How to Prevent Tunneling When Making Candles

Introductory Section:

Candle making is a popular and enjoyable hobby that allows individuals to create beautiful, personalized candles for various purposes. However, one common frustration that many candle makers encounter is the issue of tunneling. Tunneling refers to the uneven burning pattern that occurs when a candle burns down through the center, leaving wax untouched along the sides. This not only diminishes the aesthetic appeal of the candle but also significantly reduces its burn time and overall efficiency.

Understanding the problem of tunneling is crucial for every candle maker looking to create high-quality candles. Tunneling can occur due to various factors, including improper wax selection, incorrect wick size, inadequate candle maintenance, and inefficient burning techniques. To overcome this challenge and produce candles with a uniform burn pattern and prolonged burn times, it is essential to adopt preventive measures.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the phenomenon of tunneling in candle making. We will explore its causes, discuss various prevention techniques such as choosing the right wax and wick size, emphasizing proper candle maintenance, maximizing burn times with efficient techniques, utilizing helpful accessories, troubleshooting existing tunneling issues, and ultimately maintaining beautiful and long-lasting candles through tunneling prevention.

By following these steps and implementing effective strategies, you can ensure that your handmade candles burn evenly from start to finish while providing maximum enjoyment and satisfaction. Let’s dive into this enlightening journey on how to prevent tunneling when making candles.

What is Tunneling

Tunneling is a common issue that can occur when making candles. It refers to the phenomenon where a candle burns straight down in the center, leaving unused wax on the sides of the container. This creates a tunnel-like appearance and reduces the overall burn time of the candle. Understanding what causes tunneling and how to prevent it is essential for achieving beautifully burning candles.

Tunneling Process and Causes

Tunneling occurs when a candle does not achieve a full melt pool during each burn. A full melt pool means that the entire surface area of the candle has liquefied, from edge to edge, creating an even layer of molten wax. When tunneling happens, only a small portion of the wax around the wick melts, creating a tunnel-shaped cavity while leaving unused wax along the sides.

Several factors contribute to tunneling in candles. One common cause is using an improper wick size. If the wick is too small for the diameter of the candle or if it doesn’t produce enough heat to create a full melt pool, tunneling can occur. Another factor is using wax that has poor melt characteristics or contains additives that inhibit proper burning.

Preventing Tunneling

The good news is that there are several steps you can take to prevent tunneling when making candles.

Firstly, choosing the right wax is crucial. Look for container waxes specifically designed for minimal or no tunneling issues. These waxes often have additives that help promote an even burn and prevent tunneling.

Secondly, selecting an appropriate wick size is important for preventing tunneling. It’s recommended to use a larger size wick that matches your candle’s diameter to ensure sufficient heat generation and encourage a full melt pool.

Lastly, maintaining your candles properly plays a significant role in avoiding tunneling. Trim your wick before each use to about ¼ inch in length to avoid excessive soot and ensure a steady flame. Additionally, make sure the wick is centered in the container to allow for an even burn.

By addressing these factors and following proper candle-making techniques, you can effectively prevent tunneling and enjoy beautifully burning candles that provide optimal brightness and longevity.

Common Causes of Tunneling

Tunneling is a common problem that candle makers often face. It refers to the uneven burning of a candle, where a hole forms down the center and wax accumulates around the edges, thus wasting valuable wax and reducing the burn time of the candle. Understanding the common causes of tunneling is crucial in order to prevent this issue and create beautiful, long-lasting candles.

One of the main causes of tunneling is using an improper wick size. If the wick is too small for the diameter of the candle, it will not generate enough heat to melt the wax evenly across the entire surface area. As a result, only a small portion in the center will melt while leaving untouched wax along the sides. This leads to tunneling.

The type and quality of wax used can also contribute to tunneling. Different waxes have different melting temperatures and densities, which can affect how evenly they burn. It is important to choose a wax that is specifically formulated for container candles and has a lower melting point.

Furthermore, improper candle maintenance can also cause tunneling. If the wick is not trimmed properly or not centered in the container, it can lead to uneven burning and tunnel formation. Trimming the wick to about 1/4 inch before each use helps ensure that it burns at an optimal rate.

Inadequate Wick Size
Improper Wax Type
Poor Candle Maintenance

By identifying these factors and taking appropriate measures like choosing the right wick size, selecting an appropriate wax type, and maintaining candles properly through regular trimming and centering of the wick, candle makers can effectively prevent tunneling and create candles that burn evenly, last longer, and provide a more enjoyable experience for their customers.

Choosing the Right Wax

When it comes to preventing tunneling in candle making, one of the most crucial factors to consider is choosing the right wax. The type and quality of wax you use can significantly impact the burn quality and help minimize the occurrence of tunneling. Here are some key points to consider when selecting the ideal wax for tunneling prevention:

Consider Soy Wax

Soy wax is known for its excellent burn qualities, including a more even and consistent burn compared to other types of wax. It has a lower melting point, allowing it to evenly distribute heat throughout the candle, reducing the likelihood of tunneling. Additionally, soy wax has a clean-burning nature, which can further prevent issues such as soot buildup that may contribute to tunneling.

Blended Waxes

Another option to consider is using blended waxes that combine different types of wax, such as soy and beeswax or coconut oil. These blends often provide enhanced burn characteristics and can help reduce tunneling tendencies. Experimenting with different combinations can help you find a blend that not only prevents tunneling but also suits your preferences in terms of scent throw and appearance.

Test Before Using

Before using any wax for your candles, it’s essential to test it first to determine its performance. Make sample candles using different waxes and observe their burning behavior over time. This will allow you to assess how well each type of wax prevents tunneling and choose the one that yields the best results.

Remember that choosing the right wax is just one aspect of tunneling prevention in candle making. To maximize your chances of success, it’s important to consider other factors mentioned in this article such as proper wick selection, maintenance, burn time optimization, utilizing candle accessories, and following techniques specifically designed for preventing tunneling.

Optimal Wick Selection

When it comes to preventing tunneling in candle making, choosing the right wick is essential. The wick plays a crucial role in ensuring that the candle burns uniformly and avoids tunneling. It is important to select a wick size that matches the diameter of your candle, as this will help create an even burn pool and prevent wax from building up along the sides.

Making Candle Holders From Jam Jars

To determine the optimal wick size for your candle, you can refer to wick charts provided by reputable candle supply companies. These charts provide guidance on which wick size to use based on various factors such as the type of wax, diameter of the container, and desired burn time. Using a wick that is too small may result in poor scent throw, while a wick that is too large can lead to excessive flickering or smoking.

In addition to considering the diameter of your container, you should also assess other factors that can impact burn performance. For example, if you are using fragrance oils or additives in your candles, they may require a larger wick size to ensure proper combustion. It’s important to test different wicks and observe their performance before settling on the optimal size.

Container Diameter (inches) Recommended Wick Size (recommended sustainers)
2-2.5 CDN 4-6
2.75-3 CDN 8-10
3.25-3.5 CDN14-16

By selecting the appropriate wick size for your candles, you can ensure a more uniform burn and prevent tunneling. Remember to always conduct testing and experimentation to achieve the best results for your specific candle-making process.

The Importance of Proper Candle Maintenance

Proper candle maintenance plays a crucial role in preventing tunneling when making candles. Tunneling occurs when a candle burns unevenly, leaving a hollow cavity in the center while the outer edges remain untouched. This not only affects the appearance of the candle but also reduces its burn time and overall performance. One of the key components of proper candle maintenance is trimming and centering the wick.

Trimming the wick before each burn is essential to prevent tunneling. A long wick can cause the flame to burn too hot, leading to uneven melting and tunneling. To trim the wick, use sharp scissors or a wick trimmer to cut it down to about ¼ inch or as recommended by the manufacturer. Trimming ensures that the flame burns at an optimal temperature, allowing for even wax consumption and minimizing tunneling.

Centering the wick is another important aspect of preventing tunneling. When lighting a candle, make sure that the wick is centered in its container. A crooked or off-center wick can cause uneven burning and encourage tunneling. If you notice that your wick is off-center, gently nudge it back into place with a non-flammable tool like a toothpick or skewer while ensuring that the wax is still soft and pliable.

Proper candle maintenance goes beyond just trimming and centering the wick. It also includes other practices such as keeping candles away from drafts or air vents, which can disturb the flame’s stability and lead to uneven burning. Additionally, always strive for an ideal burn time of one hour per inch in diameter of your candle, as this helps prevent excess heat buildup and potential tunneling issues.

Maximizing Burn Times

To prevent tunneling when making candles, it is important to maximize burn times and increase the efficiency of your candles. By following these techniques, you can ensure that your candles burn evenly and last longer:

  1. Trim the Wick: Before lighting your candle, make sure to trim the wick to a quarter of an inch. A long wick can cause uneven burning and contribute to tunneling. Trimming the wick will help create a balanced flame that burns efficiently.
  2. Center the Wick: When pouring the wax into the container, ensure that the wick is centered. A off-center wick can lead to uneven burning and tunneling. Use a wick holder or pencil to keep the wick in place as the wax cools and solidifies.
  3. Allow for Proper Cooling: After pouring the wax, it is crucial to allow ample time for it to cool and set properly. Avoid moving or disturbing the candle during this process as it can disrupt the formation of an even melt pool. Patience is key in preventing tunneling.
  4. Burn Candles for an Adequate Time: It is important to burn candles long enough for them to achieve a full melt pool across the entire surface of the candle container. This generally takes about one hour per inch of diameter. Burning candles for shorter periods may contribute to tunneling as only a portion of the wax melts.
  5. Rotate Candles: If you frequently use candles in specific areas or rooms, make sure to rotate their usage between different locations. This helps ensure that each candle burns evenly and prevents any excessive heat exposure on one side which may contribute towards tunneling.

By following these techniques, you can effectively prevent tunneling when making candles and increase their overall efficiency and burn times. Remember that practicing proper maintenance and care not only enhances the aesthetics but also ensures safe and enjoyable candle experience while maximizing their longevity.

Utilizing Candle Accessories

Candle accessories play a crucial role in enhancing the burn quality of candles and can also help prevent tunneling. By using the right tools and enhancements, candle makers can achieve a more even and efficient burn, ensuring that their candles maintain their beautiful appearance for longer periods of time.

One essential candle accessory that can aid in preventing tunneling is a wick trimmer. Trimming the wick before each use helps to maintain its length at around ¼ inch. This shorter wick reduces the amount of fuel being drawn up, resulting in a more controlled flame and a slower burn rate. Additionally, trimming the wick helps to prevent mushrooming which can lead to soot formation and other issues that contribute to tunneling.

Another helpful tool for preventing tunneling is a wick centering device. This accessory ensures that the wick remains centered throughout the burning process. A properly centered wick allows for an even melt pool, reducing the risk of tunneling. Wick centering devices are available in various forms, such as metal or plastic holders that are placed on top of the candle jar or container.

Furthermore, utilizing candle enhancements like heat-resistant base discs can also assist in preventing tunneling. These base discs create insulation between the bottom of the container and the table surface, allowing for more even heat distribution during burning. This helps to prevent hot spots that may contribute to uneven melting and tunneling.

Accessory Function
Wick Trimmer Trimming the wick to maintain proper length
Wick Centering Device Ensuring that the wick remains centered throughout the burning process
Base Discs Creating insulation between the container and table surface, promoting even heat distribution

Techniques to Prevent Tunneling

Step 1: Choose the Right Wax

One of the key factors in preventing tunneling is selecting the right wax for your candles. Look for waxes that are specifically formulated to have a low melting point and excellent scent throw. Soy wax, for example, is known to have a lower melting point compared to other waxes, which can help minimize tunneling. Beeswax is another option that has a high melting point and can prevent tunneling as well.

Step 2: Select the Proper Wick Size

Using the right wick size is crucial in preventing tunneling. A wick that is too small may not allow enough fuel to reach the flame, causing tunneling. On the other hand, a wick that is too large may produce a larger flame, resulting in excessive heat and rapid consumption of wax.

To determine the correct wick size for your candle, consider factors such as diameter and type of wax. Wick sizing charts are readily available online or through candle-making suppliers.

Step 3: Ensure Proper Candle Maintenance

Proper maintenance of your candles plays a significant role in preventing tunneling. Always trim your candle’s wick to about ¼ inch before each lighting session. This will help maintain a controlled flame and prevent excess carbon buildup.

Additionally, it’s important to keep the wick centered while burning. If you notice that your candle has started to tunnel, carefully use a toothpick or similar object to gently push the excess wax towards the center of the candle while it is still warm.

Colonial Crafts Candle Making

Step 4: Practice Long Initial Burn Times

To promote an even burn pool and prevent tunneling from occurring during subsequent burns, it’s recommended that you perform long initial burn times when lighting your candles for the first time. Allow your candle to burn until there is a full melt pool across the entire diameter of the candle.

This process usually takes about one hour per inch in diameter. By doing this, you are training your candle to burn evenly from edge to edge, eliminating any potential for tunneling.

Step 5: Rotate and Re-position the Candle

Another technique to prevent tunneling is rotating and re-positioning your candle while it is burning. After a few hours of burn time, gently tilt the candle or rotate it slightly on its base to ensure an even melt pool. This will help distribute heat and wax more evenly throughout the candle, preventing tunneling from forming.

By following these steps and implementing these techniques, you can greatly reduce or eliminate tunneling when making candles. Remember that each candle is unique, so experimenting with different waxes, wick sizes, and maintenance techniques may be necessary to find the perfect combination for a beautifully burning and long-lasting candle.

Troubleshooting Tunneling

Tunneling can be a frustrating issue that many candle makers experience. However, there are several solutions available to fix existing tunneling problems and ensure that your candles burn evenly and beautifully.

One of the most effective ways to troubleshoot tunneling is by using a technique called “tunnel busting.” This method involves carefully melting away the excess wax around the edges of the candle to create a more even surface. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Prepare a heat source: You can use either a hairdryer or a heat gun for this method. Make sure to set it on a low or medium heat setting.
  2. Lightly warm the top layer: Start by gently warming up the top layer of the candle using the heat source. Hold it about 6-8 inches away from the candle and move it in circular motions. Be careful not to overheat or melt the wax too quickly.
  3. Scrape off excess wax: Once the top layer has softened, take a spoon or a butter knife and carefully scrape off any excess wax around the edges of the candle. This will help remove any high walls and encourage an even burn.
  4. Repeat if necessary: If there are still significant tunnels present, repeat steps 2 and 3 until you achieve a more uniform surface.

Another solution to fix tunneling issues is by using aluminum foil or tin foil wraps. This method helps distribute heat more evenly across the surface of the candle, preventing further tunneling. Follow these steps:

  1. Cut out aluminum foil strips: Measure and cut aluminum foil into long strips that are wide enough to wrap around your candles.
  2. Wrap the candles: Take each strip of aluminum foil and wrap them tightly around your candles, ensuring that they cover the sides completely while leaving the wick exposed at the top.
  3. Secure with adhesive tape: Use small pieces of adhesive tape to secure the ends of each foil strip in place, so they don’t unravel during burning.
  4. Burn the candle: Light your candle as usual, making sure to monitor it closely. The heat from the flame will be trapped within the foil, allowing for a more even burn and reducing tunneling.

By following these troubleshooting techniques, you can effectively fix existing tunneling issues and enjoy beautifully burning candles. Remember to always ensure proper wick maintenance, select the right wax and wick sizes for prevention, and make use of candle accessories to enhance burn quality and efficiency.


In conclusion, preventing tunneling when making candles is essential to maintaining beautiful and long-lasting candles. By understanding the problem of tunneling and the factors that contribute to it, candle makers can take proactive steps to avoid this issue. Choosing the right wax is crucial, as certain waxes are more prone to tunneling than others. It is important to select a wax that has a low melt point and a high fragrance load to minimize the risk of tunneling.

Additionally, proper wick selection plays a significant role in preventing tunneling. Using a wick that is too small can lead to uneven burning and tunneling. It is crucial to choose a wick size that matches the diameter of the candle for an even burn. Regular maintenance of candles is also essential in preventing tunneling. Trimming the wick and centering it before each use ensures that the flame burns evenly, reducing the likelihood of tunneling.

To maximize burn times and prevent tunneling, there are several techniques that can be implemented. These techniques include allowing the candle’s initial burn to reach a full melt pool, avoiding drafts while burning, and keeping the candle away from air vents or windows.

Lastly, utilizing candle accessories such as wick trimmers and candle snuffers can further enhance burn quality and prevent tunneling. Wick trimmers help maintain an optimal wick length, while snuffers eliminate any chance of splattering or smoking during extinguishing.

By following these prevention techniques, candle makers can create beautiful candles that burn evenly and last longer. Preventing tunneling not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of candles but also ensures their longevity, providing users with an enjoyable and satisfying experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you stop candles from tunneling?

To stop candles from tunneling, there are a few steps you can take. Firstly, it’s important to always trim the wick of your candle before lighting it. This helps to maintain an even flame and prevents excessive heat build-up, which can contribute to tunneling.

Additionally, when you initially light your candle for the first time, allow it to burn long enough for the entire surface of the wax to melt evenly. This forms what is called a “memory ring,” preventing future tunneling. If you continue to experience tunneling, try switching to a larger wick size or using a wick trimmer tool to slightly expose more of the wick.

Why are my candles tunneling after pouring?

Candles can sometimes experience tunneling after pouring due to various factors. Tunneling occurs when the outer edges of the wax do not fully melt and instead form a tunnel-like cavity in the center of the candle while burning. One common reason for this is burning the candle for too short of a time during its initial lighting.

If the wax is not given enough time to melt across the entire diameter on its first burn, subsequent burns may result in tunneling. Another factor could be using a wick that is too small or placing multiple candles too close together, causing insufficient heat distribution and resulting in tunneling.

Does candle warmer fix tunneling?

Candle warmers are designed primarily for fragrance purposes rather than fixing tunneling issues in candles. While candle warmers can help release scented oils and fragrance from candles without actually burning them, they don’t necessarily fix or prevent tunneling problems that may exist in certain candle designs or formulations.

The heat provided by candle warmers may be different from that of an open flame, so relying solely on candle warmers might not address specific issues related to uneven melting or improper wick sizes that contribute to tunneling. It’s still important to consider proper care techniques such as trimming wicks and allowing sufficient burn times when seeking to prevent tunneling in candles.

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