What Is Liquid Paraffin for Lamps?


Liquid paraffin has been used extensively as a lamp fuel for over a century. Coal oil, lamp oil and liquid paraffin are actually interchangeable terms. In some parts of the world, such as Great Britain, liquid paraffin is the common name given to lamp fuel, but in the U.S., liquid paraffin is simply referred to as kerosene.


  • Before the discovery of oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania, lamp oil, known then as "coal oil," was produced from an oil-bearing form of coal known as cannel coal. However, coal-based production was more time consuming and thus more expensive than producing kerosene from liquid crude. Prior to these developments, most Americans burned whale oil in their lamps.


  • Kerosene, like other petroleum byproducts, is refined from crude mineral oil through the process of fractional distillation. Crude oil is boiled, and as the vapors of the constituent components rise, they are captured and condensed. Crude oil is actually a complex hydrocarbon "soup," which is composed of many long-chain, carbon-based molecules, such as kerosene, gasoline, benzene and propane. Once large quantities of inexpensive kerosene were being refined from crude oil, it spelled the demise of the great New England whaling fleets.

Lamp Oil

  • During the infancy of the U.S. petroleum industry, the kerosene produced was not of a consistently high quality. Because it often contained impurities or water, when burned, the kerosene distilled during the late 1800s produced excessive amounts of black smoke. The liquid paraffin burned in today's oil lamps is produced by refining kerosene multiple times. Each step in this process further purifies the product and removes progressively more impurities, which is why many liquid paraffin lamp oils are advertised as being "smoke-free."

Liquid Paraffin versus Paraffin Wax

  • While they share a portion of the same name, liquid paraffin and paraffin wax are not the same thing. As previously mentioned, crude oil contains hundreds of individual compounds, paraffin wax being one of them. As the wax vapors condense, they congeal into solid paraffin wax. Unlike liquid paraffin, which is highly toxic if ingested, paraffin wax is chemically benign, which is why it has been used for many years to seal jars of homemade jams and jellies.

Liquid Paraffin Types

  • In addition to the crystal-clear variety, liquid paraffin lamp oil has two other variants. Some types contain dyes, such as red, blue, green or even purple. If your lamp chimney is made of colored glass, you may be able to buy dyed liquid paraffin in the same color. Other liquid paraffin lamp fuels contain a scent, such as evergreen, clove or a floral scent, such as roses. Other varieties are available that are both dyed and scented.

Related Searches


  • Photo Credit oil lamp image by Pierrette Guertin from Fotolia.com
Promoted By Zergnet



You May Also Like

  • Properties of Liquid Paraffin

    Liquid paraffin, also known as mineral oil, has a variety of uses. There is medicinal-quality liquid paraffin and industrial liquid paraffin. Liquid...

  • What is a Coal Oil Lamp?

    Coal oil lamps became popular in Europe during the 1600s as fuel for the light in a lighthouse. Candles or fires were...

  • How to Cure Laminitis

    Laminitis can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications, corrective shoeing and by treating the underlying condition of the disease.

  • How to Make Paraffin Oil

  • How to Buy Liquid Paraffin

    Paraffin is a flammable substance that is used both for beauty treatments and as a heating oil in lamps and candles. Liquid...

  • How to Make Your Own Liquid Paraffin Lamp Oil

    Also known as mineral oil, liquid paraffin serves as an evenly burning oil for lanterns and oil lamps. Knowing how to make...

  • How to Make Liquid Candles

    The versatility of liquid candles as decorative lighting is endless. You can use old bottles, vases, jars or any other heat resistant...

  • Ingredients in Paraffin Wax

    Paraffin wax has many applications, from food preservation to packaging, candle making to cosmetic usage. A by-product of petroleum or crude oil...

  • Homemade Lamp Oil

    This article discusses how to safely use oils in a homemade lamp- from how the process works to how to store oils.

Related Searches

Check It Out

22 DIY Ways to Update Your Home on a Small Budget

Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!