Re: Lamp Oil v. Kerosene
*Additional Notes on Mineral Spirits
I have added the following information due to the number of inquiries we have been receiving lately about the use of paint thinner as a kerosene substitute to explain the danger.
Mineral Spirits (Paint Thinner,) should NOT be used in any wick lamp or lantern.
There is a reason they are called "Kerosene" lanterns, and not "Paint Thinner" lanterns. Tubular lanterns, and most oil lamps that employ a wick delivery system, are designed for use with 150 Degree Test (read "Flash Point,") kerosene, which is a "straight run" petroleum distillate made for such use. Standard Lamp Oil, (such as Lamplight Farms Medallion Lamp Oil,) has a 142 Degree flash point, and is also an acceptable lamp or lantern fuel, being within 10% of the design standard.
Paint Thinner, (Mineral Spirits,) on the other hand, has a flash point of under 110 Degrees, and is a complex petroleum distillate that at best may produce (including odorless,) fumes that are not something that you would want to breathe near, and at worst has the potential for creating a runaway flame or worse.
Let me explain further: In addition to conveying fuel, the wick also conducts heat from the flame into the tank. As the fuel level drops, the oil temperature rises and expands, regardless of the oil you are using. With Mineral Spirits, this function creates an accelerated evaporation, which in turn produces pressurized flammable vapor that must expand to somewhere. (This process is also referred to as "Superheating.") Usually, the pressurized vapor will gradually work its way through the burner and will be consumed at the flame. At this point it is not a major problem, except that because the flame is no longer dependant on the wick, you no longer have control of the flame, which will begin to "runaway." The natural reaction is to turn the wick down as far as possible to try to extinguish the runaway flame. This only increases the vapor flow as well as the flame size. If you turn the wick down too far, and the cogs disengage the wick, you will not be able to raise the wick to reduce the flame size. When this happens, the best course of action is to smother the lantern with an inverted pail or bucket, or dirt.
In a worst case scenario, if the pressurized vapor is unable to gradually be consumed at the flame, it will increase in the tank as the fuel level drops. The reason this is "worst case" is because if the vapor bursts through the burner, an explosion will result that will most likely shatter the globe.
I received an e-mail from a customer that thought it was OK to use paint thinner, despite our warning:
. . . . . I look up and the flame is so high that it burnt the rope, fell from the tree, shattered and the ground and lantern were on fire. I put the fire out and just assumed I did something wrong. The next night I set the second one on a flat tree stump. Every thing seems fine, not much light because the wick is so low, but a little. Next thing I know this one is on fire and the glass also breaks and I'm scrambling to throw dirt on it. The third night I try again, because it gets really dark and I was counting on those for light. This lantern does the same thing. It did not break the glass, because I was nervous and kept watching it. . . .
Fil Graff, the Secretary of the International Guild of Lamp Researchers, wrote the following words on the topic:
On Dec. 22, 2000 @ 18:57, Fil Graff (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
. . . . For heavens sake, if you are playing with fuels, stay in the same petrochemical CLASS as the originally recommended fuel! NO MINERAL SPIRITS in a kerosene lamp! That is NO, none, not ANY! The "burns hotter" may be a problem in soldered burners, but the real problem is volatility and flash point. You do NOT want a possible font ignition from heated fumes! If you cannot get road-taxed kerosene (it isn't red!)or Sunoco's "1-K", then try the Clearlite. It too burns hotter than kerosene, but at least is in the same volatility range, and therefore reasonably safe. I use it in Aladdins and other flat wicks, replacing the Champagne-priced odorless Ultra fuel I used for years, but have abandoned because of outrageous prices.
Tony Batts, General Manager of the Aladdin Mantle Lamp Company, recently e-mailed me:
You are most correct, we would never recommend the use of mineral spirits or paint thinner in Aladdin lamps, lanterns, or any flat wick lamps. Believe it or not we still occasionally get calls from folks who have heard the its okay to use mineral spirits in their lamps.
Thanks for helping clear up this myth!
With kind regards,
We are working towards adding video segments to our website in the near future, and plan to film a demonstration of what can happen when you use paint thinner, or "other than recommended" fuels in tubular lanterns.
Last edited by George Ray; 01-16-2012 at 08:28 PM.
This is the first lesson ye should learn: There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, it doesn't behoove any of us to speak evil of the rest of us.