Lamp oil is a liquid petroleum product that is designed to burn cleanly in brass and glass oil lamps, torches, and lanterns. In the same family as kerosene, it has been further processed and refined so that it doesn't produce as much harmful smoke, soot, and other pollutants. This oil can be used for everything from emergency indoor lighting during a blackout to soothing lamp light for a summer evening's barbecue.
When homes used to be lit solely by lamps, the fuel they burned was usually kerosene. This fuel, however, wasn't ideal, since it created a lot of black soot that darkened the glass globes of lanterns and dirtied windows, walls, fabric, and anything with which it comes in contact. Manufacturers, under pressure from eager consumers, decided to distill kerosene further so the fuel could be burned indoors without as much inconvenience.
Now, "ultrapure" or "ultraclean" lamp oil can be found at most supermarkets, outdoor suppliers, and camping stores. Some people keep a store of it along with other emergency supplies, such as a battery-powered radio, water, and first aid kit. Lamps are safer than candles and more reliable than flashlights.
As an oil distillate, this product is a flammable liquid that releases energy in the form of light and heat when its hydrocarbons burn. Like other hydrocarbon products, it must be treated with care. Users should always follow the instructions on the lamp or lantern when filling the reservoir, although usually, it's safe to fill it to within about 0.5 inch (1.27 cm) of the top. The wick should be cleaned and clipped before each lighting, and it should never be rolled down while it is alight. The fuel should be kept at or near room temperature, not in a garage or shed where it could freeze; frozen oil may defrost too quickly, posing an explosive hazard.
The standard variety of lamp oil resembles water in its viscosity, and it is also perfectly clear. There are many specialty varieties that appeal to people's sense of design, however, and the oil can be colored so it adds a decorative touch to lanterns with transparent reservoirs. Purple or red provide a romantic atmosphere, while green and blue evoke serenity.
Oil can also be aromatic so that when it burns, it spreads a soothing scent through the air, much like an air freshener. Rose or lavender might be appropriate scents for a master bathroom or bedroom, while lemongrass or vanilla could scent a kitchen. Of course, citronella oil, when burned in outdoor torches, may help keep away mosquitoes and other bothersome insects.