Lamps: kerosene vs oil vs paraffin as fuel

Lamps: kerosene vs oil vs paraffin as fuel 
Author: tigger2 
Posted: 08/19 05:27 AM 
tig: I though I would look into this and see if there are any safety issues, pros or cons. I would have thought a lamp is a lamp. Here goes.

QUESTION 3: What type of fuel can I use in a tubular lantern?
ANSWER: The approved fuels for Tubular Lanterns are:
1. Non-Dyed (Clear) Kerosene (Also known as clear K-1 or clear 1-K)
2. Clear-Lite Synthetic Kerosene (No longer being manufactured and has been replaced by Klean-Heat Kerosene Substitute.)
3. W.M. Barr & Co. Klean-Heat Kerosene Substitute (#GKKH99991-Gallon)
4. Standard Clear Lamp Oil (Lamplight Farms Clear Medallion Lamp Oil, #6300, #6400, and #6700 Only )
5. Genuine Aladdin Lamp Oil (#17552)
6. Citronella Oil (Outdoor use only, cut 50:50 with kerosene to extend wick life.)
(Use Klean-Heat, Standard Clear Lamp Oil, or Genuine Aladdin Lamp Oil for odor free use indoors.)

tig: Citronella Oil makes me nauseous. I would never burn it indoors.


NOTE: Paraffin Oil (Liquid Candle Wax,) in the UNITED STATES is mis-labeled for use in oil lamps, when in fact it is only suited for Candle Oil Lamps that use small diameter round wick. 99% or 100% Paraffin Oil is NOT designed or suitable for use in tubular lanterns or oil lamps that use flat wick, or Kosmos or Matador type oil lamps. Further, it burns only 1/2 as bright of any of the approved fuels listed above. Paraffin oil has a much higher viscosity and a flash point of 200 degrees or higher, as compared to the flash point of 150 degrees for kerosene. These differences inhibit the necessary capillary action of the wick, and will cause Lamps and Lanterns with 7/8" or larger wick to burner improperly and erratic. Once a wick is contaminated with paraffin oil, it must be replaced in order for the lantern to burner properly. If you must use paraffin oil, it may be mixed 1:10 to 2:10 (one to two parts to ten parts,) with standard lamp oil or kerosene so that it will burn satisfactorily. Paraffin Oil is sold in the United States under the following trade names, which should be avoided except for use with lamps or lanterns with 1/2" or smaller wick :
Aura Oil
Firelight Glass
Orvis Lamp Fuel
Northern Lights
Pure Lite
Soft Light
Tropical Lights
Weems & Plath

Pure paraffin (wax) oil (aka Ultra-Pure, Nowell's, etc.,) is marketed as "smokeless and odorless" lamp oil, but is improperly labeled in the United States for use in wick lamps and lanterns. In fact, it will not burn properly in lamps or lanterns with 5/8" or larger wick, and will create smoke and odor. Paraffin oil has a flash point in excess of 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and will only burn half as bright as standard lamp oil or kerosene, and will sputter in lamps with deep founts, or that have 7/8" or larger wick. It is suitable for use in candle lamps, similar to those used in restaurants. Paraffin oil is not recommended for use in antique lamps or lanterns as the higher ignition temperature may result in damage to the lamp. Pure paraffin oil can solidify in environments below room temperature, greatly limiting its suitability for outdoor or emergency use. Drug store mineral oil is paraffin oil. (NOTE: "Paraffin" in the UK is "Kerosene" in the United States, and should not be confused with the "Paraffin" wax oil sold in the U.S.A..)

Generic lamp oil is widely available in supermarkets and hardware stores. It is usually less expensive than pure paraffin oil, but costs considerably more than kerosene. Lamp oil burns cleaner and with less odor than kerosene. I find strong odors are sometimes caused by the design of the lamp burner and chimney. Generally, larger lamp burners emit less odor than very small burners. Stale fuel, gummy burners, and clogged dirty wicks are the cause of strong odors. If you are not using a kerosene lamp regularly, empty if of kerosene, clean and wash the font wick and burner. Store kerosene away from sunlight in a cool dark place, not longer than a year or so, as it will eventually deteriorate. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms and smells of fresh kerosene and stale kerosene. Stale kerosene smells like furniture polish, and takes on a deep yellow color, or darker.

Summer 2009: Price of K-1 Kerosene price equates to .71 cents a quart, compared to lamp oil at $5.65 per quart.

K-1 Kerosene(clear as water, or slightly yellow) is more easily available in bulk than lamp oil in most countries and is typically much cheaper. However, kerosene contains more impurities such as sulfur and aromatic hydrocarbons than lamp oil. Kerosene obtained from filling stations is more likely to be dyed red, or contaminated with water than kerosene obtained in prepackaged containers. The odors produced by burning kerosene in wick lamps can be quite objectionable indoors, unless the kerosene is fresh; the lamp, wick, and burner are kept scrupulously clean, and the lamp burner is adjusted properly.

Red Kerosene is slightly less expensive than K-1 Kerosene, as no road taxes are collected on it. It is generally available in bulk at filling stations in agricultural areas for use in farm tractors or Diesel Generators. Never put it in your diesel car, as steep fines can result. I have not had good results with red dyed kerosene in lamps or lanterns, and prefer K-1 water-clear kerosene.

Kleen-Heat-a cleaner burning, nicer smelling Kerosene substitute, Sold at hardware stores during winter.

NEVER!!! EVER!!! use Coleman lantern fuel or gasoline in a kerosene lamp.

Biodiesel is a clean burning "green" alternative to kerosene. Biodiesel packaged for lamp burning is best purchased to avoid biodiesel / diesel mixtures available at the majority of biodiesel gas pumps. I do not recommend this for use in kerosene lamps, or stoves.

Citronella oil can be burned in wick lamps outdoors, but will produce some smoke and soot, and will foul the wick quickly, and may be easily extinguished by a slight breeze if flame is exposed (as in a yard torch). To improve wick life and make citronella burn cleaner, it can be mixed 50:50 with kerosene. The residue from burning citronella oil is difficult to remove, so it is not recommended for use in kerosene lamps or lanterns.

Motor Kerosene or Tractor Vaporizing Oil, very hard to find nowadays, try to find it at a feed store or near a farming community. This can be used, but use it sparingly, it may be expensive.

Sometimes dyes and fragrances are added to fuels which can increase soot deposits on glass globes/chimneys, and reduce wick life. Some manufactures have even created special novelty formulations that will cause the flame to burn a different color.

Emergency Substitutes

Kerosene lamps under ideal conditions should only be operated with kerosene or lamp oil, but alternative fuels may be used in an emergency.

Mineral spirits aka "Paint Thinner" has a flash point of 110 degrees Fahrenheit, making it highly flammable and possibly explosive. It should not be used in any wick lamps or lanterns.

Diesel Fuel and home heating oil has a flash point greater than 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and will not burn properly in conventional wick lamps/lanterns. Most Diesel fuels have a fairly high sulfur content and contain fuel additives that produce toxic by-products if burned in a lamp. They also produce more soot than kerosene.

Jet A is safe to use, it is essentially kerosene with a few harmless additives, does burn great in wick lamps.

You can even use lubricating oil, use the oil in the bottle, not in the aerosol cans. Use Outdoors or in well ventilated area.

olive oil or canola oil can be used in lamps designed for use with such oils, but will not burn in conventional wick lamps or lanterns.

Charcoal lighter fluid usually is suitable for wick lamps/lanterns; most brands are kerosene. Be certain however to use only the type intended for starting charcoal briquettes. The lighter fluid intended for cigarette lighters is naphtha, which is highly flammable and dangerous in a wick lamp.

Hazardous Fuels
Gasoline There are some harmful vapors and aromatics that come with gasoline. There is a risk of house fire and explosion. Though this is common in some Third world countries, You should never attempt it.
Naphtha Naphtha is a very corrosive and toxic substance, is highly flammable and gives off nasty compounds when burned.
Rubbing alcohol Gives off a detestable odor when burned, and can cause respiratory distress.
Mineral oil Gives off toxic vapor.
Castor oil Burns at a very high temperature.

Author: maysday 
Posted: 09/16 08:34 PM 
tigger, can you get clear Kerosene where you live? Because I was told years ago that the law here requires red coloring be added. I don't know of anyplace around here where clear can be purchased.

Author: tigger2 
Posted: 09/17 12:55 AM 
I can.

The last gallon that 
Author: tigger2 
Posted: 09/17 03:34 PM 
I got was as clear as water.

Author: maysday 
Posted: 09/17 04:52 PM 
I don't really know the details but all I can buy has the red dye.

Author: tigger2 
Posted: 09/17 06:34 PM 
I did a post on kerosene lamps. I think the difference in red and clear is in there. The difference is the sulphur content of the two types of kerosene.

quote from another article:Red dye or there a difference? Yes. Without a doubt. Red dye kerosene is usually delivered in bulk quantities by a fuel oil supplier, and is known in the trade as #1 stove oil. Clear 1-K kerosene in bulk quantities is very difficult to find in most areas, AND it often costs at least a dollar a gallon more than red dye #1 stove oil (kerosene).

If you are using kerosene only for lamps, clear 1-K kerosene can be purchased in hardware stores for $4 or more per gallon -- and you will not be using enough of it to make much of a difference in cost. The clear will burn cleaner in lamps, and the wicks will last a little longer, but wicks are cheap.

clear or white kerosene 
Author: tigger2 
Posted: 09/17 06:36 PM 
There are only a couple of places that you can buy kerosene here. The one I use has clear. I don't know about the other. Kerosene did not follow the price of gas. It is still over $3.00/gallon.

Author: maysday 
Posted: 09/17 07:41 PM 
Thank you tigger. I will continue to use the red. I use a lantern or lamp sometimes if the power is out and have a heater, just in case. I try to keep it on hand but time to resock because I use it for other things too.Create your own mobile web site at!