How to Restore Old Kerosene Lanterns

Updated February 21, 2017

Oil lamps first emerged in the1600s, primarily used in lighthouses in Europe. It wasn't until the 1890s that kerosene lamps with round wicks, whose flame received oxygen through a draft tube, came on the scene. While electricity makes kerosene lanterns largely obsolete, an old kerosene lantern gives a room an instant, undeniable touch of the old-fashioned. Many old kerosene lanterns that you come across at flea markets or antique shops will require a bit of restoration to make them as lovely as they once were.

Unscrew the lid or upper portion that covers the kerosene bank. You'll need to remove the years of kerosene build-up. Fill the kerosene bank with gasoline and replace the top. Let it sit over night.

Unscrew the lid or upper portion and spill out the gasoline into an appropriate vessel. This will take out all the waxy deposits of kerosene from throughout the years. Replace the wick and screw the cover or upper portion back on. Your lantern is now ready for use, at least from the outside.

Spray the exterior of the surface with a rust dissolver if the lamp is brass or metal. Wipe off the anti-rust spray with a soft cloth. You'll see the rust vanish before your eyes.

Combine 1 tsp salt in 1/2 cup vinegar in a small bowl. Mix and then add enough flour so that your substance becomes a thick paste.

Rub the mixture onto the exterior of your kerosene lamp if it's brass, let it sit for a 15 minutes and then wipe it off. Rinse the exterior with clean water and buff it dry.


If your kerosene lamp is ceramic, fill a small bowl with warm water and add a dab of mild detergent. Dip cotton balls in the mixture and wipe off the exterior of the lamp, using cotton swabs for crevices and other hard-to-reach areas.

Things You'll Need

  • Gasoline
  • Rust dissolver
  • Soft cloth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • Flour
  • Small bowl
  • Mild detergent
  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton swabs
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About the Author

Lane Cummings is originally from New York City. She attended the High School of Performing Arts in dance before receiving her Bachelor of Arts in literature and her Master of Arts in Russian literature at the University of Chicago. She has lived in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she lectured and studied Russian. She began writing professionally in 2004 for the "St. Petersburg Times."