Among the major draws of wooden wick candles is how aromatic they can be when burned. Another is the serene, timeless crackling sound it makes while aflame. Both perks are inarguably aesthetically-pleasing, as well as fabulous treats for the nose and ears alike. Still, a concern that comes up often among candlemakers and candle lovers alike is that of whether wooden wicks are, in fact, actually toxic.
Yes, depending on how it is made wooden wicks can be toxic.
Popular toxic additives to wooden wicks are:
Are discrete and common enough among wood wick manufacturers, who often apply treatments to their products for increased function and quality. The safest option is to avoid wooden wicks altogether, and opt for a safer material alternative instead such as cotton or hemp wicks.
Since wooden wicks are used both so freely and frequently, it might be easy to assume that they’re safe to burn. However, for the more cautious candle enthusiast, it’s quite reasonable to be wary of them. As modern-day consumers tend to know from experience, an item being widely-used or available doesn’t automatically mean it’s entirely safe, or exactly what it claims to be.
And as to whether this applies to wooden wicks — and the extent to which it does (or doesn’t) — the jury’s still more or less out.
That’s why it can be tricky to find a justified and/or satisfying answer in regards to whether wooden wicks are toxic and, as a consequence, to be avoided. There are far too many varying factors involved.
All manufacturers utilize different methodologies, materials, and chemicals for identical, similar, and/or different and unique results. The result of this is that there’s no one answer to the question of wooden wicks’ toxicity — at least not as a categorical whole.
Each individual wooden wick, or at least groups coming from the same manufacturer, are a different story. But at the end of the day, all wooden wicks are not made the same.
Still, this doesn’t mean there aren’t multiple approaches to determining a wooden wick’s toxicity, or even a safely measured verdict that can be used as a general rule-of-thumb to prevent any unnecessary interactions with toxic fumes— especially as a result of burning a candle with a wooden wick (as is the focus of this article).
That’s why we’re doing the grunt work for you — or at least, we’re trying to. The answer is so elusive that we can’t seem to settle on any single, simple, and/or perfect solution either. However, we do have the knowledge at our disposal, and also know enough about the materials and factors at play that we can come up with a reasonable approach to this dilemma. Truthfully, so many candle lovers have this question burning in their minds, and the issue is so literally life or death, that this topic is absolutely worth further exploration.
And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
In other words, although there might not be one perfect answer that applies to every wooden-wicked candle ever made, we still have you covered — within reason, of course.
Additives and Treatments
One of the primary things to know about wooden wicks is that, although it might not seem like it. They’re usually “treated” by the manufacturer from which they were produced. And by “treated,” we mean that wooden wicks, more often than not, are not merely wooden wicks.
Rather, they’re likely to have adhesives, accelerators, metals, and/or other additives incorporated in their builds. Manufacturers frequently implement these extras into their wooden wicks’ builds and processes to improve their respective versatilities; longevities, and general functions upon use.
That brings us to the primary reason why you might struggle to find a straight, one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether wooden candles are toxic. Manufacturers use a variety of additives unique to their arsenals to develop one-of-a-kind, superior products. Remember— candle making is, first and foremost, a business. That’s why candle manufacturers, like any other business operation, can only survive and reap profit by besting the competition, and remaining consistent in their winning excellence.
Further, while these additives may not be hazardous alone as treatments to the wick, they can become toxic upon being lit as a part of the resulting candle. That’s because the flame alone can be enough to set off a reaction that turns those additives toxic and, therefore, makes the resulting fumes emitting from the lit candle noxious.
While there are a wide range of additives manufacturers might add to their wooden wicks for increased function and sustainability, the most common ones — at least so far as wooden wick toxicity goes — tend to be adhesives, accelerators, and metals. Moreover, the combination(s) of these treatments can take said additives from singular, non-toxic components to combined, toxic ones — especially upon being lit.
You know what creates an even bigger flame than a single wick? A multi-ply one. Unfortunately, there’s usually more to creating a multi-ply wick than just bundling some wooden wicks together, tying them together with a string, and hoping they operate together as needed.
Rather, adhesives are used to bind the individual wicks together — thus resulting in a super wick. These burn excellently, making for intense, fragrant candles. However, there’s usually no way of knowing which manufacturers’ adhesives are toxic, and which aren’t. Any time chemicals become involved, toxicity becomes a possibility. When paired with flame, that toxicity becomes enough of a likelihood that assuming hazard is more than just reasonable — it’s necessary, too.
Flame retention is an important perk when it comes to great candles. However, flame retention comes at a cost — and in the case of wooden wicks, this can mean the wood’s immersion with accelerant during manufacturing.
A possible result of this? Noxious fumes omitting from the accelerant as soon as the respective candle is lit.
These accelerants are often synthetic — further complicating the toxic quality and/or potential of the wick. Of course, the interaction of wood, natural fuel, and fire can be toxic when fused together — as “natural” doesn’t always mean “entirely safe.” But artificial accelerants, on average, are far more likely to be poisonous, as are wooden wicks that are treated with it.
Wooden wicks, while they burn famously well, can also demand irritating amounts of trimming and maintenance. Those processes can be quite grueling for any individual — and understandably so. That’s why in modern candlemaking, people have attempted to find solutions to this problem — or at least viable options to lessen its exhausting impact on consumers.
The treatments manufacturers use for simplified maintenance of the wick are generally referred to as “self-trimmers.” Among these self-trimmers are, most commonly, zinc and lead. While natural elements, they still can pose a risk when fused with wood and flame. This depends on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, whether these metallic self-trimmer treatment substances are “pure.”
Here, the term “pure” concerns whether they are purely zinc, lead, or whatever else they promise to be.
Of course, the above list is not comprehensive. It merely addresses the most common types of treatments wooden wicks may undergo by manufacturers. Nevertheless, it’s important to consider the fact that no wick — wooden or otherwise — is immune to undergoing multiple treatments.
While individual additives may not be toxic when burned with their respective wooden wicks alone. They may become toxic alongside other treatments involved in the manufacturing process. Certain chemical combinations, fused with the lighting of the wooden wick. May have interactions that make them toxic in ways they might not have been otherwise.
The more treatments involved, the higher the chances of toxic fumes upon burning.
There might not be a single, objective answer as to whether wooden wicks are toxic. However, our verdict— and you can take it or leave it — is that it’s better to steer clear of wooden wicks.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t wick manufacturers who don’t treat their products in the slightest — there absolutely are. However, should you choose to use one of them, it’s vital to ensure that they take the purity of their non-treated wicks seriously; and that their definition of “all-natural” is just as thorough as yours (if not more so).
With each passing year, the manufacturing of previously all-natural items tends to become more and more chemical-based. And unless you’re there from the conception of the wick, starting at when it’s still a part of the plant; all the way to the moment you light the candle it’s embedded in; there’s no real way of knowing what it’s been treated with, and to what extent.
Moreover, companies can’t always be trusted to tell the truth down to every detail. Especially when a treatment tends to be undetectable, and omission of its involvement can increase sales.
Fortunately, there are more alternatives to wooden wicks out there than ever. And as a result, plenty of extremely affordable, quality, and non-toxic options; for candlemakers and candle lovers alike to choose from.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are good alternatives to wooden wicks?
Cotton wicks are more popular than ever. And easily available to any seeking them for their candlemaking craft. Or else in search for premade candles to take home and burn. Another alternative is the hemp wick. While these are still newer and less commonly-found, their use among enthusiasts is on the rise — and their approval ratings with it.
Don’t wicks made from other materials also require the same or similar treatments?
Yes, this can hold true. However, due to the varied wick materials. The treatments needed for the same functionality or sustainability purposes will likely differ in terms of ingredients. Moreover, they will interact differently with cotton, hemp, or whatever alternative material is involved for the wick than they might wood.
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Please note that the contents of this blog are for informational and entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Any action taken based on the information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Additionally, all images used in this blog are generated under the CC0 license of Creative Commons, which means they are free to use for any purpose without attribution.
Meet Shawn Chun: Entrepreneur and Candle Business Fan.
I’m a happy individual who happens to be an entrepreneur. I have owned several types of businesses in my life from a coffee shop to an import and export business to an online review business plus a few more and now I create online candle business resources for those interested in starting new ventures. It’s demanding work but I love it. I do it for those passionate about their business and their goals. That’s why when I meet a candle business owner at a craft fair, farmers market, retail location or anywhere else I see myself. I know how hard the struggle is to obtain and retain clients, finding good employees all while trying to stay competitive. That’s why I created Candle Business Boss: I want to help candle business owners like you build a thriving business that brings you endless joy and supports your ideal lifestyle.