At a glance, wooden wicks may look like the most sustainable type of candle wick.
Wooden wicks are typically made from pure, natural wood. This means they are biodegradable and renewable.
We’ll discuss what factors come into play when determining how eco-friendly wooden candle wicks are.
1. What Are Wooden Wicks Made Of?
Wooden candle wicks can be made from almost any kind of wood, this can be softwood or hardwood.
They are commonly made from hardwoods such as birch, maple, rosewood, balsa, oak or softwoods like pine.
Wooden wicks are typically a long thin strip of wood. You will sometimes find hollow cylinder shaped wooden wicks, but these are also made from pure wood.
2. Are Wooden Wicks Made Sustainably?
Wooden wicks are not unsustainable. Generally, the wicks are made from pure wood, without varnish, paint or dyes.
Many kinds of varnish or dyes, particularly those which are solvent-based, can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which cause air pollution, so this is promising.
Wood is also a renewable, biodegradable resource.
3. Are Wooden Wicks Bad for the Environment?
While wood is renewable, using it in products is not always the most eco-friendly choice.
Softwood trees can take up to 40 years to mature. Depending on the species, hardwood trees can take between 50 to 100 years to mature.
Demand for wood products can increase deforestation. As trees store carbon, this can accelerate the greenhouse effect as fewer mature trees are used.
However, wooden wicks appear to burn slower than other kinds of wicks, like cotton.
A slower burning wick means the candle will last longer than other kinds of wicks, so you will not need to buy a replacement as soon.
4. Are Wooden Wicks Toxic?
Wooden wicks are generally not considered toxic.
As mentioned earlier, wood candle wicks are typically made from a thin strip of wood in a natural form.
A cause of concern would be if the wicks were dyed, or varnished – but as mentioned earlier this is rarely seen in wooden wicks.
There are also non-toxic paints available like tung oil or milk paint, so varnish or paint is not always a red flag.
There are concerns about candles in general being toxic, but the amount of compounds they release while burning is considered negligible.
But if you want to be as green as possible, soy candles do not emit as much soot as paraffin candles.
5. Are Wooden Wicks Better Than Cotton Wicks?
Wooden wicks are often presented as a sustainable alternative to cotton wicks, but they’re not substantially greener.
Both cotton and wood are renewable resources. How soon cotton matures can vary based on climate and location.
However, cotton plants are mature enough to harvest well within a year. This means that cotton is much easier to replenish.
One of the main concerns about cotton is it requires a lot of water. It takes approximately 10,000 liters of water (2,642 gallons) to produce 1 kg of cotton.
However, trees also require large amounts of water. The amount varies depending on location and species.
Both cotton and trees are often treated with pesticides. Pesticides can easily leech into the soil and pollute water supplies, harming plants and animals.
Almost 5% of all pesticide sales and more than 10% of insecticide purchases are associated with cotton production. However, organic cotton is growing in popularity.
The core of some cotton wicks may contain lead. Lead is harmful for the environment and for human health.
It has can have neurological impacts on animals, and decrease growth and reproduction in flora and fauna.
However, it is rare to come across lead in cotton wicks; they are banned in the US.
6. Are Wooden Wicks Biodegradable?
Wood is biodegradable, but whether a wooden wick is biodegradable depends on what it has been exposed to.
Pure wooden wicks are biodegradable, but disposing of an unused wick is highly unlikely.
Whether these kinds of wicks are biodegradable depends on the wax used. As the wax melts, the wick becomes saturated with melted wax.
Some wicks will already be coated in wax before you have even lit the candle.
Paraffin wax is not biodegradable since it comes from petroleum. Natural waxes like soy, coconut, palm, and beeswax are.
7. Are Wooden Wicks Compostable?
Pure wood is compostable, but not all candle wax is.
If the wick is coated in natural wax like pure beeswax, soy wax, palm wax, and coconut wax, it will still be compostable.
This is not the case for paraffin wax because it will not break down into organic matter.
While many paints and wood varnishes such as milk paint or linseed oil are compostable, not all of them are.
So you will need to determine what kind of varnish or paint was used if you want to compost the wick.
However, this is not a problem you are likely to run into, as wooden wicks are rarely varnished or painted.
8. Are Wooden Wicks Recyclable?
Wooden wicks are not recyclable.
As wooden wicks are small, coated in wax, and burnt, they cannot be made into a new item.
9. Are Wooden Wicks Sustainable?
Wooden wicks are somewhat sustainable. Wood is natural, biodegradable, and renewable.
Wooden wicks also may last longer than other candle wicks, which reduces the demand for new candles.
The main concern is deforestation as trees take a long time to grow.
They can also be brought down by the type of candle they are used in, as the use of non-natural waxes, like paraffin and paraffin-blends, means they are no longer biodegradable.
10. Which Candles Are Wooden Wicks Good For?
Wooden wicks seem to be suited to most kinds of candles.
Many candle makers interested in sustainability use soy wax, beeswax, and coconut wax.
However, some candlemakers argue they work best with paraffin wax and wax blends like paraffin and soy, as pure natural wax does not burn as consistently.
In particular, you’re more likely to find them in scented candles as wooden wicks diffuse more scents than cotton wicks.
11. How to Dispose of Wooden Wicks?
Small amounts of wood can go in a home compost bin, but not large pieces of wood as they take too long to break down.
So, wooden wicks are small enough to be composted this way.
If the wick was burned in a paraffin candle, it cannot go in your compost bin.
Only pure natural waxes like coconut, soy, and beeswax, can go in a compost bin.
If there are any dyes on the wicks, they cannot go in your home compost bin either. In this case, it should go into general waste.
Make sure the wick has cooled down completely before disposing of it.
2 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Wooden Wicks
If you make candles yourself, or are looking to buy a candle from a small artisan candle maker, a wick made from rolled up newspaper is a good choice.
This saves energy and resources that would go towards making new wicks from scratch.
The big issue with cotton and wood is the high water use but hemp requires less water. It takes between 300 to 500 to produce 1kg of hemp.
It is also biodegradable and renewable, and rarely requires the use of pesticides.
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