The Secret to Freeing an Embedded Candle Wick

Vh3bvAs winter storms rage across the country, I think of the people who may end up losing electrical power and need to dig out ye olde box of candles to see. This leads me to pass on a helpful household trick.

Most people have had the experience of pulling out a previously used candle and finding that the wick has been bent down and encased in a tomb of wax. There are two schools of thought regarding how to free the wick and use the candle again:

(1) Take a penknife or a butter knife and dig out the wax around the wick. This method can work but has the downside that if you are not careful you can cut the crisp wick itself, leading it to break off.

(2) Light a match and hold it over the area where the wick is embedded. As the wax melts, gently pry the wick free with the end of the match or another implement (a ball point pen usually works well). This trick can also work but has the downside that unless you have an unusually long match, it is easy to burn your fingers before the wax melts.

Now, here is the incredible useful secret to doing this that I discovered years ago: It does not matter at all which method you use, it only matters what time of day you do it.

If at the end of a long day of work you come home and attempt either technique, you can usually free the wick in no time. However, if you go to sleep and try either approach first thing in the morning, you will fail every time.

The reason is simple:

There is no wick for the rested

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

15 thoughts on “The Secret to Freeing an Embedded Candle Wick”

  1. My dad had a way of putting out candles without blowing them hard enough to spray any wax. He went from candle to candle saying "Hang von Papen, hang von Papen, hang von Papen" until they were all extinguished. Like many of his generation, he thought that von Papen should have been hanged at Nuremberg with the others. The technique works to this day.

  2. I suspect lots of people have ideas as to how best to address this problem.

    Maybe you could set up a wiki.

  3. Knew something was coming, but not what.

    You'll get a condo upgrade in heaven for not dragging this one out too long on us.

  4. I know something was coming because comments were permitted – which Keith does not do any more if he's being serious. I like the punch line, though it's not as strong as some of his previous items – but he gets extra points for being seasonally adjusted (or is it maladjusted?)

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