Pillar Candle Tunneling (And How To Fix It)

pillar candle tunneling

Believe it or not, many pillars are actually designed to do what many of us candle lovers would consider “tunneling”. You usually deal with it in much the same way you would any other tunneling candle, however, when it comes to pillar candles you have one unique technique that I am sure many pillar candle users have done before without knowing it.

Why does my pillar candle tunnel? Tunneling occurs when a ring of unmelted wax remains around the outside of your candle. This can be remedied at home, and we will also take a look at how tunneling can be avoided. Only the center wax has melted where the area around the wick has melted right down.

If you don’t fix the problem it will become harder to light the wick, as the area in the center of the candle continues to burn down.

Are Pillar Candles Supposed to Tunnel? Pillar candles are not supposed to tunnel. If your pillar candle is tunneling it is a sign that something is going wrong with the candle burning process. This can be due to a mistake that was made during the candle making process or a mistake in your candle burning process.

This is an issue that has been well researched and has many viable solutions to remedy the problem. These are solutions that anyone can do and can help you begin enjoying your candle again.

Pillar Candle Tunneling Causes

Why Does my Pillar Candle Tunnel? A pillar candle will tunnel if you do not let it burn long enough, if the wick is too small or if you have the candle near a draft and it is not allowed to fully melt the wax like it should. Once it creates memory rings it will be more difficult to fix.

Sometimes it goes back to the first burn, and with a new candle, it is important to light it carefully. The first time you light it place it in a draft-free area so that it will burn evenly.

Let it burn for about one hour and make sure that the top layer of wax has entirely burned. The time will depend on the size of your pillar candle and the quality of the candle.

As a general guide, it takes about one hour of burn time for each inch of the size of the candle’s diameter.

Fixing Pillar Candle Tunneling

How To Fix Pillar Candle Tunneling

Melt the top of the candle with a blow dryer. It will level out the wax, making it all melt more evenly.

Scrape away the excess wax. If you scrape off the wax around the edges, the candle will be level again.

Pinch in the candle at the very top. This will make the sides melt more easily and help reduce the tunneling.

Preventing Pillar Candle Tunneling

How Can You Prevent Pillar Candles from Tunneling

  • Buy high-quality Soy candles.
  • Try the foil dome by covering the candle in foil and making a small hole in the top for heat to escape. Light the candle and the foil reflects the heat back onto the candle and the tunneling wax melts.
  • Always allow your candle to burn in a room without a draft. If you have the window wide open and a breeze blowing in, your candle is going to burn extremely unevenly. When this happens it can ruin the candle, so place it on an even surface away from any draft.
  • When you are purchasing your pillar candles check the size of the wick, is the wick thick enough for the size of the candle? If you have made the candle yourself, this is something that you need to get right, and you may have calculated the wrong wick number.
  • The first burn is important, and the experts say that the first burn should be a long burn as long as four hours for a large pillar candle.
  • A four-inch candle will take 4 hours on the first burn.

Correctly Burning Pillar Candles

How to burn a Pillar Candle Evenly? Keep your candle away from the breeze, and if you have burned it properly the first time, the second time that you use it, it should burn evenly. Your second burn will be shorter than the first burn until the whole wax surface area is melted.

Once the surface wax is properly melted there won’t be any tunneling next time. So after the first two burns, the candle wax should be even and stay even, and you will be able to get the best burning effect out of your pillar candle.

Sometimes you will need to trim the wick down a little bit if it gets too long and singed. This shouldn’t need to be done too often, just sometimes a wick will splutter a bit when ignited and needs trimming.

Pillar Candle Burning Tips

Always purchase the best quality candles. If you make them yourself they will be perfect! The best pillar candles hardly drip and can be grouped for effect when you are expecting visitors.

Alternately you may want to position some fragrant pillar candles along the end of your bath to set the scene when you are soaking in the bath after a long day at work. Leave the extractor fan off as you don’t want any breeze in the bathroom while you are burning candles.

If you decide to burn pillar candles outdoors, you will need the right protection around them, so order a few Hurricane Glass Chimneys, large ones to protect your pillar candles from the breeze on a Summer’s night.

It sets the scene beautifully for dining outdoors in Summer, and when protected they burn evenly for hours.

Having the right candles free of tunneling is very important, not only the look but the right fragrance is also something that should be chosen carefully as you don’t always want a strong fragrance when you are having a meal.

Purchase a candle snuffer from a home store, so that you can snuff your candles out when you have finished burning them.

Candles make wonderful gifts for all occasions, and especially during this difficult year when many of us have spent time in lockdown, we wouldn’t have survived without our candles.

If you do have a candle with tunneling, you can actually still burn it when you have the time for a long burn. If it is a good candle don’t waste it, light it for a relaxing family dinner at home with the children.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do pillar candles burn evenly?

Pillar candles do burn evenly if you give them time on their first burn. For a pillar candle to burn evenly you need to let it burn for at least 1 hour per 1 inch in diameter. This will give the candle a “memory” of what it should do when it is burning. Allowing all following burns to burn more evenly.

How do you hug a pillar candle?

Hug a pillar candle by wrapping your hand around it and squeezing in the very top of the candle while it’s still warm. This helps prevent the candle from burning through the “rim” of the pillar candle and helps it burn a little slower while preventing tunneling.

What is the difference between votive and pillar candles?

Votive candles are typically 2-3 inches tall and less than 2 inches in diameter. Meanwhile, pillar candles are much taller and usually start at 2-3 inches in diameter.


In conclusion, while a tunneling pillar candle isn’t very fun to have, the good news is that you have some options to fix it. You can simply scrape away the excess wax, melt the top with a blow dryer or push the sides of the candle in at the very top so the wick melts it more easily.

I would say that a tunneling pillar candle is actually easier to fix than a tunneling container candle, and that is a good thing. The last piece of advice I have in regard to pillar candle tunneling is to always buy quality candles.

Do not buy dirt cheap candles on Etsy or eBay because you never know if they are made correctly.

Buying quality-made candles from the start will help make sure you have a quality user experience.

You can find out more about fixing non-pillar candles by checking out our article about tunneling container candles.

Carl Adamson

Hi, I'm Carl Adamson, one of the founders here at Candleers. A few years ago I got really into the art and craft of candle making, initially with soy wax container candles. My friends started asking me to make candles for them and pretty soon it turned into a nice side-business. I started this website as a way to document what I've learned over the past few years and hopefully help others in the process. I still love candle making but I'm learning that what I enjoy even more is the business side of things - and for this reason I've started consulting others on how to start and grow their own candle-making businesses and side-hustles.

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