Is It Time To Replace Your Atomizer? + 6 Tips On How To Clean a Wax Atomizer

Although vaping is hands down cheaper than smoking, the expenses still pile up in a course of a year. Whether you vape on e-liquid or something else, there are two things you can expect to spend on fairly regularly – vape juice (or dry herbs, concentrates, etc.) and atomizers. Naturally, your vape material evaporates with use, so there’s no surprise there. However, there is still some confusion as to how often atomizers need to be replaced. To know that, you have to learn what atomizers are, how they work, and what makes them go ‘bad’, so to speak.

What Is An Atomizer?

An atomizer (or an atomizer coil) is a small part of an electronic cigarette that heats up the material and turns it into vapor. There are different types of atomizers – wicked, wickless, dishes, and so on. Generally, all vape juice atomizers are wicked. This means that they have a casing and a heating coil in the middle of it. A piece of cotton is threaded through that coil and it absorbs the vape juice, allowing for easier evaporation. Replacing these atomizers is easy and there are telltale signs to watch out for that will let you know when the time is right (we’ll get to them in a minute).

Types of Wax Atomizers

Replacing wax atomizers can be a bit trickier, if only because there are different types on the market.

    • Wicked wax atomizers – these atomizers have a cotton wick threaded through a coil. They are used for low-viscosity oils and wax and can get very dirty, very fast. Since it’s difficult to clean them or to change the wicking, wicked wax atomizers need to be replaced on a regular basis.
  • Wickless wax atomizers – wickless atomizers are used with thicker materials (usually by dabbers). They last a bit longer than wicked ones and are easier to clean because they use ceramic or quartz rods which don’t gunk up as fast.
  • Ceramic dishes – these atomizers have no heating coils, which makes them very durable. Since they are easy to clean (no wicks or coils that can be burned or distorted), there’s no need to replace them that often, although they need to be properly maintained.

Now that you understand the types of atomizers, it’s time to see how long they usually last. This will differ from type to type, so before replacing your atomizer (especially wax atomizer) it’s important that you peek under the hood to see what you’re dealing with.

How Long Do Atomizers Last?

There really is no telling how long an atomizer will last before it needs to be replaced. If you’re lucky, you’re going to get a couple of months of use out of it at least. This is especially true for wickless atomizers and ceramic dishes. That said, wicked atomizers have a shorter lifespan. On average, most atomizers last between two to four weeks if you’re not overdoing it.

A couple of things will determine the longevity of an atomizer:

    • Quality of materials and make – there are several different types of wires that can be used in coil construction. Titanium wires will last the longest, and NiChrome wires tend to burn out relatively fast because they are softer. Also, a solidly built atomizer from a good manufacturer will outlast an atomizer that has been shoddily put together.
    • Acidity level and PG/VG content in your vape juice – fruity vape juice flavors are acidic, and using them can lead to a shorter atomizer life. In addition, if your vape juice is heavy in VG (vegetable glycerin) content, your atomizer will gunk up much faster because VG is more viscous.
  • A high power setting – if you’re running your vape on high wattage, you’re going to notice more wear and tear on your atomizers.
  • How often you vape – this one is pretty obvious, but it goes without saying that if you vape often and with abandon, you can expect your atomizers to last less. The lifespan of an atomizer should be measured in how many hours of use you got from it, as opposed to how many days went by since you installed it.

When Is The Time To Replace Your Atomizer?

An atomizer that needs to be replaced will leave no doubt about it. If you’re experiencing any of the circumstances described below, then it’s high time to get yourself a new coil.

  • Burnt taste – there’s nothing worse for a vaper then burnt hits. They taste and smell like a burning dumpster and immediately put you off of vaping. Burnt hits can be caused by high temperature and viscous vape juice, but if that’s not it, then the culprit might be your atomizer. Over time, atomizer coils will develop hot spots (areas of intense heat) that will just burn everything that comes into contact with them. When that happens, it’s time to replace the atomizer head with a new one.
  • Leakage – wicked atomizers can start to leak when the cotton inside them is disturbed, twisted out of shape, or burnt. Leakage is a big problem because it can damage your battery, so it needs to be dealt with straight away. Check if you’re overflooding you coil (for vape juice) or using too much wax or oil (for concentrates) – if that’s not it, replace the atomizer just to be on the safe side.
  • Gunk build-up – over time, every atomizer will start to gunk up, even the wickless ones. That’s why they need to be cleaned regularly. However, there’s not much you can do with a gunked up wick and, eventually, you will need to replace the atomizer. As to when, that will depend on whether the gunk is affecting the flavor (and in most cases, it will).
  • Clogged airflow – with wax atomizers, it’s important to keep an eye on airflow holes. Wax is a sticky substance, and if it clogs the airflow holes on your atomizer it will render it useless. Check and clean them regularly – if you wait too long, there won’t be much you’ll be able to do to save that atomizer.
  • Horrible taste – sometimes, there are no obvious reasons to indicate that your atomizer head needs replacing. However, the taste is horrible and you’re getting very harsh hits. If everything is ok with you vape material (you didn’t change it), this is a sign that it’s time to order a replacement atomizer.

Wait…Can You Clean Your Wax Atomizers?


Wicked atomizers are difficult to clean since, especially those used in vape juice tanks. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. On the other hand, cleaning wax atomizer heads is easier because their coils are exposed (or they don’t even use coils, as in the case of ceramic dishes).

Here are five simple ways to clean wax atomizers. Give them a try before you throw your hands up in despair and replace your coil.

  • Q tips and isopropyl alcohol – coils are pretty sensitive and should be handled with care. One way to clean them safely is to arm yourself with Q-tips, rubbing alcohol, and a lot of patience. Dip the Q-tip in alcohol and gently clean out the inside of the atomizer, taking extra care not to bend the coil out of shape. Repeat the process until you’ve removed as much gunk as you can.

  • The paperclip method – if you’re dealing with clogged airflow and caked gunk, you might need something stronger than alcohol. This is where a paperclip comes in. Unravel a paperclip, wrap it in a paper towel, and gently poke out the gunk out of the air holes. You can then (slowly) scrape the gunk off of the coil with it, but take extra care not to do any damage.

    • Burn off excess wax – the simplest way to remove wax from your coil is to simply burn it off. Without adding any extra material onto the coil, dry burn it until it glows red. Then simply take a Q-tip and scoop off the residue.

  • Blow out your atomizer – sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best solutions. If you’re struggling with a clogged airflow, simply blowing out your atomizer might do the trick and dislodge that pesky residue. Remember to do it when the atomizer has had the time to cool off otherwise, you’re in for one scalding hot surprise.
  • Soak your atomizer – fill a bowl with hot water and add some rubbing alcohol to it. Now, simply submerge your atomizer inside and let it sit for a few hours. This is a great method for cleaning those really, really dirty atomizer heads; however, it’s not recommended for wicked coils. If you do decide to get the wick wet, make sure to let it dry completely before using that atomizer again. After your atomizer has had the time to soak, clean it with a Q-tip – it should go a lot easier now.

Waste Not, Want Not – But Replace Your Atomizers When the Time is Right

If you throw away your atomizers at the slightest hint of trouble, you’re looking at spending a lot of money on replacements. Vape gear maintenance is the essential part of vaping, and you should be willing to spend a bit of time every week keeping your vapes and coils in tip-top shape.

That said, know when it’s time to throw in the towel. If you can’t get a good flavor from your atomizer, or if the residue is so baked in that it won’t budge, it’s time to admit defeat and get a replacement. Do you have any tips on how to easily clean atomizers (vape juice or wax)? If so, please leave a comment – we’d love to hear from you.


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