Candle tunneling happens when a lit candle melts around the wick but develops a ring around the outer edge of the candle that doesn’t burn down with it. It can happen to candles made from any type of wax and is a problem because over time it wastes a lot of candle wax, burn time, and can cause other problems too.
When candle tunneling happens, your candle will be harder and harder to light depending on how large it is, because you won’t be able to use a regular lighter or match without a burn hazard. Also, candle tunneling causes the candle to snuff itself out if too much leftover wax from the ring above melts down onto the wick. You can even end up with a dirty looking layer of char and ash at the top of the candle.
There are several things that can cause candle tunneling, but many of them have to do with how the candle is made. One factor is the size of the wick. If the wick is too small it won’t burn the wax around it evenly, which causes candle tunneling and an abundance of wax in later burns that will snuff the candle out. Another is the size and shape of the candle. If the candle is too wide, or the wick isn’t placed properly in the wax, it won’t melt down evenly and wax will be wasted.
Finally, if the candle is low quality overall, from the wax to the materials, and not well made then candle tunneling is more likely. If you’re wondering how to fix candle tunneling or prevent it from happening, keep reading for some candle care tips that will help you keep candle tunneling from happening.
How To Prevent Candle Tunneling
If you want to prevent candle tunneling before it starts, then it is critical to burn the candle correctly the first time. When you light a candle for its first burn, you should take the steps listed below to help make the most of your candle.
When you light a candle for the first time, it’s important to keep the candle lit until the entire top surface of the wax is melted, meaning all the way to the glass around the candle or to the edge of the candle wax if it is not in glass. It takes a long time for that wax to set again after the first burn so when you light the candle again that wax is softer and will melt faster than the rest of the candle. If the first burn isn’t long enough you will cause candle tunneling because the wax around the edge will take longer to melt than the wax around the wick.
Depending on how wide your candle is, it is important to burn the candle long enough that the top surface melts. In general, it takes about one hour of burn for every inch that your candle is wide, but that is an estimate and safety should always be considered. Keep your candle in a well-ventilated space away from fire hazards and do not leave it unattended.
Trim the Wick
Before you light a candle for the first time you should always trim the wick. Often, new candles come with wicks that are too long and if you light the wick without trimming the candle will not burn properly. Candle wicks should be trimmed to around ¼ inch so that your candle burns evenly and candle tunneling is prevented.
How To Fix Candle Tunneling
If your candle has started to tunnel already or you have old candles around that you’d hoped to save, then the ideas for how to fix candle tunneling below will help. How you proceed will depend on how far along the tunneling already is.
If your candle is almost new and the tunneling is not very deep into the wax, try:
Use a hairdryer to melt the top layer of wax until it is level, and the top layer smooths out. Allow the candle to set firmly for a day or so. The next time you light the candle, take the steps above for a successful first burn.
Try the oven. If you’re going to try the oven method, set to a low heat, and use a cookie sheet to place your candle into the over for about five minutes. Check the candle frequently and be careful to use oven mitts to avoid burns.
The foil tent method. If your candle tunneling is a little more than the top layer of wax, then foil may help to save the candle. Make a tent out of aluminum foil with a small hole or two poked in it to allow smoke to escape. The foil will help to warm the top layer of wax and should help to level the top of your candle. Then you can follow the first burn steps below and try again.
Whether you can save your candle with these steps or not, you’ll be better prepared for next time to prevent candle tunneling with the perfect first burn. Save yourself from wasted candles and money with these simple candle care tips that will maximize your burn time.