Lamp Oil

3 Types of Lamp Oil

Though not used much today, lamp oil has been used for generations as a main source of light. It makes a great backup for emergencies. There are three types of lamp oil and they serve different purposes. It's important not to confuse them and to know what type of oil your lamp or candle requires.

Standard Lamp Oil

Standard lamp oil is simply a highly purified, refined, and distilled version of kerosene, a flammable hydrocarbon derived from petroleum. The purification process results in a completely different product, producing a smokeless, odorless, cleaner burning oil that is designed specifically for use in indoor lamps. It comes in a variety of scents, including unscented.

The steps taken to purify lamp oil make the product more expensive than kerosene but totally worth the cost as it makes indoor use possible.

Though standard lamp oil burns longer and cleaner than kerosene, it produces a weaker light. Outdoor lanterns fueled by kerosene are better suited for brighter outdoor lighting needs.

Lamp Oil brands okay for indoor and outdoor use – in Tubular Lanterns and Flat Wick Oil Lamps:

Brands include - Lamplight Farms® Clear Medallion Brand Lamp Oil, Klean-Heat® Kerosene Substitute, Genuine Aladdin® Brand Lamp Oil, Florasense® Brand Lamp Oil

Storage Conditions - Keep the lamp oil at or near room temperature. Do not store it in your garage or shed if it can freeze. Frozen oil may defrost too quickly, posing an explosive hazard. Protect from light.

Shelf Life - Standard Lamp oil will store 2 years at 47 to 57 degrees F.

Paraffin Oil

Paraffin lamp oil is liquid candle wax for use in liquid candles. It is for both indoor and outdoor use and is smokeless and odorless unless you purchase a product that is scented.

Though the name “paraffin oil” is used interchangeably with standard lamp oil in other countries and in many articles posted online, in the United States paraffin oil is simply liquid candle wax. Be careful not to get the two confused. 99% and 100% paraffin oil are not suitable for use in oil lamps or tubular lanterns that use a flat wick, or Kosmos or Matador-type oil lamps. It is to be used in candle oil lamps only.

Before purchasing lamp oil, always read the labels to make sure you know the type of lamp oil you are dealing with.

Paraffin Lamp Oil brands okay for indoor and outdoor use – lamps or lanterns with 1/4 inch round, or 1/2 or smaller flat wicks:

Brands include - Aura Oil, Ult, Firelight Glass, Orvis Lamp Fuel, Northern Lights, Northwest, Pure Lite, Recochem Ultra-Clear Lamp Oil, Soft Light, Tropical Lights, Ultra-Pure, Weems & Plath

Storage Conditions - Paraffin lamps and candle oil should be stored at room temperature. Protect from freezing – the liquid paraffin will become solid at about 15 degrees F, which will significantly decrease its shelf life once it’s thawed.

Shelf Life - Paraffin lamp oil will last indefinitely if stored in a sealed container and kept at room temperature.


Citronella oil can be used as fuel for outdoor oil lamps and lanterns. This oil has been used for centuries for a variety of purposes including as a treatment of rashes, infections, and other health conditions.

Today, it is best known as a natural insect repellent. Citronella oil is a volatile substance derived from cultivated grasses that have a very distinctive odor that is unpleasant to mosquitoes and certain types of insects but for humans, presents a pleasant citrus smell. It is the lamp oil of choice for those wanting insect protection and is used as fuel in tiki torches for this purpose. The oil produces smoke and is limited to outdoor use only.

Citronella oil is not recommended to be used with kerosene lamps or lanterns straight out of the bottle. However, it can be mixed with 1-K kerosine as a 50/50 mixture. This thins out the fuel and extends the lantern’s wick life.

Citronella Oil Brands okay for outdoor use – in Tubular Lanterns and Flat Wick Oil Lamps if mixed 50/50:

Brands include - Crown Citronella Torch and Lamp Fuel, Tiki Brand Citronella Torch Fuel

Storage Conditions - Citronella Oil can be stored inside or out but must be kept from freezing temperatures.

Shelf Life - Citronella oil does expire and its appearance changes over time. Read the product label and discard the bottle once it hits the expiration date.

How much do I need?

Burn time of lamp oil, regardless of type:Lamp oil, in general, burns about 0.5 ounces per hour. For a 6-hour run per day, 1 gallon of lamp oil will last around 42 days.