Oil lamps, lanterns and oil candles are a popular way to add a cozy cheerful glow to your home, especially in the colder months. One question we hear a lot when it comes to fueling these lanterns and candles is – Which is better, lamp oil or kerosene?

For these purposes, let’s assume you’re only going to be using your oil lamp indoors. The most important thing to be concerned about is the odor, smoke, and fumes generated as the fuel burns.

Lamp Oil generally refers to liquid paraffin. It’s in the same chemical family as kerosene but has been purified to make it burn more cleanly. Lamp oil IS more expensive than kerosene, for a good reason - the extra steps taken to purify the fuel means fewer impurities go into your air. A really good-quality lamp oil will be virtually smokeless, with no odor. And don't assume all lamp oils are created equal - there are a lot of varieties available, with varying degrees of purity.

Kerosene comes in two varieties: red kerosene and K-1. Red kerosene is dyed red for tax purposes and is generally used to fuel industrial equipment. DON’T ever burn red kerosene in an indoor oil lamp, because the fumes from the red dye can be harmful. K-1 Kerosene can be used in indoor lanterns but contains sulfur and other impurities that can give it an unpleasant, oily smell when it burns (which can give some people a headache). Because of these impurities, it also gives off considerably more smoke than pure lamp oil.

True, kerosene will save you a few bucks over lamp oil, but you're sacrificing purity. Keep your indoor air clean - stick with paraffin lamp oil this winter!