The Difference Between Kerosene vs. Paraffin Lamp Oil

The Difference Between Kerosene vs. Paraffin Lamp Oil

Let’s set the scene. It’s a crisp fall night and you are sitting on your patio or in your yard with your favorite people. The night is young, but it’s getting dark, and the bugs are starting to find you. You could simply move the festivities indoors—but why waste a beautiful warm night? Instead, setting up an ambient tiki torch or two can help keep the light up and the bugs at bay.

Who doesn’t love the look of candles and fire lamps? It adds ambiance and a certain charm to a space. The best option is to find a refillable product that you can fill with lamp oil. Then you are faced with a tricky decision—what kind of fuel to use. Many people are confused and ask “what is kerosene lamp oil vs. paraffin lamp oil?”

There are more than just one option on the market for lamp oils. Two of the most notable and most popular are kerosene and paraffin lamp oils. While there are many advantages and drawbacks of each, many consumers seek to better understand the difference between kerosene vs. paraffin lamp oil. Is kerosene the same as paraffin? Check out our guide on each to find out.

Kerosene Lamp Oil: The Basics

What is kerosene lamp oil? Kerosene oil is a highly flammable oil that is commonly used as fuel. It is created by distilling petroleum through a process involving the heating and separation of the petroleum compounds. While kerosene oil is technically considered a paraffin oil, there are still key differences between the two. Below is a brief history of kerosene so you can become more acquainted with the fuel.

A Brief History of Kerosene

While many petroleum-based items were around thousands of years ago, kerosene was first discovered in 1853 by a British physician, Abraham Gesner. He created kerosene for the first time when he developed an extraction process to separate the inflammable liquid asphalt.

Kerosene was essential in the days before electricity, as its discovery developed the compound into an entire oil drilling industry and pushed the development of purification techniques. It held the spot as the most vital refinery product until the early 1900s.

Kerosene was regularly used to light oil lamps back in the early 1900s, and is now primarily used for residential heating.

Paraffin Lamp Oil: The Basics

Paraffin lamp oil is a liquid paraffin. While it is chemically the same family as kerosene, the two do have distinctions. Paraffin oil is purified oil that is designed for the cleanest burn possible. Paraffin lamp oil is created through a crude oil distillation process. It is a mineral oil. Here are a few important things to know about the history of paraffin lamp oil.

A Brief History of Paraffin Lamp Oil

What is paraffin oil? Paraffin oil was created by a chemist named James Young, who would later be dubbed at “Paraffin Young” for his work in oil refinery. While working in the mining industry, Young noted oil dripping from the ceiling of the mine—which led him to hypothesize he could extract oil from coal through heating. He was correct, and he eventually founded the first commercial oil refinery in the world in 1850.

Paraffin wax and paraffin oils have a wide range of uses such as cosmetics, beauty products, lighting lamps, fuel, and more. Today, paraffin fuel is still a commonly used oil and is considered one of the cleanest burns available.

Key Differences Between Kerosene and Paraffin Lamp Oil

So, is kerosene the same as paraffin? The difference between kerosene vs. paraffin lamp oil is not a single thing, but rather a multitude of factors. While they are closely related in their chemical family, they are still largely individual. Here are the key differences you should note:

  • Odor: how each oil smells.
  • Length of burn: how long each will last while burning.
  • Refining and distillation: the purification process.
  • Use options: how each oil is used.
  • Chemical differences: the chemical compounds that make up each oil.


Kerosene is an oil with a more generally distinct and present odor than paraffin. Paraffin oil is often odorless. If paraffin does have an odor, it tends to be very slight or subtle.

Length of Burn

Liquid paraffin is known to burn longer than kerosene due to its clean-burning nature.

Refining and Distillation

Paraffin oils are considered refined and go through a more rigorous distillation process. Kerosene is less refined than paraffin oil, as it does not go through an intensive distillation.

Use Options

Due to its refined nature, paraffin oil is safe for use both indoors and outdoors. Kerosene is not a clean burn, and it is therefore only suited for outdoor use.

While many people often confuse kerosene lamp oil and paraffin lamp oil for the same thing, there are very notable differences. It is vital that people understand the differences, as confusing the two could lead to a high-soot situation if kerosene is used indoors.

Chemical Differences

In chemistry, paraffin is only alkane hydrocarbons with the formula CnH2n+2 . Kerosene’s chemical makeup is a flammable hydrocarbon made exclusively from petroleum oil. Both these compounds share some vital similarities, there are also significant differences. The differences in the chemical compounds lead to differences in smell and burn type.

How To Fill and Use Your Oil Lamps

When you invest in refillable oil lamps, it’s vital to learn to fill them regardless of which oil you choose for your lamps.

  1. Remove the wick and collar from your lamp.
  2. Fill your lamp with the fuel of your choosing while following safety precautions.
  3. Replace the wick and set it slightly above the wick holder—just a tad.
  4. Carefully light the wick, and enjoy the eco-friendly burn.

Pro Tip: We recommend trying our Firefly Fuel in your refillable oil lamps. A safe and clean paraffin oil from Firefly Fuel is perfect to use in your lamps and torches.

Here are FireFly Fuel, we sell safe and green lamp oil that is eco-friendly, nontoxic, and biodegradable. Our odorless products that can be scented safely and naturally with essential oils are perfect for multiple uses.

Browse our options for refillable oil lamps and other products to pair with your new FireFly paraffin lamp oil and contact us for more information. We offer lamp types for any occasion.

The Difference Between Kerosene vs. Paraffin Lamp Oil