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People used oil lamps for centuries to light the home prior to the invention of electric lighting. Many still rely on these lamps to provide light during a power outage, or for outdoor events and camping trips. These lamps burn a special type of oil made from refined kerosene and designed to burn cleaner than traditional fuels. Buyers can choose from several types of lamp oil, including standard and ultra-clean varieties, as well as organic and specialty oils.
Traditional lamp oil consists of refined kerosene, or paraffin, and is made from hydrocarbon molecules produced during petroleum refining. This oil burns effectively, but produces several unwanted side effects as it lights a room. Like many kerosene-based products, it produces a large amount of soot and smoke as it burns. This creates an unpleasant mess and leaves a dark residue coating on the lamp and surrounding surface. Depending on the lamp design, this oil may reduce visible light because of the dark coating it creates.
Ultra-clean or ultra-pure lamp oils are made from standard kerosene, but are distilled multiple times to reduce pollutants. This results in a very clean-burning oil that serves as one of the most popular types in use today. This oil burns cleanly and leaves less sooty residue on the lamp and other surfaces. It also helps users maximize visible light by keeping the glass free of soot, and reduces the amount of pollutants that enter the air in the home.
Some eco-conscious consumers have also turned to organic oils made from vegetables and other plants. These oils tend to cost more, but burn very cleanly and help reduce the user's dependence on petroleum. Ancient people relied on castor oil, which comes from the castor plant. Modern users generally stick to products made from olive oil, vegetable oil, or any number of beans or seeds. These oils do not introduce harmful fumes into the air, and do not produce the soot associated with kerosene.
Throughout history, many people have used scented or colored oil as part of religious or cultural ceremonies. Today, these oils may still be used in this manner, or may simply be chosen for the ambiance they create. Colored products can be used to create a specific mood or tone within a room, and ones scented with essential oils or perfumes can add pleasant fragrances to the home.