How to Fill and Use an Oil Lamp – Walk-through Guide

In order to be the most prepared you can be for any sort of disaster, it would be extremely helpful to know how to use an oil lamp.

In today’s world of hurricanes and earthquakes, we simply cannot rely on always having access to electric power.

Oil lamps can be an awesome way to guarantee light no matter what. Read on to learn more about how these products work.

Types of Oils Great for Lamps

There are some oils that are great options to use inside an oil lamp, and some that are no so ideal. But never fear, we have clarified which ones you should be working with:

Vegetable Oil

This oil is the best option for use in an oil lamp. It still has a slightly unpleasant odor, but much less so than the other oil options below. Burning is also a great way to still be able to find a use for vegetable oil that may have gone bad and can no longer be consumed for health reasons.


Kerosene is always an option for use in oil lamps. If you are looking for an oil that does not smell bad, though, kerosene is probably one of your worst options. Kerosene has a very strong, distinctive odor, and is also more volatile than vegetable oil.


You should absolutely NOT ever use any type of gasoline or any other kind of motor oil to light your oil lamp. Yes, it will burn, but it will also most likely explode! You definitely do not want a shattered lamp and the injuries and burns that can go along with gasoline use.

Step-by-Step Guide

Since you have a bit more of an idea of what hoppers do and what to look out for when choosing a good model, let’s move on to looking at some actual products:

1. Assembling Your Oil Lamp

Oil lamps are composed of several main components: the reservoir, which holds the oil that the lamp burns in order to produce light; the wick, which dangles from the top part of the lamp down into the reservoir and draws the oil up so that the flame has access to burn it; the wick feed adjuster, which controls how big or small your flame is; and the globe, which is the top part of the lamp that protects your flame from being blown out by the wind. The parts will all screw into each other, but you will have to take it apart in order to fill and light it.

2. Filling the Lamp with Oil

We recommend using oil designed specifically for lamps. You can also use other types of fuel such as kerosene, but kerosene has a strong odor that is considered unpleasant by many people, and it is also more volatile and more prone to unexpected flame shoots and explosions than regular lamp oil.

To fill the lamp, grasp the wick feed adjuster at the bottom, where it connects to the reservoir, and unscrew it until it comes apart. Because most lamp reservoir necks are extremely narrow, you may want to use a funnel to avoid making a mess, though you can also certainly just pour the oil in straight. Fill up the reservoir until the container is about two thirds full.

3. Thread the Wick

Feed your wick through the wick feed adjuster so that a decent amount of it (about an inch long) is exposed on the globe side of the adjuster, and the rest of it is dangling down on the reservoir side of the adjuster. Take your wick feed adjuster and reattach it to the now filled reservoir. Screw it on tightly. Leave the wick in the oil for a little bit so that it is able to soak up and absorb the oil inside the reservoir. This would be a good moment to take some time to clean up any oil spills you may have made while filling your lamp with oil.

4. Lighting Your Oil Lamp

If your wick has been given enough time to sufficiently absorb the oil in the reservoir and be ready to be lit, it will have slightly changed color. If it has not changed color yet, you will need to wait a little bit longer. Once it has changed color, take a lighter and light the wick. It should immediately catch flame.

If it starts producing any amount of black smoke, take your wick adjuster and dial it down a bit until the smoke is gone. Place the globe on top of the wick adjuster and screw it in if you need to. Once your lamp is going, you can use your wick adjuster to continue to modulate the brightness level.  

How to Make Your Own Wick

You may be thinking, make my own wick?? That is absurd! And we agree that the idea of making your own wick can certainly be intimidating. But it does not have to be. The process of making your own wick is actually fairly straightforward:

  1. Find an old used T shirt, or some other sort of fabric that is guaranteed to be one hundred percent cotton.

  2. Cut a strip of fabric from the T shirt that is between eight to twelve inches long and six to eight inches thick.

  3. Fold this strip lengthwise in folds that are about three quarters of an inch. When it is all folded up, it should be about three quarters of an inch wide and still eight to twelve inches long.

  4. Sew the fabric closed lengthwise so that it is as flat as possible. This step can be done by hand, though it is much easier if you have a sewing machine.

If you would prefer, you can trim the end of your wick to a point using scissors, but that step is not necessary.

How to Clean an Oil Lamp

Cleaning the outside of your oil lamp is an easy process. Simply wipe it down with a cloth the way you would dust any other lamp. Cleaning the inside of your lamp, though, is slightly more complicated.

First, take out your lamp’s wick. If there is any oil still left in the reservoir, pour it into an empty bottle with a tightly attached cap and throw it away. Pour a quarter teaspoon of dishwashing soap into the reservoir area of the lamp, and fill the rest of the reservoir with warm water. Let the lamp sit this way overnight. In the morning, empty the reservoir and rinse it out.

Once it is clean and dry, put the candle on a baking sheet inside your oven at around three hundred and twenty five degrees. Leave it in there for at least a half hour with the oven on, and then a little bit afterwards with the oven off so that your lamp can cool down. Your lamp is now officially clean!


Now that you know more about the process of using and cleaning oil lamps, hopefully you feel slightly more prepared for any disaster that will come your way. In any emergency, it is always better to be able to see what is going on around you, and oil lamps make that a possibility even if electricity is disabled. 

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