How to fix a candle burning unevenly

Candle burning unevenly? Candle burning just down the middle around the wick (tunneling)? Candle not staying lit? Check out these ways to fix and prevent these candle burning problems.

TRIM YOUR WICKS! The biggest culprit for a candle burning unevenly is an untrimmed wick. Most candle burning problems can be solved by just making sure you trim those wicks before every burn and even during a long burn if they get too long. Long wicks make for large flames that can get wonky and even curl onto themselves leaning further one way than the other, causing them to melt the wax more on one side than the other, rather than right down the middle.

BURN LONG ENOUGH. Don't blow out your candle until the melted wax reaches the edges. This is called a full melt pool. If you don't, you'll create a tunneling problem. Tunneling is a good thing for pillar candles, but not so much for container candles. Tunneling creates craters around the wicks that won't burn right next time you light up that candle. You'll have a candle with wax hung up around the edges that won't get used. And that brings me to...

FIX TUNNELING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Sometimes you just have to blow out that candle before it has a full melt pool. Correct the problem before your next burn or you'll just make it worse. Any of these methods will work:

  • Use a heat gun on low or a hair dryer to melt the top layer of wax until it's even again across the top.
  • Place your candle under a candle lamp if you have one until the top layer of wax is melted. NOTE: A good option for glass vessels, plain ceramic, or concrete vessels, but I don't recommend the use of candle warmers or candle lamps with your Sweet Autumn Eclectic candles. They may damage the handpainted finish, or simply not work well, so use at your own risk. See Candle Warmers: Pros & Cons for more on these candle geek gadgets.
  • If your wicks are too short once the wax is level again, you'll have to remove enough of the excess wax to expose 1/4" of the wicks again. (Keep any wax you've removed and use it in your wax warmer or save it for a cool Fall/ Winter project like these DIY Firestarters)

CANDLE JUST WON'T STAY LIT? This is usually a manufacturing problem, or a storage problem, not a problem with how you're burning your candle. There's not a lot you can do to fix a wick that won't stay lit, so it's best to prevent this from happening in the first place by storing your candles in a cool dark place and not waiting forever and ever to start burning it. I have found with some fragrance and wax blends, particularly those with more natural ingredients, when a candle is allowed to sit unlit for long periods of time can cause the wicks to start to degrade and they won't stay lit. If it's already too late and that candle just won't stay lit, your best bet is to remove the wax from the container and just use it in your wax warmer. That way, you still get to enjoy it. Otherwise, you may be able to contact a candlemaker for tips on remelting that candle and pouring it into a new vessel with new wicks.

Have a candle burning unevenly that I didn't address here? Feel free to leave a comment below and I'll try to help you fix it, even if it's a candle that didn't come from me!


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