How Long before Candles Expire?
We’ve all been in a situation before when our lovely candle hasn’t melted properly. You’ll see wax melted in the centre with the side still being present. Doesn’t it look terrible? This has undoubtedly happened to any one of us at least once, but – why?!
This phenomenon is known as candle tunnelling.
Tunneling occurs when only the centre part of the wax surrounding the candle burns, leaving a terribly looking solid wall of wax around the wick that you can’t get rid of!
As it turns out, tunneling is caused by a number of things. And, unfortunately, it can happen in any candle, regardless of the type of wax or how well made your candle is. It gets worse when you realize how much of a waste it can cause.
This can be pretty bad for the candle’s overall aesthetic, right? But it doesn’t stop just there…
Tunneling actually shortens your candle’s burn time dramatically and makes it harder for you to actually light your candle during successive burns.
So, now that you’ve possibly heard the consequences of candle tunneling, how is it prevented? And how can it be fixed? Without further ado, let’s get you started.
What Is Candle Tunnelling?
Picture a tunnel. Like how a tunnel is dug through the middle, a candle tunnel also looks like that.
Candle tunneling happens when only the wax around the wick melts, creating a hole straight through the centre of the candle.
Over time, this will eventually leave you with an ugly and useless wall-like ring of wax around the outer zone of the candle.
There are quite a lot of factors to blame for this occurrence – the wick may be too small for the wax, insufficient burn time for the first use, the candle has an unstable environment, and many more.
Sounds like a minor problem? Well, it may be bigger than you think it is. Ask yourself, what could possibly go wrong with a slight mishap? Let’s find out.
Why You Want To Avoid Candle Tunneling
Imagine your candle is tunneling right now. Now, focus on that stubborn wall of wax left around the outer circumference of your candle. That’s all unused wax.
Thus, candle tunneling wastes a lot of wax, giving you a shorter burn time. Why? Since your candle only burns through in the middle, the unused wax around the outer zone becomes useless.
Tunneling is also bad for scented candles. If you’re a scented candle enthusiast, then you should know that tunneling may be to blame for a candle’s weak smell. Since less wax melts than intended, you might be getting less of your desired fragrance (no worries, it’s not too late to fix that one!)
Overall, candle tunneling wastes so much money, especially if you enjoy luxurious candles.
So, now that you’re aware of the worst possible consequences of candle tunneling , it’s a good idea to take preventative measures.
Well, that’s exactly what we’re here for. After thoroughly researching all the useful bits our readers need, let’s finally get started on the why’s of candle tunneling .
Why Is My Candle Tunneling ?
As we said, there could be tons of reasons. Some may be due to a manufacturer’s issue, while some reasons are just due to poor candle maintenance.
A Poor First Burn
Did you know that your wax also has its own memory? Wax actually remembers the candle’s first burn and sets it as a guide on how it’ll melt throughout its lifespan. Sounds crazy? This really affects the candle’s subsequent burns drastically.
If your candle tunnels on its first burn (yikes!), it’ll remember the tunnel and melt the wax inside it first. This creates a deeper tunnel as it continuously leaves more unmelted wax along the outer zone of the candle.
Wrong Wick For The Wrong Candle
As you may already know, the wick greatly affects a candle’s performance. In fact, choosing the appropriate wick is one of the most crucial steps in candle making.
A poorly designed candle with the wrong wick size will likely cause candle tunneling.
A candlewick that is too small will be unable to accumulate enough heat to melt the entire area of the wax’s first layer. When this happens, the wax will burn straight down as it forms a hole as wide as the wick’s melting capacity.
A Cold Environment
Well, this might be basic science, but even your room’s temperature can dictate how your wax burns. Cold rooms give your candles a harder time melting enough wax to cover an entire layer.
If we get into the quick science of it, reaching the relatively higher melting point of solid wax takes way, way longer in cold rooms since the wax needs more energy to rise to the appropriate temperature.
How Can I Prevent Candle Tunneling?
Now that you’re aware of the why’s of candle tunneling, it’s now time to see what we can do to prevent it.
1. Give Your Wax A “Good Memory”
Wait, what do we mean by that?
If you read what we said earlier, wax has memory. You want to ensure that its first burn is perfect. Give it enough time to melt the first layer entirely before extinguishing the flame.
So, how can you create the best first burn? Don’t put out the flame too early! Let it burn long enough until the first layer of wax has completely melted. Make sure that the melted wax reaches the outer edges of your candle before extinguishing the flame.
Follow these two rules to ensure a good first burn:
- The melted wax pool should be approximately a 1/2″ deep at the outer edges before putting out the candle.
- Burn the candle an hour per every inch of its diameter. For example, if your candle has a diameter of 4 inches, then you should burn it for at least 4 hours before extinguishing it.
2. Ensure Your Candle Wick Is The Right Length
You don’t want a wick that is too long or too short.
A longer wick collects more heat to create a larger and hotter flame to melt the wax completely to the edges. But this also raises the risk of drawing up wax too quickly and causing an uneven burn (and excess soot production).
A wick too short may be useless in melting all the wax.
Ideally, a 1/4″ of the wick should be exposed above the wax. So ensure you trim your wick regularly.
These are the most important ways of preventing candle tunneling. However, things happen, and your candle might still tunnel. So, can you still fix this?
Of course! Read on for the final tips on how to fix a tunneling candle.
How Do I Fix Candle Tunneling?
If it’s too late to prevent candle tunneling, there are still methods you can use to fix and resolve it in its tracks.
1. Use A Hairdryer
Again, the initial burn of the wax sets forth the limit of the candle’s future burns. Thereby creating a memory for your wax’s melting area.
In mild cases, a practical way to fix the wax’s memory is to blow the candle’s top surface with hot air from a hairdryer. Hold your hairdryer on a high setting above the candle surface. The hot air will melt the wax further until the wax smoothens, creating a level layer that creates a good memory for the wax not to tunnel next time.
2. Use Aluminium Foil
This easy method will increase the accumulated heat at the top of the candle for the hard, unmelted wax to melt up to the outer edges.
To do so, light your candle, then wrap the top of it with a layer of aluminium foil in a dome-like shape. Poke a circular hole in the aluminium – it should be in the centre and about 1 inch around. This should allow the candle’s smoke to escape.
Tip: We recommend to measure and poke a hole in the aluminium foil first, and then light the candle.
The foil allows heat to collect inside the candle as heat is reflected back onto the candle surface causing the wax to melt completely to the edges. Depending on the size of your candle, you should expect a nice, melted wax pool in an hour or two. Your candle is ready to burn again!
Ideally, you should let the candle burn until the top layer creates an approximately ¼ inch deep melted wax pool.
Take extra, extra care when doing this method! Foil can become super hot so try not to burn yourself. Overheating is also a risk when doing this method, so keep an eye on your candle to prevent any potential fire hazards.
3. Get Yourself A Candle Topper
If this is your first time hearing of it, a candle topper is an open metal lid that protects candle flames from wind and drafts. This helps prevent candle flicker, ensuring an even burn and lowering the chance of candle tunelling.
A candle topper also minimizes soot caused by an incomplete combustion when a candle burns in a drafty area.
Re-Purpose Your Unused Wax
If you don’t want the wax on the sides of your candle to go to waste, you can still make use of them.
Remove the wax and place it on top of a tealight warmer. Then place a lovely, little lit tealight candle under the burner. This is very useful if the candle is a scented one, because you can still melt and enjoy the released fragrance.
Candle lighting looks hard, doesn’t it? However; with enough knowledge, you can ensure you next candle burning experience is a good one with no tunelling.
Remember that candle maintenance goes a long way. After coming this far, you might want to shop for candle toppers and a good tealight burner to fix this kind of problem… if it happens (and hopefully not!)