Oil for oil lamps - Alternatives?

Jeanne Spears
Jeanne Spears Posts: 27 ✭✭✭

In doing my somewhat belated spring cleaning, I unearthed my stash of oil-burning lamps. I have always just bought lamp oil, but am wondering if folks have experience using other fuels, like vegetable oil.


  • bcabrobin
    bcabrobin Posts: 251 ✭✭✭

    You may have trouble with the lamps smoking if you use something else. I got cheaper oil before and had ALL kinds of trouble. We ended up using it to start fires outside, that's how bad it smoked. I do know some of the Amish in our area use kerosene in the lamps. I have never asked about smoke from them.

  • Sheila
    Sheila Posts: 106 ✭✭✭

    Lamp oil is your best bet. Vegetable oils will smoke as they burn (think overheated oil on your stove). Kerosene was the original oil people used - it does leave black smoke on the glass and in the room if the wicks aren't kept at the proper height and it smells.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I am involved with historical re-enactment (specifically Middle Ages). We had a class in which the instructor taught varying methods to make an oil lamp. He used olive oil. He said that it was less likely to flame up if tipped over. And was readily available just about anywhere. You might even have a bottle in your kitchen right now.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,505 admin

    @monica197 Most hardware stores should carry it or it can be ordered at some hardware stores that have online shopping. I'm not sure on shipping flammable liquids but maybe you could order online for in-store pick up. Ace Hardware, Home Depot and Lowes all indicate that they carry lamp oil. Michaels Craft Stores (or other craft/home decor type stores) probably have the more expensive coloured of scented lamp oils.

    If you can't find lamp oil, you should still be able to get kerosene. It burns a bit smokier but still works well and is usually cheaper. Its what most of our immediate ancestors used.

  • VickiP
    VickiP Posts: 586 ✭✭✭✭

    Smoking will likely be a problem with other oils but if there is a shortage about any oil will burn. I have even used bacon grease. Shortening will also burn. One survival tip I saw you could put wicks, home-made or otherwise into a can of shortening and use it that way as a light source. I have never tried that but I suspect lard would work also.

  • Momma Mo
    Momma Mo Posts: 138 ✭✭✭

    We always use lamp oil. It is harder to find now. Last time I got some, it was at the local Walmart.

  • MartiinCentral Oregon
    MartiinCentral Oregon Posts: 27 ✭✭✭

    It seems like I always see lamp oil in the candle departments of stores in Central Oregon...Sometimes scented, sometimes not.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,019 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Found this book today, looks pretty interesting. Thinking I might order a copy once I get back to work.

    It appears to be available at several different sites.


    Author: Bevin Cohen

  • water2world
    water2world Posts: 1,088 ✭✭✭✭

    @ Jeanne Spears I have been wondering the same thing--Thanks for posting!

    Tempted to try the olive oil!

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,358 admin

    We want to get that book since we bought our oil press. We haven't used tje press yet because we needed...oil...to heat one part up to have the new oil flow. Lamp oil is recommended but after reading the posts above, we might just try olive oil first.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,019 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @LaurieLovesLearning interesting that they want you to use lamp oil for something that produces food.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,358 admin

    @vickeym That's what I thought too.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Lamp oil is the standard, but kerosense, while dirtier, should work fine.

    I remember many years ago, after a hurricane left my apartment with no power, I nevertheless had gas-fired running hot water. So I found myself taking hot baths by candlelight.

    History fact: Many people don't realize that the Rockefeller oil fortune was built on refining and selling fuel for lighting, not for cars and trucks. The vehicle fuels came later.

    I have a couple of hurricane lamps that were given to me as a wedding gift, but I find I hardly ever use them. It's easier to provide emergency sources of electricity than to deal with lights that burn. It takes hardly any electricity to run modern LED lights, so even the tiniest battery bank and solar charger is sufficient. You can buy headlamps that charge from a low-voltage USB source and will provide a bright light for hours.

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭

    I need to get some lamp oil and get my oil lamps ready for winter. In the past, I wondered if there was a better oil that I could use.