The Art of Candle Trimming: Why and How to Trim Candles

Candles have been used for light and decoration for centuries. While modern electricity has reduced their necessity for illumination, candles remain popular for their cozy ambience and decorative allure. The proper care and maintenance of candles is key to maximizing their burn time and appearance. Trimming the wick and wax before lighting is one of the best ways to make your candles last longer and burn more efficiently. Here’s why it’s important and how to do it properly.

Why Trim Candles?

Trimming the wick and wax before burning a new candle serves multiple purposes. First, it helps the candle burn evenly and prevents tunneling. Tunneling is when a well-formed cavity appears in the center of the melted wax as the wick burns down. This makes the candle burn unevenly and use up wax more quickly. Trimming the wick to 1⁄4 inch helps it burn slower and more controlled.

Removing any wax that has adhered to the wick when cooled also keeps it burning correctly. You want an even glow to emanate from the tip when lit. Trimmed wicks encourage a brighter flame that stands upright, allowing for complete wax pool coverage.

In addition, any hardened wax on the sides of a new candle should be carefully cut away. This maintains a uniform look and presentation. It also aids even burning by exposing the edges of wax fully when lit.

Finally, smoothing and centered wicks promote proper candle performance. The wick should be positioned in the center, not off to one side or the other. Centered wicks encourage even wax pooling and reduce issues like tunneling.

How to Trim Candles?

Trimming candles is a quick and simple process. With the right tools and techniques, you can prep them for optimal burning in just a few minutes. Here are some step-by-step instructions:

Supplies Needed:

  • Candle wick trimmer or small sharp scissors
  • Manicure scissors or utility knife for edge wax
  • Ruler or wick guide tool


  1. Examine candle and wick. Look for any hardened or adhered wax on the wick itself. Make sure the wick is also centered.
  2. Lightly roll the wick between your thumb and forefinger. This will help loosen any hardened wax stuck to the wick.
  3. Use the smaller wick scissors or trimmer to snip the wick to 1⁄4 inch length. Cut carefully to avoid cutting the wick too short.
  4. Inspect the edges of the candle. Use a knife or manicure scissors to trim away any hardened wax so the full edge is exposed.
  5. Use ruler or wick guide tool to gently press and center the wick, if needed. Move slowly to avoid unintentionally pulling out or cutting the wick.
  6. Inspect for any remaining wax fragments or wick adjustments needed. Give a final centering and edge wax trim if required.
  7. Clean any wax debris and you’re done! The candle is now neatly trimmed and ready for lighting.

Helpful Candle Trimming Tips:

  • For safety, only trim candles when unlit and wax is completely hardened and cooled.
  • Store wick trimmers separately from other utensils to keep the blades clean for easy cutting.
  • To catch wax pieces, lay down a paper towel or plate when trimming overspilled wax.
  • Twist or roll the wick while trimming to expose all sides and help cut any hardened wax.
  • Use the right tool for each task. Wick trimmers work best for wicks, while knives or manicure scissors are better for edge trimming.
  • Work over a trash bin and use a paper towel to wipe scissors clean between candles or colors.
  • Check that wicks are centered in molten wax pools as they burn to maintain even burning.
  • Avoid cutting wicks below 1⁄4 inch so they don’t burn too quickly or go out entirely.
  • Use wick stickers or putty to re-center wicks that move off center as the candle burns down.

With the right approach, trimming candle wicks and edges takes just a few minutes per candle. But it makes a big difference in how evenly, efficiently, and safely they burn. Prepping candles before use improves performance, burn time, and longevity. Plus, it makes candles look neat, elegant, and professional. Simply adopting the habit of wick and wax trimming boosts enjoyment of these decorative lights. With practice, you’ll be an expert at candle prep in no time. So light up your snippings, take care trimming, and let your candles shine at their best.