How to Safely Use an Oil Lamp in the House

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One of the most important rules for using an oil lamp is to select a safe, reliable fuel. Clear lamp oil is the best option because its designed for indoor oil lamps and isnt highly combustible. Colored lamp oil is an acceptable alternative, but it could stain or discolor your lamp, glass shades, chimney and burner. Never use highly ignitable substances — such as gasoline, alcohol, diesel fuel, mineral spirits, acetone, propane, paint thinners, household cleaners or turpentine — in oil lamps, according to Columbia Lighting Co. Use citronella oil for its insect-repelling properties only in outdoor lamps.

Dont overfill the oil font, because you want just the oil-saturated wick to ignite, not the oil in the font. Fill the font approximately 3/4 full to avoid an unwanted fire when you light the wick, according to Columbia Lighting Co. Its also important to keep the saturated wick level with the burner when you light it to avoid big, uncontrollable flames. Once you ignite the wick, lower it slightly to maintain an even, level flame. Columbia Lighting Co. recommends maintaining a flame approximately 3/8 of an inch above the burner.

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Children and pets might think lamp oil looks like fruit punch, soda pop or water and drink it. Lamp oil is dangerous if ingested because you could aspirate it into your lungs, possibly leading to breathing problems and pneumonia, according to the National Capital Poison Center. Keep oil lamps out of young childrens reach so they dont accidentally knock them over, touch the flames, get burned by the hot glass or drink the oil. Never leave oil lamps in unattended areas; a responsible teenager or adult should supervise their use.


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Oil lamps provide soft illumination and emergency lighting in a home.

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Burners, chimneys and glass globes can get extremely hot during use, so wait until the lamp cools before disassembling the parts to refuel it. With a hanging or wall-mounted lamp, you must remove the oil font — the cylindrical container that holds the oil — to refill it. To avoid oil spills, place the font on a level surface and pour in the oil slowly. Remember that an oil-soaked wick is ignitable, even after youve removed it from the lamp, so keep it away from flames and heat sources.

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments shes read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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Tucker, Kristine. (n.d.). How to Safely Use an Oil Lamp in the House.

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Columbia Lighting Company: Maintenance, Safety, and Operating Procedures for Your Oil Lamp


Tucker, Kristine. How to Safely Use an Oil Lamp in the House accessed June 05, 2018.

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National Capital Poison Center: Oil Lamps and Candle Lamps

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Make a Wick for an Oil Lamp Using Recycled Materials

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Oil lamps provide warm, mood-enhancing lighting and are ideal sources of illumination when the electricity goes out. They have simple designs and are easy to use, as long as you are cautious when you replenish the oil and light them. When using oil lamps indoors, its important to follow simple guidelines so you dont accidentally start a fire or ignite an explosion. Safety takes on added importance when children and pets are present.

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Tucker, Kristine. How to Safely Use an Oil Lamp in the House.

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