How to avoid the 3 most common candle issues

In this post we look at the top 3 issues with candle burning, and how to avoid and fix them:

1. Tunneling
2. Smoke
3. Dripping

If you're burning a well-made, good quality candle then all these issues can be easily remedied; it's just a matter of determining the cause and then knowing the solution. So let's get started.

Candle tunneling

1. Tunneling

When a candle burns hollow, or leaves a thick, unused mantle or rim, this is referred to as 'tunnelling'. It can be avoided by making sure the initial burn is long enough to melt the candle all the way to the edge. This is because the size of the wax pool during the first burn determines the life of the candle. Subsequent burns won't melt the wax beyond the initial wax pool, so if it didn't melt close enough to the edge of the candle, tunnelling might occur. 

Set the memory
As a rule of thumb, burn a new candle for 1 hour per 2.5cm (1 inch) in diameter. So for a 7.5cm (3 inch) diameter candle, the initial burn time should be at least 3 hours.

Hug the candle
If the tunnelling hasn't gone too far, a way to fix it is by 'hugging' the candle; pushing the soft wax rim inwards towards the flame, so that it has a chance to melt.

Trim the rim
If however the tunnelling has gone too deep to fix by hugging, the rim can be trimmed down with a sharp knife when the wax is warm. Be careful not to damage the rim or the candle might start dripping.

Smoking candle

2. Smoke

A properly burning candle can produce a little smoke every now and then, but it should never continuously smoke.

Avoid draughts
A common cause is draught; if the candle is exposed to a draught, the flame might start flickering and it will likely smoke. To avoid this, move the candle out of the draught or shield the flame from the draught.

Keep the wick trimmed
Another cause can be the length of the wick; extinguish the flame, let the candle cool down, shorten the wick to 6mm (1/4 inch) and light again.

Container size
If your smoking candle is inside a candle vase, lantern or container, then it could be that the vase is too small for the candle. To remedy this, choose a bigger container and/or smaller candle: make sure that there is roughly half the candle diameter of space between the candle and the vase edge. So in case of a 7cm candle, there should be at least 3.5cm of space between the candle and the edge of the container.

Dripping candle

3. Dripping

A dripping candle can have a number of causes, all of which are easy to fix once you know what to look for.

Strong draughts
A strong draught can cause molten wax from the wax pool to get blown over the sides of the candle. Eliminate the source of the draught, move the candle out of the draught or shield the candle from the draught.

Keep some distance & keep it straight
If the candle is too close to other candles, this can cause irregular melting and warping. Place lit candles at least 10cm (3 inches) apart to avoid melting and warping due to heat from neighbouring candles.

It could be that your candle has been placed at an angle - make sure the candle is standing up straight.

Check your container
Placing a candle inside a vase or container looks great, but due to the heat build up (the heat cannot escape as easily & the container walls heat up and reflect the heat back to the candle) it could melt the rim of the candle and lead to dripping. Solution: use a larger container.

Usually these issues can be easily fixed and avoided, and if they cannot then it's usually a symptom of a poor quality candle (low quality wick, wax or make) rather than incorrectly using the candle.

For more tips & tricks on how to burn candles, please read here.

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