1) The first burn is the most important - doing it right
Give your candle enough burning time to develop a melted wax pool that goes all the way to the edge of the container on the first use - this can take up to a few hours, depending on candle size.
The candle jars have a “wax-memory,” and once a burning pattern has been established, it can be hard to change.
If you don’t allow your candle enough time to form a full melt pool on the first burn, a little depression or “tunnel” may start to form around the wick.
This will make it more difficult for the wax around the edges of the jar to melt, causing the tunneling effect to continue with each burn.
Eventually the tunnel will become too deep for fresh oxygen to flow in, and your candle will have trouble staying lit for more than short periods of time.
To prevent this issue, make sure to give your candle enough time to develop a melted wax pool that goes all the way to the edge of the container the first time you use it.
This melt pool can take 3 hours or more to form, depending on the candle size, so wait to light up your new candle.
After the first use, you don’t have to let a full wax pool form every single time, but it is ideal if you want to get the most life out of your candle. Just make sure give your jar candles a nice long burn every so often to “reset” the wax memory and prevent any tunneling.
This will keep your candle looking great, smelling great, burning evenly, and all the other great things you want!
2) Keep your wood wick trimmed short and free of charred bits
For optimal burn, keep your wood wick trimmed to about ⅛”, and clean off any burnt wood from previous use.
Other than the tunneling problem, if your wood wick candle won’t stay lit it’s probably because the wick is too long, or it needs to be trimmed clean of charred material.
Remember it’s not the wood fueling your candle’s flame, it’s the wax. The flame is drawing the wax upwards through the wick, so if it’s not trimmed short and clean, the wax can’t make it to the flame.
For optimal burn, keep your wood wick trimmed to about ⅛” - this is shorter than you might think the wick should be - around the width of the metal part of a USB drive. You’ll also want to clean off any charred bits.
For trimming, we’ve always found an old set of nail clippers or wire cutters to work great. In a pinch, you can always use a napkin and your fingers to gently break off the burnt parts of the wick.
Just make sure to let your candle cool before trimming, as you don’t want any bits of ash or wick material left in the wax when you’re done. It’s much easier to clean this up when the wax is hard and cool!
3) How to fix a candle that’s tunneling:
If your wood wick or jar candle has developed some tunneling from shorter burns, you can usually fix it - here’s how:
First and best option: if your candle will stay lit, give it a good long burn until all the wax is melted to the edge of the jar, and you’ve effectively “reset” the memory of the wax.
The flame height may vary when you do this, but as long as there is still a burn, it should continue to create a melt pool, just be patient.
If your candle won’t stay lit because it is “drowning” in a wax pool, try using a paper towel or napkin to soak up some of the excess wax.
Then wait for a minute or so, relight your candle, and repeat until your wick has room to breathe!