What Is a Votive Candle?

Four lit votive candles

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Candles—scented or otherwise—are a great way to add soft mood lighting, create a relaxing ambiance, and bring warmth into your home. Light a candle and you instantly elevate the atmosphere of a room! There are countless types of candles out there, but votives stand out as one of the most popular and versatile ones on the market.

What Is a Votive Candle?

A votive candle is a small, short candle that can stand on its own and burns into the candle holder that it's placed in. Sometimes sold in clear glass holders, votive candles are most commonly white and unscented.

Votive candles are a great way to add a decorative touch and cozy ambiance to your home or table setting year-round. If you're looking for a versatile candle that can be used in numerous ways around your home, look no further; this little candle is as versatile as they come.

Usually made from paraffin, soy, or beeswax, votive candles are typically around two inches tall and burn for between eight and fifteen hours. (As with all candles, it's important to trim the wick after every use to control the amount of soot that collects at the top to prolong the candle's burn time.) They are often mistaken for tealight candles, but those always come in a metal or plastic container and are only about an inch tall. While votive candles are most commonly white and unscented, as mentioned above, they do also come in a variety of colors and scents, as well as in flameless options.

How to Use Votive Candles

Votive candles are incredibly versatile and can be used in just about any room. They are perfect for creating ambient mood lighting around your home, and one of their best uses is in a table setting. Place a couple of lit votive candles on your dining table, dim the lights, and voila! Instant magic. Unlike tall taper candles that tend to become a focal point, votive candles are more subtle and intimate, and don't overwhelm the table. They're easily tucked in between floral arrangements or glassware and don't block your guests' view or get in the way of other table decor. They're a simple and inexpensive way to completely transform a table and a room.

Another reason votive candles are a great choice for dining table decor is because they are usually unscented. Using unscented candles is always a good idea when you're setting the table for a dinner party or a casual meal, because as lovely as scented candles may be, you don’t want their scent interfering or competing with the delicious smell of the food that’s being served. (Pumpkin scented candles just don't pair well with a pasta dinner!)

There is a time and place for scented votive candles, though: They are perfect for a bathroom. Scatter them around the tub, on a windowsill, or on your vanity to create a relaxing spa-like feel, thanks to their soft glow and relaxing aroma.

Votives may come in a container—often one made of glass or thin metal—or they may be sold without a container, which allows you to pick and choose what sort of container you'd like to place your votive candle in. When it comes to candle holders for votives, small glass vessels are a popular choice. Clear glass holders are a timeless and elegant choice, but various colorful, speckled, frosted, or tarnished glass holders are a fun decorative accent and add to the magical glow of the candles.

If you've been burning your votives in glass containers, there's an easy way to clean the glass so that it can be reused. Once the candle has burned out, let the wax cool down and solidify completely. Then, place the glass container in the freezer for a couple of hours or overnight. The cold temperature shrinks the wax so when you take the container out of the freezer, the wax should pop right out! If it doesn't, use a knife to gently release it from the jar, then wash the glass, and it's ready to be reused for another votive candle.