Why Do Candle Wicks Curl (The Good & The Bad)

Why do candle wicks curl?

Is this supposed to happen?

Below you’ll learn why candle wicks curl, the benefits of curling, and what could go wrong.

Why Do Candle Wicks Curl?

Some wicks are made with self-trimming capabilities.

Self-trimming means that the wick curls into itself.

The Purpose of Curling Wicks

The purpose is for the wick to curl back into the flame and trim itself (self-extinguish) as it burns.

Ideally, the benefits of curling wicks are the self-trimming effect, keeping the flame at a consistent height, and the reduced chances of heavy carbon buildup that commonly leads to mushrooming.

But just because a wick is labeled as self-trimming and curls doesn’t mean it’s foolproof, and you’ll never have to maintain it.

The wick can curl continuously without self-extinguishing or mushroom from carbon buildup, even if labeled as self-trimming.

To ensure you don’t run into these problems, practice proper maintenance and trim your wicks between burns.

Wick Curling Vs. Mushrooming

It’s important not to confuse a curling wick with a mushrooming wick.

Although curling can lead to mushrooming, curling wicks are intentional and meant as a benefit, whereas mushrooming is a problem from heavy carbon buildup.

Below is a picture of a wick starting to curl.

Picture of a candle wick starting to curl

Below is a picture of a mushrooming wick. You can see the carbon buildup forming the resemblance of a mushroom cap.

Picture of a mushrooming candle wick.

What Types of Wicks Are Designed to Curl?

All wicks may be capable of curling if they are too long, which can create issues like soot and smoke (which is why trimming is so necessary), but some wicks are made in a way to curl naturally while burning.

These naturally curling wicks are flat braided and coreless. The popular flat braided series are HTP, ECO, CD, and LX.

Square braid and cored wicks typically do not curl. However, some cotton cored wicks do, like the Premier and RRD series wicks.

The RRD wicks won’t curl as much as the flat braided but are known to curl even with its more rigid cotton core.

Are There Any Downsides to Wicks that Curl?

Curling self-trimming wicks are popular and can be an excellent fit for your candle, but they have some downsides.

However, don’t get scared off by these wicks because of these potential downsides. These are very popular wicks and great options when properly matched with a complimenting candle type.

When choosing a wick, tailor it to the candle you’re making. You’ll need to align the wick with the type of candle, wax, and additives you choose.

What works for one candle may not work for another, and any variable can change the wick’s performance, so the key is always to test multiple wicks to find the right fit for your candle.

Uneven Melt Pools

The biggest downside to curling wicks is the potential for uneven melt pools.

The melt pool is the area of wax the candle has melted.

The side of the candle the wick has curled to can melt faster than the other side of the wick leading to an uncentered and uneven melt pool.

An uneven melt pool, in most cases, isn’t the end of the world.

In most cases, if you allow the candle enough time to achieve a full melt pool (melt the entire surface of the candle), you’ll avoid issues like bad candle memory.

In worst cases, the uneven melt pool can lead to tunneling on one side of the candle.

Lopsided Heat Distribution

Because the wick favors one side from curling, heat distribution may also be uneven.

One side of the candle may be much hotter than the other, which can be a safety issue for the container and lead to tunneling, wasting candle wax, and shortening the candle’s lifespan.

Lost in Wax

If the wick curls too much, it’s possible for the wick to curl into the wax.

If the wick has curled into the wax, it can become buried as the wax hardens.

In this scenario, you’d have to dig out the wick destroying the candle’s surface and possibly get wick debris in the wax.

How to Counteract Uneven Melt Pools

First, it’s crucial to size the wick for your candle correctly.

Use the recommended size from the wick supplier as the baseline and also test one size up and one size down. When using multiple wicks, it’s a bit different. You can check out our multiple wick size guide.

Next, always trim the wick between burns.

A simple trim will ensure a brighter, more stable flame while reducing soot and smoke from the candle.

Trimming will also prevent the wick from getting too long, which will prevent the wick from favoring one side leading to an uneven melt pool and heat distribution.