Why Do Candles Burn Unevenly?


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A burning candle can be a beautiful addition to a room in terms of both sight and scent – unless it starts burning unevenly and all of the wax pools to one side. If you’re encountering this problem with your candles, you need to know why it’s happening so that you can fix your candle (and your room’s decor).

Candles burn unevenly due to a consistent draft of air blowing the flame in one direction, a wick that has been placed too far to one side, and an untrimmed wick that causes a lopsided flame. To get an even burn, you need to ensure there are no air drafts and that your wick is centered and trimmed.

In this article, you will learn why candles burn unevenly, how to fix this uneven burn, and how to prevent this from ever happening again.

Why do candle burn unevenly

What Causes Candles to Tunnel or Burn Unevenly?

Candles are very delicate things once lit. Most people think lighting a candle and leaving it to burn is all that needs to be done. Once lit, candles will need a bit of attention if you want a bright burn with no wasted wax. 

Let’s take a look at common ways that cause candles to burn unevenly. 

If your candle is exposed to a draft, air conditioning or a fan, the flame will flicker and cause the wax to be uneven. The wax side that has the most heat from the flame will burn a lot faster than the side disturbed by air currents. 

Why do candle burn unevenly

According to the National Candle Association, the first burn determines whether the candle will burn unevenly throughout its lifespan. If your candle is 2 inches across, then it should be left to burn at least 2 hours before extinguishing the flame.

This allows the wax to melt evenly on all edges. If the flame doesn’t burn for the recommended time, the candle will forever burn unevenly, leaving you with wasted wax. That being said, there are ways to fix this, and I’ll discuss that in another topic.

Another important factor that leads to candles burning unevenly is a wick that is not centered. It doesn’t take a genius to know that the candle will burn in whatever location the wick is placed. If the wick starts in the candle’s center, but shifts to the left further down, your candle will burn in that direction.

So, the left side of the wax will burn further than the right. There’s no real way to tell if your wick is incorrectly placed unless you buy a clear candle. 

As I mentioned, there is a fix for all these causes, so keep reading. 

Lastly, the final cause we’re going to look at is both simple and easily overlooked. An untrimmed wick will cause your candles to burn unevenly, and here’s why.

An untrimmed wick will have excess liquid wax, giving it a mushroom-like quality. This causes the flame to be dulled. An untrimmed wick will also be too long as the flame from the candle melts wax closest to the wick.

Why do candle burn unevenly

Even worse, is the fact that the added debris on the untrimmed wick will cause unburned carbon particles or soot to gather around your candle container. This then becomes a fire hazard as the flame starts to flare up erratically.

Tip 1: Don’t light a candle if you’ll have to leave the house in less than three hours. The first burn is the most important. 

How Do You Fix Candles That Burn Unevenly?

We looked at the causes, and now it’s time for detailed solutions.

Trim your wick to get the brightest and cleanest burn. Trimming should be done every 4 hours of burn time, and it should be trimmed to a ¼ inch in length. If you’re a candle collector or want optimal care for your candles, you should consider investing in a wick trimmer.

If the tunneling is so severe that trimming the wick doesn’t do much good, below are other methods you can try. 

Aluminum foil is a great heat conductor.To use this method, simply add a piece of aluminum foil around your candle container’s edge. Ensure it covers the buildup but leaves enough room, so the wick burns correctly.

Remember that oxygen feeds the fire, so avoid putting the foil too close. The candle should be left to burn at least 2 hours while the surface evens out.

Another method is to bake the candles in the oven. To do this, remove all labeling from your candle jars and preheat your oven to 175° F. It will only take five minutes for the wax buildup to melt and be evenly distributed.

Be sure to remove excess wax if it covers the wick and then place the containers on a cooling rack. This method is not very popular for melting candles because it requires close attention. However, it is faster than using aluminum foil, so you should give it a try. 

Again, heating candles in the oven is risky because the container might shatter, and you’ll have to scrub hot wax and glass from your oven. Consider if this is worth the risk. 

Tip 2: In addition to a wick trimmer, a candle snuffer is very handy to extinguish a candle flame. It will prevent the splatter of hot wax, which normally happens when you blow out a candle. 

How Do You Prevent Candles From Burning Unevenly?

So, we’ve gathered that tunneling is not only unattractive but also a nuisance to fix. Here are ways you can prevent your candles from burning unevenly. 

Keep your candles away from high traffic areas, draft, and open windows. This helps to keep the flame in its teardrop shape and promotes even melting of the wax. This will also reduce the formation of soot and reduce the mushrooming of the wick. 

Purchase multi-wick candles. These will burn brightly and evenly, so there is little to no worry needed about uneven burning. Candles with three wicks are the most efficient. They will undoubtedly burn quicker, but they will also burn evenly throughout their lifespan.

Avoid burning your candles for more than 4 hours. Candles do overheat, and the wick won’t be able to stay in place if the wax around the middle becomes soft. 

Buy candles from reputable brands that have great reviews. If your candles are of poor quality, then you will have issues with uneven burning. If you’re unsatisfied with store-bought candles, here’s a helpful video to get started with homemade candles. 

Conclusion

In this article, we covered the reasons why candles burn unevenly. These include:

  • Untrimmed wick
  • Air movement 
  • Poor wax quality

On the other hand, there are also numerous ways to fix and prevent candles from burning unevenly. Candles can be reheated in the oven or covered partially with aluminum foil to melt the buildup of excess wax caused by tunneling.

You can also trim your wick every 4 hours of burn time to get the best burn and scent quality. To prevent uneven burning, you should opt for multi-wick candles and only purchase from suppliers known for well-made candles. 

Steve Rajeckas

Steve Rajeckas is an HVAC hobbyist with an avid interest in learning innovative ways to keep rooms, buildings, and everything else at the optimal temperature. When he's not working on new posts for Temperature Master, he can be found reading books or exploring the outdoors.

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