If you've ever had a candle that developed a sinkhole-like crater while burning, congrats – you've experienced candle tunneling.
OK, so it's not really something to congratulate, is it? We'd much rather see our candle burn evenly, right? Right!
Fixing wax tunnels isn't too difficult, thankfully. Better yet, we know a thing or two about how to get candles to burn evenly – and what to look for to prevent candle tunneling in the first place.
So let's talk about how to stop candles from sinking in the middle.
What is Candle Tunneling?
Even if you’re unfamiliar with the term, if you’ve ever lit a candle, chances are you’ve experienced candle tunneling before.
Candle tunneling occurs when the wax melts through the core of the candle instead of melting all the way across the surface. Basically creating a vertical "tunnel" through the candle as it burns. It kind of looks like a sinkhole.
Here are three simple reasons candle tunneling is the worst:
- The aesthetics are terrible. Unmelted wax, messy edges, and a big ol' crater in the middle? No thanks.
- It makes re-lighting difficult. The “tunnel” makes it hard to reach the wick for lighting the candle as it burns towards the bottom of the vessel.
- It's wasteful. Candle tunneling results in lots of wasted wax and a shorter overall lifespan of your candle.
Why is My Candle Tunneling?
This is the million-dollar question, isn't it: What causes tunneling in candles? Truth is, tunneling can happen whether you've spent $8 or $80 on your candle, for a few simple reasons.
Let’s break down some of the most common causes of candle tunneling:
Reason #1: Poor Wax Quality
Poor wax quality is one possible culprit behind candle tunneling.
Some cheap wax candles can have an unsuitably high melting point or use a poorly made wax blend. Some types of candle wax burn too quickly, resulting in an uneven burn.
By the way... This is why we tested extensively and chose a premium blend for our coconut wax candles.
Reason #2: Too Much Fragrance Oil
You might be surprised to hear this, but too much fragrance oil can also have a negative impact on your candle burning.
It's tempting to think that more fragrance oil means more intensely scented candles. However, it can make the wax mixture harder to burn through – over time leaving behind a sinkhole in the middle of your melting candle.
An essential part of candle making is understanding the balance of fragrance oil to wax.
Reason #3: Wrong Wick Size
If your candle wick is too small for the size of the container, it may not have enough burning power to melt the wax from edge to edge.
Your wick is essentially the “engine” powering your candle. It's what carries the flame to the surrounding wax, melting it and releasing that lovely fragrance.
Candle makers know that different size vessels require a different approach to wicking. Larger candle containers may require a thicker cotton or wooden wick – and some require two (or even three) wicks to ensure an even burn.
Reason #4: It's Too Drafty
Tunneling can also occur if you place your candle in the path of air conditioning or near a drafty window. That's because the wax is being blown in one direction, so it won't be able to burn evenly across the entire surface.
Safety tip: Always place your candles away from drafts and don't burn them near flammable items – like curtains or Christmas trees.
Reason #5: The First Burn Was Too Short
Most of the time, this is the main reason why your candle tunneled.
The first time you light a new candle, you must give it ample burn time. It can take a few hours, but make sure you're giving the wax enough time to melt all the way to the edges of the candle jar.
But wait a second.
What if something comes up? What if you have to leave the room or go run an errand? What if you don't have time to see the first burn through?
Don't worry, here's what to do.
Tricks and Tips for Fixing Candle Tunneling
Let's say you had to snuff out your new candle before it finished a complete first burn. Is it a goner? Do you have to throw it out?
Of course not!
There are a things you can do to stop your melted candle burning down unevenly...
Here's how to fix a candle that already tunneled:
USE A HAIR DRYER
Have a hair dryer at home? Perfect!
Here's how to fix candle tunneling with hair dryer: Simply switch it on to the highest setting and blast the edges of the candle. Then sit back and watch the magic happen!
Slowly but surely, the hot air will melt away the hardened, unmelted wax edges, smoothing out the candle surface – good as new!
This method does require a bit of patience, though.
It can be a little time-consuming as you'll need to manually ensure all the unmelted wax is taken care of.
If you're short on time – or patience – the next candle tunneling fix is for you.
USE AN ALUMINUM FOIL TENT
Prefer a method that’s a little less manual? Try our favorite easy and effective hack – the aluminum foil trick.
As the name suggests, use a small sheet of aluminum foil to create a tent or cap. Wrap the foil gently around the top of the candle, leaving space for a hole in the center.
While it may seem a bit "extra," learning how to fix candle tunneling with foil is truly a game changer.
This simple contraption helps reflect heat evenly throughout the candle – ensuring that the entire surface of the wax melts all the way across.
(As always, do not leave your candle unattended and be careful when handling the foil as it may get hot.)
How to Prevent Candle Tunneling in the First Place
Want to avoid all the hassle of fixing candle tunneling? Well, here’s a handy tip to help you sidestep the problem entirely.
Here's how to burn a candle evenly every time and prevent tunneling: Make your first burn a priority!
Remember, cutting the first burn too short is one of most common causes of candle tunneling.
This is because most candle waxes seem to have what's known as "melt memory."
You must give the candle wax enough time to melt all the way across the surface to the edges of the container before snuffing it out. Depending on the candle size, this can take a good 2-3 hours or more.
But we promise: Not having to worry about sinkholes in your melted candles is absolutely worth it.
For more tips on how to make a candle burn evenly, check out our candle care guide.