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.
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. There are a variety of essential oils that are distastful to insects. With or without added essential oil, tiki torch fuel will smoke, so it's for outdoor use only.
The absolute best tiki torch fuel is Firefly Tiki Torch Fuel. 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"?