Does anyone know if a special lamp or wick is required to use olive oil?
Terry Lynn from Toronto, Ontario
A: Terry Lynn,
It's a safe, renewable alternative, but I'm not sure how inexpensive it is. It's safer to burn because olive oil has low volatility due to its high flash point (it won't burn until it reaches 550°F). Burning olive oil also generates less smoke and leaves behind less soot than most other oils. Older olive oil tends to burn the best, and even when rancid is practically odorless while burning.
The key to burning olive oil is to keep the wick saturated at all times. The thickness of the oil affects the capillary action so soaking the wick in oil before lighting it works best. Use wicks with a large weave or even tightly twisted strips of cotton cloth. You can also make a wick from a cotton swab. Dip the swab into the oil and then twist the oiled end off of the swab stick and shape it into a teardrop.
The big secret here is that you need to design your lamp/wick system the opposite of how a lamp is built to burn kerosene. In the olive oil lamps, you need to have the wick as close to the fuel as possible, due to the not so great "drawing" capability of olive oil. It makes sense, but you cannot burn kerosene or other "lamp oils" in a olive oil lamp and vice versa; or Kaboom!
With the wick, you can wrap it with a flexible wire (solid core), like copper, and use the metal to bend the wick into a little coil with support.
This is the information I could find on it.
Yes, the wick needs to be close to the fuel. You cannot use candle wicks, they are too thin. Use a flat wick for kerosene lamps, or a round 1/4" oil lamp wick. Olive oil makes a little soot and a little smell, but vegetable oil makes even more soot.
There are inexpensive lamps which burn olive oil quite nicely. Lehman's.com handles them. Regular lamps don't work. Jim email@example.com
I seem to be more sensitive than most to environmental pollutants, so I consider myself the canary in the coal mine. I can tell you that when we used our (5) oil lamps when our power went out, I had a headache within 15 minutes. That tells me that liquid paraffin lamp oil is toxic. And why wouldn't it be? It's a petroleum product.
And yes, pioneers used kerosene all the time. But they also had drafty homes, not the well insulated tightly constructed homes that most of us have now. Despite that inadvertent ventilation, many still suffered from respiratory diseases like TB, known then as consumption. The fact that the kerosene-burning pioneers didn't all die of it, doesn't mean kerosene isn't toxic.
Some people can tolerate higher toxic loads than others, but I wouldn't be taking that chance with children who by virtue of their diminutive size, are typically less tolerant.
Firefly, a Canadian company, makes a non-paraffin clean burning lamp oil. It's available in quart size on Amazon with free shipping if you just want to try it, but it's more economical from Firefly by the gallon even with shipping added.
I plan to experiment with some old olive oil I have to see if I can make it work in our regular oil lamps. I expect it will take a bit of effort to get all the paraffin oil residue out of them, but I'm going for it. (:
Olive oil has been used since ancient times. The temple lamps used this as fuel. With Chanukah approaching it's good to brush up on such topics!
Look on Lifehackers website for a DIY recycled kitchen fat-burning oil lamp. Interesting.
The problem isn't the kerosene or kerosene lamps. Its our own expectations. If you keep the flame small and efficient you wont get the fumes smell or smoke. The problem comes when modern householders turn the lamps up in the hope of getting a bright electric type light.
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I just purchased several inexpensive oil lamps and I placed them around the house in case of power outage. I decided to do a trial run; I went ahead and lit them all, burning a cheaper Walmart product, Medallion lamp oil. After the fact I got a little worried and opened all the doors in my house to ventilate (we have 4 young children). Is lamp oil safe to burn inside? There was nothing about it on the packaging. Should I just abandon the cheap stuff and only burn olive oil? Does anyone out there know about lamp oil dangers? I'd be most grateful.
By noorly from Northwest
As long as you trim the wicks to about 1/4 inch before each use they will be fine. The reason to trim the wick is to alleviate smoke and soot which is what causes the pollution. Even olive oil will create smoke and soot if wicks aren't kept trimmed so you might as well save yourself some money by using lamp oil ;-)
The only thing I would worry about is keeping the lamps out of reach of the children. Oh, and always blow out the lamps; never try to turn the wick down to put the flame out!
You should watch everyone in your house for any kind of reaction, such as respiratory symptoms or headaches when you burn oil lamps to be sure it's safe for your family.
I had oil lamps from the time I was just a young teenager. I loved them & burned them frequently in my bedroom & later my home with never any problems. Then in my late 20s or early 30s, I started getting these odd, sharp, overall chest pains & a headache when I would burn the lamps. I thought maybe I had bad oil,or it had something to do with the dye (I loved the colored stuff), so I replaced it with a different brand of clear oil - same reaction.
Thought maybe it was carbon monoxide, so I opened windows, didn't help. Eventually I began having the same reaction to some candles, so I can't burn even those!
Olive oil works a treat in oil lamps but that is an expensive fuel!
Purpose made lamps and oil need to be watched for the country of origin as several countries manufacturing the oil are using lead in wicks, and to make the oil burn smoother and last longer-you don't want to be burning that in your house! You may want to avoid using the kerosene lamp oil as it does have some health concerns associated with its use indoors.
The same countries are putting lead into scented candles as well, the worst offenders being China and Mexico. Here is a link with several articles gathered on one page:
I have never heard of using olive oil in lamps! All of the lamps that I have are supposed to use either the modern lamp oils from the stores, or kerosene. Kerosene, which of course is what everyone used in pioneer times, has a distinctive odor, so you may want to stick to the modern products.
In pioneer times, people burned lamps inside the home ALL the time. Why woulldn`t it be safe to do so now.
average lifespan was quite low compared to now. They could easily have died of something else first. They easily could have been developing lung disease from the fumes but died from other more rapid killers.
people died of Tuberculosis at alarming rates in pioneer times, just as they do now in parts of the world where there's no electricity so kerosene lamps are the main form of lighting.
I'm from rural Scotland and people my mothers generation (now in their 40s and 50s) have weak lungs because they grew up using paraffin lamps.
as i understand it, modern super refined paraffin/ lamp oil is much safer than the old stuff but it still gives me a headache almost immediately, as do paraffin candles.
The people in earlier eras who burned kerosene didn't know any better. We do.
Why would an oil lamp filled with olive oil set off a smoke alarm after being lit for 4 hours when there's no visible smoke? How can I stop that from happening? This happened once before with safflower oil. It seems random - last week it was lit longer, until there was no more oil, and the alarm stayed silent.
I use a traditional butter lamp - basically a metal goblet and a piece of a cotton ball rolled into a 1/4" thick wick inserted in the center of the goblet with its tip about a 1/4" above the oil.
I know there's a proper name for the poor quality, high-acid, non-food use olive oil that's preferred as lamp oil. It would not be sold in grocery stores.
By Pat M.
It's called pomace. Solvents are used to fully extract the oil from the dregs of the olives, making the oil the lowest-grade of the olive oils and unsuitable for consumption.
I am curious to know the rate at which olive oil burns, specifically, how long will the 1/2 cup of olive oil I've just put into my first homemade olive oil-Mason jar lamp last? In my workplace we use numerous paraffin tea lights every night.
By Katherine B.
Can't you just light one and time it? Also would probably vary on the quality of the oil and wick that you use.
So I used extra virgin olive oil in a tin gift box top from the dollar store and used a coffee filter paper that I just submerged in the extra virgin olive oil and lit on fire and burned for hours. My apartment filled with smoke but it was beautiful it did not make me cough or sting my eyes like other smoke does. I even mixed it with candle wax still good so that is my contribution
I just came across this great 'How to make your own Olive Oil Lamp' tutorial and I think you guys will like it a lot, too!