As I have been skimming over candle related questions posted by people online I have seen the topic of tunneling come up quite often. For those of you who do not know what tunneling means in relation to candles, it is when the candle burns straight down the middle and not out to the edges. The point of this post is to explain a few reasons why a candle may tunnel and how to try and fix the problem. I mean lets face it, nobody wants to toss a candle that has hardly been used.
Two of the main reasons a candle could tunnel are poor quality and too many short burns. In the case of poor quality, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the wax was bad or the fragrance was cheap but most likely the wrong wick was used in the candle. If the size of the wick is too small, it doesn’t create a large enough flame, which in turn doesn’t create enough heat to melt the wax. What you want to see when you burn a jar candle or votive, (any type of container candle) is for the wax pool to reach all the way to the edge.
Sometimes the tunneling effect is caused by too many short burns. Take note to the size of candle you are burning and to how long you are going to leave it lit. If you know you will have to extinguish the candle in an hour or even two, light a smaller one like a votive or tealights. A 4″ diameter jar candle won’t usually melt out to the edge in an hours time. A few short burns in a row will start your candle tunneling. What starts to happen next is as the flame works its way down into the candle it starts to melt wax off the walls. This wax runs down the sides and fills up the hole around the wick and drowns it out. Once that happens, relighting the candle will not work.
So how do you fix a candle that has tunneled? The easiest way to get fix your candle is to remove all of the wax that is higher than the area around the wick. Use a butter knife or a fork to carve away the built up wax. You can use that wax in candle warmer or toss it in the trash. If you try to light your candle it may not easily light. This is because the wick is not long enough due to the liquid wax which ran down into the hole surrounding the wick. When the wax hardens it leaves the wick to short to light. You can carve some of the wax away from the wick and try lighting it. A better option is to lay the candle on its side, use your lighter to melt the wax away from around the wick and pour it into the trash. Relight your candle and make sure that you allow the wax pool to reach the edge before blowing it out.
For the poor quality candle you can do a temporary fix using the method above however you will need to repeat the process after a few burns because the candle will not ever melt all the way to the edges.