Aladdin Lamps: A Safety Reminder

Good morning!  I’m so excited to ‘see’ winter!  The sparkly snow and pretty drifts actually look like winter!  While the blizzard a few weeks ago did not leave as much snow as I expected (or wanted), the snow day was fun!  Everyone was home, safe and cozy warm.

Thankfully we didn’t lose electricity, but it is always good to be prepared.  In the winter, we have a kerosene heater, kerosene and back-up light sources ready. 

Can barely see the soot, above the shade

Using back-up light sources can be fun, but safety is always important.  Today’s post, Aladdin Lamps:  A Safety Reminder is just a gentle reminder, from a scary incident, to be careful and stay safe.

Candles and regular kerosene lamps are great frugal light sources in case the electricity goes out.  I buy candles cheaply at garage sales, thrift stores and auctions.  The candles are also a great frugal craft supply for fire starters and new candle crafts. 

Thanks to auctions, we have another frugal addition to our winter stockpile:  2 vintage Aladdin lamps.  Researching the history and use of these bright lamps has been fun.  But I definitely need to keep safety in mind: candles and kerosene lamps should not be left unattended.

In addition to having them on hand for electricity outages, I like using candles and kerosene lamps to reduce the electric bill.  I’m not sure it’s cheaper (especially since we have led lightbulbs), but the candles and lamps are so warm and cozy in the fall and winter.  So, sometimes in the early morning or evening, I use them instead of turning on a light. 

Doing this safely, for long enough, almost made me careless though.

I almost took a shower (doesn’t sound very dramatic, does it?).

But, it could have been dangerous.

The silver Aladdin lamp has a pretty, clean mantle- the other one was almost dangerous!

When I’m using candles and lamps, I wander in and out of 3 adjoining rooms, doing chores, reading and getting ready for the day.  When I’m done in a room, get in the shower or go upstairs to sew, I put those candles out for safety, since they won’t be attended.

Putting out a kerosene lamp and restarting it is not as easy as putting out and relighting a candle. 

Since we don’t have young children anymore, I started thinking it might be ok to leave the lamps on, even if I was in the shower.  Thankfully, I never got beyond thinking.

Kerosene lamps, especially Aladdin lamps need the wicks adjusted (turned up or down) as they are used.  Unlike a candle, you can’t just light them and rather ignore them.  Aladdin lamps need 10-20 minutes, after lighting the round wick, to warm up and then the flame is adjusted so the mantle is bright.  They can also get hotter and need turned down as they burn. 

Sometimes if they are not turned down, a flame from the round wick can make a hot spot in the mantle.  The mantle is a special net that gives off the brighter light.  They are fragile, and a hot spot can burn a hole in the mantle, ruining it. 

The twirly soot almost looks pretty

Once, we had a small black soot spot in the mantle.  I had read to try relighting the lamp, occasionally it is not a bad burn spot and it will go away-that one did! 

Even though Aladdin lamps are more work, it is really fun and amazing when you get used to using them, but safety is always important!

Thankfully, I learned how important it is before I got in the shower with an unattended lamp!

One day, last winter, I finished my chores with the candles and lamps burning cozily.  Then, I sat down at the table next to the Aladdin lamp to read. 

As I read, it got dimmer and dimmer.  I adjusted my glasses and moved the book closer.  It continued to get darker, so I Iooked outside the window-pretty cloudy day, I continued to read.  Finally, I glanced at the lamp, maybe I should turn it up?

No!  There were flames coming from the chimney of my Aladdin lamp!!  As I sat, right next to it, trying to read!

Thankfully, I could quickly turn the wick down and puff over the chimney to blow it out.  The chimney did not shatter or break, but it popped and creaked scarily as it cooled down.

I tried to light it again, but the mantle is ruined, it should just glow brightly

Even though I wasn’t very observant, I was glad I was sitting there and not in the shower!  I eventually noticed the lamp flames and was able to safely put it out.

It was a scary reminder to be careful with kerosene lamps and candles.  I had almost gotten too comfortable and therefore careless with the warm, cozy lights.

I am using candles again, but the kerosene lamp has sat dark all year.

This winter, I finally cleaned the chimneys and tried both Aladdin lamps again.  The silver lamp still works fine, but the one that started on fire needs a new mantle.  I tried lighting it again, to see if it would fix itself and just burn off the soot, but it started on fire right away.  The mantle is ruined.  This time, I was watching carefully (ok, I was standing there staring at it) and could put it out right away.

I love using the cozy, warm candles and lamps.  They are so nice on a cold, snowy day.  They are also a great, frugal back-up light source in case the electricity goes out.  It doesn’t go out as often, or for as long, as when I was growing up, but the electricity does still go out.  I am glad to be enjoying them again, but I will be much more careful with the candles and kerosene lamps from now on.  I hope everyone has a warm, safe winter. 

Happy Camping (or enjoying the cozy candlelight)

Frugal Campasaurus


  1. The mantle is not ruined, you can use a propane torch or torch-style butane lighter to burn off the soot, it will work like new.

      1. You can also – with painful, careful attention: AFTER the chimney has been gently washed, cleaned dried and is bright as new clear glass again — AND — you have trimmed the wick again (ever so slightly)…
        You can relight, and replace the chimney+wick assembly.
        Turn down the lamp as low as it will go.
        Then slowly – and you can never leave this unattended – slowly, very very slowly, increase the burn until some edges of the carbon soot glow orange. This tiny bit of carbon soot will burn off. Turn up a tiny fraction more. ONLY enough burn to keep the lower edges of the carbon soot a dull orange.
        This will take hours – and you can not take your eyes off the process ever, but the soot will, eventually burn off and you’ll have a clean mantle again.

        1. Thanks, it sounds like a long, but careful process. I have been using my other Aladdin lamp and haven’t fixed the sooty mantle yet, so I may try it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.