What’s really in tiki torch fuel?

by Susan Tysonby

Common, big-box store Tiki torch fuel is a petroleum-based product. What this means is it has been refined from crude oil. Crude oil is made up of hydrocarbons, which contain a lot of energy. Many of the chemicals derived from crude oil like gasoline, diesel fuel, and of course, tiki torch fuel, utilize this energy.

There are alternatives to using tiki torch fuel in your torches and we don’t suggest kerosene as it makes tiki torch fuel look clean! The reason you would want to use another fuel is the fact that tiki torch fuel stinks, produces lots of smoke and soots up everything in the vicinity.

Here’s a soot and burn test video to show you the various alternative fuels.

The combustible element of torch fuel is in a chemical group called naphthas. These are liquids that fall somewhere in the distillation process between light gases and heavier liquids like kerosene. There are different grades of naphthas, and the class widely used as solvents also makes a very effective fuel for your torch.

Many torch fuels on the market have also added low concentrations of Citronella or Lemongrass oil to repel insects. The Citronella scent confuses mosquitoes, making it difficult for them to locate a host. We’ve found that adding Eucalyptus oil is also a very effective way to shoo away the bugs. With or without added essential oil, tiki torch fuel will smoke, so it’s for outdoor use only.

The absolute best mosquito tiki torch fuel is Safe & Green with Guardian. NO KIDDING. This stuff really works even when NOT LIT. The Standard Hotel in Miami is one of our customers and they’re thrilled with the performance.

To sum it up, the tiki torch oil you’re buying is petroleum distillate specially selected for its safe, burning properties. Note the words “specially selected” – a can of solvent from the local Home Depot does NOT equal tiki torch fuel. Improvising on your torch oil means running the risk of poisoning your guests with toxic fumes or setting your patio ablaze. At the very least, using low-quality or non-torch fuels will gum up and clog the wick, which seriously limits your torch’s performance.

Please don’t play with fire – only use fuels specifically created for use with your tiki torch! I know I’m not alone in my research – what’s the most unusual suggestion you’ve found to “make your own tiki torch fuel”?


Susan Tyson

VP Marketing at Firefly Fuel, Inc.
VP of Marketing at Firefly Fuel, Inc - An innovative, eco-friendly company supplying refillable oil candles and green fuel to homeowners, restaurants and resorts.
  • Terry Ede

    Good comment on Torch Fuel, safety, and common sense. Any idea where larger (maybe less expensive) quantities might be purchased. Buying a 5 or 10 gallon container may make more sense that in 1/2 gal jugs.

    Thank you,

  • A.J.

    In a sluggish economy, some people are going to try saving $ wherever they can, and “tiki” oils are sometimes marked up for what they are. Those blog articles note that something like the kerosene used in lamps and shop heaters can be of high grade and clean burning, so people are going to try it. It may not smell nice (not that tiki smoke does) but unless there’s a specific hazard highlighted (like some kerosenes being too low in flash point), they’ll likely keep doing it.

  • joe smith

    You claim:
    Lemon Eucalyptus oil is also a very effective way to shoo away the bugs, and it’s even been proven by the CDC to be as effective as DEET.
    Can you provide a reference for that? There is not proven alternative to DEET.

    • susi

      Hi Joe,

      Here is a link to the CDC website. CDC on products containing lemon eucalyptus oil

      • sigmatheta


        Actually the CDC website says that eucalyptus oil is NOT in the same class as DEET. It says that pure lemon eucalyptus oil is not registered with EPA as an insect repellent and is not considered effective on its own. That is not at all the same as “proven by the CDC to be as effective as DEET” which misrepresents what the CDC says. Very irresponsible of Susan Tyson to say that considering what’s at stake with Zika, West Nile etc.

        • http://www.FireflyFuel.com Susan Tyson

          The page I referenced 4 years is no longer available. The URL redirects to a general information page.

          Link Referenced: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/repellentupdates.htm

          Result After Redirect

          After a little research, I found the original Press Release by the CDC.


          For Immediate Release

          April 28, 2005 Contact: CDC Media Relations


          CDC Adopts New Repellent Guidance for Upcoming Mosquito Season

          Americans have more options than ever to use in protecting themselves from mosquito bites. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance about effective mosquito repellents available in the United States. The updated guidance includes addition of two active ingredients – picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus – which have been shown to offer long-lasting protection against mosquito bites. Repellents containing DEET continue to be a highly effective repellent option and are also included in the CDC guidelines.

          Picaridin, also known as KBR 3023, is an ingredient found in many mosquito repellents used in Europe, Australia, Latin America and Asia for some time. Evidence indicates that it works very well, often comparable with DEET products of similar concentration. One product, containing 7 percent picaridin, is being distributed in the United States for the first time this year. The other repellent is oil of lemon eucalyptus (also known as p-menthane 3,8-diol or PMD), a plant-based mosquito repellent that provided protection time similar to low concentration DEET products in two recent studies. It is available in a variety of formulations throughout the United States.

          “We’re very excited that the number of options people have to protect themselves from mosquitoes and therefore West Nile Virus has increased,” said CDC Director Julie L. Gerberding. “Products containing DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus are all excellent choices. The important thing is that they remember to protect themselves from mosquito bites when they’re going to be outside. We want people to enjoy their spring and summer free of West Nile Virus.”

          Mosquito season has already begun in some parts of the country. With mosquitoes comes the risk of West Nile Virus infection and other infections spread by mosquitoes. Just one bite can lead to an infection that could cause serious illness or even death. While people over 50 are more likely to become seriously ill if infected with WNV, people of any age can become mildly to seriously ill. Most people who contract West Nile Virus do not show any symptoms. However, about 20 percent of people experience symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea and vomiting and an estimated 1 in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss and paralysis.

          DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus are all registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates these products. Repellents registered with EPA have been evaluated for both safety and efficacy when used according to label instructions.

          CDC recommends that people use repellent anytime they go outside, especially during prime mosquito biting hours, between dusk and dawn. People should follow the label instructions, and if they start getting bitten re-apply repellent.

          CDC works with state and local health departments, federal and other government agencies, as well as private industry, to prepare for and prevent new cases of West Nile virus infection. CDC coordinates ArboNet, a nation-wide electronic database that gathers information about West Nile virus in humans and animals, in order to guide prevention and response activities. To learn more about how to protect yourself and your family from West Nile Virus, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/westnile. More information on the guidance is available at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/RepellentUpdates.htm.

  • Pyro

    This is total BS. Any fuel designed to burn in a lamp with an exposed wick will safely work in a tiki torch. Tiki torch fuel is lamp oil with a huge mark up an a tiny amount of lemongrass and citronella. Plain and simple.

  • Pyro

    This is total BS. Any petroleum based lamp fuel designed to burn in a lamp with an exposed (open air) wick will safely work in a tiki torch. Tiki torch fuel is lamp oil with a small amount of citronella and lemongrass and a huge mark up. Plain and simple.

    • Phil

      Hi Pyro,

      You are correct that any petroleum based fuel DESIGNED to burn in a lamp with an exposed wick will work.

      You fail to note that there are fuels and there are fuels.

      Firefly Fuels are the HIGH TEST of fuels that burn easily and safely in all Tiki Torches and Lamps using good quality fiberglass wicks.

      We tested all of the available lamp and tiki torch fuels on the market and found quite a performance disparity and significant flash temperature differences. Lower flash temps mean more flammability. Higher flash temps mean less flammability. Firefly Tiki Torch Fuel has a higher flash temp than any of the fuels we tested, is considered a combustible product rather than flammable and can be shipped safely via UPS or FedEx.
      The next criteria we tested for was burn time. Firefly Fuels consistently burned longer and, in some tests, actually burned twice the time of competitive Tiki and Lamp oils.

      Our testing also evaluated wick response and life. The wick is the heart of any quality tiki torch. Wicks become clogged by low quality fuels causing reduced flame, dirty burns and short burn times. Firefly Fuels work well with any tiki torch or lamp, utilizing a fiberglass wick, providing a great flame color, long clean burns with no “clogging” of the wick.

      Fiberglass wicks are the preferred wick for safe operation of any lamp or Tiki torch. Cotton wicks can be used but actually are consumed during use. The ends become charred causing reduced wicking, much shorter burn times, dirty burns and constant wick maintenance.

      Additives such as Citronella and Eucalyptus essential oils have been found to act as insect repellents when mixed in appropriate amounts with Firefly Fuels. In our experience the Eucalyptus oil is most effective in repelling pesky insects.

      The most effective, best mosquito repellent is Guardian which is a blend of essential oils. It is only available in our Safe & Green tiki torch fuel.

  • John Marciniak

    Can I use guardian in my kerosene lanterns?
    Specifically Dietz and W T Kirkman tube lanterns.

    • http://www.FireflyFuel.com Susan Tyson

      Yes. I would caution you to completely empty the old fuel, get it as dry as possible and use a new wick.

  • Tony Stoughton

    Can you blend FireFly with Citronella oil?

    • http://www.FireflyFuel.com Susan Tyson

      We offer Fireflyfuel with Citronella Oil with our tiki fuel and our paraffin fuel. You can add citronella yourself if you like.

  • elektra

    The guy that owns this is a quack

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