Tips to Avoid Candle Tunnelling

We have created this guide to help you get a consistently even burn throughout the life of your scented candle. You’ll find tips on how to avoid tunnelling in the first place and what to do if your candle has already tunnelled.

You’ve invested in your favourite candle. It’s beautiful scent fills the room and you couldn’t be more pleased. But at the back of your mind, the fear of candle tunnelling looms large.

Okay we’re being a tad overdramatic, but candle tunnelling really is a nuisance – not only does it look ugly, but it also means you miss out on the full burning and scent potential of your candle. Here at Etc & Co., we want you to get the best burn every time so we’ve created this handy guide to help you avoid the dreaded tunnelling.

What is Candle Tunnelling?

Candle tunnelling happens when a candle burns down its centre, leaving hard wax around the outside. This wasted wax means your candle won’t achieve it’s maximum burn-time, a real waste if you love your scented candles as much as us.

As the flame burrows further down the middle, the wick will become more and more difficult to light and eventually be drowned by melting wax.

Candle tunnelling can happen to any candle regardless of the quality or price. Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to help your scented candles burn evenly and efficiently, leaving as little residual wax as possible.

How to Prevent Candle Tunnelling

It’s all in the first burn…

The first time you light and burn your new candle really sets the stage for how well the candle will perform throughout its life.

Our biggest recommendation for the first burn, is to make sure that the pool of melted wax reaches the edges of your candle before you snuff the flame. We generally aim for the wax pool to be about 1cm deep at the edges before we put it out.  For most of our candle sizes, this will usually take 3 to 4 hours.

For other candle brands, how long this takes depends on the diameter of the candle – if you’ve only got an hour to enjoy your new fragranced candle pick one that isn’t too wide. However, if you’ve got half a day to relax in the ambience of your new scent, a giant three wick candle will be a great choice.

Generally we always advocate that you should trim the wick before you burn a candle. However, if your new candle is very wide you may want to leave the wick a little longer than usual. This will create a bigger, hotter flame that has more chance of melting the wax all the way to the edge. Just make sure that you keep a closer eye on the flame, snuffing it out if any issues arise.

Initial Burn Times By Candle Width

This is just a rough guide, it’s best to burn the candle for as long as it takes for the melted wax pool to reach the outer edge.

Candle Width Approx. First Burn Time
2.5cm 1 Hour
5cm 2 Hours
7.5cm 3 Hours
10cm 4 Hours

The First Burn Tips

  1. Let the wax pool reach the edges of the candle the first time you light it.
  2. Burn the candle for roughly one hour for every inch the candle is wide.
  3. If the candle is very wide, only trim the wick to 8mm before the first burn.
  4. It is worth repeating this burning technique every once in a while to keep the wax open and even.

How To Fix Candle Tunnelling

More than likely you will have come across this post because one of your prized scented candles has become afflicted with a case of tunnelling. Depending on how seriously the tunnelling has become, there are a few things you can do to save the candle.

My Candle Has Just Begun To Tunnel

As mentioned above, the first burn is the most important as it sets the candles “memory”. The memory ring of a candle is the indent made by the candle wax on it’s initial lighting, and generally marks the edge of where all future burns will reach.

By not allowing the wax pool to reach the edge on its first burn, a smaller than ideal memory ring will be formed and tunnelling will begin. Caught early enough, you can reset the candles memory allowing the wax to re-open to the full width of the candle.

A very quick way of readjusting the memory ring is to blast the top of the candle with the high heat setting of a powerful hairdryer – just hold the airflow over the top of the candle until the top layer of wax has melted and smoothed.

Next time you light the candle, allow for the wax pool to reach the edges of the candle as described for the ideal initial burn.

If the tunnelling has sunk lower than a few millimetres you will probably need to use the foil method.

The Foil Method

The aim of the foil method is to increase the heat trapped at the top of the candle, hopefully enabling the stubborn hard wax left up the sides to melt.

It’s an easy method, but should be done with care – the foil can become hot so mind you don’t burn yourself. Also, be careful not to use this method for extended periods of time as the increased heat can put strain on the candle container, possibly leading it to shatter.

First, safely light your candle. Then, being careful not to burn yourself, wrap a layer of aluminium foil around the top of the candle making a domed lid with a hole in the top.

This allows the heat to stay in and melt the rim of hard wax on the sides. In an hour or so (depending on the size of the candle) you should have a good even wax pool and a re-set candle. Please be careful when removing the foil, it will be hot.

My Candle Tunnelling Is Really Bad

If the above techniques haven’t worked for you, you may need to come to terms with the fact your candle can’t be saved. But, don’t fret too much as there are still ways to enjoy the scented wax you love so much.

Use a Candle Warmer

What is a candle warmer? It’s your new best friend when it comes to enjoying scented candles that can no longer be lit.

A candle warmer is an electric heater that melts candles and releases the scent without the need for a flame. Intended to be used with container candles, it gently heats the wax allowing the scent to escape into the room.

Use a Tealight Burner

To use a tealight burner, just scoop out and remove the scented wax from your unusable candle and place it on the top of the burner. Do not add water to the wax! Then, place a lit tealight into the burners base and allow the flame to heat and melt the wax above, distributing the scent.

We hope you found these candle tips helpful and you can get the best out of your next candle!