to pull out.  If that doesn’t work then you would need to get a long drill bit from your local hardware store.   You can drill a hole down into the candle and put the new wick in.  Most of the time drilling right where the old wick was will shred it so you might not get it all completely out.

Use these methods to fix candles with one wick or multiple wicks.

What do you think?