Growing up, it was typical to have oil lamps in the home. These lamps served our family well during storms. Now, my family relies on oil lamps as our main source of lighting until we are able to find a better alternative. Being around oil lamps for my entire life, there are tips that you learn about how to get the most from them.
Our lamps have the wide flat wick. I trim the wick every few days or whenever I notice the burnt edge getting too blackened. By trimming off the burnt edge of the wick, you are able to achieve a brighter light. One common mistake in trimming the wick is to cut it into too sharp of a point. This will greatly affect the amount of lighting that the lamp will give. I trim the wick straight across, then snip a tiny bit off the 2 corners to give a slight rounding off of the corners. The lamps give off much more light due to the size of the wick being used.
There are 2 primary fuels available for oil lamps. You can purchase the quart sized bottles of lamp oil, which costs about $6 per bottle at a local store in town. The lamp oil burns without smoking. One tip about the smoking lamps. If your lamp is smoking, the wick is turned up too high. Stores like Lehman’s sell little shields that rest on a slight angle on the top of the oil lamp’s chimney. This will also prevent soot problems.
Kerosene is the fuel that we used growing up. Actually the oil lamps were referred to kerosene lamps by most people that I knew. Some fuel stations have kerosene pumps right along side of the gas & diesel fuel pumps. At a fuel station I go to, the kerosene costs $5.29 per gallon. That is a huge savings! The kerosene is not smokeless like lamp oil, but it has its advantages.
We have used both lamp oil and kerosene in our lamps. There are 2 major differences in the way these fuels burn. Lamp oil has a slightly longer burn time than kerosene. On the downside of this, the lamp oil does not burn as brightly as kerosene. After using both types of fuel, we chose to use kerosene. It is good to have a few bottles of the lamp oil on hand in case we need it. For our daily use though, the kerosene is our first choice.
One note about lamp safety with kids. If children grow up around oil lamps, being taught to be careful around them from an early age, most families that I know have never had a problem with kids getting a burn or injured. Wanting to be extra cautious however, we purchased 2 of the Coleman lanterns that run on D-cell batteries. These lanterns look like the familiar camp lanterns, but have an LED light. They take 4 D-cell batteries, which last for up to 180 hours of constant use. We found these for about $20 each. We bought them to be used as a lamp in the kids’ bedroom and in the bathroom. It was a perfect solution for dealing with middle of the night trips to the bathroom for the kids.
When cleaning the chimney of the oil lamps, I have found that Dawn Ultra dish soap works best to remove any soot. I place the chimney into a dishpan of warm soapy water. A scrubbing sponge easily wipes off the soot. They are rinsed and allowed to dry on the dish drying rack. If needed, an old baby bottle brush can be used to wash the inside of the chimney also.
Currently, with the days being longer, 3 gallons of kerosene is a month’s supply. This makes our lighting expense only $15.87 per month for kerosene. That same 3 gallons quantity of lamp oil would cost us $72 per month. (Calculating 12 quarts x $6 per quart) In the winter months, our kerosene usage only goes up to 5 gallons, or $26.45 per month. In lamp oil, that same amount would cost $120 for 20 quarts of lamp oil at $6 per quart.