Why Is My Candle Flame So Low?

If you are a candle aficionado things are not quite as simple as lighting your flame and sitting back to enjoy the ride. Everything needs to be perfect and there are a plethora of reasons why they may not be. Our Candle section here at Flame Stuff covers many of the issues from loss of scent to burn times. However, today we are going to concentrate on the flame and how we can create the most efficient burn.

So, if you are questioning why your flames are burning so low and can’t come up with the solutions stick with us as we discover what causes a low flame, what the ideal height should be, and how to achieve it.

A candle flame should be between ½” and 2” high subject to its size. The larger the candle, the larger the flame up to an indoor safety maximum of 3”. However, should your candle be burning too low the most likely cause is a wick that is too long or too charred and requires trimming.

How High Should a Flame be on a Candle?

The height of the flame on a candle depends entirely on the size of the candle itself. Typically, a candle flame will burn between a height of ½” and 2 “. Smaller candles such as votives or tea lights will burn on the lower end of the scale whereas large pillars often seen in churches will be closer to reaching 2”.

Of course, fire hazards need to be taken into account and should your candle flame be burning too high then steps need to be taken to lower the flame and minimize risks. ASTM International (American Society for Testing and Materials) safety standards allow 3” as a limit for a permissible flame height on a candle with exemptions only to some religious candles.

If your candle flame is burning too high, then the cause is most likely the wick. It is either too thick, which you can do nothing about as this is a manufacturing issue or it is too long in which case you can trim it down. This should in turn provide you with a smaller flame when you relight your candle.

How do you increase the Flame of a Candle?

The most likely cause of a low flame on your candle is the condition of the wick. The wick is not the fuel that creates the burn but the wax. The wax is drawn up through the wick to the flame continually so the wick needs to be at its optimum to produce the most efficient burn.

If your wick is too long or is too charred then the wax cannot reach the flame effectively causing a shorter flame. Thankfully, the solution is simple and the problem is remedied by trimming your wick, either to remove any blackening or just to reduce its height.

It may be that your melted wax is pooling around the wick, distinguishing the flame. Use a paper napkin to soak up wax and then relight your candle to solve this issue. Tunneling is most often down to the very first burn of your candle. The first time you light it, it is important to allow the candle to burn long enough for the whole surface to burn before extinguishing it.

Why is my Candle burning straight down instead of out?

When your candle burns this way, it is known as tunneling. There are two main causes of tunneling, one which you can’t really do much about and one which can be avoided with your first burn.

Wick size is one cause of tunneling. Unfortunately, this is a problem that is difficult to solve and is all down to the manufacturer. Cheaper candles are more likely to have an improper wick size and therefore be prone to tunneling. If you are the candle maker, then this becomes your learning curve as you realize the importance of using the correct wick.

Getting the initial burn of your candle right is imperative to avoid tunneling. The time it requires to burn will be dependent on the size of the candle, but it needs to be for as long as it takes for the whole surface to melt which can be around 3 or 4 hours.

If you do not allow the entire surface to melt before you extinguish the flame, then the wax which has burned will unlikely set again to the same solidity as before the burn. This is then known as wax memory and the next time you light your candle the softer wax will melt quicker and add to the tunneling issue.

If you are left with a tunneled candle then there is one possible solution to reverse the process and all you will need is a sheet of aluminum foil and some time. First, ensure that the wick is around ¼” high and is free from any charring or mushrooming. Wrap your sheet of foil around the outside of your candle making sure that it reaches over the tunneled wax.  Light your candle and allow it to burn for around 3-4 hours or until the whole surface area has melted.

This may need to be repeated to fully reverse the tunneling.

What do you do when your Candle is too Low?

There are various options for how you can deal with either a low flame or low wick and low wax.

Low Flame

If your candle flame is too low, it is likely because of the condition of your wick. It may be that it’s too long and needs to be trimmed. It may be that the end has ‘mushroomed’. This happens due to a build-up of carbon as the flame uses more wax than it is able to burn. This could be because the wick is actually too large for the candle, but trimming can still be a short-term solution.

The end of your wick may also be charred from use which could be causing your flame to be too low. Once again this can be resolved through trimming.

Tunnelling, as we have already discussed can also cause a low flame. Ensure that you follow our tips on an effective first burn to minimize the risk of tunneling. Should you still find this is an issue you can extinguish the flame and soak the excess wax up with a cotton swab or kitchen paper or simply pour it away.

This will resolve your low flame for a short period once relit but further steps, as described above, need to be taken to reverse and avoid further tunneling.

Low Wick

Tunneling is also the main cause of a shortened wick as the middle of the candle burns down leaving the outside edges still solid.

Alongside our advice on how to avoid and/or reverse tunneling you can take a look at this helpful YouTube video to show you how it’s done.

Low Wax

Once your wax begins to run low your candle is coming to the end of its days. Many people just throw them away once there isn’t enough wax left to burn but you can also remove what is left in the bottom of your container and store it to make your own, bespoke candle.

Wax can be removed by either freezing or heating and then dispensing into either a smaller votive or a larger storage container with other leftovers. It is important that you don’t mix waxes, i.e., soy, beeswax, and paraffin, and also that you do not burn your candles too low. Burning your candles too low can become both an explosive and fire risk.

Why do cheap Candles burn so Fast?

The wax used to make candles has a considerable influence on how they burn. Typically, cheaper wax is softer and softer wax burns quicker. It can be worth paying that little bit extra for your candle to ensure that you are actually getting good value for money but this make take some research or shopping around before you find the best fit.

Cheaper candles have often cut corners with the wick too which can also impact the burn time. Quite often the wick will contain a strip of lead which is to help keep it straight. A more expensive, or luxury candle will contain a higher-end wick that will burn slower.

The chemical composition of the wax and fragrance will also be a factor. The cheaper candle will contain cheaper ingredients and will also be likely to have less investment in the balance of the chemical makeup. All making for a faster burn.

Our Summary

Alongside learning the optimal flame height both for the burn and for safety reasons we have also learned that actually, during the manufacturing process, a lot rides on our candles turning out at their finest.

From the wax used to the chemical structure of the fragrances to the size and composition of the wick. The quality of all these elements will determine the burn of your candle.

However, the important factor is that we have answered the question that brought you here and that is why is my candle flame so low. We now know that there are a few reasons with the most likely being a simple issue with the wick which is easily solved with a quick trim.