How to Use a Smudge Pot

Things You'll Need

  • Smudge pots

  • Smudge pot stands

  • Fuel (determined by manufacturer)

  • Butane grill lighter

Garden smudge pot

Smudge pots are metal containers that hold a crude type of kerosene, which, when lit, will provide either a flickering light or a lot of smoke. Large smudge pots were used historically to prevent citrus crops from freezing during a frost (these are the smoky kind) and to provide roadway warning (these are the bomb-shaped flickering kind). Some small airports continue to use smudge pots to light their runways. Most citrus growers use other means to protect their crops as large smudge pots are not environmentally sound. For home use, the smudge pot (reduced in size), is often fueled by lamp oil or a liquefied citronella and placed in the garden for ambiance or to protect against insects.

Step 1

Add fuel to the smudge pot by following manufacturer's directions on how to open the fuel receptacle. Fill to the indicated mark.

Step 2

Adjust the fiberglass wick if it is not in the correct position or if it needs to be trimmed. (Some wicks do not need maintenance.)

Step 3

Press the smudge pot stake into the ground around the patio (if you are entertaining outdoors) or around the garden edge (for light).

Step 4

Install the smudge pot in the receptacle. Make sure it is level and cannot be easily knocked over.

Step 5

Use a butane grill lighter to light the wick.


Citronella is an irritant for some people, so before an outdoor party ask your guests about their allergies. Place the smudge pot where it can be seen but not easily touched. For insect control, the smudge pot must be within range of your sitting area. Check your manufacturer's recommendation based on the size of pot.


Maintain a fire extinguisher for oil within easy reach. Never handle a hot smudge pot as it may burn your hands. Always extinguish the flame after use.