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A tealight (also written tea-light, tea lites or tea light, t-lite or tcandles), or nightlight, is a candle encased in a thin metal or plastic cup so that the candle can liquefy completely while lit. They are typically small, circular, wider than their height and inexpensive. Because of their small size and low level of light, multiple tealights are often burned simultaneously.
Tealights derive their name from their use in teapot warmers, but are also used as food warmers in general, e.g. fondue. They are a popular choice for votive candles. They are also suitable for accent lighting and for heating scented oil. Tealights may be floated in water for decorative effect.
Tealights may be distinguished from nightlights by the duration of burning: a tealight usually burns for 3 to 5 hours, but a nightlight, which is larger, is intended to burn for a whole night (about 8 to 10 hours).
Tealights can come in many different shapes and sizes, small and large, as well as burn times and scents. However, a common type of tea-light is circular, approximately 38mm diameter by 16mm high, with white unscented wax.
The wick is tethered to a piece of metal to stop it from floating to the top of the molten wax and burning out before the wax does.
Tealights have been protected under several patented designs. In some cases, the standard tea light metal cup has been replaced with a clear plastic cup. Better quality tealight cups are made from polycarbonate . However, the metal cups are still offered by many candle makers. The clear cup allows more light to escape the holder, and even offers a "stained glass" look when multiple colors are used. In the early 2000s, a new shape of cup was patented to encourage more even burning and complete liquefaction of the wax.
Tealights are especially popular for use with candle holders. From small pockets of glass, metal, ceramic and other materials to larger, more elaborate tea light lamps, holders come in a wide range of styles, colours, and shapes. Holders have an appropriately sized cup to use a tealight candle, either scented or unscented. Discount stores, gift stores, and home decor stores often carry an array of holders for these small candles.
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