What Are Vaping Wicks Made Of?
One of the greatest things about vaping – or perhaps one of the most annoying things, depending on your point of view – is the fact that even the tiniest change in equipment can have a profound effect on the performance, flavour and vapour production of your device. Nowhere is that more evident than in the humble wick that carries the e-liquid from your tank’s reservoir to its atomizer coil.
You’re probably already aware that every vaping coil has a wick. The wick is the white, fluffy material that you can see through the openings on the side and top of a vape coil. What you may not know, though, is that a vaping wick can be made from several different materials – and each of those materials imparts its own characteristics to your vaping experience.
What are vaping wicks made of? This article is our exploration of the different wick materials for vaping and how those materials can affect your vaping experience.
Cotton is the most popular material for vaping wicks by a wide margin. If you use a sub-ohm tank with a replaceable coil, the coil’s wick is almost definitely cotton – and if you build your own coils, there’s a good chance that you use cotton for that as well. Cotton vape wicks aren’t perfect, but they present the best possible balance of flavour quality and wicking performance for most applications. Cotton wicks transport e-liquid efficiently enough for high-temperature vaping, and people generally find that cotton delivers a pure and accurate flavour.
Although cotton is the best overall wick material for most vaping situations, it does have one minor drawback in that it can burn at high temperatures. If you’re the type of person who tends to chain vape at high wattages – or you accidentally forget to refill your tank – you can burn a cotton wick, ruining the flavour of the coil forever.
If you’re careful, though, cotton is the ideal wick material for most vapers.
Flax and Hemp
Some of the manufacturers in the vaping industry have experimented with using natural fibres other than cotton – or together with cotton – for their wicks. Flax and hemp are the most common alternative natural fibres that the manufacturers have used recently. Some manufacturers have also experimented with wood pulp. Most commonly, the manufacturers blend those fibres with cotton to produce a vaping experience that still feels familiar. Although fibres like hemp and flax may not greatly change the flavour that you taste when using a coil, you may find that coils with those fibres are a bit more resistant to heat than coils using only cotton.
Silica is one of the most popular wick materials for low-temperature vaping applications. If you use a pod-based vaping system, for example, it’s likely that the system’s pods have silica wicks. You’ll see the translucent threads extending from the sides of the atomizer coil. The reason why silica is used as a wick material for pod systems – but not for sub-ohm tanks – is because, while it produces a good flavour and is very resistant to heat, it doesn’t transport e-liquid as efficiently as cotton.
Ceramic was briefly popular as a wick material for sub-ohm tanks a few years ago. There are two different ways of making a ceramic vape wick. One way is by spinning liquid ceramic into fibres, which can then be woven into pads or ropes. Another way is by making a hard and porous wick from sintered ceramic.
A vape wick made from a ceramic pad functions in much the same way as the cotton pads that most vape wicks use; the pad absorbs e-liquid from the tank’s reservoir and brings it to the coil. Because ceramic is so different from cotton, it has one large benefit along with one major drawback.
The benefit of ceramic as a material for vape wicks is that it doesn’t burn. Unlike with a cotton wick, you can’t burn a ceramic wick if you chain tape or forget to refill your tank. You can get a dry hit, of course, but the wick won’t burn.
Although ceramic’s resistance to heat is a major benefit, ceramic wicks also have a drawback in that they transport e-liquid much less efficiently than cotton. Ceramic wicks are efficient enough for sub-ohm vaping, but they’ll only work well with coils designed to operate within a range of about 30-50 watts. Since most of today’s sub-ohm coils operate at higher power levels than that, ceramic wicks aren’t as popular as they used to be.
Sintered ceramic vape wicks work best with extremely thick liquids like CBD oils.
Rayon isn’t used as a wick material for pre-built coils, but it has a loyal following among some people who use rebuildable atomizers and build their own coils. The most popular form of rayon for coil building is a beauty product called CelluCotton, which is available in both rayon and cotton forms – so you’ll want to get the rayon version if you want to try making a rayon vape wick yourself.
When you build an atomizer coil with a rayon wick, you’ll need to stuff as much rayon as possible through the centre of the coil because rayon tends to contract when it’s wet. If you use too little rayon, the wick will lose contact with the coil, and you’ll get dry hits.
If you’re the type of person who likes to chain vape – you get dry hits occasionally because you don’t wait long enough for your wick to re-saturate between puffs – you might love vaping with a rayon wick because rayon transports e-liquid extremely efficiently. It’s so efficient, in fact, that some people experience floods when they wick their RDA coils with rayon. To prevent that from happening, they cut their wicks at an angle to prevent the rayon from drawing too much e-liquid to the coil.
Rayon vape wicks are so efficient that they make it possible to chain vape with virtually no possibility of dry hits. Some people don’t care for rayon as a material for vape wicks, though, because the flavour that you’ll get with a rayon wick will be very different from what you’ll get with a cotton wick. Some people find rayon wicks unenjoyable because they can’t get used to the different flavour.