How to Use an Oil Lamp Safely: Important Tips You Must Know

Keeping a safe and enjoyable environment when using an oil lamp requires some important safety measures. Learn the best practices to ensure a safe experience with this timeless lighting source.

It’s reassuring to have various options for lighting when the power goes out due to a storm, tragedy, power company problem, or when merely living off-grid.

Candles and flashlights are essential, but an oil lamp can run for an hour or two, allowing your family to get things done, play games, or read to divert their attention away from their gadgets.

You may not think there’s much to know about making and using an oil lamp, but there are some helpful survival tips that can come in handy. It’s not the same as turning on a light switch. It’s not challenging either. It’ll become second nature if done right.

Let’s dive in and get you equipped with everything you need to know about how to use oil lamp.

Types of Oil

Oil and oil lamps may be purchased locally, at a home improvement store, or online. At about $10, you may find small oil lamps at a reasonable price, but they can also be quite expensive.

K-1 Kerosene

It’s a typical fuel used for oil lamps since it is easily accessible and often inexpensive.

You may buy Kerosene in packed canisters at a local hardware shop or filling stations. Stores differentiate it from gasoline by keeping it in blue canisters.

When burning K-1, you should know that it emits an unpleasant odor due to sulfur and other contaminants. If you light kerosene lamps outdoors, you may not notice the scent, but you will smell it if you burn them inside.

With this, you must have good ventilation when burning Kerosene indoors. If you lose electricity, it’s cold outside, and you’re trying to keep your home warm, this may be a problem.

On the other hand, and for several years, people have been using Kerosene for light and heat. Thus, it could be a good choice for you.


In small, enclosed settings, propane lamps can be dangerous. It applies to your home and a tent that is closed. Understand that carbon monoxide poisoning is not something you want to risk. Safety should always be the top priority.

However, some lights may be linked to your home system if you use propane for heating or cooking. If you have proper ventilation, propane oil lamps will burn safely inside.

Lamp Oil

This type of oil is related to Kerosene. The big difference between lamp oil and Kerosene is that its oil is cleaner. Thus, it makes burning cleaner. That’s because it doesn’t emit the toxic smells associated with burning Kerosene.

Plus, it comes in several fragrances. Lamp oil is easier to purchase from most home improvement shops and hardware stores. However, lamp oil is more costly than Kerosene and doesn’t have the same brightness as Kerosene while burning.

When it comes to ventilation requirements, you can burn lamp oil indoors without needing to have an exhaust fan to release its burning smell to the outdoors at all times.

Overall, whichever oil you decide to use, make sure that you’ll use the kind of fuel that your lamp recommends.

Making a Wick

Making a Wick

Once you figure out which oil to use for your lamp, the next thing you’ll need is a wick.

For starters, wicks are inexpensive. It’s also efficient as a wick with an 8-inch diameter can last roughly 15 gallons of lamp oil. For every half-gallon of oil, wicks burn 1/4 to 1/2 inch.

When working with a wick, you’ll need to know a few techniques.

First of all, you should never burn dry wicks. You can also make sure that they’re completely submerged in lamp oil by double-checking.

If you see any smoke when lighting your wick, that would mean that the flame is too high. You can remedy this using the knob.

Also, you should make sure to trim the wick regularly. Trimming will eliminate burnt edges and carbon deposits for optimal burning. You can do the trimming only when the wick is cool. Try to cut them off with scissors instead of squeezing the charred edges with your fingers.

To begin building your oil lamp, ensure the cloth is 100 percent cotton to make a wick. You can recycle an old, worn-out shirt but not those made of polyester. Also, you should not use nylon rope or paracord.

Next, cut a piece of cloth 8-12 inches by 6-8 inches and then fold the fabric lengthwise in 3/4 inch folds (the 6-8 inch side). When it’s completely folded up, it’ll be 3/4 inch wide and 8-12 inches long. It’ll be 3/4 inch wide and 8-12 inches long.

Then, sew multiple times up and down the length of the cloth using your sewing machine. It doesn’t have to be as attractive as store-bought wicks. The objective is to keep the fabric together as flat as possible.

Lastly, you can trim it to a point if you want, but it isn’t necessary. And then, you’ll have your wicks, just like that.

Here’s a video on another way to create a wick from a recycled cotton shirt.

Using an Oil Lamp

Making an Oil Lamp

You have your preferred oil and your wick. Now, let’s look into the rest of the oil lamp’s components to complete.

An oil lamp’s essential parts include; the fuel stored in the fuel chamber, the wick held by the burner, and the wick knob that controls the size and intensity of the flame.

It also has the globe of the lamp or chimney where exhaust gases are released, and oxygen may enter to keep the light burning.

When it comes to using an oil lamp, you’ll be surprised by how simple the process is.

First, start by carefully removing the chimney and the burner so that no pieces are broken or displaced. And then, you can now fill the chamber with oil. Make sure not to fill it up entirely. You must allow 1/2 to 1 inch between the oil and the chamber cover.

Next, allow up to one hour for the wick to absorb the liquid fuel. The burner’s color change can also indicate that the wick has soaked in the oil, especially if it feels greasy to the touch.

After you’ve got all those covered and done, you can now set the wick on fire. Adjusting the flame size using the knob can help you ensure no black smoke comes from the wick.

Then, put the chimney back on top of the burner. You should know that the chimney may intensify the flame if you’re using Kerosene. In that case, you can pull down the wick until the fire is steady.

When turning off the lamp, you can cup your palm over the chimney at a 45-degree angle and blow softly but quickly to extinguish the flame.

As an additional tip, you will be burning the wick rather than the fuel if you do not allow the wick to soak with oil – fuel runs to the heated end of the wick, where it vaporizes due to capillary action. The vapor rather than the wick provides heat and light.

Finally, make sure you always fill Kerosene lights outside the house. Mop up any spills right away. Because Kerosene is very flammable, never leave a kerosene lamp alone and carefully handle the fuel.

Taking Care of an Oil Lamp

Taking Care of an Oil Lamp

The chimney could be exceedingly hot when an oil lamp has been burning for a long time. If you need to move the lamp, do it cautiously using just the handle. Better still, install the lamp where you want it before lighting it, and don’t move it after it’s lit.

You can also allow it to cool for a few minutes after shutting it off for the night, then transfer it to a safe, out-of-the-way location until it’s needed again.

In addition, putting a hot oil lamp on a tile or a cold tile counter may break the tile. You can place it on a potholder or a folded towel to cool the oil lamp.

Also, and as you may be aware, burning oils produce carbon, which will eventually build up on the chimney of your lamp. You can reduce the amount of carbon by keeping the flame at a tolerable level.

Plus, since carbon might start a fire, make sure to clean it out regularly. Dirt from smoke build-up will reduce the amount of light passing through the glass and suffocate some of the oxygen required for an evenly burning wick.

Last Words

Using an oil lamp produces carbon monoxide regardless of the oil type. With this and as a final thought, I think you need to know more about carbon monoxide and how to spot it.

Excessive carbon monoxide inhalation may produce headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, confusion, disorientation, vomiting, and exhaustion. Many of these signs and symptoms resemble the flu, food poisoning, or other disorders.

As a result, you may not detect carbon monoxide poisoning upfront. With that in mind and for you and your family’s safety, you should consider securing a carbon monoxide detector with an audible alert in your house.

This subtle expense may save lives if you want to use oil lamps in your place.

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3 thoughts on “How to Use an Oil Lamp Safely: Important Tips You Must Know”

  1. I’ve just purchased a beautiful vintage oil lamp. I’m using a lamp oil but the smell is so strong, I won’t be using it unless its an emergency. Not sure why as this article says that lamp oil doesn’t have a strong smell as compared to kerosene.

    Could it be the brand of lamp oil? I’ve written to the company to see if they can help me but still waiting for a reply.

  2. I really appreciate the details you’ve put in the process on how to use an oil lamp. I recently discovered three vintage oil lamps, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them. I suppose you could say that I have an old soul. Once again, many thanks for this blog. 🙂 Wishing you all the best for the day.


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