How To Trim The Wick Of An Oil Lamp? Ultimate Guide!

If you have an oil lamp, it is important to know how to trim the wick. The way you trim your oil lamp wick will determine the shape of the flame your oil lamp will produce. Also, trimming the wick is part of proper oil lamp care. So let’s see, how to trim the wick of an oil lamp?

You can trim the wick of your oil lamp with a pair of sharp scissors. You can trim the wick in different styles, such as cutting it straight across, in an oval shape, or pointed shape, but if you are looking for the brightest flame, you should trim it in a pointed shape.

Continue reading till the end to learn the importance of trimming the wick, how to trim the wick, and other related topics in more detail.

How To Trim The Wick Of An Oil Lamp? Ultimate Guide!

Why Do You Trim The Wick Of An Oil Lamp?

Before lights came, oil lamps were the popular light sources used in many households. 

During that time, you could have found members of the family, especially the curious boy in the house, showing his art in trimming the oil lamp wicks to prepare the oil lamp for the night until his grandma would step in and stop him from doing it.

So why is trimming oil lamp wicks necessary? If you think from the basics, there is a fuel chamber in an oil lamp where the fuel is present. And then there’s the wick, the burner, and the chimney.

You light the oil lamp, the wick draws in the fuel from the fuel tank and burns the oil, as a result of which you can see the flame. Since fuel is burning and the flame is produced, the combustion process happens.

Now the thing is that black carbon is produced as a by-product of this combustion that gets built upon the tip of the wick after every time you use it.

If you use your oil lamp daily, then trimming your wick should be an everyday process for the wick and overall oil lamp maintenance. By trimming your wick, you ensure the optimal functioning of the wick.

If you trim your wick properly, you can get better light and more satisfaction. Now that you know the importance of trimming your wick, let’s move ahead and discuss the step-by-step process of how to trim the wick.

How To Trim The Wick Of An Oil Lamp?

1. Open Your Lamp And Remove The Glass

The first step you need to take for trimming your oil lamp is to open the lamp and remove the glass covering so that you don’t have to face any trouble while trimming the wick.

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One thing to note is that if you have just now used your oil lamp, the chances are that the glass chimney and the lamp can still be hot to touch, and you can get burned. So it is better to allow the lamp to cool down for sufficient time and then only proceed further.

2. Raise The Wick And Notice The Charred End

Now, raise the wick from the oil lamp so that you easily notice the charred-off end. You can use the regulating wheel to expose the desired part of the wick to come out.

Your goal should be to trim the char off the wick after each time you use it. This way, you can make sure that your oil lamp wick burns properly.

3. Take A Sharp Pair Of Scissors To Trim The Charred End And Shape The Wick

After you are able to see the charred-off end, now it’s time to discard that part from the wick. You can use a pair of sharp scissors to complete this process.

Now depending on what shape of the flame you would like to have, you can trim the wick accordingly.

  • To get a flat flame, you can cut the wick, top straight, and make slight curves at the endings. And remember to burn the wick in a way so that the flame is 1/8 to 1/2 inch tall. By doing that, the wick will burn slowly, along with producing a good amount of light.
  • However, if you want a peaked flame, you can trim the wick to a point. And if you want a double flame, then you can cut two points. While burning the pointed flames, make sure that the flame is not more than 3/4 inch in height.
  • Moreover, if you want a crowned-shaped flame, then make sure to round off the top portion of the wick. In this case, also make sure that the flame is not more than 3/4 inch high.

4. Lower The Wick And Put On The Glass

Now, after you have trimmed and shaped your wick, you can turn the regulating wheel and lower the wick. In general, you can use the regulating wheel to make sure that about 1/8 part of the wick remains exposed out of the mounting shaft.

If there is any debris or charred remains, you can remove them from the burner screen to make sure that the proper airflow can occur while using the oil lamp.

After that, you can reinstall the glass and other coverings of the lamp. Make sure to clean the chimney properly before you reinstall it. 

One important thing to remember is that soot can build up on the chimney. 

So you should clean the chimney and remove any soot build-up. The reason it is advised to clean the soot is that it will lessen the light you will get from the oil lamp and also it will strangle the oxygen that will be needed for a nice burning of your wick.

Note that if after burning the oil lamp you realize that you didn’t trim the wick properly, then you will again have to extinguish the flame, right? 

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So here’s a handy tip to extinguish your oil lamp. Simply cup your hands above the chimney and blow some amount of breath. By doing so, the air will move down the chimney and will extinguish the flame.

If you start seeing smoke or soot after burning the oil lamp, then lower the wick slowly. You can lower the wick and decrease its height until the point comes where you see no more soot or smoke.

And again, make sure to re-trim the wick if it again gets charred. In case your wick burns out faster, don’t forget to have a look at my complete guide on why oil lamp wicks burn out faster, in which I also highlighted some solutions to this problem.

How Long Should the Wick Be On An Oil Lamp?

While discussing trimming the wicks of the oil lamps, it is also important to know how long of the wick you should have for your oil lamp.

As a general rule, you should have an 8-inch long wick for your oil lamp because some portion of it will be occupying the space in the other parts of the oil lamp. It is good to have too much wick rather than too little since a wick that can’t reach the oil will dry out and extinguish itself.

Usually, an 8-inch wick can last through about 15 gallons of lamp oil that can be sufficient enough to burn the wick 24 hours a day for up to 320 days.

On average, the distance from the top of the wick to the oil for any oil lamp or lantern is about 6 inches. So if you select a 7-inch wick, then it will be too short of reaching the fuel after 1 inch of it burns, isn’t it?

So the general recommended length is 8 inches long wick, and you can cut the wick as per your requirement if needed.

How High Should The Wick Be In An Oil Lamp?

Usually, the recommended height of the flame is about 1”. So the wick should also be that much higher only.

Remember that if your flame is too high, it will burn erratically, and a lot of smoke will be produced.

When Should I Trim My Oil Lamp Wick?

In general, if you use your oil lamp daily, then you need to trim your wick almost every day. The by-product of combustion can get deposited on the tip of the wick.

So for the better functioning of the wick, to get better light, it is a good practice to trim the wick and remove the char off. You can shape the wick depending on the type of flame you would like to have.

Other than these, if the shape of the flame is odd or improper, then also it indicates the time for trimming your wick.

For example, when the flame is way taller on one side than the other. Ideally, for most lamps, the top of the flame should be nice and straight as this allows the optimum efficiency and light output. Remember, an efficient flame will generally be smokeless.

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Can I Use Scissors Instead Of Wick Trimmers?

If you trim your wick properly, then you should expect a full rounded flame with the maximum amount of light with full rounded and minimum smoke released. 

Your wick shouldn’t have any points that could stretch the flame. Long flames can create smoke, pollution in the room, smudges in the chimney along with wasteful fuel.

Now, how appropriately you can trim the wick is also dependent on the tool you use to cut it. Unless you use sharp scissors, it would be difficult for you to make the cuts, especially when you want to trim the wick at a specific angle.

So trimming a wick with scissors does work but may not be the ideal option. The mechanical action of the scissors tends to push the wick fabric ahead of it a little bit before it cuts

Hence, you can start with a pair of sharp scissors, but if you are not able to get the ideal cuts, then you can move on and get a wick trimmer tool.

Oil Lamp Wick Maintenance Tips

  • Make sure that the oil lamp wick is always soaked in enough lamp oil.
  • Burn your wick moderately and never let it get dry so that you don’t have to worry about them running out.
  • If your wick remains wet with oil sufficiently, your oil will only burn and not the wick.
  • Trim your wick appropriately because improper trimming can result in ragged edges with flaring corners.


So, in short, take a pair of sharp scissors or a wick trimmer and then trim the wick of the oil based on the type of flame you want. 

I already discussed with you the shapes in which you can cut the wick, so if you scrolled up to here directly, then make sure to go back and read. And if you read this guide completely, I’m sure that you have already got a clear picture of trimming the wick. Right? So that’s it. Thanks.

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