A few of the most common candle issues are a wick that is too short, tunneling and a flame that is too small or too large. I'm going to discuss strategies to remedy all of these situations.
The other day (Thanksgiving to be precise), I put one of my favorite fall candles (Cranberry Apple) in the bathroom. However, when I trimmed the wick, I accidentally cut it short. Like, waaaaay too short. I tried to light it, but no dice; it would burn out in under 30 seconds. There just wasn't enough wick above the surface of the candle.
Oops. But fear not--this is totally fixable.
The next day I used a small scraping tool to remove some wax from the perimeter of the wick so that more of it was exposed. I didn't remove a lot as you can see from the pictures. That was it! I relit the candle and it worked perfectly.
Above photo is immediately after lighting. This was taken outside; you can see the wind is blowing the wick sideways.
The picture shown here is after burning for approximately one hour (FYI-I don't normally wear a coat and hat in the house. I was about to go for a walk). You can see it has a good flame and the melt pool is close to the side of the jar.
After lighting the candle, I made sure to keep it burning for several hours so that the melted pool of wax reached all the way to the sides of the container. This allowed enough of the wax to burn off so that the wick was long enough for subsequent uses. Plus, as a general rule, its always good to burn a candle for several hours at a time. The fragrance "throw" will be better and it will also help to keep your candle from tunneling down.
But what if your candle has already started to tunnel (rather than burn outwards to the side of the vessel)? First, light your candle and let it burn for a few minutes until you have a small pool of wax. Then blow out your candle and carefully pour off that bit of melted wax. I usually just fold a few sheets of paper towel so they're several layers thick and pour the wax on that. This should allow your candle to have enough space so the wick isn't "drowning" in melted wax. Then, relight your candle and let it burn for as long as possible (safely, of course). Plant-based waxes including soy and coconut burn more slowly that paraffin so your candle will need some extra burn time to correct the tunneling. This could take several hours, depending on the size of your candle. Candles which have tunneled extremely far down the vessel or are in a tall and very narrow container may not be salvageable as there is much less oxygen available. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of a tunneled candle.
Finally, what do you do with a flame that is too small or too large? A small flame may look as though it is about to self extinguish and a large on may have a lot of soot and smoke. For a small flame, first check to see that the wick isn't too raggedy. This is one reason we always recommend trimming your wick before each use. If this is the case, carefully give it a tiny trim with wick scissors, regular scissors, nail clippers, or even your fingertip. I prefer the wick trimmer because it gives the straightest cut but all of these will work if you are careful. If you are trimming a wood wick candle from Amani, you will see that the wick actually has two parts: the "main" wick which is 1/2" wide and a very small "booster" wick. The booster wick may separate a tiny bit from the main wick right at the edge; this is normal. Trim your wick right at the edge. Your goal really isn't to make the wick shorter, but rather even up the edge. This should result in a larger flame. Occasionally I will find that the flame gets smaller again after several hours. In this case, I just repeat the process.
If your flame is too large, you will do the same thing but instead cut a little more off the wick so that the height is shorter. 1/4" is generally a good height. The flame should now be smaller and have less smoke.
Do you have any tips or suggestions? Let us know in the comments!
If you ever have candle issues you can't figure out, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos or video will help us to troubleshoot.