Having issues with your candle tunneling and want to fix it? Not sure what candle tunneling is but want to avoid it? We'll explore tips on how to care for your candle: what candle tunneling is, how to prevent it and how to fix it if it's already happened to you.
What is Candle Tunneling?
Have you ever seen a candle where the center with the wick is burned down while the outer edges of the candle are much higher? That's candle tunnelling in action.
While it might not seem like an issue, tunneling means the candle burns downwards rather than outwards so much of the candle wax remains unused. In some cases, can also mean the wick ends up drowning in wax and won't remain lit.
If you want to get the most out of your candle, you'll want to avoid tunneling and get an even burn that uses the entire wax surface.
What Causes Candle Tunneling?
First of all, candle tunneling can happen with any type of candle though it does tend to happen more with inexpensive candles which tend to be made of uneven burning paraffin wax.
1. Initial Burn Was Too Short
The most common reason for funneling was that your initial burn was too short. The first time you burn your candle, you need to let it burn until the wax all the way out to the edges has melted. Otherwise your candle develops a memory and will continue to burn down rather than out.
2. Wick Is Too Small For Candle
If you have a larger candle, sometimes the wick is just too small for the width of the candle. If you've tried fixing the tunneling several times and it just keeps tunneling, this may be your issue.
Sometimes, candle tunneling is caused by a wick that isn’t large enough for the size of the candle, but more often it’s caused by the timing of the first burn.
How to Avoid Candle Tunneling
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to prevent candle tunneling is not to let it start in the first place. Most critical in this is your first burn. Plan it for a time when you can leave your candle lit until the very outer edges of the candle melt.
In general there's a rule of thumb that it requires 1 hour to melt each inch of the candle's diameter so a 3" candle will require roughly 3 hours of burn time. So if you have a larger candle, don't start your first burn when you're in a rush!
The first burn is critical because it sets the candle's memory. If the candle is extinguished before the entire top layer of wax liquifies, on the next burn, it will continue to burn down rather than out and the problem will amplify.
Also avoid drafts as that will cause your candle to burn unevenly and tunnel to one side.
Once the candle is lit, check it every 30-45 minutes to see how the wax is melting and extinguish it only when the entire top layer of wax has melted. It might be faster or slower based on the type of wax and wick but the main goal with any candle is a smooth, even burn.
How to Fix Candle Tunneling
Is your candle already tunneling and you want to fix it? The good news is there's a few ways to go about it depending the severity.
The easiest route is to try an extra long burn — long enough to smooth out the outer ridge of wax and create an even surface of melted wax across the top of the candle. This also resets the wax's memory and should prevent or diminish future tunneling. If that doesn't work, here's a few more ideas:
1. Mild Tunneling
If the candle tunneling is relatively mild, you can try heating it up with a hairdryer and smooth the top of melted wax to be level.
2. Moderate Tunneling
If a hairdryer is too lightweight to handle the depth of your tunneling, you try popping the candle into the oven on a cookie sheet at 175° F/ 80° C for a minute or two (keep an eye on it so you can't end up with wax everywhere). Once the top layers of wax are melted, smooth the tunneled edges to create a smooth surface.
3. Severe Tunneling
If all else fails and you aren't able to smooth the top of your candle, you can still enjoy the scented wax with a candle warmer — it will heat the remaining wax so it releases it's scent and can still be enjoyed.
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