There’s nothing like finding the perfect candle: a fresh, refined fragrance, wholesome ingredients blended with essential oils, and a clean look that tucks perfectly into your home. So it can be downright devastating when that candle starts to tunnel.
If you bought that candle for the beautiful fragrance that it promises to deliver, tunneling will leave you disappointed. The optimal amount of fragrance is released into the room when the entire top of the candle, “the melt pool,” becomes completely liquified.
Candle tunneling can happen to the best of us and even to the best candle. But, not to worry. If your candle has begun to tunnel, it very well could still be salvageable with a few tricks and a tried-and-true caretaking routine.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about tunneling candles: how to fix tunneling, how to burn a candle evenly, and how to prevent them in the first place. With this guide, you can make sure your glass jar candles and boxed candles stay in the best shape for the duration of their lifespan.
What is Candle Tunneling?
Candle tunneling is a circular pit that forms directly around a candle wick caused by uneven melting, which creates a trench, or tunnel, in the middle of the candle.
How Does Tunneling Affect a Candle?
Wondering how long candles last? The answer to that would depend on the wax and quality of the candle, as well as if the candle is properly burned and cared for. Essential oils and organic ingredients belong in candles. Tunnels should not. Candle tunneling, if not controlled or corrected, can render even the finest candle unusable. The reason is that as the wick gets lower and lower inside that little circular pit, it starts to starve the flame of oxygen. Fire can’t burn without oxygen and pretty soon – no matter what you do – you can’t seem to be able to get the candle to stay lit.
A tunneling candle can result in:
Why Are My Candles Tunneling?
Although more cheap candles are more prone to tunneling, the reality is that any candle can tunnel without using the right care techniques.
The two primary reasons why candles tunnel are:
- The candle wick is too short or improperly sized.
- The first burn was extinguished too quickly.
The Candle’s Wick is Too Short
Wick size is a crucial component of candle quality and care. A candle’s wick needs to be just the right size—usually about ¼ of an inch—for an optimal burn. On a larger candle, a short wick will have a harder time warming the wax from edge to edge. If the wick of your candle is shorter than ½ inch and tunnels are forming, it may be too short.
The First Burn Was Extinguished Too Quickly
The first burn, or the first time a candle is burned, is another significant milestone in candle care. So, how long should you burn a candle? Make sure your initial burn is long enough to melt the entire top layer of wax from edge to edge. The whole top layer of your burning candle should be liquified before snuffing it. It sounds counterintuitive, but if you really want to extend the life of your candle, you should always try to allow that ‘melt pool’ to reach the edge each and every time you use it. As hard as it can be, that means that unless you’ve got an hour or two to enjoy it – you should probably avoid that nagging temptation to light it when you're about to run out the door.
Can You Fix a Tunneled Candle?
The good news is that a tunneling candle can be fixed, especially if you catch the tunneling early. Here’s how to fix a tunneled candle:
Blow it out – The first step in fixing a tunneling candle is to prevent any further tunneling. Catch tunneling early and blow the candle out as soon as you see them forming.
Don’t relight it yet – Though it may be tempting to let the candle burn in hopes that the wax will even itself out, refrain from doing so, as it may cause deeper tunnels that are more difficult to repair.
Try a hairdryer – When the candle is not lit, warm the top of the candle with a hairdryer to even out the melt distribution. This works best if tunneling has just begun and is only a few centimeters deep.
- 4. Wrap the candle in tin foil – For deeper tunnels, try using the aluminum foil method. Wrap tin foil around the candle’s base and upper edge, leaving an opening at the top for a flame to burn safely. The tin foil concentrates the heat around the candle, helping to melt the outermost wax.
How Do You Prevent Tunneling?
Commit these candle best practices to memory to take good care of your candles and avoid candle tunneling.
- Trim your wicks before every burn – Use scissors or a wick trimmer to trim candle wicks to ½–¼ inch (or according to your candle’s instructions).
- Burn new candles for at least 2 hours – Ensure your new candles burn evenly by reserving them for cozy nights in with a book and a ginger tea.
- Avoid burning candles in the cold – Cold outer temperatures force candle flames to work harder to burn their wax evenly, so avoid burning them in any cold conditions.
- Purchase soy or coconut – Higher quality, softer wax burns more evenly, so treat yourself to good-quality candles with natural waxes.
Snuff Out Tunneling with Archipelago Botanicals
Don’t let tunneling candles ruin the ambiance. With a few expert candle care strategies, your perfect candle will strike an even, fragrant glow across your home as quickly as it takes to hit play on your favorite relaxing playlist.
At Archipelago Botanicals, we design candles with your refined lifestyle as our muse. We use high-quality, natural-based blends that last longer, look better, and feel classic—yet brilliantly original. And if candles aren’t serving you any longer, read our guide on candles vs diffusers to see which is the right fit for you.
Choose from our expertly-crafted collection of home fragrances designed to transport you around the world, from Malibu to Martha’s Vineyard, to Breckenridge, and even Positano—and will keep you there for hours and hours.
House Beautiful. How to Easily Fix a Tunneled Candle. https://www.housebeautiful.com/lifestyle/a39024718/how-to-fix-candle-tunneling/
BHG. This Clever Aluminum Foil Trick Will Eliminate the Annoying Ring of Wax in Your Candle Jar. https://www.bhg.com/news/aluminum-foil-candle-hack/