W​ood Wicks vs. Cotton Wicks, What is the Difference?

As wood wick candles are becoming more and more common in our local stores, more and more questions are getting raised about the difference between these wicks and the more traditional cotton wicks.

S​o, what’s the difference between a wood wick and a cotton wick? While each has its own pros and cons, wood wicks release more fragrance from a candle into a room, while cotton wicks are lower maintenance and easier to light than their wood counterpart.

I​nterested in which kind of candle wick is the best choice for you and your home? Read on below! We’ll be breaking down how the different wicks work, and the positives and negatives of burning each.

W​hat Are Wood Wicks and Cotton Wicks?

W​hen choosing a candle (or even if you’re making your own), there are two common choices of wick: wood wicks and cotton wicks.

Wood Wicks

W​ood wicks are made of a small, single-ply strip of softwood that is placed vertically into a candle to then be burned. These wicks are traditionally made of woods such as balsam, oak, birch, maple, cherry, and a wide variety of other softwoods.

A​s a wood wick is burned, it emits a soft crackling sound before turning to ash and small pieces of charcoal.

C​otton Wicks

Cotton wicks are usually what you think of when you think of a candle wick. They are the most commonly used wicks in store-bought and pre-made candles.

C​otton wicks are thin strings of knitted, braided, or otherwise intertwined fibers of cotton that are coated in a thin layer of wax before being set vertically into a candle.

A​s a cotton wick is burned, the fibers unfurl and soak up the wax from the candle and use it as fuel to burn.

C​hoosing the Right Wick for You

W​hen choosing between a wood wick and a cotton wick, there are a couple of factors to keep in mind:

  • P​rice
  • M​aintenance
  • A​esthetic / Experience
  • B​urn Time
  • F​ragrance Level

W​hile both of these wicks burn beautifully in a candle, they act quite a bit differently.

P​ros & Cons of Wood Wicks

I​f you love the rustic look of wood and the comforting crackle of a campfire, a wood wick might be the wick for you.

W​ood wicks are known to crackle when burned, which can be a very pleasant sound for some. However, just as a campfire can be tricky to light, so can wood wicks.

W​hen burned, wood wicks burn as a shorter, smoldering flame. This smolder means that your candle will last far longer than a candle with a cotton wick, but it is far more prone to blowing out if drafts or breezes drift its way. Because of this, wood wick candles are really only suitable for indoor spaces with little to no moving air.

This smoldering flame on a wood wick also releases more of a candle’s fragrance into the air than a candle with a cotton wick would. The flame relies only on the wick to burn, warming the surrounding wax without burning it as fuel. Wood wick candles are ideal for subtly fragranced candles and fragranced candles that you would like to keep around for longer.

This type of wick is ideal for a candle with a softer fragrance or a fragranced candle you’d like to have last you for a while.

W​ood wick candles also tend to be more expensive than cotton wicked ones. This can be attributed to the cost of the materials needed to make said candles.

M​aintenance for wood wicks is also much more involved than the maintenance needed for cotton wicks. When relighting a wood wick, you must make sure you remove all the charred wood when trimming.

It is recommended that you use a wick trimmer when trimming your wood wick. Wick trimmers are specially built for this purpose and allow for more precision when trimming. This trimming process requires much more time and care than that of cotton wick candles.

P​ros & Cons of Cotton Wicks

There’s a reason cotton wicks are still in style–they’re the easiest, arguably the prettiest burning wicks. I​f you are someone that likes a low maintenance candle and a tall, bright flame, a cotton wick candle is probably the best wick for your home.

C​otton wicks suck up the melted wax from the candle into its fibers to use as fuel when burned, allowing for a tall, strong, consistently burning flame. This is great if you like candles that produce a good amount of light, making a cotton wick ideal for things like tea lights and unscented/decorative candles.

C​otton wicks are still great at releasing fragrance into a room, but not nearly as good as wood wicks. Because they use the wax from the candle as fuel to burn bright, they also burn quite hot. This means that the fragrance in the wax is both being burned up as flame fuel, and the wax is being heated and used up much faster.

T​hese wicks are also less easy to blow out. Since the flame is not relying on the wick alone, the cotton wick’s powerful flame has a sort of “backup generator” of fuel to keep it lit when faced with a draft of breeze. Because of this, these candles can easily be kept lit anywhere, including outdoors.

T​he materials needed to produce cotton wicks are cheap, making a candle with a cotton wick considerably cheaper than the same candle with a wood wick.

M​aintenance for a cotton wick candle is also much easier done than the maintenance for a wood wick candle. To relight a cotton wick candle, it is recommended that you trim your wick to 1/4″. This is to guarantee a much more even burn, as well as for safety reasons. An untrimmed wick candle can create an extremely tall and erratic flame, so trimming your wick is the best way to keep that flame under control.

A wick trimmer will do the trick for cotton wick maintenance, but depending on the shape of your candle’s container, a small pair of scissors or a nail trimmer will do just the trick. Just snip off the charred/unraveled part of your wick until the remaining wick is about 1/4″ of an inch tall, and you’re ready to relight your candle!


Cotton wicks and wood wicks are both incredibly practical options when purchasing a new candle for your home. The only question is: what kind of candle are you looking for?

The better wick for you depends on whether you’d like a long-burning, fragrant candle that is reminiscent of sitting by a campfire or a bright, easy-to-care-for candle that can handle most spaces. Either way, both wood wicks and cotton wicks will leave your home cozier and more fragrant than it was before.

D​id you like this article? Share it with your family and friends! If you’d like to read more on candle wicks, check out our article on wicks for candle making, or our article on the best wicks for making soy candles.

Grace Young

I love candles! I have personally tried over 100 brands of candles. The total burn time of these candles is over 5000 hours. I also talk about essential oil diffusers and reed diffusers. Essential oil diffusers and diffusers are also an important part of the scent in my home.

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