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What are Tealight Candles?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 16, 2024
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Tealight candles are small candles that come in metal casings which enclose the wax as the candle burns. Typically, tealights are burned inside a candle holder, and they can be used for a variety of purposes including decoration. Many candle stores, drug stores, and markets sell tealight candles, sometimes known as tealights, usually in large bags of 50 or 100 candles. These candles are very inexpensive, and they can be useful to keep around the house.

A typical tealight is made from white wax molded in a round shape inside a small metal cup. The wick of the candle is frequently anchored to the bottom of the cup, because as the candle burns, the wax turns to liquid, and the wick could potentially float up through the liquid. Most tealight candles burn for three to five hours, depending on the quality of the wax and wick and their size.

These candles were originally devised for use in food service. Tealights can be lit under trays of food to help keep the food warm, or to keep tea warm, as the case may be. These candles are also used under oil diffusers to gently warm scented oil, encouraging it to spread through the air. A single tealight candle can give off a surprising amount of light and heat, an effect which can be magnified by using numerous candles together.

Holders for tealight candles come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are very small, and designed primarily to protect surrounding surfaces from the heat of the candle. Others are larger, and it is also possible to find candle racks which are meant to accommodate multiple tealights. Glass is a common choice for tealight holders, but ceramics and metals can be used as well.

These candles do carry a fire hazard. They can get extremely hot, especially if flammable materials fall into the candle. The heat can deform the metal cup and make it extremely hot, potentially allowing the metal to burn into the underlying surface. If the candle tips or wax spills out of the deformed metal, a fire can start and spread very rapidly, using the wax of the candle as a fuel source. For this reason, it is important to use tealight holders, tiles, trivets, or plates with tealight candles, or to burn the candles on a fire-resistant surface like stone or tile. Tealights should also not be left unattended, and flammable materials should be kept clear of the candles as they burn.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

By anon355445 — On Nov 16, 2013

By manykitties2 — On Jul 27, 2011

If you have allergies I would completely avoid the scented tealight candles. The aromas they give off can be quite strong and because most tealights are produced quite cheaply they can smell a bit off as well.

I have found that unless you pay more for tealight candles that have been made with genuine aromatherapy oils that the scents they give off tend to be a bit to perfumed and harsh for my liking. If you have time you can easily make your own tealight candles with kids you can pick up at craft shows. Using your own essential oils can make for some lovely scented tealight candles.

By letshearit — On Jul 26, 2011

Tealight candles are a great thing to add to your household emergency kit. Often when the power goes out you'll need a way of lighting your home and flashlights and lanterns can be hard on batteries.

For myself I always keep a package of 100 tea lights around so that I have an ample light source if I need it. Besides the tealights I also keep a selection of simple candleholders that really glow when a tealight is placed within. My favorite candleholders are frosted glass bowls because they are bright and create a warm atmosphere.

If you are out of candleholders just tossing your tea lights on a dinner plate also works well.

By snickerish — On Jul 26, 2011

Another great use for tealights is as mentioned in these posts; they make for romantic and floating decorations.

Therefore, they make great wedding table centerpieces! Put them in a large vase filled with water and other decorative items such as flowers or decorative pebbles, light during the reception, and viola! instant romantic setting.

I have found that many people are opting do-it-yourself options for their wedding decor as the price of weddings has simply skyrocketed or because like me their parents were unable to help them with their wedding.

When doing a project such as making table centerpieces with tealights you can either buy plain white or find tealights that match the colors you chose for your wedding.

Most importantly, you can buy tealight candles in bulk! You can find bags of 100 tealights, plenty for a big task such as decorating for a wedding.

By bluespirit — On Jul 25, 2011

One thing I have noticed with tealight candles are that scented tealight candles do not seem to give off too much of a scent.

This is great for people who have sensitive noses that would like a mild scent but nothing too overwhelming.

However for me, I have non-sensitive nose, I go ahead and opt for the unscented tealight candles, since I can't really smell the scented ones!

By John57 — On Jul 25, 2011

Because many time tealight candles can be a fire hazard, I bought some battery operated tea light candles to place inside some decorative churches I have sitting on my fireplace mantel.

I would never feelsafe using a real tealight candle in a situation like this, and this way I can still have a similar look without worrying about them being safe. They have an on and off switch, and when the battery runs out I can just replace them.

I also have some unscented tealight candles that I like to use in the bathroom. I am allergic to many candle scents and this way I can enjoy them without getting watery eyes and a runny nose.

By Mykol — On Jul 24, 2011

Since learning about the many benefits of soy candles, I purchased some tealight soy candles. What I like best about these, is they are a slower burning wax, so they will burn longer than a traditional tealight candle.

They also have a cleaner burn to them and don't leave the black soot marks that you often get with other kinds of wax. The ones I bought don't have any scent, but they still do a good job of creating a warm look.

By SarahSon — On Jul 24, 2011

I have a lot of tealight candles and use them every so often in my home, but I am always very careful when using them. Since they are so small, it doesn't take long for them to burn through all the wax, so they need to be watched closely.

A large number of burning tea lights can add a very romantic atmosphere to the room, especially if you buy the scented tealight candles. There are many wonderful scents and colors to choose from to create the atmosphere you want.

By tlcJPC — On Jul 23, 2011

I have tons of wall sconces and other various, small candleholders which can use votive candles. However, I often use the tealight kind because that keeps me from having to deal with all of the wax build up in the bottom of the small jars.

I also like the fact that they go out on their own in a fairly short amount of time because they are so small. To me, it’s just a tiny bit safer because it allows for the human error of forgetting to blow one out.

By blackDagger — On Jul 22, 2011

I always keep an assortment of tealight candles around the house for a variety of different purposes, but particularly to help with family get togethers.

I use them to keep small trays of food warm. I live near my three sisters, mother and father. We get together often, and keeping the candles around the house makes it easier on my shopping list and my mind when it comes time for a dinner.

I like to use the scented varieties in my bathrooms. They are the perfect size to fit into a small space and they really help freshen that sometimes stale air that often comes with a closed in room without windows. I don't want my family to smell stinky bathroom aromas!

One way or the other, they help tremendously with my family gatherings.

By cloudel — On Jul 22, 2011

The week before I got married, my husband’s family came to our house from out of state. His sisters created a romantic setting using an array of decorative tealight candles. They got our house ready while we were getting ready for the wedding. Of course, they planned to leave and go back home as soon as the reception ended.

They got these beautiful pink scalloped tealights that reminded me of the shape of a bundt cake. They were rose-scented with the perfect degree of aroma, neither too powerful nor too unnoticeable. His sisters had placed them on various dark brown metal candle stands to complement the rose color and the romantic ambiance.

By wavy58 — On Jul 21, 2011

When we played that game people play at Christmas parties where they open gifts and then steal them from each other, I ended up with a diffuser that came with scented oils and tealights. At first, I was disappointed, because I rarely burn candles anymore, but once I used it, I saw I had ended up with a good gift after all.

The diffuser is simply a tiny glass bowl that rests on top of a tall, black metal stand with a tray for a tealight candle underneath the bowl. You place a couple of drops of scented oil in the bowl and light the tealight on the tray below. My gift came with vanilla oil, kitchen spice oil, and apple cinnamon oil. One of my favorite alternatives is to place a few drops of orange extract in the bowl for a lively citrus scent.

By shell4life — On Jul 21, 2011

@OeKc05 - They float wonderfully! I love to place them in decorative bowls of water and watch the flames glide slowly across the surface. It’s very romantic.

I, too, like a little light in the room while falling asleep. I have used tealights while my power was out, and I can’t say for sure how long they burn because I probably go to sleep within an hour, but unless you are having trouble sleeping, they should last long enough to where you won’t know it when they go out.

I feel secure with the low light of tealights radiating from their safety bowl of liquid. It’s a much better alternative to something like a smelly kerosene lamp.

By OeKc05 — On Jul 20, 2011

Does anyone know if tealight candles will float? I hate it when the electricity goes out at my house. I usually keep a stash of decorative or scented floating candles on hand just in case, and I place them in a metal bowl of water to light my room safely until I fall asleep.

Those floating candles can get expensive, especially because the power goes out where I live every time we have a small thunderstorm. It would be great if I could start using something as cheap as tealight candles.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Jul 19, 2011

A friend of mine did a kind of art project/experiment where he filled a room in someone basement with nothing but tealight candles. It was a big room, probably 15 x 15, and he placed the candles in perfect rows so that all of their edges were touching. I don't know how many candles he used, hundreds if not thousands.

After he got them all lit which took a long time even with assistants, he set up a camera on a tripod and filmed the room as the candles flickered and eventually burned out. I have seen the video and it really is beautiful. For a long time the light is bright and flickering everywhere. After a while it begins to fade and you can see individual candles snuff out until there is nothing but black. It is an incredible video

It was probably a huge fire hazard and I would not recommend trying this at home. Still, I'm glad that somebody tried it in somebodies home. The video record is a true piece of art.

By backdraft — On Jul 19, 2011

I like tea lights too because they focus on all the important parts of the candle while ignoring all the silly things that come with a candle.

A tealight candle is just wax, a wick and a metal holder to keep all the melted wax in one place. It is not colored or scented or shaped in some weird way. It does not need its own holder or something to collect the melting wax. It is just a simple and practical way to make a little bit of light. Who would want anything more from a candle?

By starrynight — On Jul 18, 2011

@Azuza - A friend of mine had tealights all over her house also. I was over there once during a power outage and they really came in handy!

I prefer to use tealights when I take a nice, relaxing bath. I put one under an oil diffuser and a few around the sink. Definitely a nice atmosphere to relax in.

By Azuza — On Jul 18, 2011

I was not aware that tealights were originally used to keep tea warm! It makes so much sense now why they are called tealights.

I use tealight candles all the time, but not to keep my tea warm. Instead, I mainly use them for decoration. I have a bunch of nice looking tealight candle holders all over my house and I color coordinated the tealights to go with the color scheme of each room.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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