Zippo lighter fluid: what you need to know (+3 alternatives) (2023)

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How much do you know about lighter bolts and nuts? And, perhaps just as important, how much do you know about fuel for your lighters?

Once again, with the help of my friend,brown rumToday I am going to delve into of lightersand give you everything you need to know about lighters and lighter fluid to survive.

Zippo lighter fluid: what you need to know (+3 alternatives) (1)

The mystique of Zippo lighters

What I'm going to say in this article was inspired by this honest dialogue I had online:

“I inherited an old Zippo lighter from my grandfather. Can I use charcoal lighter fluid?”

well why not? There isZippo lighter fluid,Ronson/Ronsonol lighting liquid, it is includedcharcoal lighter fluid.

Zippo lighter fluid: what you need to know (+3 alternatives) (2)

It's like arguing with my wife over cheese balls. To me, a cheese ball is a semi-hard cheese, about the size of a baseball, and rolled in shredded pecan meat. To them, cheese balls are the size of marbles, they are puffy curls of cheese and contain orange dye that sticks to teeth. Both are popular at parties.

It turns out that there are different things called cheese balls. Similarly, there are various things called lighter fluids.

Lighter Fluid: Bad Information

The question of the InternetCan I use charcoal lighter fluid in my Zippo?”Got an answer from the internet (but not from me):

“Filling a Zippo with charcoal lighter fluid is goodbye to eyebrows and nose hair. And any other part of your anatomy that is in close proximity to the explosion when it occurs."

This answer is 100% wrong. A second, 100% incorrect answer immediately followed: “Charcoal lighter fluid in the Zippo? No way. You must use butane.

And an answer: "Well, I finally took my Zippo apart, but I still don't know how to put the butane in it."

my recording? As Albert Einstein said: "The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits."

Zippo and butane lighters

Let's tackle the Zippo/Butane thing first.

ZippoLighters were patented in 1936 and had their heyday with soldiers in World War II. Zippos uses liquid fuel (clean gas). The tiny fuel tank was stuffed with cotton to prevent the liquid from spilling into the pocket. A wick carried the fuel to the flame by capillarity.

Zippo's reign as the king of lighters ended in 1973 with the introduction of the Bic.disposable butane gas lighterswhich could provide 3,000 lights before it runs out. How do you spell goodbye Zippo? Answer. "Spin my bike."

Today you can buy a new Zippo and a small can of gas for a dollar at the Dollar Store. A Zippo and a can of gasoline are equivalent to 78 butane lighters.

Judging from the internet, people born after 1970 may never have seen a Zippo-style lighter. They sincerely believe that butane is the only fuel used in lighters.

So we have to understand butane a little better. . .

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TOP (from left to right):(1) disposable butane lighter; (2) butane gas refillable lighter; (3) butane refill canister; (4) To fill, hold canister and igniter upside down, push connectors together and press until a comfortable feel is reached.

Water boils from a liquid to a gas at 212 degrees F. Butane boils from a liquid to a gas at 31 degrees F. When the ice melts, butane is boiling. Therefore it is a gas at room temperature. In a refill can, butane is a liquid only because it has been pressurized, similar to an aerosol can.

You can get the butane out of your canister:

  1. turn it upside down
  2. Hold it at a slight angle and
  3. Push the needle down on a hard surface.

The butane comes out as a liquid, but you can actually see it bubbling as it cooks. It dissipates into the atmosphere too quickly to be useful on your Zippo. And you won't like the way it smells either.

And then there's the charcoal lighter fluid

OK. We're finally ready to talk about charcoal lighter fluid, also known as mineral spirits. If you remember, that was the original question. Can charcoal lighter fluid be substituted for Zippo/Ronsonol lighter fluid? And the answer came back: “No! it will explode.”

INCORRECT! But where did the idea come from that charcoal lighter fluid is explosive?

START HERE: To speed things up, charcoal lighter fluid is sometimes sprayed onto an already lit charcoal grill.

Note: Let's be clear here. We're talking about a CHARCOAL grill, not a GAS grill!

Lighter fluid does not spread to open flames because lit charcoal just glows; there is no FLAME to ignite the liquid. (And it takes a flame or a spark to light it. Don't you remember to dip your cigarette in a cup of gasoline to impress the girls?)

But although there is no ignition, the liquid heats up. It begins to vaporize and smoke. It passes its "flash point" but there is still no flame to ignite it. When it reaches its "autoignition temperature" (ie 473 degrees F where a flame is no longer needed), POOF!

Flameless preheat vaporizes a large volume of liquid before ignition occurs. And this is the problem. Half a teaspoon is not a threat to your eyebrows. Half a cup is a threat to your home. Flameless preheating doesn't get proper credit for results.

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As long as mineral spirits are at room temperature, no "explosion" can occur. Mineral spirits are liquid at room temperature. And a liquid has to vaporize and become a gas before it can OXIDIZE. . . that is, they combine with oxygen. . . that is, BURN.

This is 9th grade science.

Side note: For those unfamiliar with the term: “mineral spirits' sounds plural. It is not. Mineral spirits are unique. It takes some getting used to.

Zippo lighter fluid is highly volatile. Technically it is flammable. It evaporates easily. Vapors are always present at room temperature and can be ignited by a flame or even a spark.

For all practical purposes, charcoal lighter fluid does not evaporate at room temperature and is said to be flammable. The fumes are too thin and too far apart to catch fire. Like candle wax, it must be preheated to the point of vapor formation before it can be ignited. A match takes over both the preheat function and the function of igniting the vapours.

As a fuel in a Zippo, charcoal lighter will not perform like motor oil. Spinning the impeller produces a shower of sparks, but the sparks do not generate enough heat to vaporize the fuel. The lighter will not glow let alone explode. Your nose hairs are safe.

How to fill a Zippo lighter

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TOP (from left to right): Zippo refill:

  1. Take the insides out of the box first.
  2. Then turn the inner assembly over and lift up the felt support.
  3. Insert the spout of the liquid can and squeeze.
  4. The juice flows from the can to the cotton ball inside the lighter. The liquid can is just a can. It is not pressurized like a butane gas canister.

Alternatives and Replacements for Zippo Lighter Fuel

But that raises an interesting possibility. Although we can't use flammable liquids (diesel fuel, kerosene, mineral spirits) in a Zippo, can we substitute other flammable liquids (gasoline, Coleman fuel, acetone)? Will they work?

But first let's address flash point, flammability, and combustibility.

The "flash point" is the lowest temperature at which a liquid can form an ignitable mixture with air. OSHA defines aflammableLiquid as “any liquid with a flash point equal to orabove100°F.” Kerosene and diesel fuel are both "flammable."

AflammableThe liquid has a flash point.low100°F Coleman fuel (also known as white gas) and gasoline are "flammable."

· Let's start at Ground Zero. Zippo and/or Ronsonol lighter fluid. Do these work in a zippo style cigarette lighter?


· Coleman fuel. Does it work in a zippo lighter?

Yes. White gasoline with a hint of perfume is equivalent to lighter fluid.

· Other flammable liquids. Gasoline (gasoline), paint thinner, acetone - is that even possible?

No. At least not in the way I expected.

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The problem is the Zippo wick.

Maybe the diameter is too small. Or too big. Or too close. Or too fluffy. Or the wrong material (Zippo wicks are made of asbestos). Ultimately, it was developed to carry a specific fuel, clean gas, from the fuel tank to the flame. Acetone was out of the question.

BUT if you put two drops of acetone (or any other flammable liquid) directly onto the wick of a Zippo and spin the beater wheel, the acetone will ignite and burn for 30 seconds. And thirty seconds of live flame is not bad. Enough time to light a piece of paper or wood chips, which can then be used to light a candle or campfire.

Some common flammable liquids:

· VM&P Naphtha (ie, painters' and paint manufacturers' naphtha; naphtha is an alternative name for white gas).

· Petrol (gasoline for the English).

· Acetone (nail polish remover).

· Paint thinner.

· brandy inglés

Denatured alcohol (used as a shellac thinner and as fuel in ship's furnaces).

· Dry gas (methanol; a form of alcohol).

CAUTION: Alcohol flames are difficult to see.

imco lighters

There is an Englishman on eBay who sells IMCO lighters. Developed in the 1930s, they are made in Austria and appear to be Europe's answer to the Zippo. From the eBay sales pitch:

“These lighters are a great piece of equipment, they are easier to use than a Zippo, cheaper, and can be used as candles too. . . Works with lighter fluid or gasoline. . . IMCO has produced and sold more than HALF A BILLION (yes, half a billion!) lighters. . .”

Zippo lighter fluid: what you need to know (+3 alternatives) (7)

For the sake of the completeness of the article I bought one. What fascinated me was the possibility of multi-fuel use. And indeed, with its cotton wick, it works very well with gasoline.

Unfortunately, one might believe that “These lighters. . . double as a candle.

Zippo lighter fluid: what you need to know (+3 alternatives) (8)

Up to the left:Installation. I inserted the IMCO "sail" into a 5/8 diameter hole to prevent it from tipping over.Center:Everything's fine.On the right:This happened suddenly at 15 minutes. Sorry, the focus is bad; it caught me off guard.

So there you have it, everything you need to know as a refueler about fueling your Zippo lighters!

© Ron Braun 2016

About Ron Brown and the Non-Electric Lighting Series

I have been working with Ron for a long time. We met when he presented hisLanterns, lamps and candles CD(still available on their website). Later, when Ron realized that CD books weren't as popular as e-books, he converted all of his material into print and electronic formats. This became his non-electric lighting series, which is currently being sold.

And the part about the lighters? According to Ron, "lighters" were left on the fitting room floor along with "matches" (which I shared a few weeks ago).Here).

On a shameless note, if you like Ron's work I suggest you pick up one of his books. They are inexpensive and a valuable addition to his survival library. It doesn't hurt that they are very readable and are written with a lot of wit and humor.

Here is a link to thatRon's Non-Electric Lighting Seriesof books on Amazon.

The last word

When it comes tolighters, I personally have a dozen original BICs, as well as a tablet with100 BIC counterfeits. The latter are kept in my gear locker for later use or swapping. I don't trust them enough to carry them in my backpack.

I also have a Zippo, plus a dozen of them.Butano-Grillstäbe. Yes, I can do it with my fire.swedish fire steel, but as they say, it is much easier to move my BIC.

Helpful Links

Bargain Bin:Below are links to articles related to today's article.

Zippo Street chrome pocket lighter: Zippo has been making refillable, windproof and virtually indestructible lighters for over 75 years. The Zippo Street Chrome Pocket Lighter is no exception. This windproof lighter features a classic textured chrome finish and carries the same lifetime warranty whether it works or Zippo fixes it for free, lifetime. All wearing parts, including flints and wicks, are replaceable. Every prepper should have at least one Zippo!

100 BIC Style Lighters Classic Disposable Lighter: These are great to have on hand for both surviving and trading.

10 Pack Refillable Wand Lighters:These wand-style lighters are typically sold for use with grills and campfires. Me? I use it to light my gas stove and gas fireplace when the power goes out. I like that they are rechargeable.

The new 2000 hour flashlight: With a few simple tools and a lantern lamp, you can easily build a lantern that will provide 2000 hours of usable light.

Zippo Premium Lighter FluidIt optimally holds your Zippo Windproof Lighter and Zippo Hand Warmer.

Zippo 6 Value Pack of Wicks and Flints: Like the components of Coleman Lanterns, the bits and pieces of a Zippo lighter are interchangeable. If you have a top of the line Zippo lighter, be sure to stock up on wicks and flints.

Light my fire Schwedischer FireSteel: This "Scout" is the one I have. This simple pocket lighter will help you start a beautiful fire in almost any condition. This is a small, compact version and my personal favourite.

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