homemade tuna can oil lamp
Tips & Tricks

Homemade DIY Vegetable Oil Lamps

If you have an old fashioned oil lamp, the kind that doesn’t use kerosene or petroleum-based lamp oil, then you’re in luck! You can stock up on two preps in one bottle, saving space and money.

So what is this miracle prepper item?

Vegetable oil!

Vegetable oil works great as a fuel, is needed for cooking and frying, and also provides your body with essential fats and oils. Even used frying oil burns without odor and without smudging. Instead of throwing away your used frying oil, save it for your oil lamps!

If you don’t have a true oil lamp you can make one from materials around your house. It only takes about 15 minutes and cost nothing.

For a “lamp” you could use nearly any small glass or metal container, old tuna cans work great for this! Just bend down the lid, lay your wick in, fill ‘er up and you’re done!

For a wick you can use a string from an old mop, an shoelace, a tightly rolled up piece of paper, a porous stick,  a strip of cotton underwear, jute string, or even burlap. Just experiment to see what works.

If your container needs a wick-holder (some won’t, like a tuna can with the lid bent down) improvise  a piece of wire wound around a nail. Its job is to hold the wick up out of the oil.

You’ll need to find a way to make it easily adjustable — as the wick burns down, you need to keep feeding a little more, and ideally there would be a way to do this without putting out the light. You can hold the coil with a pair of pliers and push the wick up with a toothpick.

The only down side is vegetable oil won’t work in a kerosene or petro-based lantern. In my experience the oil would burn for a few minutes, but then the wick would burn down and smolder with thick black smoke.

What’s going on is the oil is too thick to draw up these wicks fast enough to keep feeding the flame. They are made for  thinner, more fluid oils.

Even a small improvised oil lamp burns at least an hour before the wick needs to be adjusted again. I made mine from unused items sitting around the house, all you have to do is put on your thinking cap and go savaging.

I always threw out my used frying oil but not any more! It’s good to know that we can have some light if we run out of candles and kerosene.

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Sergeant Survival

I spread the news of disaster preparedness and homesteading skills to the masses. My mission is to teach the keyboard commandos out there some real life skills.


  1. Hello : )

    Thank you for your valuable information! Have you tried thinning the cooking oil to make it wick easier?

    1. When it burning the heat make the oil thinner. twisted or braided cotton yarn

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