Lamp Oil vs Kerosene: What’s The Difference? (Explained)

Oil lamps are one of the inexpensive lighting sources we have used for a very long time. Fundamentally, the working principle of an oil lamp is quite simple; it needs fuel to burn. And you can use various types of oil as fuel. But the question is, what is the difference between lamp oil and kerosene?

Lamp oil is the purified version of kerosene that belongs to the same family as kerosene. Since lamp oil is purified, it burns cleaner and produces fewer pollutants. In contrast, kerosene contains impurities like sulfur that give it an unpleasant smell while burning. 

Let’s dive in deeper to learn about the difference between both lamps oils and kerosene in a bit more detail.


Difference Between Lamp Oil And Kerosene

Lamp Oil:Kerosene:
Impurities removedImpurities not removed
Burns cleaner Burns less clean
Fewer pollutants are releasedMore pollutants are released
More expensive comparativelyLess expensive comparatively
It doesn’t burn as brightly as keroseneBurns brightly
No unpleasant odor of burning keroseneThe unpleasant odor of burning kerosene is present

Lamp Oils

So to start with, lamp oil basically belongs to the same family as kerosene. But the thing is that the lamp oils are further purified to remove the impurities from them. As a result, lamp oils burn cleaner, and they also release fewer pollutants.

Since additional steps are required to purify a lamp oil, they are more expensive than the kerosene. And you know what, the best quality lamp oils will be virtually smokeless and odorless.

However, remember that not all lamp oil is the same, and you can find many varieties based on:

  • Viscocity (Thickness)
  • Flashpoint
  • Purity

As well as some other properties that affect burning.


Kerosene is one of the most famous options used for oil lamps. Many people around the world use it to light their oil lamps. Furthermore, it is easily available and quite cheap too.

If you have an old-timer (oil lamp hobbyist) friend, then you can come to know from them that the kerosene makes the flat wick lamp burn the brightest.

Kerosene is available in types such as red kerosene, synthetic kerosene, and K-1. Red kerosene is a bit less expensive than K-1, and it burns faster than K-1 kerosene.

However, note that the Red kerosene is dyed for regulation purposes and is used to fuel industrial equipment. The point to remember here is you should never burn red kerosene indoors because the byproducts that are released from the red dye can be harmful to you.

Another kerosene type, the K-1 kerosene, is readily available in the market and is usually very cheap. You can buy kerosene from filling stations or in prepackaged containers from any hardware store near you. Generally, it is stored in blue containers to distinguish it from gasoline.

K-1 contains sulfur and also has other impurities, because of which you will find it smelling quite unpleasant while burning. Burning kerosene outdoors, you may not fin that odor of it so bothering. But if you burn it indoors, you will notice the smell.

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Hence, appropriate ventilation becomes important if you burn kerosene indoors. Now, this could be an issue for you, especially in times where there is no power, freezing outside, and you want to make the house warm. 

Is Lamp Oil Safer Than Kerosene?

Since lamp oil releases fewer pollutants than kerosene and it is a more purified version of kerosene, so in that sense, it is safer than kerosene.

The problem with kerosene is that it contains the impurities like sulfur. An what it does is it gives an unpleasant smell while you burn kerosene. Now, if you use it outdoors, then in most cases, you won’t bother it much. But if you are thinking of using it indoors, it won’t be a great decision. 

The reason why it is not good to use kerosene indoors is not only because of its unpleasant smell. But also since it is not very healthy to inhale.

If you breathe in kerosene, then it can cause drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, and if you breathe it in large amounts, then it can also result in loss of muscle control, heart and lung problems, coma.

If you are forced to choose kerosene indoors, then make sure you have proper ventilation where you use it.

One important thing to remember for use kerosene as fuel for oil lamps. Remember, you should never use kerosene that comes with a flashpoint lower than 124 degrees F or higher than 150 degrees F.

I know you are thinking about flashpoint. Right? Well, every fuel has a flashpoint, and note that it is neither the self-igniting point nor the boiling point.

Flashpoint is basically the lowest temperature needed by a chemical to give enough damp such that it ignites when it gets in contact with an ignition source.

And the key point is the lower the temperature, the more flammable it will be. So, for instance, gasoline has a flashpoint of around minus 21° C.

Is Lamp Oil Better Than Kerosene?

Well, yes, especially considering indoors, lamp oils are better compared to kerosene. Although lamps oils are expensive, you should look into the fact that they are more purified and release fewer pollutants into the air.

If you can get a very good quality lamp oil, then it will be virtually smokeless and odorless. 

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for an oil that you can use to burn your oil lamp indoors, the standard lamp oil is your way to go. It will burn more cleaner, produce fewer pollutants, and it won’t give you unpleasant odors of kerosene. 

In short, to keep your indoor air clean and healthy, make sure to use a good quality standard lamp oil that goes that suits your oil lamp. So that’s it! Thanks.

Now, while burning your oil lamp, if you ever notice your oil lamp wick burns out faster, then don’t forget to check out my complete article on why oil lamp wick burns fast here.

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