How Long Does An Oil Lamp Burn? (Simplified Guide!)

If you often use an oil lamp, it is important to understand its burning time. This knowledge will help you estimate oil consumption and have that much amount of oil always ready by your side, especially in times of emergency. After all, who would like to run out of oil unexpectedly? So, how long does an oil lamp burn?

As a general rule, oil lamps burn about 1/2 ounce of oil per hour when appropriately adjusted. So a half-gallon of lamp oil can be expected to last about 140-150 hours. However, oil lamp burning time can vary depending on factors such as oil type, wick size, wick height, etc. 

Let’s dive in deeper to understand more about the oil lamp burning time and some other related questions.

How Long Does An Oil Lamp Burn? (Simplified Guide!)

Oil Lamp Burning Time Quick Stats:

  • 1/2 Liquid Paraffin burns in 1 hour.
  • 1 Quart Kerosene Fuel (1 Quart = 0.25 Gallon) can last up to 45 hours.
  • 1 Quart white gas can last up to 1 month or more (if burned for 4 hours every day).
  • In general, 1/2 ounce of oil burns in 1 hour in the case of oil lamps or lanterns.
  • 1 gallon of oil can last about 258 hours.

Factors That Impact Oil Lamp Burning Time

Some factors that can affect the oil lamp burning time include the wick height and the wick size

For instance, if you take a 1/2″ wick, it will draw more oil lamp than 1/8″ or 1/4″ wick.

Similarly, the length of the wick that is exposed out can also impact the efficiency of the lamp. For example, if in your lamp more than 1/8″ of wick remains exposed, then it is likely that you will be wasting more fuel and making lots of unnecessary smoke.

Also, the material of the wick you use can impact its efficiency. Like, using a fiberglass wick in place of cotton can improve the efficiency of lamps.

Moreover, the type of oil you use can also be a determining factor for how long it will burn. For example, canola, rancid olive oil, etc., will likely give you about 10% lower compared to traditional lamp oils.

If you ever got confused about lamp oil and kerosene, don’t forget to check out my complete guide on lamp oil vs kerosene.

Now let’s look at the right wick size you should have for optimal burning of your oil lamp.

How Long Should An Oil Lamp Wick Be?

On average, the distance from the top of the wick to the fuel is usually 6 inches. Now, if you have a 7-inch wick, then just think, you can only burn its 1-inch wick, after which it will become short to reach the fuel.

Hence, considering the length of the wick, it is always better to have a little more rather than not having too much. Remember, if a wick cannot reach the fuel, it will keep burning itself, dry out eventually, and extinguish itself.

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In general, it is advised that you use an 8-inch long wick, and you can cut it as per your requirement if needed.

If you have an 8-inch long wick, a half-gallon of lamp oil will usually burn around ½ to ¼ inch of that 8-inch wick. So you can roughly consider that an 8-inch wick can last about 15 gallons of lamp oil.

You can also think that if an 8-inch wick can last for about 15 gallons of lamp oil, it will be sufficient to burn the lamp oil 24 hours a day for 320 days.

So it might be already clear to you that you may not need as many wicks for oil lamps as you would have thought before.

However, if you feel that your wick burns out faster, then don’t worry. Check out my complete guide on why oil lamp wicks burn out fast, along with the solution here.

Also, it is important to note that you should cut away the char off the wick after every time you use it. 

Now there are four different things that people usually do to shape their wick:

They either trim it in a crown shape that appears like a slightly rounded point. Others prefer to trim it just flat across. In contrast, some prefer to trim it in a nicely pointed shape, while others don’t trim the lamp wick at all.

Now, if you want the brightest light, then trim your wick in a nicely pointed way. You may find that your oil will burn out a bit faster but don’t worry, as it would not be much.

As highlighted by, with a pointed tip, you can get about 140+ hours out of a half-gallon of lamp oil.

An important tip for maintaining the wick is always making sure that they are always properly soaked in the oil lamp. You should never burn the wick as dry.

If you burn your wick moderately, never let it become dry, then in most cases, you don’t have to worry about them running out. As long as you can keep the wick wet with oil, burning it, only the oil will burn and not the wick.

Oil Lamp Burning Tips

  • Before using any oil lamp, make sure that there are no debris or dust particles inside. The dust will reduce the efficiency of the oil.
  • You can strain the lamp through a cheesecloth or strainer and clean away the debris.
  • If your oil lamp has contaminated oil, then make sure to discard it. 
  • Make sure to keep in mind the fact that lamp oil can freeze when the temperature is in the colder range.
  • Ensure that oil is at room temperature before you fill it in the lamp.
  • Before you fill oil in your oil lamp, make sure to check the wick and replace it if needed.
  • If you want to reduce the amount of oil burned, make sure to lower the wick as much as possible.
  • Never use those types of fuel in oil lamps that are highly inflammable.
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Have you ever wondered if oil lamps can explode? Then I encourage you to get complete clarification on this topic by reading my article on can oil lamps explode here.


So, oil lamps, as a general rule of thumb, burn about ½ ounce of oil per hour. There are several factors that can affect the burning time, which I already discussed earlier. 

I hope you found this article helpful. I would really appreciate it if you could share this article with others or pin it to your Pinterest Oil Lamp board. Thanks!

And before you go, I have something more for you. Have you ever wondered about the safety concerns of oil lamps and if they release carbon monoxide? Then I highly suggest you check out my article on do oil lamps give off carbon monoxide here.

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