Oil Lamp Wick Burning Fast? (Here’s Why With Solution!)

You might be having an oil lamp just for decoration purposes or to use in case of emergency. Familiarizing yourself with your oil lamp beforehand is important so that you can use it better when it is actually required. But one thing you might be facing an issue with right now is the wick of the oil lamp is burning fast, right? So, why does your oil lamp wick burn so fast?

The oil lamp wick burns so fast because the capillary action of the wick might not be working properly. As a result, instead of the oil being burned, the wick itself is used as a fuel. Also, improper oil use or the incorrect wick size can be one of the reasons that cause the wick to burn so fast.

Now ahead in this article, I will be sharing with you how the oil lamp actually works so that you can better understand them. And then, I would also discuss with you the reasons why oil lamp wick burns so fast and also the solution to prevent it. Without further ado let’s jump in!

Oil Lamp Wick Burning Fast (Here’s Why With Solution!)

How Does The Oil Lamp Work?


Before I tell you about how the oil lamp works it is important to know about the parts of the oil lamp:

  • Fuel Tank
  • Burner
  • Wick
  • Wick Adjustment Knob
  • Throat 
  • Glass Globe/ Lamp Chimney

So at the bottom part of the oil lamp, there is a fuel tank that is filled with fuel oil. The oil lamp also contains a wick whose main work is to transport the fuel to the flame.

The burner also has a wick adjustment knob that helps in optimizing the oxygen/fuel ratio for complete combustion.

Now a capillary action happens in the wick when the oil lamp is lit. In simple words, capillary action is the ability of a liquid to flow in an upwards direction in a narrow space without the help of external force.

So in an oil lamp, the fuel, through the capillary action goes from the fuel tank at the bottom in the upward direction to the flame.

Due to the capillary action, the liquid fuel is drawn up the wick. The flame in oil lamps actually burns just above the surface of the wick.

How Long Does A Wick Last In An Oil Lamp?

A wick in an oil lamp is generally made from 100% cotton. Wicks are affordable and generally, one piece of wick will last for a long time.

For example, an 8 inch can last through about 15 gallons of lamp oil. And note: that wick is sufficient enough to burn 24 hours a day for 320 days!

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Now if you are thinking of how long your wick should be, then remember, in the case of lamp wicks it is always better to have a bit more rather than having not enough.

On average, the distance from the top of the wick to the fuel is generally 6 inches. So if you buy a 7-inch long wick then you would only have 1 inch to utilize before the wick becomes too short to reach the fuel, right?

So in general, it is recommended to use an 8-inch long wick. Yes, if necessary you can cut the wick to fit properly. But this way you can be assured that you have enough wick, isn’t it?

If you purchase 8 inches wick then it can extend the life of the wick.

By the way, if you use neon sign bulbs then I would encourage you to check out my article about do neon sign bulbs burn out and how to make them last longer.

Why Does My Oil Lamp Wick Burn So Fast?

#1. Capillary Function Of The Wick Not Working Properly

If your wick is burning very fast then an improper capillary function of the wick could be one of the reasons. If you have read the working of the oil lamp I shared earlier you might already know what is capillary action.

Now what happens is when the wick is stuffed with solidified paraffin, the capillary functioning of the wick doesn’t work properly.

And because of that, the flame would instead utilize the wick as the fuel. You can identify this by the greenish color of the wick.

Remember, please don’t try to clean with just water or any chemicals because firstly the paraffin is insoluble in water. Moreover, rinsing the cotton will actually decrease its capillary action.

#2. Improper Oil Used In The Lamp

Now the second reason why your lamp wick burns out so fast is that you might be using improper oil that doesn’t go well with your lamp.

A flame that is hotter will require more oxygen and more fuel. However, if that crosses the limits of the burner of your oil lamp, then the wick may not be able to transport enough required oil to the flame anymore.

Hence, due to that, the flame will burn the wick instead of the fuel and you might often see unsteady flame combined with it.

#3. Incorrect Wick Size

Another reason why your wick burns out so fast is the size of the wick. The size of the wick is usually indicated in the width only and if you think it is of the right size then it’s okay.

But remember, thickness is also an important factor that you need to consider.

  • Problem with thin wick: If your wick is too thin then the burner of the oil lamp will actually allow the gases to escape causing the flame to puff. 
  • Problem with thick wick: On the other hand, if the wick is too thick then it will swell up by the oil and pinch itself in the burner, and hence it won’t be able to transport enough oil.
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Note that if your wick is too low then it might not be getting enough oxygen to maintain the flame. So raise the wick height if that’s the case.

By the way, in case you are also looking for rope lights for your garden, I would highly recommend you to have a look at my article on the 5 best rope lights for the garden.

Solution To The Problem Of Oil Lamp Wick Burning Out So Fast

#1. Never Burn Your Wick Dry

This is one of the important things to consider regarding the wick maintenance and also to make sure that they last long. So always make sure that the wick is properly soaked in the lamp oil when used.

If you just burn the wick in the dry condition then obviously your wick will be burning out and not the oil. As a result, if you keep burning out your wick instead of the oil then you will soon have to buy more wicks!

#2. Use The Right Oil In The Lamp

Generally, every type of oil can be used for oil lamps with wicks. Here are some of the oil types used in the oil lamps:

  • Vegetable Oil
  • Seed Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Kerosene Oil
  • Castor Oil
  • Hemp Oil

Some oils are more suitable for your oil lamp as compared to the others and hence it becomes necessary to properly research to know how the wick will interact with the oil and the overall suitability of the oil with your oil lamp.

#3. Use The Proper Wick Size

Due to problems of incorrect wick size, it is recommended to always use the wick size that is approved by the manufacturer of your oil lamp.

Now you might be thinking about how to choose the right wick for your oil lamp? Well, here are some points that can help you out to select the right wick size for your oil lamp.

  • Measure the size of the old wick or the wick channel itself.
  • To measure the wick channel you might have to pull off the top of the burner to see the top side of the channel.
  • However, if the top is not removing then you can just flip the burner upside down and measure the bottom side.
  • You must measure the width of the wick properly.
  • Generally, remember that it is better to go with a slightly smaller width because even a slightly smaller width will fit the burner but a slightly larger width will not.

And also make sure that the wick uses good quality cotton so that the capillary action can occur properly.


In short, the wick of the oil lamp burns fast either because the wick’s capillary function isn’t working properly, the fuel is not suitable with the oil lamp or the size of the wick is not proper as per the lamp.

If you make sure that the oil always burns instead of the wick itself (by making sure that the wick is soaked in oil properly). Also, using the right oil and the right size wick will be most likely enough to prevent the wick from burning out fast. 

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So that’s it! Hope this article has helped you to get the answers to all your questions.

Now in case you are interested in lava lamps then you might also like to have a look at my article on the top 5 best lava lamps with glitter.

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