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How to fix candle tunnelling in 5 easy steps

Candles can transfer any space, offering new and exotic aromas in various places in your home. Whether you opt for soy candles, paraffin or beeswax, candle tunnelling can feel frustrating, especially after you've bought the product to spruce up your room.

What is candle tunnelling?

Candle tunnelling refers to the phenomenon where a candle burns straight down in a narrow tunnel instead of evenly melting the entire layer of wax. This leaves unmelted wax along the edges of the candle jar, significantly reducing the overall burn time and wasting valuable wax.

Candle tunnelling occurs when the initial burn of a candle is not long enough to create a full melt pool that spans the entire surface of the wax. This can be due to factors such as the wick size being too small or the type of wax used. It can also happen if the candle isn't burned long enough, most products need between 1 to 4 hours each time to help sustain the level of the wax. When a candle is not burned for a sufficient period of time, it creates a memory ring around the wick, causing subsequent burns to tunnel straight down, rather than allowing the wax to melt evenly across the whole surface.

How to prevent candle tunnelling

To prevent candle tunnelling and ensure an even burn, it's important to follow a few simple steps by learning proper candle care.

First, always trim the wick to the recommended length (around ¼ inch) before each burn. This helps to control the size and intensity of the flame, preventing excessive heat and reducing the likelihood of tunnelling. If your wick appears to be shorter after each burn it's likely a self-trimming wick. You won't need to cut it shorter if this is the case.

Next, keep your vegan candles away from drafty areas. Drafts can cause the flame to flicker and burn unevenly, leading to tunnelling. Place your candles on a level surface, away from windows, air conditioning vents, or fans.

Additionally, it's crucial to allow the entire top layer of the candle to melt into a pool of wax during the initial burn. This can take a couple of hours, depending on the size of the candle. It's advisable to follow the "rule of thumb" which suggests burning a candle for about one hour per inch in diameter. This will create a wide melt pool that reaches the edges of the candle, preventing tunnelling in subsequent burns.

How does a candle work and where does the wax go?

How to fix candle tunnelling

Candle tunnelling is a common issue that many candle owners face, even with proper candle care. It occurs when the candle wax burns down through the centre, leaving a layer of wax around the edges of the jar. This not only wastes the wax but also prevents the candle from burning evenly.

Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to fix candle tunnelling and ensure that your favourite candles burn smoothly and evenly. In this article, we will discuss effective methods to address tunnelling, including the importance of proper initial burns, the benefits of regular wick trimming, and additional techniques such as the aluminium foil trick and using a heat source to melt the wax. By following these steps, you can enjoy a longer burn time, a full and beautiful melt pool, and get the most out of your candles.

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In the oven

If you're dealing with candle tunnelling and want to fix it, using the oven method can help you achieve a more even burn. Here's how to do it:

1. Preheat the oven: Start by preheating your oven to a temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius). This temperature will help to melt the top layer of wax without causing any damage to the candle or its container.

2. Place the candle container on a cookie sheet: Find a sturdy cookie sheet or baking tray and place the candle on it. Make sure the tray is large enough to hold the candle and catch any melted wax that may spill over.

3. Place in the oven: Carefully place the cookie sheet with the candle into the preheated oven. Leave it in the oven for about five minutes, allowing the heat to melt the top layer of wax and create a more even melt pool.

4. Monitor the process: Keep a close eye on the candle while it is in the oven. You want to make sure that the wax melts evenly without overheating or causing any damage. Avoid leaving the candle unattended during this process.

Heat the candle with a blow (hair) dryer

A blow dryer can be a handy tool to have on hand. Here are the steps to using a blow dryer or a heat gun to heat the candle and fix tunnelling:

1. Set up: Find a clean and safe surface to work on, such as a counter or table. Place the candle on a heat-resistant dish or tray to catch any melted wax that may drip.

2. Blow/hair dryer preparation: Set your blow dryer to the lowest heat setting. This ensures that you do not overheat the candle or cause any damage to the container.

3. Heat the candle: Hold the blow/hair dryer about 6-8 inches away from the candle and turn it on. Move the blow dryer around the candle, directing the warm air towards the tunnelled area. This will help melt the top layer of wax and smooth it out.

4. Monitor and rotate: As you blow dry, keep a close eye on the candle to ensure that the wax melts evenly. Rotate the candle occasionally to distribute the heat and prevent any one particular area from overheating. Larger candles may take more time.

5. Allow the wax to cool: After heating the candle, let it cool and solidify before relighting. This helps to prevent further tunnelling and ensures a more even burn for future use.

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Trim the wax

To trim the wax, start by gathering an unused utensil such as a spoon, fork, or knife. Ensure that the utensil is clean and free from any food residue to prevent any unwanted flavours or scents. Essentially we want to get the wax out of the candle jar, but only a small amount.

Carefully use the utensil to cut away the unmelted wax around the edges of the non-toxic candle. Take your time and be gentle to avoid damaging the wick or container. Trim the wax layer until it is level with the rest of the wax pool.

By trimming the wax, you encourage the candle to burn evenly from the next lighting. This helps prevent tunnelling and allows the candle to fully utilize its wax, maximising its burn time.

Remember, regularly trimming candle wicks is also crucial for even burns. Combine wick trimming with wax trimming to ensure the best results and avoid unwanted tunnelling.

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The aluminium fold technique

This simple yet effective technique involves using aluminium foil to wrap around the top edge of the candle, creating a barrier that allows heat to escape and melt the wax evenly.

To implement this technique, start by tearing off a piece of aluminium foil that is long enough to wrap around the circumference of the candle jar. Gently fold the foil in half lengthwise to create a sturdy strip.

Next, wrap the aluminium foil strip tightly around the top edge of the candle, making sure that it extends slightly above the wax surface. This creates a makeshift heat reflector that directs the heat back down to the edges of the candle, aiding in the liquidation of the wax.

When you light the candle, the heat from the flame will be directed towards the aluminium foil, which then reflects the heat onto the outer edges of the candle. This helps to generate a larger wax pool and prevent tunnelling.

Turn them into wax melts

If you have old candles that have tunnelling, don't throw them away just yet. You can actually turn them into wax melts, which can be used to fill your space with beautiful scents.

It's a handy trick to reuse and recycle candles.

Here's how to do it:

1. Gather your supplies. You'll need the old candle with tunnelling, a saucepan of hot water, and a silicone mould.

2. Place the candle glass into a saucepan of hot water over low heat on the stove. The hot water will melt the leftover wax, making it easier to work with.

3. Allow the wax to completely melt into liquid form. Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally to ensure even melting.

4. Carefully pour the melted wax from the saucepan into a silicone mould of your choice. The silicone mould will allow the wax to cool and harden into specific shapes.

5. Let the wax cool and harden completely. This could take a couple of hours, so be patient.

6. Once the wax is completely cooled and hardened, pop the wax melts out of the silicone mould. You now have beautiful new wax melts ready to be used in a wax warmer or any other wax melt holder.

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Replacing the wick

Replacing the wick in a candle is an essential part of candle maintenance and can help prevent tunnelling. When replacing the wick, there are certain considerations to keep in mind to ensure a successful replacement.

1. Choose the right wick size: Selecting the correct wick size is crucial to prevent tunnelling in the future. The wick size depends on factors such as the type of wax, jar size, and desired burn time. Candlemakers can refer to wick size guides or consult with experts to determine the appropriate wick size.

2. Melt the wax: To replace the wick, melt the surrounding wax in the candle jar. Place the jar in a saucepan of hot water over low heat, ensuring the water level is below the jar rim. The heat will gradually melt the wax, making it easier to work with.

3. Remove the old wick: Once the wax has melted, carefully remove the old wick using tweezers or pliers. Gently pull it out, ensuring not to disturb the remaining wax.

4. Center the new wick: Take a new wick of the appropriate size and centre it in the candle jar. Use a wick centring tool or simply hold the wick in place until the wax hardens.

5. Let the wax cool and harden: Allow the wax to cool and harden completely before relighting the candle. This may take a couple of hours, so exercise patience. Once hardened, use a wick trimmer to ensure it's no taller than 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the top surface of wax.

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Why do you want your candle to burn evenly?

Having an even burn for your candle is important for both visual and functional reasons. When a candle burns evenly, it not only maintains its flawless appearance but also ensures a longer burn time.

Firstly, an even burn prevents what is known as candle tunnelling. This occurs when the wick burns through the middle of the candle, leaving a layer of wax around the edges untouched. Candle tunnelling creates an uneven surface, diminishing the aesthetic appeal of the candle.

Moreover, candle tunnelling also affects the functionality of the candle. The layer of untouched wax leads to wasted burn time. This means that the candle will burn out faster, limiting its overall lifespan. On the other hand, when a candle burns evenly, it maximises the amount of usable wax, resulting in a longer burn time.

Another reason to aim for an even burn is the concept of wax memory. In simple terms, a candle has a "memory" of how it burned previously. If a candle is only burned on one side, it will continue to tunnel in subsequent burns. However, by achieving an even burn from the beginning, you can prevent this issue, negative wax memory and enjoy a longer-lasting, more efficient candle. Cheaper candles may burn quicker than luxury candles, so you want to maximise how much you get out of it.

How to make a candle burn evenly

The first burn sets the stage for an even burn in subsequent burns. During the first burn, it is crucial to allow the candle to create a complete melt pool, which is a pool of melted wax that extends to the edges of the container. This can be achieved by following the rule of thumb: burn the candle for at least one hour per inch of the container's diameter or for four hours.

Another key factor in achieving an even burn is ensuring a level surface. Placing the candle on a level surface allows the wax to melt evenly and prevents any accidental spills. After each burn, it is important to let the candle cool completely before relighting. This helps maintain a consistent burn and prevents any uneven melting.

Additionally, covering the candle when not in use can protect it from dust and drafts, which can cause an uneven burn. By keeping the candle covered, you are ensuring a clean, level burn each time you light it.

Burning your candle for the first time

When it comes to lighting your favourite candles, achieving an even burn is essential for a long-lasting and beautifully scented experience. Burning your candle for the first time sets the foundation for future burns, so it's important to follow a few key steps.

To start, you want to create a deep melted wax pool that extends all the way to the outer edges of the scented candle. This process, known as the initial burn, helps establish a "memory" for the wax, ensuring future burns will melt evenly. It's recommended to burn your candle for at least one hour per inch in diameter. For example, if you have a three-inch candle, let it burn for a minimum of three hours.

Cheap candles, or products that are made with inexpensive fragrance oils may not have the same amount of hours of burn time as luxury candles.

During the initial use, make sure the wax melts all the way to the edge of the candle. This will help prevent tunnelling, where a hole forms in the centre and the outer wax layer remains untouched. By allowing the wax to pool to the edges, you'll maximise the burn time and get the most out of your candle.

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