We’ve all had candle burns where the glass broke, was covered in a thick layer of black soot, or where the wick simply kept going out, or burned the label on the outside of the glass, or wouldn’t stay lit at all.

Too many people just throw up their hands and let “Fate” spit in their eye. Somewhere or other they pick up the idea that it ruins the spell to “manipulate” a candle to make it burn right.

But weren’t you “manipulating the candle” when you put oil and herbs on it?  And aren’t you “manipulating” it if you check in on it every so often to pray aloud, as some spells call for?

So why stop there? Keep your scissors and butter knife handy, children.

(Maybe you can’t trust divination signs left by a “corrected” candle — my mentor, cat yronwode, is of this opinion. You might set a “test” candle beside it, just for reading signs when it’s done.)


3 sooty candles

Now, a lying, dirty, low-down, scheming scam artist can force a sooty burn by partly blocking the top of a vigil candle. Of course you’ll never do that.

But seriously, the biggest producers of soot are overmuch oil, overlong wicks, drafts, and too little oxygen. So prevention is your friend here: be sparing with the oil; keep the wick trimmed; keep the candle out of drafts.

Wait, now: how do you trim a wick in a vigil light? You may be able to reach down in there with an icepick while the candle is still burning and knock “burnts” and accumulations of carbon off the wick. Or you may have to snuff it out (sometimes I use wrung-out wet cotton wrapped around the tips of chopsticks) and then reach down in there with a pair of scissors and snip it. You won’t be able to do that all the way down, though, since the blades of most commonly available scissors don’t reach much farther than 4 1/2 inches – and a vigil light glass is 8 inches tall. You can get 11-inch shears – but they’re spendy, and probably not a good investment for just a few candles.

Soot often doesn’t develop in a candle burn until the candle is half gone, because the tall glass restricts air. And yet most of the time, glass candles burn clean or nearly so. Overlong wicks make oversized flames — so keep that wick trimmed until it is out of reach of your scissors.

Broken Glass


Even with the best materials and the greatest care, a wick can go crooked when a candle is made. It happens because the wax shrinks, often unpredictably, as it cools, pulling the wick out of true. When the wick gets pulled close to the glass, it can crack or break the glass and scorch or burn the label.

You can fix this while the candle is burning. Look down into the top of the candle and, if the wick is noticeably off-center, pry it back toward the middle with a long, sturdy object like a knitting needle, long screwdriver, or butter knife.

Drowned Wicks

I don’t have a picture of this situation, because it happens to me so rarely.

Wicks drown when wax melts too fast. You’ll see a barely visible blue flame no bigger than a little seed, surrounded by a big pool of wax. Glass-encased candles often start this way, even when you end up with a nice clean burn. But if it persists for more than a day, it needs attention.

Some people pour the wax out.

Don’t do that.

Others put the candle out, let the candle cool for a while, and roll the candle so that the wax clings to the glass. This at least clears away the wax puddle so you can relight it. In my experience, though, the wax you’ve displaced to the wall just runs down and puddles around the wick again.

I prefer to splint wicks. It’s easier if you snuff the candle out. Let it cool and stab a little hole right next to the wick. Put a short piece of wick in that hole (this is why the pros save the little bits of wick they trim off new candles) and relight it. I stick my piece of wick onto the end of a chopstick with Tacky Wax and kind of “wipe” it off against the side of the little hole. Now you’ve got the power of two wicks to use up that surplus melted wax.

If you find the extra wick generates a big, soot-producing flame once it’s done its work, reach in there with a pair of kitchen tongs and pull it out.

You can also splint the wick if the original wick is NOT drowing but just won’t stay lit for some mysterious reason.

And those are some of the things I will do for you if necessary, when you have a light set on my altars.

17 thoughts on “Correcting candles

  1. OMG! Thank you so much for that tip on putting another wick in the candle. Last year I tried my hand at pouring mason jar candles, and the wick did just that, it went out after about 15 minutes. I never understood why until now. Thank you so much! And thank goodness I still have them, a spool of wicking and some wax left all stored up.

  2. hi I been having problems when the wick is not properly centered I have had to put incense stick in the center to help the candle burn. I am burning the candle for spiritual cleansing and protection I was wondering if this will affect the outcome of my work.

    1. If the incense you choose is appropriate to the work — cinnamon for love or money, jasmine for psychic work or to better connect you with the target, or patchouli or rose for just about anything — it might actually help. What you’ve discovered is a different way to splint the wick.

      You know, this has some potential…

  3. Hi Miss Michaele! I’ve never seen anyone speak on wax images on the inside of a vigil candle. When I burn candles I sometimes have images of various things like trees, animals, people etc form on the glass as the candles burn. Id assumed it is just like a free standing candle would leave puddled wax images but since this is a glass encased candle, the spirits are trying to communicate or leave signs in this manner as the candle burns. I don’t think it means anything bad but I always read if there is wax on the glass it’s not a good sign.

    Many blessings to you.

    1. First of all, Priestess Divine, let me apologize for the long delay in this reply. Sometimes I get lost in my work … 🙂

      I totally agree with you about wax images on the glass if they form shapes that tell a story. A wall of wax all over the glass, though — that shows a brick wall in your path, so to speak.

      Have you read catherine yronwode’s The Art of Hoodoo Candle Magic? She has a good section about the meanings of candle signs.

      Miss Michaele

    1. As I said in this blog post, the main problem with “drowning” candles is the wick isn’t big enough to use up the wax. Pouring off wax doesn’t kill the work, as far as I know, but it doesn’t solve the drowning problem. Did you let it burn? What happened?

      Next time, though, I’d splint the wick if it wasn’t burning brighter on the second or third day.

  4. Thanks for your whole article. I was trying to find a reason my candle suddenly got all sooty as it went down- other than reports I’ve seen that some black candles just do because of the dye used. I had a tiny amount of fear then read this; due to company being over I set up the candle in a closet on a shelf and well, low air circulation and a little drafty from some cracks in the ceiling. Phew.

    1. Well, just because it was the physical result of a physical action you took, doesn’t mean it didn’t mean something about your work, too. You’ve got a physical explanation for this one candle, but … the physical reasons aren’t necessarily the only reason.

      I wrote this blog post not just for reassurance, but also self-protection — prevention. You should guard against soot, as far as you can, for the same reason you put herbs and oils on your candles.

  5. Ok so I’ve tried splinting the wick in a few candles and it’s not working, and then I took some wick I buy to use to light what I smoke and it burnt in 2 seconds. The wax on some of these candles seems very poor – maybe they are just like that but would love info in how to avoid crummy vigil candles. Thanks!

    1. There are pretty severe economic constraints on vigil candles, so quality control is a sometime thing. The supply of wax changes constantly due to fluctuating prices for petroleum, and candle makers have a large quantity of wick in stock at any time, and can’t throw it away just because the latest shipment of wax isn’t the optimum for the wick on hand, so…

      The best we spiritual workers can do is chop and channel as I have described. Or make our own, a labor-intensive task that might be worth doing as a business.

  6. Can I remove bulbs on the candle wick … Want to remove any interference that may arise.. Im doing a hummingbird candle

    1. Yes, you can knock those little bulbs of carbon off the wick. That will make the candle burn cleaner. I view such corrections as part of the work.

  7. Thanks so much for this helpful article! I read Miss Cat’s book and kept wondering what a splint wick was… Quick Google search brought me right here!

  8. While doing a candle spell, one candle representing the male in my situation had a wall of wax building in the middle of the votive. There was a small channel starting to form so that wax could pour out. I took my finger and pushed down on the ‘barrier wall’ that was forming. While I did this, I chanted that now the obstacles getting in our way are gone. I relit the candle and now it’s burning very steadily. I’m thinking since the candle was representative of the current situation, I feel what I did was extremely symbolic and will strengthen the spell!

    1. Cristina, I believe you’re right. The only caveat about “interfering” with candles in this way is that you can’t quite trust any signs they leave at the end of the burn.

      But I disagree.

      I hope your spell manifests just as you desire!

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