Complete Guide To Preventing And Fixing Candle Tunneling

What Is Candle Tunneling?

If you love candles as much as I do, you don’t want to waste a single drop of wax. When the flame begins to drop below the top-level of wax, leaving a dry, hard ring that just won’t melt, it’s called candle tunneling.

Novice candle fans might even think that’s just how certain candles are, but over time, especially with larger containers, the candle can become harder to light or it will go out, as wax burns from the top, and it might not relight at all. You can even lose your wick entirely. Luckily, there are things you can do to help your candles burn evenly and efficiently, with as little residual wax as possible.

How To Prevent Candles From Tunneling

candle with a full even wax melt pool

Start Clean to Burn Clean

The first burn and the size of the initial wax pool sets the stage for everything. The longer your candle burns, the bigger the opening for future use. You might not even want to trim the wick that first time if it’s a wider container because a bigger, hotter flame could be the only way to melt the wax all the way out to the edge. But smoke and soot are never good for the wax, so keep a careful eye out for problems like that. Once the candle has formed a melt pool all the way to the edge of its container, extinguish the candle and trim it back a little using a wick trimmer such as the one here.

Read More: Check out these glass candle holders that will accent your homes decor

Tunneling is not only ugly, it’s wasteful. There shouldn’t be dark soot on the glass, and it should melt cleanly and evenly for roughly 1\4 inch. Burn the candle one hour, for every inch in width, depending on the wax and its quality, getting as close to the edge of the container as possible. Repeat this complete burn occasionally, throughout a candle’s life, to keep the wax open and even. Too many short burns will cause problems as well.

Make Wise Choices

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” – Benjamin Franklin

If you never burn your candles for more than an hour or two, pillar and large poured varieties are not your most economic and labor-free choice. Taper, votives, and tealights might suit your lifestyle better or smaller, narrower jars.

Some candles are also just poorly made in the first place and will probably tunnel no matter what you do because the wick is too small for the jar, or the wax is of poor quality. This means you will have to fix them more than once, and you might have problems with both the wax and the wick.

Remember, expensive and well-made are not always the same thing. You’re looking for quality, not money to burn. A good candle maker knows how to balance the wick size, wax type, size, and scent to produce a superior experience, and that’s what you’re looking for, not a constant hassle.

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  • Reply Daniel July 8, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    Have you ever tried a top for candle jars? They work fantastic! I always called it candle coring, so I just learned something new when I read your blog. They definitely are more like a tunnel (the missing part) and less like an apple-core, which is the part leftover. :)-


  • Reply Eric July 12, 2018 at 7:22 am

    Thank you soooo much! I love the terminology so now I know it. I’m using the foil on my candle I just got. It’s a vanilla cupcake yankee candle 22oz 1 wick. It’s incredible but my first light left slight tunnel. Omg I just check after 15 minutes if even and it worked!!! 😍 Thanks!!!

  • Reply Dasha October 4, 2018 at 11:26 am

    Please help. How can I Prevent shrinkage? Where the wax separates from the glass after the wax cools?

  • Reply Jessica Argueta October 8, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    I’ve benn having problems with candles from aldi all tunneling no matter how long i burn them. Burned a small 2.5 in one last night for 4-5 hours, and it had already formed a tunnel and left a full 1/4 rim maybe a little more. I had a 3 wick one before and it never melted the edges either. Do i just give up on that brand? Or can they be saved somehow?

  • Reply Judy January 7, 2020 at 9:41 am

    I have been completely unsuccessful in trying to prevent tunneling. I burn my candles until they are flat, and when I relight them, they still tunnel.. I am dealing with beeswax. I burn them flat, and then I have practically no candle left to burn. I get maybe an hour out of a votive. Seems terribly wasteful. I’ve tried the foil “hood,, too, but it will not melt the wall of wax up against the side of the tin. I love candles, but I am obviously doing something wrong. I have thrown away almost $50 trying to get this right. What about a triple wick candle?

    • Reply The Candle Junkies January 11, 2020 at 6:36 pm

      Hi Judy, I don’t have a ton of experience with beeswax candles so I can’t say for sure why a specific candle may continue doing that. It could just be the brand of candle maybe? As for the triple wick candles, it should definitely help with preventing tunneling! Most of the triple wick candles that I have gotten have had no issues with tunneling. If anything, the triple wick candles will burn flat but also use up the wax too quickly. Better than having left over wax though.

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