How To Fix Candle Tunneling
Fixing Wax Burning Problems
Are you already in trouble? If your candle is only burning straight down the middle, don’t worry. There is a way to fix it, but I’ll warn you now, it isn’t pretty, so it’s always better to avoid the problem with the best good candle burning practices.
If you try just removing the hard wax rim, it will probably tunnel again. What you need to do is to reset the wax memory, by wrapping the edge of the container or the top in a dome-tent of aluminum foil, with only a small opening at the top for air. Fold the foil over a few times to give it more structure and keep it in place. This will reflect more heat into the wax, but the sooner you step in to deal with the issue, the better, because too much liquid wax will drown the flame, and have to remove it. Below is a video using this very method:
Always watch this process carefully, so the entire thing doesn’t go up in flames, and don’t break maximum burn warnings from the manufacturer, or the glass might shatter. You might even want to do it in the kitchen sink, and be careful removing the foil. It will be hot.
If that doesn’t work, or you just get tired of burning yourself, you can always turn to a candle warmer or cut portions and melt the wax for its fragrance over a tealight warmer. Hopefully, you’ll remember your mistakes for next time, or buy something more suitable.
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Candle Wick Too Short?
Short wicks can happen if you accidentally cut it too low while trimming, or it can break off when you’re handling it. Sometimes, it’s just made poorly to begin with. Tunneling can also drown or shorten a wick, as wax melts over top. Even after you’ve solved your wax issue, you might still need to deal with the wick, and it’s easier to do so before the wax dries and buries it completely. If it has just fallen into the liquid wax, try rescuing it with a pair of tweezers and holding it until it can stand up on its own again.
You can try carving around the wick so you can light it, but this might set off a wax problem again, especially if you dig too deep. The best way to deal with a short or buried wick is to melt the entire surface with a heat gun, and dump out the excess wax.
But, if you don’t have a heat gun, turn the candle on its side and melt the wax onto folded foil, or a foil pie pan, as evenly as possible and without burning yourself. Again, I suggest you do this in the kitchen sink. Then, straighten out the wick with your tweezers if necessary, and relight the candle, burning it until the wax melts right out to the edge.
Fixing a Dirty Wick or a Flickering Flame
Soot and smoke marks on the glass are another common problem, caused by incomplete combustion, often because the balance or consistency is off with the amount of liquid wax being drawn up by the wick. If the flame doesn’t get the right steady flow of fuel, it will flicker or smoke. The type and quality of wax has a lot to do with this process too. Soy candles, for example, are particularly known for their almost soot-free quality.
Burning candles in drafty conditions, like near an open window, fan or outside will also increase soot because it disturbs the flame and fuel balance as well. Any time you see the flame bouncing and changing in size, there is a problem, and it can affect the overall lifespan of your candle and cause tunneling.
Using a hurricane vase or tall cylinder seems like an easy solution for drafts, but it can also rob the flame of the oxygen it needs. It will suck in more air from the top, but the heated air also needs to get out. This can actually cause air turbulence and a draft of its own, and the flame will flicker as a result. You might have noticed that the further down a tall container a candle burns, the more soot and smoke there is. This is what is going on and causing the problem.
The best draft shields are open at both ends, allowing you to raise the container up by half an inch. You can also buy candle cappers for jar-style containers to help regulate air flow. The most important thing you can do though is to properly trim your wick to about 1\4 inch each time you light your candle. If the flame starts flickering after it has burned a while, and there is no draft, put it out, and trim it again.