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How to Fix Candle Tunneling

Scented and artisanal candles have become more popular in recent years as homeowners look for more creative ways to create their desired ambiance at home. However, those plans can be derailed due to the occurrence of candle tunneling.

Candle tunneling can be a real nuisance. You must learn how to deal with it, or you might not get the most out of your candle purchases.

Throughout this article, we will talk about all things related to candle tunneling. Learn more about why that happens and how you can fix it. We will also provide some tips for preventing that specific issue.

Join us as we delve deeper into the topic of candle tunneling!

What Is Candle Tunneling?

As its name suggests, candle tunneling occurs when the flame you lit only affects the central portion of the candle. Candles burn hottest near the center where the wick is.

The fact that the center of the candle is melting is not the issue. The real problem is that tunneling concentrates the heat only to that central portion of the candle. Because of that, the surrounding wax remains mostly untouched.

Why Is Candle Tunneling Troublesome?

Candle tunneling can be an issue for three reasons.

First, tunneling is annoying because it can stop you from relighting the candle. With the wick now descending lower than the side wall of the candle, the wick may become inaccessible. You will no longer be able to light the candle after tunneling reaches a certain point. 

You do not want your expertly made scented candles going to waste because of tunneling.

Candle tunneling may not be a serious threat to your home, but it is an annoyance, nonetheless. Learn more about candle tunneling by reading on so you can stop worrying about it.

What Causes Candle Tunneling?

It is tough to work on preventing or fixing candle tunneling if you do not know what causes it in the first place. Candle tunneling can occur due to incorrect wick size, the temperature inside your home, and wax memory.

Let’s detail those causes of candle tunneling further.

Incorrect Wick Size

To put it simply, a candle is not going to burn properly if its wick is not the right size.

Wicks that are too large for the candle can cause damage. You may find soot accumulating inside the container if the burning wick is too big.

Too much soot inside the container will be a problem because it can damage the container. Even the table the container is resting on may be affected.

Undersized wicks are the ones that cause candle tunneling.

Because the wick is too thin or short, the intensity of its flame may not be enough to melt the sides of the candle. The heat will mainly affect only the center of the candle and tunneling will take place.

The Temperature inside Your Home

The temperature inside your home can affect how the candle performs. Cold temperatures can cause some portions of the candle to melt at a slower rate.

The heat may cause the wax located near the wick to melt faster than the surrounding walls. That is eventually going to result in noticeable tunneling.

Wax Memory

When you light a candle for the first time, all portions of it will feature the same density. As the heat works through the wax, though, certain portions of the candle will start to melt while others may not. 

Those portions of melted wax may harden later, but they will not last as long as they did prior to the initial burn. They will melt at a lower temperature relative to the rest of the candle. Those softer portions of the candle are known as wax memory.

It can sometimes take days or even weeks before those previously melted portions of the candle harden to their original density. If not enough time has passed between the lightings, they will melt at a faster rate.

The development of wax memory can be a real issue for paraffin wax candles. Since palm wax candles, like GoodLight candles, are harder, they are less susceptible to that issue.


| You may like this article on how to properly burn a candle!

Different Ways to Prevent Candle Tunneling

We now know what candle tunneling is, why it is bad, and why it happens. With all that knowledge in hand, we are now better equipped to prevent it from happening.

Detailed below are some of our top tips for preventing candle tunneling.

Purchase Higher Quality Candles

Does it seem like the candles you are using all succumb to tunneling? That could be because you often purchase low-quality candles.

The manufacturers of those low-quality candles may not be paying enough attention to the wicks they are using in their products. Wicks that aren't properly sized can hamper the performance of a candle. The width in particular can play a significant role in that.

Don't forget about the makeup of the candle too. Paraffin wax is very soft and candles made from that material melt faster. You can avoid that issue altogether by purchasing palm wax candles instead.

Even if you take the necessary precautions, a candle may still tunnel if it is poorly designed. Be more discerning with your purchases to avoid that problem.

Set the Initial Burn Path

Remember the concept of wax memory we were talking about earlier? We need to use that to our advantage whenever we light a candle.

Basically, you set the right burn path for your candle if you want to save it from tunneling later on. You want to level out how the candle burns by ensuring the heat gets to the edges.

So, how do you pull that off? The secret lies in burning the candle for the right amount of time. The size of the candle will tell you more about how long you should keep its fire going.

The rule of thumb here is that the initial burn time needs to run longer as the candle gets wider. You want to completely melt the first layer of wax before you put the candle out. Be warned that this process can take a bit of time.

If your candle is one inch wide, you need to let it burn for at least one hour. Tack on another hour for every additional inch of candle width.

Allowing the candle to burn that long should allow the heat to reach the edges. Those edges will melt faster the next time you light the candle, and they will prevent tunneling.

To be extra cautious, check on your candle every 30 minutes or so. The specific characteristics of your candle can affect how quickly it melts. Avoid letting the candle melt for longer than it has to by checking it regularly.

Keep the Wick a Bit Longer than Normal

Trimming the wick is a recommended practice because it allows the candle to burn properly. You usually want to trim the wick to between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch long.

However, you may want to avoid trimming by that much if your candles have tunneled in the past. By leaving the wick a bit longer, you allow a bigger flame to burn. That larger flame will have an easier time melting the candle evenly.

Position the Candle away from Fans and Open Windows

Very cold temperatures can cause the candle to burn improperly. When you light the candle, make sure you avoid putting it in a position where it won't be able to melt evenly.

Do not put the candle near any fans or open windows. The cold wind passing through could put out the flame accidentally. The flame getting extinguished earlier than expected could lead to tunneling.

Different Ways to Fix Candle Tunneling

Let’s say that it is already too late to prevent your candle from tunneling. That is okay because there are still things you can do to address the issue.

Check out the tips for fixing candle tunneling we have included in this section. Try them out for yourself until you find a method that works.

Allow the Candle to Continue Burning

Not all instances of tunneling will result in a ruined candle. Your candle may burn in a way that causes the middle to tunnel a little bit. Eventually, though, it will even out, and the candle will burn as the manufacturers intended. 

If you notice that your candle is tunneling, check how wide it is. After that, take note of how long it has been burning. Refer to the burning guidelines we discussed earlier to find out if the candle is melting at the right pace.

Warm Up Your Candle in the Oven

The oven is not only for baking lasagna and cake. You can also use it if you need to fix a candle that has started to tunnel.

Get the candle you want to fix and place it inside your oven. Close the oven door and then set the temperature to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Lastly, set the timer for five minutes.

After those five minutes have elapsed, put on your oven mitts, and check on the candle. It should now look nice and smooth with the edges melted down.

Cover the Candle in Aluminum Foil

This next method is a bit unconventional, but it does work. It will also involve some aluminum foil.

What you want to do is gather enough aluminum foil so you can cover the edges of the candle’s container while also creating some overhangs. The overhang should span the entirety of the container’s brim and extend a bit into the middle.

Go ahead and use multiple layers of aluminum foil so the overhang stays in place better.

Do not cover the candle completely, though. The wick should still burn, so you need to let some air in.

With the aluminum covering in place, you can set the candle down. According to Better Home & Gardens, you should allow the candle to burn for about two more hours after setting the aluminum cover.

Once those two hours are up, check on the candle again. Be careful because the aluminum covering and the container itself will likely be hot. If everything went well, the surface of the candle should now be nice and level.

You will find some folks who try to create a dome of aluminum foil to fix candle tunneling. That will work too but constructing that aluminum dome may be a bit tougher.

Use a Candle Warmer

It is possible that your candle may have tunneled too much for anything to work. 

Since you can no longer use the fixes we detailed earlier, you will need to do something else. It may be time for you to use a candle warmer.

A candle warmer is a handy little device that allows you to continue enjoying your scented candles even after they have tunneled badly. Candle warmers are interesting because they only work on the wax portion of the candle. They utilize a  heat source to melt the wax down and release its scent into your home. 

Per MarthaStewart.com, candle warmers are great to use because they allow the scents to last longer, and they are also considered safer. They are safer because they do not need an open flame to melt the wax.

Still, some folks do like the open flame provided by the candle. They enjoy how it looks and the atmosphere it creates.

Decide for yourself if you are okay with using a candle warmer to maximize what is left of your tunneled candle.

Tunneled candles are far from useless. Hopefully, the tips we have included in this article will help you fix those tunneled candles you have at home.

If you are on the market for new candles, we at GoodLight Candles can present you with a wide range of options. Contact us today if you are interested in making a purchase.

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