What are Tealights?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2019
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Tealights are small candles which were originally designed for use in food and tea warmers. Their design is also very close to that used for votive candles, and the two are used interchangeably in many places. The candles are very small, and they tend to be inexpensive, because they require minimal materials. Many stores carry tealights, ranging from home design shops to supermarkets, and they are often available in large bulk bags.

Several things distinguish a tealight. The first is the short, round shape. Tealights look like flat discs, since they are wider than they are tall, unlike many other candles. Tealights are also typically enclosed in metal, and they liquefy as they heat up. They are uniform in size, so that tealights can be used universally in a wide range of holders designed for them. Different manufacturers produce scented or colored tealights for decorative use.

When used to warm food, tealights are typically held in a small framework which is designed to support a dish or bowl of food. While tealights are not usually used to actively heat food, they can maintain a steady temperature. In some instances, tealights can heat a small amount of food, such as chipped chocolate in a small personal fondue pot. Many kitchen supply stores carry food warmers designed to work with tealights.


Many people also use tealights decoratively. A number of companies manufacture tealight holders, small shallow candle holders which are intended to hold one or many tealights. A wide assortment of designs are intended to complement different design aesthetics, and specialty tealight holders may even be designed to float on water or rotate as they warm up to flash designs around a room. Tealight holders are available at many home design stores and they can also be ordered through online retailers.

When used religiously, tealights are designed to fit into votive holders at an altar, or into a bed of sand used to support candles. Votive candles can technically come in a range of sizes, from squat tealights to tall tapers, although many churches only provide one kind, for a uniform look at the altar. Tealights may be used in some cases as votive candles since they are attractive, inexpensive, and surprisingly long burning. As a general rule, when lighting a candle for someone at an altar, it is traditional to make a donation to the church. Some churches simply directly sell candles to worshipers, who may light the candles at the altar as needed.


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Post 12

I have never used tealights. But after reading this article, I might just have to try them. My anniversary is coming up so it sounds like tealights might be a perfect way to set the mood for such a night without feeling like you were going to overheat the room or overwhelm the room.

People have mentioned putting the tealights in water for fire safety, but I also think putting them in a bathtub could also set up a romantic mood (but again that is probably because my anniversary is coming up and I am looking for ways to set a romantic mood as well as make this anniversary stand out!)

Post 11

I love the glow of tealight candles! They give enough glow for ambience but not too much to invade a space.

I have been to certain "candle parties" that are like the cooking parties or make-up parties that people have at their homes, and the candle company has some fantastic smelling tea lights so even though they are small they still do the job of bigger candle scent-wise because they are a good quality.

Also look for tealight decor. There are sconces that range from large tealight sconces that really make a statement to small tealight sconces that add a tasteful touch.

Beyond decorating, however, I have found that tealights are quite functional. They can, of course, provide decent light as well as ambience at a fraction of the cost of a candle for when you may just want the light for a night such as an event such as a wedding or party!

Post 10

When my daughter got married, we were on a pretty tight budget, but still wanted her reception to look really nice. I figured the easiest way to do with was with tealights.

Since we were doing the decorating ourselves, I found several places online where I could order wholesale tealights which really helped cut down on the cost.

Even though the tealights are small, they would burn for the perfect amount of time that we needed them to. It was inexpensive, but really changed the atmosphere of the entire room.

This created an elegant, romantic space that looked classy and didn't cost a fortune.

Post 9

I have found that soy tealights burn longer than regular ones, and they seem to burn cleaner also. They aren't as easy to find and are a little bit more expensive, but I like to use them when I have the chance.

My favorite way to use tealights is to scent a room with fragrance. If you put this tealight holder in a small room like a bathroom, it doesn't take much to really fill the room with a wonderful scent.

There are many different scents you can choose from, so it is much like burning a candle, but you can use pretty decorative holders that match the decor and color of your room.

Post 8

I like to use tealights in my home, but am always a little nervous, like I am when I burn any kind of candle.

They are so small and because of that, they don't burn very long. I always felt like I had to keep such a close eye on them and found myself not lighting them as often.

I love to decorate my house at Christmas, and found some battery tealights that I hoped would solve my problem.

I felt much safer about using them, but it still wasn't the same. They don't put off as much light and the batteries didn't seem to last very long.

You just don't have the same atmosphere from

a battery operated tealight as you do when one is burning.

The only time I ended up using the battery tealights is when I knew I wanted something to burn for quite awhile and I didn't have the chance to check on them very often.

Other than that, I find myself going back to the regular tealights.

Post 7

Tealights can fit into just about any candleholder. I have one that is made of stained glass in many colors, and though it originally came with a different candle, I can easily use a tealight in it, now that the other candle is gone.

The candleholder is shaped like a tulip. The bits of colored glass are held together with what looks like black putty. When I light the tealight down inside, it casts colored shadows on the walls and floor.

Using a tealight in this candleholder actually works better than using a taller type of candle. The tealight is short enough that it can go deeper and shed its light through many more pieces of glass than a regular candle, which would have to melt down further to be able to do the same.

Post 6

@shell4life – I have often used tealights as floating candles. My electricity rates recently went up, so I decided to use tealights at night to help me save money.

I like to read and write by candlelight, so I put several tealights in a metal baking pan filled with water. I looked at the clock when I lit the flame, because I wanted to see how long they would burn.

Right around three hours later, the flames went out. I was impressed that I got that much time out of such little candles. They are so inexpensive that I plan to use them every night in water, just in case I fall asleep.

Post 5

I have a scented oil diffuser that uses a tealight for warmth. It is a stand made of black metal, a tray down low for the tealight to rest, and a glass bowl held aloft where you pour the oil.

The heat from the small flame of the tealight is just enough to stir up the molecules in the fragrant oil and allow its scent to permeate the house. I often pour either orange or vanilla oil into the bowl, since these are my two favorite scents. The effect is very powerful.

Since it doesn't take long for the diffuser to start working, I only have to burn the tealight for a short time. I can use the same one many times before it burns out totally.

Post 4

@popcorn – Any tealight will float in water. I discovered this while searching for a safe way to light up my room during a power outage at night.

I hate to sleep in total darkness, but I knew better than to leave a candle burning unattended. I have used floating candles in the past, but I did not have any the night the power went out during a storm.

So, I got a big glass bowl and filled it with water. I decided to test the tealight and see if it would float. I plopped one on top of the water, and it stayed there!

I lit three tealights and left them floating while I went to sleep. They burned for several hours, because when I woke up in the morning, they were just getting to the bottom of their wicks and fading out.

Post 3

One of the best ways to have tealights in your home is to get LED tealights. Battery operated tealights aren't the cheapest things to purchase, but I think they are a lot safer than traditional tealights. Plus, you don't have to worry about them running out nearly as fast.

To add some light to my bedroom I purchased hanging tealights that gave off a fair amount of light. While they don't look quite as beautiful as real flames, with the frosted glass, it is hard to really tell the difference. I think they are ideal for anyone who has pets. There is nothing scarier than the thought of your cat knocking over a candle.

Post 2

@popcorn - I would just buy the big bag of unscented tealights if I were you. There is no sense on wasting money on floating tealights as you can easily make a safe place for them to burn. What I did was pick up entirely glass platter, and I let the tealights burn on that. The wax never gets away from the glass surface, and if any fire lands on the glass, it just burns itself out.

As for floating tealights, if you really want to have those, just make little boats for your tealight candles out of tin foil. You would be surprised at how easy it is to make things float.

Post 1

We get a lot of blackouts in our area and we are wondering if a big bag of tealight candles might be a good way to be prepared?

My wife and I don't want anything too expensive, and we know you can buy tealights in bulk, so it seems like they would be a good option for our home.

The only thing my wife is concerned about is whether or not they are safe enough. Do you think that purchasing floating tealights might be a better way to go?

Since they are in water, I figure they can't burn anything. The floating tealights are a bit more expensive though, so I am not sure if they'll do.

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