Have you had a candle that starts to burn a hole down through the center of the candle? This is called wax tunneling and it is due to your candle burning habits. I have a lot of experience burning candles and I have seen a few ways to fix this problem.
How to fix candle tunneling? Fix candle tunneling removing excess wax from around the wick and the surface of the candle. You can also place foil around the top of the candle with a hole in the center that will help melt the wax. Remove excess wax as necessary.
This is suggested because candles actually have what is called wax memory. Wax memory is based on how long you let a candle burn the first time that you lit it. If your candle does not have good wax memory then you are going to have a difficult time getting the candle to burn evenly.
If you let it burn for 30 minutes and it formed a hole around the wick, and then you blew the candle out, that ring can continue down without burning the wax on the sides of the candle.
This creates what looks like a tunnel down the center of your candle. Hence the name “wax tunneling”. If you know about this it is not hard to avoid next time you buy a new candle, but it can be a little tricky to fix once it gets started.
Candle Tunneling Causes
What is candle wax tunneling? Candle wax tunneling is when a candle fails to melt the surface wax all the way to the edge of the container. Subsequently, every time you burn your candle, it creates a hole or tunnel down the center of the candle.
Your candle could be wax tunneling for a few different reasons.
Why is my candle tunneling? Your candle is wax tunneling because you did not burn your candle long enough, a faulty manufacturing process, not keeping the wick regularly trimmed, the candle is low quality, or because you did not burn it long enough when you first purchased it.
In addition, the suggested burn time for a new candle is a few hours minimum.
So do not light a new candle just before bed and then blow it out or else you will trap yourself in an endless cycle of wax tunneling.
This is the type of thing you need to do in the early afternoon when you are going to be home all day.
Once you have burned the candle until the entire surface area has melted, you need to make sure you trim the wick after each use.
Fixing Candle Wax Tunneling
To fix a tunneling candle place it in the oven on a cookie sheet at 175°F for five minutes. This is to melt the surface of the candle and let it even out, you do not want to melt the entire candle so keep an eye on it. If the wick becomes submerged, remove wax as needed.
Fixing Candle Tunneling Step By Step
- Melt surface wax with a blow dryer and scoop out excess
- Scrape the excess dry wax away with a butter knife
- Line the top of your candle with aluminum foil
- A long burn
Let’s take a closer look.
Melt surface wax with a blow dryer and scoop out excess
If you decide to go this route then simply heat the top of your candle with a blow dryer and scoop out excess wax with a spoon. You need to make sure that you lower the over all level of wax below that of the wick.
Once the wick is exposed at least 1/4 of an inch and you have leveled out the surface of the candle then your work is done.
Just make sure that the next time you burn the candle you let it burn until all the wax on the surface of the candle is melted. This will prevent any future problems.
Scrape the excess dry wax away with a butter knife
This may be the most crude, but it is also easy. Simple scrape the raised areas of wax out of the candle and in to the trash until its basically level and your wick is sticking up at least 1/4 of an inch.
Once it is level just remember to burn your candle until the entire surface of the candle is melted from now on to prevent any future wax tunneling.
Line the top of your candles with aluminum foil
Take a strip of aluminum foil and wrap it around the top of your candle blocking some of the top of the candle. Leave enough spaces for some heat to escape and for the flame to get oxygen and then just light the candle and let it burn.
This essentially turns the inside of your candle in to an oven.
This will level the wax out or melt it enough that you can easily scoop it out. Once you have scooped out the excess do your best to level it and make sure the wick is the right length.
A long burn
You make be able to fix your situation with a long burn. Just light your candle and let it burn for hours while you can keep an eye on it.
Once it gets nice and hot and gooey inside you may be able to take a spoon and move the wax around and remove any excess wax that is preventing you from leveling it out.
Preventing Candle Tunneling
Prevent wax tunneling by keeping your candle away from moving air. Making sure your wick length is maintained. Letting the wax melt to the edge of the container. Buying multi-wick candles.
How To Prevent Candle Tunneling
- Keep away from moving air.
- Maintain proper wick length.
- Let surface wax melt completely.
- Buy multi-wick candles.
Let’s take a closer look.
Moving air can disturb the flame on your candle and keep the candle from burning evenly. This includes things such as heaters, air conditioners, fans, walkways, and open windows.
Not only can moving air cause the candle to burn unevenly, it also leaves those unsightly black spots on the candles container.
Maintain Wick Length
Maintaining the proper length of wick also helps. If you trim it too short the flame will be small and it may drown its self out. If you leave it too long the flame will be large and irregularly shaped and cause an uneven burn.
The ideal length for a candle wick is about 1/4 of an inch.
Let Surface Wax Melt Completely
When surface wax melts completely that first burn because part of your candles memory and will encourage it to stay uniform through all future burns.
You will probably need to let it burn anywhere from 1-4 hours to achieve this.
Make sure you have a few hours to sit with your candle after you light it. Again, I must stress never extinguish a candle if the flame has not yet spread from edge to edge across the surface of the candle.
Buy Multi-Wick Candles
Multi wick candles make the life of a candle owner a lot easier. You do not have to wait as long for the surface wax to melt from edge to edge because the candles heat up a lot faster.
On the downside if you do not light all of the wicks or one of them blows out you are going to have a problem much harder to fix.
What is candle memory? Candle memory is when a candle is not burned long enough for the surface wax to melt all the way to the edge of the container. This incomplete burn creates a hole “wax tunnel”. This hole will continue down the center of the candle with every subsequent burn.
How does candle memory work? Candle memory works by following the burn pattern that you established the first time that you used your candle. If you only burn your candle for short periods of time it will develop a hole in the center of the candle referred to as wax tunneling.
What impacts candle memory?
- Type of wax
- Type of wick
- Number of wicks
- Type of candle
- Candle container
Type of Wax
The type of wax impacts candle memory because different types of wax have different melt points. That means if you have a candle made out of beeswax it will take longer for the surface wax to completely melt.
Inversely, if you have a candle made of soy wax that has a low melting point you will not have to burn it as long to melt the wax to the edge of the container.
This will make it easier for you to maintain your candle.
Wax Melting Points
Type of Wick
The type of wick is important when it comes to the candles memory and wax tunneling. Specifically the size of the wick.
If the wick is too small for the candle you are using it may never generate enough heat to melt the surface area of the wax.
This is due to a poor manufacturing process or a low quality candle.
Even if you do level this type of candle out, you may be forced to do it again later on.
Number of Wicks
The number of wicks can also impact how evenly a candle burns but the same principles of a 1 wick candle apply if you are trying to level it out. You will find that you have an extra step with a multi-wick candle.
With a multi wick candle you not only need to level the surface of the candle, but you need to make sure the wicks are level as well.
If you can clean up the sides of the candle and sit it down on a table and look through the sides of the candle container you should be able to get them pretty even.
Always light all the wicks together and always put the wicks out at the same time. This will help ensure that you keep a multi-wick candle level.
Type of Candle
With pillar and non container candles you will find that correcting a wax memory problem, or wax tunneling is a little easier.
You are not trying to heat an entire candle or scrape or scoop out wax. You simply have to remove wax from the top of the candle.
Make it as smooth as possible with a butter knife, and make sure the wick is sticking up at least 1/4 of an inch. Then you can use a lighter or a blow dryer to level the rest of the candle out if you are worried about looks.
A container with a narrowed top will obviously have an easier job melting the surface area of the candle than one with an open top.
Like a Mason jar vs a Tumbler.
So buying candles that have containers with a top that narrows can help prevent any trouble in regard to wax memory or wax tunneling.
Alternatively, a candle with a wide open top will make it easier for you to fix any memory or tunneling problems you may experience.
Preventing wax memory problems
I once heard someone say that wax memory is like muscle memory. Once a candle learns to do something it will continue to do it that way every time. This is true when it comes to wax tunneling.
Start your candle right
When you purchase a new candle and take it home wait before you light it. Wait until you have 3-4 hours that you are going to be home so that you can give the candle a proper initial burn.
Burn the new candle long enough for the wax to melt across the surface of the candle to all edges of the container.
Then do so every time that you use your candle. It is recommended that every subsequent burn lasts for each hour. If you do this you will not experience any problems with wax memory or tunneling.
Frequently Asked Questions
When a candle tunnels on its first burn it likely is not your fault. Candle tunneling happens on the first burn when the candle wick is not big enough, or if the candle has been stored in a cold place. This will force the candle to tunnel and not allow it to melt the wax all the way to the sides of the container.
If your candle is only burning in the middle then it is due to one of the following causes. Candles that only burn in the middle have a wick that is too small or the candle wax is unusually cool and resistant to melting. This can be due to leaving a candle in your car in the winter or storing it in the freezer.
You have a few options to stop your candle from burning in the middle. Stop your candle from burning in the middle by placing a ring of aluminum foil around the top of the candle. This will hold in more heat, allowing all of the surface wax to melt evenly. Remove excess wax as necessary.
Make your candle even again by melting the surface wax with a heat gun or by placing an aluminum foil ring around the top of the candle. Then remove wax if necessary and make sure the wick is the correct length. When the candle completely hardens it will be even and ready to use.
In conclusion, we have gone over many of the possible issues with a candle in this post. We have also gone over preventative measures and how to fix these issues.
Candles are absolutely worth the trouble and the effort that it takes to keep them maintained. You can keep them maintained just be taking a few easy steps.
The two most important takeaways I want you to remember from this post. You need to melt the wax to the edges of the container on the first and every burn. Keep your wick properly trimmed after every use.
If you can do those two things then 95% of any candle memory or tunneling will go away and you will have a candle that burns evenly.