Did you know that you can make your own candle wicks with things you already have at home? In this tutorial I show you how to make DIY candle wicks with cotton string!
All you need for DIY candle wicks is cotton string! You can treat homemade candle wicks with oil or salt but even plain cotton string works perfectly as candle wick. Cotton string candle wicks burn for a long time with a steady flame that doesn’t soot.
By the way, you can use DIY candle wicks for homemade candles and DIY oil lamps.
3 Ways How To Make DIY Candle Wicks With Cotton String
- 100% cotton string
- optional: vegetable oil or salt
What Material Should I Use For DIY Candle Wicks?
Use only string or yarn made of 100% cotton. I try to use string that is as natural as possible, i.e. unbleached and not dyed.
Instead of cotton, you can use other natural fibers as well such as linen, hemp or jute. However, don’t use wool because wool is naturally fire-retardant.
But cotton wicks are the most traditional wicks for tallow and wax candles: Cotton wicks have been used since the Middle Ages.
Candle Wick Thickness
Use thinner wicks for smaller candles and thicker wicks for larger candles. If the cotton string is too thin, crochet or braid together three cotton strings.
Plain Cotton String Candle Wicks
I tried three different ways to make DIY candle wicks. For the first one I used just plain cotton string.
Oil-Soaked Candle Wicks
Instead of plain cotton string, you can soak cotton wicks in vegetable oil or leftover cooking grease. It only takes a couple of minutes until the wick is soaked with oil. By the way, there’s no need to heat up the oil.
Salt-Treated Candle Wicks
Put the cotton wicks into a pot, cover with water and add 1 tbsp salt. Bring to a boil. Then remove the salt-treated candle wicks. And let the homemade candle wicks dry overnight. Salt stiffens candle wicks.
How To Make Candles With DIY Candle Wicks
1. Melt Wax
You can use empty toilet paper rolls as DIY candle molds – they work perfectly!
Related: 3 Ways To Make DIY Candle Molds
Melt candle wax or old candle wax scraps over a water bath. I used leftover Christmas tree candles.
2. Center Wicks
While the wax hardens, it’s usually necessary to stabilize the DIY wicks. In the photo above, you can see how stiff the salt made the wick – I used one of the DIY salt-treated wicks to support the wick on the right.
3. Remove Molds
After the wax is set, remove the toilet roll candle molds.
4. Trim Wicks
Trim the candle wicks with scissors if necessary.
DIY Candle Wicks – Burn Test
All three DIY candle wicks work – note the yellowish flame color of the salt-treated wick. My favorite DIY candle wicks are the plain cotton string and the oil-soaked wick. Both are easy to make and burn with a bright, steady flame.
As you can see, the salt-treated wick is more difficult to light. And salt-treated wicks soot in an oil lamp – a plain cotton string works much better.
More DIY Candles
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61 thoughts on “How To Make DIY Candle Wicks With Cotton String – 3 Ways”
Lina I was just telling my daughter the other day that we should find a way to make a wick for all the wax we have saved up. Your post is very timely!!
Thanks, Mary! 🙂 I’m glad it’s helpful!
love finding tips like this , sometimes we dont have what we would normally use but have something else that will work Thanks for sharing this useful tip
I was looking this up just few weeks ago, easy instructions. Found you on Blogger’s Pit Stop Link Party
Thanks, Candy! 🙂
This may be a dumb question, but why are wicks always white? Could I use a colored cotton string to make wicks?
The braid and crochet candle wicks in the pictures are actually not white but beige because I used unbleached cotton. I try to use cotton string that is as natural as possible (not bleached and not dyed) because treated wicks can release chemicals into the air when burned.
Because some colours are toxic when burnt, and they all turn black when burnt, If you wasted a coloured look to a candy wick for sale appeal, I would dip the top of the wicks in a strongly coloured wax.
Thank you very much. Does it work with big candles?
Thank you! 🙂 I haven’t used it for bigger candles yet but I think it should work. Candles with a large diameter require a thicker wick so I’d braid together five or more strands.
This is really cool, smart, and resourceful!
Thank you so much, Jessica! 😀
How long do you soak the cotton string in the oil and how long until you can use it? Just normal vegetable oil works?
It takes just some seconds until the cotton string has soaked up the oil and you can use it immediately. And yes, normal vegetable oil works such as olive oil, sunflower oil …
Hey there this has been really helpful as I was struggling to make wicks to be truthful they didnt work but now I’m going to try all 3 methods. ???
Glad you find it helpful! 🙂 How did you make your wicks? What didn’t work?
Did you use the metal tabs at bottom of candle wax? Sorry, I don’t know what they are called. Thanks for the info! Really helped…….Mechelle.
No, I didn’t use the metal tabs for the candles: only cotton string and candle wax.
What would you use to seal the braid so it doesn’t come undone? thanks
The braided wick usually doesn’t come undone when soaked in oil. 🙂
How do you keep the wick from falling into the wax?
You need something to stabilize the wick while the wax hardens, such as a small twig. Hope this helps!
Might be a stupid question, but What kind of cotton string? Like shoe laces etc?
I used cotton yarn for knitting or crocheting but it doesn’t matter what you use: You can even use shoe laces as long as it’s 100% cotton.
Would oil-soaked wool work just as well?
No, wool doesn’t work because wool is naturally fire-retardant. But it probably works with other natural fibers instead of cotton, such as linen or rayon. But I haven’t tried it yet, I’ve only used cotton so far.
This is really cool, smart, and resourceful!!!!
Should you double twine for a 3 inch candle?
It’s best to braid the wick. And for a larger candle you can even add two wicks.
Have you tried soaking your string in borax. I understand this makes the wicks burn better.
I haven’t found enough information yet on whether wicks treated with borax are safe to use or emit toxins when burned. So I haven’t used borax to make candle wicks so far. But the candles burned well even without borax.
Thanks for the information!! Great tips!
Thanks! I’m glad you found it helpful! 🙂
First timer – just wondering if the oil soaked wick was soaked in oil then wax afterwards or just the oil alone? any tips would help!
Just soaked in oil because the wick is automatically coated with wax when you make the candle. Hope this helps! 🙂
Omgoodness you are a genius! I literally was thinking how did the ppl burn so many candles in the 1800’s or so…thank thank u
Thank you so much! 😀 They also often used rushes as candle wicks. Here I made a tallow candle with a rush wick.
What is a Tallow candle and a rush wick?
I’ve never heard of either. TIA!
Also do you know the recipe for making candles in milk/juice cartons & ice, crushed ice but not shaved. ? Did this maybe 40 yrs ago, Girl Scouts, & I’m kinda foggy on the steps.
Thanks so much!!
Here‘s my tutorial on how to make tallow candles and rush wicks. And sorry, I don’t know how to make candles in milk cartons & ice.
So glad I dont have to buy wicks cos the size issue is mind boggling.. As you say if Medieval guys used string…so can we. Im using ordinary unbleached cotton string…But…how do I know whether to use one strand or twist 2 or braid 3 together? Im making pillar candles of about 45mm diameter /nearly 2 inch.
Three strands braided together is best for candle wicks. 🙂
Using regular cotton unbleached packing string in olive oil. How do i know whether to use one piece…or 2 braided….for a 45 mm ( nearly 2 inches ) diameter beeswax pillar candle please ? Trial and error ?
I would unravel the packing sting and braid the strands together. Braided wicks are self-consuming (so no need to trim the wick) unlike twisted wicks. And thinner wicks are usually better, thicker wicks often soot. You can make a smaller test candle with the same diameter but only about 1/2″ high or so. Hope this helps! 🙂
Have you tried a luceted cord for a heavier wick? Interested in burn comparison with braided.
I haven’t tried a luceted cord yet but I think it should work too. But the wick shouldn’t be too thick, otherwise the candle will soot.
I was wondering if I could make the wicks with colored 100% cotton? I am making tiny candles from seed shells and have some embroidery floss, but they have been color-fasted.
I think it should work. 🙂 Dyed cotton can emit more toxins while burning but it shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t use candles too often.
I’m actually going to be making my own wicks from cotton balls then I’m going to put petroleum jelly on them I do this as a thing when I’m out hiking in the woods and I think I’m gonna make some oil lamps for hiking instead of using a later
I’m glad you like it! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
what is the purpose of the gasoline? You have got me intrigued with your comment. ?
Thanks for sharing btw!
Are the wicks relightable?
Yes, the wicks are relightable, just like store-bought wicks. 🙂
In the oil soaked wicks, should we smear oil on the wicks again before relighting?
No, that’s not necessary. You can just relight it again. 🙂
Thanks for this interesting article.
I have lots of beeswax from our hive and I’m interested in making wicks for candles.
I have string that is 50% cotton and 50% rayon.
Any thoughts on that combo?
I think that should work. 🙂
Thank you for the wonderful tips. I have been using purchased wicks and was happy to find your tips so now I can make my own wicks.
I like the idea of just using cotton string with no oil or salt, much more natural.
Thank you so much! 😀 Glad you like it!