1870,  Around the Home,  Browse By Era,  Browse by Subject,  Household Helps,  Victorian

Advice in Regard to Kerosene Lamps.

As at present so many parties are abolishing the use of gas and substituting kerosene lamps, a few words of warning and advice about their use may be welcome to many. Frequent accidents show that kerosene lamps are more or less dangerous from a tendency to explode, and if they do, it is always caused by the vapor or gas that collects in the space above the oil. When full of oil, of course a lamp contains no gas; but immediately on lighting the lamp, consumption of oil begins, soon leaving a space of gas, which commences to form as the lamp warms up, and after burning a short time, sufficient gas will accumulate to form an explosion.

The gas in a lamp will explode only when ignited; in this respect it is like gunpowder. Cheap or inferior oil is always the most dangerous, while on the other hand the superior qualities of oil, which stand a high fire test, are almost as safe as rape{seed} oil.

The flame is communicated to the gas in the following manner: The wick-tube in all lamp burners is made larger than the wick which is to pass through it. It would not do to have the wick tightly in the burner; on the contrary, it is essential that it should move up and down with perfect ease. In this way it is unavoidable that space in the tube is left along the sides of the wick sufficient for the flame from the burner to pass down into the lamp and explode the gas.

Many things may occur to cause the flame to pass down the wick. A lamp may be standing on a table or mantel, and a slight puff of air from the open window, or sudden opening of a door, may do it; or a lamp may be taken up quickly from a table or mantel, or taken into an entry where there is a strong draught, or out of doors, or taken up a flight of stairs; in all these cases the mischief is done by the air movement, either by suddenly checking the draught or forcing air down the chimney against the flame. Blowing down the chimney to extinguish the light is a frequent cause of explosion. Lamp explosions have also been caused by using a chimney broken off at the top, or one that has a piece broken out, whereby the draught is variable and the flame unsteady; or sometimes a thoughtless person puts a small sized wick in a large burner, thus leaving a ‘considerable space along the edges of the wick.

After all, the best precaution is not to buy cheap kerosene, but a good article, especially that put up in sealed cans, which thus can not be adulterated by the storekeeper with dangerous benzin; it is cheap enough already, so do not economize in this direction.