Tea Lights

I use tea lights on a regular basis because I use a flame-warmed oil burner for some offerings, and I also use tea light candleholders in shrine areas for the Eumenides, for Dionysos, for household Zeus, and for ancestors.

This is one of my brief logistical posts. Demographically speaking, I am guessing that 90% of the people reading this use them, and many of us (all of us?) do want to have more eco-friendly options to reduce landfill waste.

My hand holding a durable reusable tea cup.
An eco-friendly tea light cup option.

Most tea light cups are made either of plastic or very thin metal. If one is trying to be eco-friendly, plastic is out due to the waste generated. With limited success, I had been buying tea lights without cups and using knives and other fun things to get the old wax out of my tea light holders, following the general idea of “the greenest thing to do is to not throw things out when they actually work.” This went well until I learned that plastic can catch on fire even when the tea light companies claim it is flame-resistant — the wick just gets too close to the edge — so I started using metal-cupped tea lights.

Metal tea light holders are better insofar as they do not catch on fire. They seemed easy to use, but the metal is so thin that they break easily when one is trying to get old wax out of them.

This is a broken tea light cup made of metal. It is very sad.
A broken tea light cup. I have done this to so many of them, ugh. Before you ask — yes, I have tried heating and freezing methods to get the wax out.

After breaking a few metal cups while trying to refill them, I decided that someone — somewhere — must have made reusable tea light cups. They would ideally be metal, thick enough to withstand pulling the wax out with a knife. They would need to fit the cup-free beeswax (yay bees! 🐝) tea lights I already have.

I found out that there is a small, yet growing, market of options for reusable tea light cups — glass, plastic, and metal. I settled on Serenibee steel cups, which just came in the mail.

They feel weighty. I’ll update this post if they end up not working out well. However, I am optimistic, and we will see how this goes!

My fancy new tea light cups that are reusable and more eco-friendly!
These are the reusable tea light cups. They feel solid, and they fit my tea lights!

7 thoughts on “Tea Lights

  1. To get rid of the excess wax, try applying heat so it melts first. As far as reusing the metal cups, they can make good oil lamps, too. In Orthodox Christian websites and supply stores (as well as some Jewish supermarkets), you can get wicks for oil lamps. (You can also get wicks for ghee lamps at Indian groceries where there is a large Hindu clientele). The Orthodox and Jewish wicks usually come with a piece that’s half cork, half metal, to put the wick in and keep it floating on the oil. You can use the tea light cups or just any glass for this. I bought some small red glass tea light holders to use because they remind me of the Catholic Churches I grew up going to. I can also use LED tea lights in there when I want a light on my shrine when I’m at work (and don’t want a flame unattended).

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    1. I’ve been warming my reusables to get the wax out, and it’s going really well so far — the metal is very durable, not fragile like the paper-thin metal layer in the disposables. Thanks for the tips. I’d probably have to see an oil lamp demo to feel comfortable doing it, but it’s nice to know the option is there.

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  2. I’ve had good luck with freezing a container to remove excess wax after the wick burns out. I haven’t tried to to it with a tea light cup before, though. Works well with glass containers, though. Just leave it in a freezer for a day or so and the wax gets pretty brittle so it breaks up into chunks and can then be more easily removed.

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    1. In the caption of the image of the broken tea light holder, I noted that this doesn’t work well with the holders I’ve used previously. They’re too brittle. You’re right that this works really nicely with glass.

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  3. Really useful post – I’ve just started using tea lights again in certain rituals (before it was just chime candles), and the waste of their containers was something that bothered me.

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