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The Truth About Cotton Wicks

Like a lot people I spend a lot time on various different “social” sites. Just the other day while I was on reddit(/r/electronic_cigarette/), which can be a gold mine for interesting, and good information. However, it can also be a place where misinformation is curated. Which is the reason behind this post. There was a topic over there (which I believe now has been deleted) that was basically saying that the use of cotton wicks is harmful. It was information that was taken out of content. I’m here to try and shed some light on the topic and to set things straight.

Hello, my name is James and I am part of a small site (Vape Resource) that deals with vaping. I’ve reached out to Spinfuel for this guest contribution as I felt this issue needed to be addressed and should be seen by a larger audience.

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So, without further delay let’s get to it.

Using Cotton Wicks

Please note that if you vape with cotton, you should use 100% pure, sterile, organic cotton and it’s a good idea to boil it before use just to clear out any contaminants. This piece presupposes that those who use cotton wicks follow those guidelines.

There is a lot of debate over what material is best suited for use as a wick when rebuilding atomizers. Unfortunately, there is no actual scientific research on this topic and thus the vaping community remains embroiled in a never-ending argument that has no clear answer. One common argument is that cotton should not be used for wicking because burning cotton causes the release of acrolein and therefore, according to some, cigarette smoking would be a healthier option because “smoking will give you lung diseases in decades; acrolein exposure can give you lung disease in a matter of months.” There are several problems with this analysis.

The facts about acrolein

✱   Used primarily as a biocide

✱   Formed from the breakdown of certain air pollutants or the burning of wood, cotton, paper, and petroleum.

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✱   Small amounts are found in roasted coffee, cooking oils, and fried foods.

✱   Toxic to humans and is an irritant for the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.

✱   WHO sets the level of “tolerable oral acrolein intake” at 7.5 μg/day per kilogram of body weight.

✱   CDC information says that cotton contains a concentration of 60ppm of acrolein, meaning there 60 μg of acrolein for every gram of cotton that is released when the material is burnt.

Vaping with cotton

From the information above, we know that burning one gram of cotton releases 60 μg of acrolein (assuming cotton releases all of its acrolein when burnt), which is safe for intake only up to increments of 7.5 μg/day/kg of body weight. Cotton is extremely light and not much is needed for wick creation; therefore, assuming a body weight 70 kg (154 lbs.), one’s maximum amount of acrolein exposure would be 525 μg/day, or almost nine grams of cotton. That is an extremely large amount of cotton to go through in one day, much more than the average vaper. Plus, do not forget that acrolein is only released when cotton burns and if you are vaping correctly and keeping your wick wet, burning should not happen.


Using 100% pure, sterile, organic cotton as a wick material is safe as long as you do not use a tremendous amount of it, and even then it is only unsafe if you burn it. Of course, everything has a little bit of risk associated with it and unfortunately there is not a smoking replacement that is completely and totally safe with no health hazards attached, so it is really a question of choosing the lesser of two evils: vaping or smoking.


Sources, Potential for Human Exposure. Available from: (Accessed 14 October 2014)., Acrolein. Available from:  (Accessed 14 October 2014)., Acrolein. Available from: (Accessed 14 October 2014).

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About The Author

All original content is written and produced for our readers by the Spinfuel Staff. The writing staff includes Julia Hartley-Barnes, Keira Hartley-Barnes, Tom McBride, Jason Little, Melanie Hendrix, and Dave Foster. Spinfuel also publishes guest contributors on occasion. All original content is protected by US copyright laws.

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4 thoughts on “The Truth About Cotton Wicks”

  1. James, I appreciate that you took the time to reach out to Spinfuel for publication of this piece. I know you did the right thing and reached a much larger audience. I think it would be worthwhile, too, to have someone go over the differences between organic cotton, braided silica, hemp wicks, SS mesh, etc. pros/cons of each.

  2. In my experience the Reddit ECR community is quick to question anything presented as facts, whether it’s pro or anti vaping. When somebody made a thread around midnight three weeks ago about the dangers of Acetoin and why we shouldn’t use cotton, people on there immediate started asking for clarification and proof. One hour and just 10 points later, the original poster deleted the thread.

    I took it upon myself to look more into the claims made by the OP. By the time I was ready to post my comment the thread was already deleted. So I posted it as a thread instead, about an hour and half since the misinformed thread was posted.

    The thread basically mirrors the article written by James. You can see it here:

    It’s surprising to me that James managed to see that short lived thread, yet missed mine that was on the front page for two whole days. Nevertheless I’m glad this issue is getting more exposure to stop this misinformation from spreading further.

    Also, like I mentioned in my thread, the safe tolerance limit for Acetoin consumption is based on oral ingestion only. We don’t know if/how that number changes when you’re actually inhaling it.

    1. It was never my intention to make the reddit ECR community look bad. The whole point was to make people aware and to questions things. Plus, reaching out to a different platform and to people who don’t visit reddit on a topic that effects a lot of vapers.

      Looking back on it, I wish I would of linked to your thread in the article.

      If the spinfuel team would allow me to go back and make some edits, I would be more than happy to do so.

      I hope there is no hard feelings, and I do apologize.

      Happy Vaping

  3. the taste of burnt cotton let me just tell you you only do that once !

    on my way home from work running low on juice vaping @ 12 MG nic i just quit smoking 4 weeks before
    so the juice in my RSST dual coil ( magneto genesis style ) was good at the end of the long working day
    I can make that drive no worries i thort its only another 20 minutes up the highway

    … music playing in the car ….. music stops and a news flash relay the information of a traffic accident on my route home only a few hundred meters later coppers detour all traffic on to a a joining highway ……….
    no worries my trusty GPS will guide me i set it to avoid the highway i’m on … hmm guess others had the same idea thats a lot of cars …..
    sigh 10 light changes later i get through the first set of traffic lights … now that juice in my tank is getting really low !!!

    to my horror every car owner in Perth must have been on the road and they all wanted to go the same way ……. frustration sets in
    I’m annoyed i just wanted to get home and refill my tank a few vapes gets me my nic fix … the GPS now gets set to avoid 2 roads in a attempt to get away from the traffic congestion on the smaller roads bypassing the accident !

    no nooooo NOOOOO theres road work cant go that way they blocked my escape …. seriously this is too crazy ….
    turning care around 🙁 GPS now avoiding 3 roads takes me on a journey ill never forget i get stuck at another set of traffic lights behind hundreds of cars
    and thats when i dry burn my cotton wick sitting there the cloud i inhale is Warmer than normal …… it feels dry …. ! it IT ITTT taste horrible unlike anything I’ve ever experienced …… $#&%@*(&%$ what the !!! I cough like my lungs want to vomit ! ! !
    my face turns mailbox red my eyes are getting wet from coughing
    to the point i think i wont be able take a breath again before the next onslaught of gagging while coughing nearly makes me spew up …. i look in the mirror it’s not a good look i think to my self I’m still in officer uniform
    i look down on the MOD still in my hand …. yea the tank is well dry i put it in the cup holder then the traffic starts moving again while I’m wondering how i could forget to keep a eye on the the drops in the tank of my RSST tank i knew it was low …..

    I had a bad taste in my mouth till i got home 2 hours later detour after detour with traffic cues turned a 30 min drive into a nightmare ill NEVER FORGET to bring spare juice for my vaping device

    Cotton is not possible to be vaped even if your desperate for that last few drops that might be in the wick


    kind regards
    a burned cotton surviver

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