How to Fix Candle Tunneling

Key Takeaways:

  • Candle tunneling occurs when the wax in a candle burns down the center, leaving a tunnel of wax around the wick. To prevent tunneling, it is important to burn your candle for at least two hours on the first burn, allowing the wax to melt evenly across the surface.
  • If tunneling has already occurred, there are several steps you can take to fix it, including trimming the wick, using a candle warmer, or wrapping the candle in tin foil to reflect the heat.
  • To prevent tunneling in the future, it is important to maintain proper candle care, such as trimming the wick before each burn, keeping the candle away from drafts, and storing it in a cool, dry place.

What is Candle Tunneling?

Candle tunneling is when burning a candle, the wax closest to the wick of a candle melts and burns down quicker than the wax further away from the candle’s centre. The lit candle will melt through the center of its vessel without melting all its surrounding wax.

As time goes on, the tunneling deepens, and lighting the wick of the candle can become more difficult. Candle tunneling can also reduce the total burn time, and can affect the quality of a candle’s scent throw.

Reasons for Candle not Melting Evenly

Candles are a popular way to create a relaxing and cozy atmosphere in your home, but sometimes they can burn unevenly. There are several reasons why your candle may not be melting evenly:

  • Drafts: If there is a draft in the room, it can cause the candle flame to flicker, which can result in uneven melting. Make sure to place your candle away from windows or doors, and avoid burning candles in a room with a fan or air conditioning.

  • Candle Type: Some candles are made with lower quality wax or wicks that can cause uneven burning. Look for candles made with high-quality wax and wicks to ensure a more even burn.

  • Size of Wick: If the wick is too small for the size of the candle, it can cause the wax to melt unevenly. Make sure to choose the correct wick size for the candle you are burning.

  • Candle Shape: Certain candle shapes, such as pillars or tapered candles, can be more prone to uneven burning due to the wider surface area at the top. If you are experiencing uneven melting with these types of candles, try trimming the top of the candle before lighting it to create a more even surface area.

  • Burning Time: If you only burn your candle for a short period of time, it can create a “memory ring” that can cause the candle to continue burning unevenly. Make sure to burn your candle for at least two hours, or until the entire surface of the candle is melted, to ensure an even burn.

  • Container Type: If you are burning a candle in a container, make sure the container is made from heat-resistant material and can withstand the heat from the candle. If the container is not heat-resistant, it can cause the wax to melt unevenly.

Why do Candles Tunnel?

Candle tunneling is an annoying occurrence, and can happen to candles of all wax types, but is more commonly found when lower quality wax is used. 

Incorrect wick size can also be a contributing factor. As an example, soy candle tunneling can occur if a soy wax candle uses a wick size not large enough for its vessel/container, creating an insufficient melt pool. This is known as ‘underwicking’, and will be noticeable after a candle’s first burn. 

The Sojourn Company proudly uses high quality North American soy wax blends, and 100% organic cotton wicks, ensuring an enjoyable experience with every burn. 

Cold room temperatures, and burning candles outdoors can also be a cause of candle tunneling. Most likely, if you burn a candle outdoors in a winter climate, the solid wax will take longer to warm to a temperature that can create a sufficient melt pool.

Now that we know what candle tunneling is, let’s have a look at how to avoid tunneling in candles, how to fix a candle that is tunneling, and what to avoid when lighting your next candle.

How to fix Candle Tunneling

A tunneling candle in an amber glass jar

Light Tunneling 

Are you dealing with a candle tunnel or a candle crater? A candle tunnel usually forms around the wick quicker, and the melted area diameter tends to be quite small. Candle craters tend to look, well, crater-like. For light tunneling, we recommend the following:

-Lighting your candle for longer burning sessions, ideally 3 hours or more. This is recommended for the first burn or two with a new candle.

-When possible, allowing a few days to a week to pass before relighting will reset the candle’s wax memory. Previously melted wax needs time to cool and harden, or will form craters & tunnels quicker. Not allowing the candle enough time to melt more of the outer ring of wax each burn increases its memory.

Moderate Tunneling – “The Tinfoil Hat Theory”

Like most ‘out-there’ ideas, this candle theory was conceived on the internet, but has proven a useful hack in addressing candle tunneling issues. The steps are as follows:

-Prior to lighting your candle, trim your wick to 1/4″ or 5-7mm in height.

-Cover your candle top using a sheet of tinfoil, and form the foil around the sides securing it to your vessel

-Make an opening on the foil top above your wick, approximately 1″ in diameter (larger than a quarter, or about the size of a toonie for you Canadians). Light your candle and allow for a 3 hour burn. This should “reset” your candle and promote an even melt pool, spanning your container diameter.

Severe Tunneling

If the methods mentioned above haven’t solved your candle tunneling issues, re-wicking your candle may be required. We will be covering that in a separate, detailed article.

How to fix Candle Tunneling without foil

For mild tunneling, try giving the top of your candle a blast of heat with a blowdryer, or heat gun. The heated air can melt the candle top, leveling the wax. Alternatively, if you are lacking a hair dryer or heat gun, try the following oven method. Place your candle on a cooking sheet, and pop your candle in the oven at a low heat (175 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 5 minutes.

Length of time in the oven to smooth the candle top will vary depending on wax type and candle size, so keep an eye on it.

How to Prevent Candle Tunneling

A Pair of tunneling pillar candles

Burning your candle for an extended period each time you enjoy your candle is a good way to give your candle ample time to create an even melt pool. When lighting your candle, let it burn for at least 3 hours per session, if safe to do so. It is also recommended to use a wick dipper, snuffer, or the container lid when extinguishing your candle. 

Improper wick size is the other main cause of candle tunneling. Quality candle makers will perform a series of burn tests to ensure that their candles create a suitable melt pool when lit. Candle wicks are offered in a variety of sizes and materials, and some trial and error may be needed to find the best fit per wax type and container. 

All Sojourn Company candles have been burn tested to optimize our scent throw while maintaining a melt pool that will maximize hours of enjoyment.

Tip to Avoid Candle Tunneling on the First Burn

Candle tunneling occurs when a candle burns straight down the middle, leaving a tunnel of un-melted wax around the wick. Here are some tips to help avoid candle tunneling on the first burn:

  • Burn the candle for at least one hour per inch of diameter. For example, if your candle is 3 inches in diameter, burn it for at least 3 hours on the first burn.

  • Trim the wick to 1/4 inch before lighting. A long wick can cause uneven melting and tunneling.

  • Burn the candle in a draft-free area to prevent uneven heat distribution.

  • Allow the melted wax to reach the edges of the container before extinguishing the flame. This will help prevent tunneling on future burns.

  • Use a candle snuffer to extinguish the flame instead of blowing it out, as blowing can cause wax to splash and potentially cause tunneling.

By following these tips, you can help ensure a clean and even burn for your candle and prevent tunneling on the first burn.

How to Burn a Candle Evenly

We love candles. And we will be discussing every candle topic under the sun, including why are candles so relaxing, and best candle waxes for scent throw, to name a few. Until then, here are some additional tips to provide a safe and even burn experience from your candle:

  • Keep your candle wick trimmed to control the height of your flame. We recommend approximately 5-7mm length as a general rule to ensure an even burn, and to increase the lifetime of your candles. 
  • Place your candle in non-draughty, but ventilated area while lit. This helps to encourage a centred and consistent candle flame.
  • Keep the wax pool free of any contaminants by placing the lid on your candle when not in use. Protecting your candle from dust and other particulates will offer a cleaner, better smelling burn. 
  • Place your candle on heat protected surfaces while lit and cooling. We recommend placing your candle in a non-draughty area, out of reach of children, pets, or anything not deemed safe to touch your candle.

These tips will enhance the quality, and prolong the life of your candle.

We hope you enjoyed this article. Did we miss something? Let us know in our contact section. We love to wax poetic about wax! 

And for more info on candle tunneling, how to avoid it and how to correct it, check out this amazing video from Candace Howze:

  • How do you stop a candle from tunneling?

    To prevent tunneling, it is important to burn your candle for at least two hours on the first burn, allowing the wax to melt evenly across the surface. It is also important to maintain proper candle care, such as trimming the wick before each burn, keeping the candle away from drafts, and storing it in a cool, dry place.

  • Will candle tunneling fix itself?

    No, tunneling will not fix itself. Once tunneling has occurred, it is important to take steps to fix it, such as trimming the wick, using a candle warmer, or wrapping the candle in tin foil to reflect the heat.

  • What causes tunneling in candles?

    Tunneling in candles is typically caused by burning the candle for too short of a time, not allowing the wax to melt evenly across the surface. This can cause a tunnel of wax to form around the wick, preventing the rest of the wax from melting.

  • How do you fix a candle that isn't burning evenly?

    To fix a candle that isn't burning evenly, you can try using a candle warmer, rotating the candle periodically while burning, or wrapping the candle in tin foil to reflect the heat. It is also important to trim the wick before each burn and keep the candle away from drafts.

  • Why doesn't my candle burn all the way down?

    If a candle doesn't burn all the way down, it is typically due to tunneling, which can be caused by burning the candle for too short of a time or not maintaining proper candle care. It can also be due to the size or shape of the candle.

  • How do you fix a tunneling candle with a short wick?

    To fix a tunneling candle with a short wick, you can try gently scraping away some of the wax around the wick to expose more of the wick, or using a wick trimmer to trim the wick slightly. It is also important to burn the candle for at least two hours on the first burn to allow the wax to melt evenly across the surface.