How to Trim a Wick for Oil Lamps

Updated February 21, 2017

Using an oil lamp for emergency lighting or simple evening atmosphere will emit enough light to see in a small room. The wick and the lamp itself must be kept properly maintained in order to provide optimum performance. Most oil lamps will consume between a ½ ounce and 29.6ml of oil every hour during lighted operation. Keeping the wick correctly trimmed will go a long way in efficiently using the fuel.

Remove the glass chimney from the oil lamp. Wipe out the inside of the chimney to remove any built up soot or residual oil.

Raise the wick and expose a ½ inch of the material above the metal burner ring of the oil lamp.

Cut off the scorched portion of the wick using a sharp pair of scissors in a straight horizontal line. The flat horizontal wick will give the most fuel-efficient flame from the oil lamp.

Trim the wick in an upward shaped point with equal sides. This design to the wick will consume more oil, but will also give off more light.

Crop the wick in a small radial circle with the curve facing out. This design will also give more surface area to the wick and will burn a brighter flame. The curved wick will use less fuel than the upward point, but slightly more than the basic horizontal trimmed wick.

Wipe the entire lamp down with the rag to remove any dust or oil residue from the outside of the lamp. Regardless of the wick's shape, the lamp should be trimmed prior to each use for the most efficient operation.


Never move or lift a lighted oil lamp. Set the oil lamp in place and then light. The contents or fuel of the oil lamp are highly flammable and will ignite if spilt or broken.

Things You'll Need

  • Rag
  • Scissors
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