Lots of different types of waxes are available to the average candlemaker and each type comes with different formulations, melt points and specificities. And you will probably add your own choice of additives, fragrance oils and dye, making your wax blend pretty much unique.
Needless to say, the number of potential combinations is endless and there is not one wick on the market that will work well with all of them.
For this very reason, manufacturers offer a very wide range of wicks, each one a better fit for one specific type of wax or candle. Choosing the right wick among the thousands of available variations is not only a challenge but can become a real headache.
In this article, I will try and give as broad an introduction as possible to the different types of wicks available on the market while also giving a maximum of information about their characteristics and the type of wax or candle they are made for or can be used with.
Manufactured by Atkins & Pierce, the wicks in the HTP family are coreless flat braid wicks braided entirely in cotton fibers interwoven with thin paper filaments. This ensures a good rigidity (approaching that of a cored wick) and forces the end of the wick to curl into the outer, hottest part of the flame, making the HTP wick virtually self-trimming and less prone to carbon build-up (mushrooming) and soot emission. HTP wicks come already primed with a high melting point regular or natural wax.
HTP wicks are your Jack of all trades, behaving well in all types of waxes: paraffin wax, vegetable waxes and soy wax, as well as candle Gel. They can be used to make molded candles (pillar, votive) and container candles. Just remember that if you are going to use them in combination with a vegetable wax, you will have to wick up (use a larger sized wick) and go for one, two or even three sizes above what you would normally use for a paraffin wax candle of the same diameter.
Initially produced by Heinz Jansen, a German company that merged in January 2017 with the German giant Wedo (Westdeutsche Dochtfabrik), the very popular CD and CDN series of wicks is now called STABILO.
The STABILO series can be seen as the European counterpart of the american HTP series. Like HTP, the STABILO wicks are non-directional, coreless flat braids waved with cotton fibers intertwined with paper filaments. This gives the wick a good rigidity and gives it a curl that forces its extremity towards the outer, hotter part of the flame where the temperature is the highest. Thanks to that, STABILO wicks have a clean burn, reduced carbon build-up (mushrooming) and a lesser tendency to smoke. They are factory primed in a high melting point (211°F) wax.
Just like its HTP cousin, the STABILO family gives us a good all-purpose wick, happy to burn in paraffin wax, vegetable waxes and candle Gel alike. It can be used to make molded candles (pillars and votives) as well as container candles. Just remember that if you're planning to use STABILO wicks with soy wax or any other vegetable wax, you will have to use a larger size (one, two, three sizes up) than you would with a paraffin blend.
The STABILO KST series (the N in its former CDN name stands for Natural) is the exact same wick but underwent a KST (kalium-based) treatment to make it more resilient to the corrosive properties of most vegetable waxes. If you plan on using soy wax and if if doe have a choice, use the KST variation of the STABILO series. In case you wondered, the K in KST stands for Kerze (candle in German) and ST for STearic acid materials.
Another product of the Wedo factory, the ECO series of wicks have been specially designed to be used with higher viscosity vegetable waxes but they behave nicely when used with paraffin blends too. They're a coreless flat braid cotton type of wick with paper filaments woven throughout, not unlike the previous two series. They are chemically treated to perform optimally in viscous waxes and the paper filaments give them enough rigidity to stand up right in deeper melt pools. Like the HTP and STABILO series, they curl as they burn, giving them self-trimming properties which also help reduce mushrooming, sooting and smoking.
What sets the ECO family apart is the fact that they come primed in a vegetable wax instead of plain paraffin, as would normally be the case. This simple detail can help you promote your candles as being entirely natural (vegetable wax for the candle as for the wick, 100% cotton and paper).
The ECO series of wick being designed for vegetable waxes, try not to use them for paraffin candles. If you do anyway, you will have to adapt the wick size accordingly (if you select the wick based on the information provided below, chances are it will be oversized; if you need to wick up for vegetable waxes when using a wick made for paraffin wax, logically you will need to wick down for paraffin if you use a wick designed for vegetable waxes). Use the ECO wicks in pillar, votive and container candles.
Yet another Wedo creation is the LX series. Coreless, cotton flat braid with interwoven stabilizing threads and a rigid structure that make pouring a breeze. The LX wicks burn with a tighter controlled flame, which helps ensure that glass containers don’t overheat on one side and that pillars don’t "tunnel" or leak out the side of the candle. This also greatly reduces carbon build-up (mushrooming) as well as soot and smoke emissions.
Like the HTP and STABILO series, the LX wicks can be used with most types of waxes: paraffin wax blends, vegetable waxes and candle Gel, and that in most applications, like molded (pillars, votives) and container candles. Like the two aforementioned series, when used with high viscosity vegetable waxes like soy wax or rapeseed wax, you will probably have to wick up one, two of three sizes.
Also coming from Wedo, the RRD series is similar to the LX series except it's a round wick and not a flat braid.
RRD wicks have a 100% braided cotton core with tension threads that gives them a slight but effective curl during combustion. Dipped in a natural wax, they are directional, which means their capillarity is more pronounced depending on whether you use them upside-down or right-side-up.
Thanks to their intricate design, the RRD series of wicks promise a well centered melt pool, a virtually automatic self-trimming behavior when burned and, above all, a high and constant flow of "fuel". Because of this, RRD wicks work particularly well with high viscosity waxes, like vegetable waxes, candle Gel and one-pour container blends. It's worth pointing out that they are the only cored wicks that work well with these types of waxes.
If they work very well in container candles, they are also the wick of choice for soy wax pillar candles. RRD wicks undergo a NST treatment (sodium-based) to help them withstand the relative acidity of vegetable waxes and offer a clean combustion when used with these waxes.
The TCR series of wicks are flat braid cotton wicks with paper filaments intertwined and are coated to give them an optimal rigidity. They are non-bleached, have received no chemical treatment and are designed to be used in high viscosity vegetable waxes, soy wax and rapeseed wax.
Thanks to their rigidity, they behave extremely well in both container candles (the good centering of the melt pool prevents one side of the container from overheating) and pillar candles (regular and well centered melt pool with virtually no dripping). Furthermore, a slight curl of the wick when it burns reduces the potential for mushrooming, smoking and sooting.
VRL wicks have been conceived by Wedo to be used in high-viscosity Container candles, especially those with a high percentage of vegetable wax. They are chemically treated (Wedo P9 treatment) to perform well with solid colors and high fragrance loads of up to 10%.
VRL wicks are coreless but combine threads made of the highest grade ring-spun cotton with other natural filaments for extra stability. Interesting detail: those stabilizing filaments are white and not brown like those of the ECO series, for instance, which results in a pure white wick that will look better in most candles.
Yet another Wedo wick, the TG series is designed primarily for paraffin wax pillars and container candles. The wick has a coreless construction with stability threads and is made of some of the thinnest high-grade ring-spun cotton threads available. The TG series is chemically treated with the Wedo P103 treatment, specific to paraffin wax.
Made by Wedo, the V series is supposed to succeed where all other wicks fail. It is designed to be used in particularly complicated tealight, votive, pillar and Container candles with a wax blend / color / fragrance combination that doesn't burn well with other types of wicks.
The secret of the V wick is that, even though it is coreless, it has metalized threads integrated with the regular threads. The metalized threads are not a wire but rather ring-spun cotton that has been coated with a metal powder. These threads act as a catalyst, helping to break down complicated molecules during the combustion process. This can help reduce or eliminate carbon deposit formation (mushrooming) or wick disintegration when you have a challenging wax blend.
Wick of the V series behave well in paraffin wax, stearic acid and vegetable waxes. Give it a try if you've had setbacks with every other wick you've tried.
We have just reviewed the families of wicks you are most likely to use in your candlemaking endeavors. They are also the most commonly available in the United States and Europe alike. Between the six series of specialized wicks we just saw, the flat and square braid and the cored wicks, surely, you will find the one wick that works for that candlemaking project you've been thinking about...
And in the unlikely case you don't, know that there are many other wick families out there. They may be less well known but they are definitely worthy of a mention. Atkins & Pierce, to cite one manufacturer only, offer the following series, besides their popular HTP wicks: Aroma-Lite, Bleached Square, Citronella, Classic, Cotton Core, Cotton Oil Lamp, Cottonwood, Helix, Paper Core, Performa, Tea Light and Zinc Core.
But do remember: to find the best wick for the job, there's only one solution: test, test and test some more!