Container candles are a home decor staple, but what do you do when that beautiful candle doesn’t burn evenly, creating a “tunnel” down the center? No worries! We’ve got you covered on candle care 101: how to fix candle tunneling.
What Is Candle Tunneling?
Candle tunneling is when only a small circle of wax melts around the wick while your candle is burning, instead of across the entire surface of the candle. It typically means some wax is wasted, plus over time as the tunnel deepens it can become impossible to light the wick.
Sometimes tunneling results from an incorrectly made candle with a wick that is too small for the size of the container, but more often it is caused by a first lighting that is simply too brief. If a new candle is lit for a short time that doesn’t allow for the melted pool of wax to reach the edge of the candle’s edge, a barrier is created that will remain on subsequent lightings. This is called a candle’s “memory.” It happens because previously melted wax is softer and takes less heat to re-melt again compared to wax that hasn’t been melted yet, so when you re-light your candle the wax is melting at different rates which results in a tunneling effect.
Disappointing, right? Not only is tunneling unappealing, but it also reduces the burn time of your candle because only a small portion of the wax is consumed. So how can you fix candle tunneling and enjoy your candle for longer?
How To Fix Candle Tunneling
The basics of candle care include how to burn a candle evenly to prevent tunneling. We recommend that each time you light your candle, let the wax melt to the edge of the container (or nearly so). This is especially important the first time you light a new candle and usually takes 1-2 hours depending on the size of the candle’s surface.
If your candle still shows signs of tunneling, there are a few things you can do to fix it. First, for safety, this is a good moment to remind ourselves to never leave a burning candle unattended, and of course to be mindful of pets, children, drafts, and anything nearby that could catch fire. It also helps to trim your candle wick to ¼ inch before each lighting (a candle wick trimmer works best) as this enables a cleaner, more consistent burn. Please be safe!
The Hair Dryer Method
Our preferred method for fixing tunneling is to melt the entire candle surface with a hair dryer. First extinguish the flame if lit, then use a hair dryer to carefully melt the wax to the edge of the container. Use a low setting and hold the hair dryer far enough away to avoid spattering any wax. The goal is to remove the “memory” so that the next time you light your candle, the pool of melted wax will reach the container’s edge (or nearly so).
The Aluminum Foil Method
Another common way to fix candle tunneling is to use aluminum foil, pictured above, to reflect heat back down to the candle’s edge to aid in melting the wax. This method may take a few tries to get right and the foil gets hot, so be careful to let it cool before adjusting or removing it. Using one or more sheets, wrap foil around the outside of the candle so that the top extends inward over the unmelted wax like a roof while leaving the center open for the flame. After 1-2 hours of burning, your candle surface should even out with a pool of melted wax that reaches the edge of the container.
The Wax Method
A third way to fix a tunneling candle is to scoop out the unmelted wax with a spoon until it is the same height or lower than the middle part that melts, thereby removing the “memory”. When you then light the candle, be sure to let it burn long enough for the pool of melted wax to reach the edge of the container. Also, be sure to wipe clean the spoon with a paper towel and dispose of all wax in a waste bin… wax can clog a drain!
Practicing Candle Care
We are true candle lovers who enjoy how candles fill a room with a peaceful glow and a nice scent. There is nothing better than a well-crafted candle for ambiance, whether during a special gathering, a relaxing evening in, or while taking that much-needed soak in the bathtub. With the proper candle care, your candles will burn beautifully in your home. To help out, we’ve created a list of 5 tips for candle care and maintenance to keep candles burning cleanly and evenly, and recommend these candle care accessories.
And when it’s time to say goodbye to your favorite candle, you might find creative ways to repurpose the container. Check out these tips for reusing your candles - and please leave your favorite repurposing ideas in the comments below!
Learn More About Our Mission