Do you build your own atomizer coils? If you do, it’s likely that you go through a lot of cotton. There are plenty of reasons why cotton is the most popular wick material for coil building. Cotton is inexpensive. It’s a natural material, so many people feel comfortable with it. It doesn’t add unusual flavours to an e-liquid – and its wicking performance is pretty good. If you’re really into tinkering with your coil designs to alter the vaping experience, though, you should know that there’s a lot more to atomizer building than the coil itself. Changing your wick material can have a drastic effect on flavour, vapour production and your device’s ability to sustain long puffs – and when you move past cotton, you’ll find that there is a wide array of alternative wick materials from which to choose. Let’s learn more about the alternative wick materials for coil building and find out how they can affect your vaping experience.
Wick Materials for Coil Building the Alternatives
Rayon – usually bought by vapers in the form of a beauty product called CelluCotton – is spun from wood pulp that’s been treated with a chemical solvent. Since the fibres of rayon are much smaller than those of cotton, rayon’s capillary action is extremely effective. It’s so effective, in fact, that most people cut the tails of their rayon wicks at sharp angles so there’s actually a greater density of rayon inside the coil than outside. Rayon also tends to shrink when it’s wet, so you’ll have to stuff your coils a little more tightly than you would with cotton. If you’re willing to get past the learning curve, though, you’ll find that rayon can be much more forgiving than cotton when it comes to chain vaping and long, deep puffs.
Opinions vary about the quality of the vaping experience with silica wicks. Some people believe that silica colours the flavour of an e-liquid slightly; others believe that silica has a purer flavour. Everyone can agree, though, on the fact that silica is extremely resistant to burning. Cotton can singe when it’s dry. So can rayon. Silica is so resistant to burning that some people actually dry burn their coils with the silica wicks still installed. One challenge with silica wicks is that they aren’t soft and squishy like cotton and rayon wicks. You don’t wick a coil with silica by pushing the wick through the coil; you wrap the coil around the wick. Inhaling silica particles is also a potential concern as silica is known to be dangerous when inhaled. Some people torch the ends of their silica wicks to help prevent them from fraying. We don’t fully know the health implications of vaping with silica wicks, but that’s true of every wick type. One certain thing, though, is that silica wicks are almost indestructible. You’ll likely use a silica wick for months before you need to replace it.
Ceramic wicks some in two forms. One form is a soft rope made from fibres woven together and heated to facilitate bonding. The other form – sintered ceramic – is made from powdered ceramic that’s moulded and heated. You’ll find ceramic rope on some websites that sell vaping supplies for coil builders. Sintered ceramic is mainly used in pre-built atomizer coil heads. Some people consider ceramic the ideal wick material for flavour chasing. Ceramic rope also has exceptional wicking performance, while sintered ceramic wicks e-liquid a bit more slowly. If you use a tank with a sintered ceramic wick, you’ll find that you need to wait several seconds between puffs for maximum flavour and vapour production. Like silica, though, ceramic is extremely resistant to heat. Although coil gunk remains an issue regardless of the wick type you use, you don’t have to worry about burning a ceramic wick by allowing it to go dry.
Hemp is not as popular as cotton and other wick materials, but it’s worth a try if you’re looking for a durable natural fibre that’s resistant to heat. Since hemp isn’t as soft as cotton, it can be a little difficult to use as a wick. Many people also feel that hemp doesn’t offer the same purity of flavour as cotton. Since the taste of hemp is a bit woody, though, you may actually like it – especially with compatible flavours such as tobacco e-liquids. The flavour of hemp eventually fades, but you’ll find that a hemp wick has a longer break-in period than a wick made from cotton or another material. Hemp doesn’t burn as easily as cotton, and its fans feel that it wicks more quickly. Some people also believe that hemp produces a purer flavour than cotton once you’ve gotten through the break-in period.
Stainless steel – being a conductive material – is the least popular wicking material for e-cigarettes. If you make a mistake, you’ll end up with a potentially dangerous short – and it’s easy to make a mistake since the steel mesh has to touch the coil to do its job. Some people torch the stainless steel thoroughly to build up a non-conductive layer of oxidation. Others use an insulating material such as silica to prevent metal from touching metal. Steel mesh isn’t as flexible as some other wicking materials, so it isn’t easy to use in an RDA. The most common use for stainless steel mesh in vaping is with Genesis-style tanks. In a Genesis-style tank, the tank is below the atomizer coil. The stainless steel mesh doesn’t need to curve to rest inside a drip well; it simply enters the tank through a hole in the bottom of the build deck.
Like every other wicking material, stainless steel has its fans and detractors. Many people who have used Genesis tanks with stainless steel wicks praised the setup for its incredibly accurate flavour. The Genesis became less popular, though, as more people switched from mouth-to-lung inhaling to direct-to-lung inhaling. Today, the stainless steel wick is mainly a part of vaping’s history. Most people use other materials for their wicks.