How to burn olive oil in an oil lamp

Written by chyrene pendleton
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How to burn olive oil in an oil lamp
Burn olive oil in an oil lamp or any wide-mouth, glass container. (oil lamp image by Pierrette Guertin from

Vegetable oils, such as olive oil, continue to provide an effective, reliable source of fuel for oil lamps. Olive oil also burns inexpensively -- taking eight hours to burn just one ounce -- with a small wick and flame. If you don't have an oil lamp, make one in less than an hour.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wick
  • Olive oil
  • Long fireplaces matches
  • Fireplace butane lighter (optional)
  • 12-inch, 6-ply piece of uncoated cotton string
  • Vinegar
  • Wide-mouthed glass jar
  • Small piece of wood
  • Nail
  • Hammer
  • Candle wax (optional)

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  1. 1

    Insert the wick and wick holder into the fuel reservoir of your oil lamp.

  2. 2

    Fill the fuel reservoir two-thirds full of olive oil. Use rancid olive oil, if you have any. Although fresh olive oil burns well, aged, rancid olive oil burns more efficiently and longer. Open another bottle of olive oil and leave it open -- so it can become rancid -- while you burn the olive oil you have.

  3. 3

    Light your oil lamp using a long fireplace match, or fireplace butane lighter.

  4. 4

    Adjust the flame by lowering or raising the wick -- after the holder and wick have cooled down.

    Position the top of the wick just under the lip of the wick holder. Your oil lamp may smoke when the wick sticks out from the top of the holder. Your oil lamp flame should resemble a candle in strength and size.

  1. 1

    Soak a 12-inch, 6-ply piece of uncoated and unwaxed cotton string in vinegar, and allow it to dry completely. The vinegar allows the string to burn cleaner and brighter.

  2. 2

    Pour olive oil into a wide-mouth glass container, such as a jar. Make certain you leave enough clearance for the flame. Anything over 1 1/2-inches will be a safe clearance. Use a jar that has more width than height: This prevents you from having to add oil too often.

  3. 3

    Make a hole through a small piece of wood, using a nail and hammer. The nail should make a hole large enough to thread the wick through, but not so tight you cannot pull the string up, as the wick burns. You should have the longer piece of wick below the wood, in the oil. Ensure you have a small enough piece of wood, so it can float inside the glass jar.

  4. 4

    Twist one end of the cotton wick to a point with your fingers, and thread it through the hole in the wood. You can also apply candle wax to the tip, to make a firm point. Then trim off the waxed tip, after feeding the string through, before lighting it.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a cotton shoelace for a wick, if you do not have any.
  • You can use a piece of cork instead of wood.
  • For a scented oil lamp, put a few drops of your favourite essential oil into the olive oil.

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