What is Paraffin Oil?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 July 2019
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Paraffin oil, known as kerosene in Australia and the United States and stove oil in Canada, is an flammable liquid hydrocarbon burned as fuel. It is most commonly used to power jet engines for aircraft, but can also be used for heating, lighting, and cooking. It is refined from petroleum and is relatively cheap to produce.

Paraffin oil was first distilled by geologist Abraham Gesner in 1807 in New Brunswick, Canada, from a type of asphalt called Albertite. As the 19th century progressed, new sources were discovered, and its production became more commercialized and widespread. Gesner founded the Kerosene Gaslight Company in 1850, and the following year, Scottish chemist James Young began distilling paraffin oil from local Torbanite coal. In 1856, Polish chemist Ignacy Łukasiewicz discovered an even cheaper method of refining it. The low prices and availability of the new fuel led to the decline of the whaling industry throughout the latter half of the 19th century.

Before the advent of electric battery power, paraffin oil was the most common fuel for lamps and portable lanterns. It is still used to some extent for portable lamps and stoves, most often by campers or in developing countries. The Amish, who are religiously opposed to electrical power, heavily rely on paraffin oil to power their lamps and appliances. This oil is most often used in the modern world as fuel for jet planes and rockets.


Paraffin oil has also been used as an industrial solvent and lubricant. It can be used to store substances that may be damaged by or volatile in the presence of oxygen. Historically, it has been added to standing water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and applied to the head to kill lice, though these practices can be dangerous and have mostly fallen out of use. Paraffin oil is also used in some forms of entertainment, such as fire dancing and fire breathing, as it ignites at a relatively lower temperature than other fuels.


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Post 18

What is the viscosity of Paraffin Oil heavy in centistokes ( or in any unit of viscosity) at 25°C.

Post 17

Paraffin is also a preferred fuel for people who breathe fire.

Post 16

I use a liquid paraffin oil lamp on my boat. It actually works very well and I like the antique feel of it.

The only problem is that I have a hard time lighting it when the whether is cold. The oil becomes very thick, almost like a gel.

How did people light paraffin oil lamps in the old days when it was cold? Did they add something to it to keep it from getting thick?

Post 15

@anon248093-- I think it can be, but do you really want to do that?

The paraffin oil or wax that's used for things like soap and candle are bleached. It's not the best or safest ingredient out there for soap making. I'd recommend natural oils if possible.

Post 14
@anon220750-- Paraffin comes from petroleum. Petroleum is refined and made into various different substances and paraffin oil is basically what's left over after everything else is made.

It's unfortunate because it's used in so many cosmetic products. And it will continue to be used because paraffin oil is cheap and the FDA doesn't supervise cosmetics.

Post 12

Can paraffin oil be used in soap making?

Post 11

Can you use paraffin lamp oil to refinish saunas?

Post 10

is paraffin oil toxic if used in face creams?

Post 9

paraffin oil is also used in rubber compounding as a softening agent. rizwan w.

Post 7

What is the difference between lamp oil and paraffin oil? I've read somewhere that paraffin oil is used for healing wounds -- is that true?

Post 6

A company called Deck-Tech Inc uses a product that contains paraffin oil to stain and seal wooden decks.

Post 5

Is paraffin oil considered organic?

Post 4

paraffin is used in nose lifts and cheek augmentation!

Post 3

Is there another product called paraffin oil used to seal wood decks?

Post 2

is paraffin oil the same thing as a mineral oil?

Post 1

Is paraffin oil the same or similar to torch oil? I purchased a candle lamp and it specifically states "use paraffin oil only" but I cannot find it anywhere.

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