When it comes to a survival situation, one thing most people have planned ahead for is food. It is possible that heat or light had lower priority in the list of things to store for the future. In such a case, knowing which of the food oils that are stored can be used for these purposes can add a bit of comfort when things get crazy.
What Makes Something Flammable?
According to the dictionary, flammable means “easily ignited and capable of burning rapidly; capable of being kindled into flame.” Flammable means that something can ignite due to the temperature around it or when exposed to open flame, unlike combustible, which requires effort to ignite.
Most oils have some degree of flammability. One might wonder, “is Crisco shortening flammable?” Because it is a solid at room temperature, it may seem less likely to ignite than other fats. However, once it gets into a liquid state, it burns just as well as any liquid oil.
What Is the Smoke Point?
When oil begins to smoke, that is its smoke point. This differs between oils. When an oil has a high smoke point, it is better for frying. Using an oil with a low smoke point to fry things is likely to end up in a kitchen fire due to the oil catching the flame.
Some common oils’ smoke points (in degrees Fahrenheit) are as follows:
- Almond Oil: 520
- Avocado Oil: 450
- Canola Oil: 375-450
- Coconut Oil: 350
- Corn Oil: 400-450
- Flax Oil: 225
- Grapeseed Oil: 420
- Olive Oil: 325-375
- Safflower Oil: 475-500
- Sesame Oil: 410-450
- Soybean Oil: 450-475
- Sunflower Oil: 450
- Walnut Oil: 320
The oils with low smoke points such as flax and walnut are best used cold, on salads or in smoothies. Oils with medium smoke points like olive, sesame, and coconut are good for sauteeing and baking. Those with high smoke points, like avocado and peanut are excellent for deep frying and other higher heat purposes.
However, for survival purposes, any of these can be used for light and heat purposes. Some may work better for the chosen use than others due to their properties.
Which Oils Work for Survival Lights?
The nice thing about using cooking oils for survival lights is that they can be used for cooking before you repurpose them into lighting, so they meet needs twice with the same oil. The simple explanation is to place whatever oil is chosen into a container and add a wick. The options are nearly endless! Pretty much any oil can be used. Containers can be metal, glass, or stoneware (in some situations, plastic could work, but it must be kept some distance from the fire to keep from melting). Wicks can be made of cotton, wool, wood, or a number of other natural fibers. Even half an orange peel, with the pulp removed but the central core of the pith left in for a wick, can be filled with oil and used as a candle.
Which Oils Are Best for Fire Starting?
Flaxseed (or linseed) oil, while not generally used for cooking due to how flammable it is, burns very fast and hot. This means it can catch tinder quickly, even if it is a bit damp.
A few crumpled pieces of newspaper, with vegetable oil sprayed or poured on, will burn long enough to start a campfire; it takes 8-12 crumpled balls to get it done well.
Alternately, use a small container such as the bottom of a soda can, an old tuna can, or a paper cup. Put a couple ounces of oil in it and twist a bit of paper towel to make a wick. Make sure the wick has oil on it. Place it in the bottom of the fire area and place logs above, careful to leave enough room for the fire to burn below while still reaching the wood. Light and let it burn until the wood catches. This generally takes 3-5 minutes to begin to smoke, and a few more minutes to catch well.
The lower flash point oils like flax, olive, and walnut will be better for this application.
Preset floating wicks are ready to add to any container filled with any burnable oil. Geared for safety, the flame will be extinguished if the 100% cotton wick happens to tip over; however, the wide disc is designed to limit the chance of this happening.
This flat cotton wick comes in a 12-foot roll so each lamp can have the length of wick that works best for it. Using a new wick when the old one gets gummed up is easy with this long roll of wick material.
Nearly 30 feet of round cotton wick material is ready to trim to the needed length for your lamp. Made of cotton, the wick does not smoke or smell but provides a stable flame.
These wooden candle wicks are made of natural wood and do not give off black smoke. The included iron stands keep the wicks upright for best burning; these can be used in containers with a bit of oil to burn for longer. Be sure to get a bit of oil all the way to the top of the wick when pouring.
While cleaner burning oils are better, cooking oil can be used in this in a pinch. Extra wicks will be desirable if using cooking oil, as the wick is likely to get gummed up over time.
These refillable glass oil candles come with a small funnel for filling with your chosen fuel. Length of burn time depends on the type of oil used to fill it and the height of the wick. The manufacturer does not recommend using vegetable oil, due to the way it will gum up the wick, but it can be done in a pinch. Extra wicks will be required to use it this way.
This elegant but delicate zinc alloy lamp can be filled with oil and lit to light an area. The unique design is engraved in relief with a decorative pattern.
One gallon of naturally processed sunflower oil is great for baking, cooking, and frying. After using it for that – or before – it can also be used to light an area in a lamp or start a fire.
48 ounces of cold pressed olive oil is great for a variety of kitchen applications, including dressings and marinades, as well as lighting with a wick in a container.