How to Make a Spirit Burner in Chemistry


A spirit burner is simply a method of burning alcohol or other spirits in a relatively safe fashion. Like a candle, a spirit burner uses a wick to maintain a flame to vaporize and burn fuel. Simple spirit burners are easy to make in chemistry class and have many advantages. The wick itself can be long-lasting, and most burners are easy to refuel, so one burner can last a long time.

Things You'll Need

  • Glass jar
  • Metal lid
  • 6 inches of string
  • Packet of cotton wool
  • Bottle of methylated spirits
  • Corkscrew
  • Make a hole in the middle of the metal lid using the corkscrew. Widen this hole far enough for the string to pass through without falling back. The string will act as a wick for the spirit burner, so it is essential that it stays in place. Make four smaller holes midway between the center and rim of the lid. These prevent a vacuum forming in the jar as the fuel is burned. If you haven't already done so, pass approximately half an inch of the string through the central hole, to act as the wick.

  • Fill the jar with the cotton wool. Make sure that the wool is not packed so tightly into the jar that no liquid can be poured in. The cotton wool will absorb most of the fuel and acts as a slow-release system, so the wick does not get over-soaked and burn too quickly.

  • Fill the jar with the methylated spirits. Be careful not to over-fill the jar as there needs to be room for the string as well as the liquid and cotton wool. Screw the lid onto the jar. Leave for five minutes so the wick absorbs some of the fuel. The spirit burner is now ready to be used and will continue to burn as long as there is fuel feeding into the wick.

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  • Photo Credit flame image by Marek Kosmal from trio of glass bottle vases image by Janet Wall from
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