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How to Fix Candle Tunnelling

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If you are an avid candle-lover, you will know all too well how frustrating it is when a candle isn’t burning properly. When the flame drops below the surface of the wax and burns straight down the centre of the candle instead of creating a melting pool of wax across the entire surface, this is known as tunneling.

Candle tunneling leaves a hard ring that prevents the candle from burning properly. It can lead to the wax becoming harder and the wick becoming almost impossible to relight. You might even lose the wick completely. Any candle is prone to tunneling, no matter the quality of the wax or the wick, and it can lead to wasting a lot of wax at the bottom of the candle, reducing its total burn time.

How to fix candle tunnelling: You can prevent tunnelling from happening by allowing the candle to burn for at least one hour for every inch in diameter the first time you light it. For example, if the candle is 3 inches in diameter, burn it for three hours to melt the top of the candle evenly.

how to fix candle tunnelling

The first burn is the most important, but try to let the candle burn for a similar amount of time every time you light to. This will prevent tunneling happening as you get further down your candle.

Be sure to trim your wick when required. If the wick is too long, it can fall over or curl round, which leads to tunneling. I wrote more about what to do when this happens in the ‘What to Do if Your Candle Wick is Too Short’ article.

Believe it or not, the room your candle is in can cause tunneling. If a candle is near an open window or vent, it disturbs the flame and causes it to flicker. This leaves the candle at risk of tunneling.

Candles ‘prefer’ to be burnt in a room that is 18-21 degrees Celsius (64-69 degrees Fahrenheit). If you light a candle in a cold room, the wick will have difficulty catching fire and the candle will not burn correctly. This can lead to tunneling and shortens the candle’s lifespan. To fix or avoid this, keep your candle in a warmer room and away from draughts.

You can also place the candle inside a larger vessel known as a candle hurricane. Use a tin or vase to protect the candle from draughts. The only issue with this is that it can prevent enough oxygen from getting to the flame.

But what can you do if candle tunneling has already occurred? Don’t worry, there are also several ways you can fix it or prevent it from happening.

Why Does Tunnelling Occur?

Candle tunneling happens when you don’t let you candle burn long enough the first time you use it. The first burn creates a hard ring around the wick on the surface of the wax, and once this has been created, the candle will only ever burn as far as this ring each time the candle is relit.

How to Fix Candle Tunnelling

Method 1: Use a hair dryer

This one sounds weird, but it works! The hot air from the hair dryer will melt the top of the candle until the wax until is smooth. If the tunnelling is more than a few millimetres, this method might not work. If this is the case, try the steps below.

If this doesn’t work, you could even place the candle in a hot oven at 80 degrees Celsius (175 degrees Fahrenheit) for a few minutes. If the candle is larger, it will need a little more time. Be sure not to let the candle melt too much! Leave it in the oven until the top layer has melted, then remove it and leave it to cool.

Method 2: Aluminium foil

This is a great hack to fixing tunneling. Wrap some aluminium foil around the edges and let the candle burn. Make sure the foil hangs over the built-up areas of hard wax whilst still allowing room for the wick to burn. Leave the candle burning for at least an hour, and it should have fixed the tunneling.

The success of this hack depends on the quality of wax and the shape of the candle container. Generally, smaller candles will work best. For larger candles, leave it burning for longer. Make sure the flame has enough room to allow oxygen to reach it so it can melt the wax properly.

Method 3: Use a tealight oil burner

This method works well if the tunneling is too severe to fix with the other methods, in particular if you have a scented candle. Remove the wax carefully from the candle using a butter knife and place it on an oil burner. Light a tealight in the base of the burner to allow the heat from the flame to melt the wax that you’ve place on top.

Method 4: Remove wax around the wick

Use a butter knife and scrape away parts of the wax around the wick. This must be done very carefully to avoid damaging or breaking the fragile wick. It can leave the wax looking a little crooked or lumpy, so I suggest doing this as a last resort.

It can be frustrating when your favourite candle isn’t burning correctly due to tunnelling. If you’re having trouble with candle tunnelling, be sure to try these methods to prevent or fix it so you can make the most of your candles.