How to Make an Emergency Lamp Out of Common Household Items - Apartment Prepper (2023)

October 19, 2012 corresponding trainer emergency light,emergency preparedness,power failure sources,wait

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10 self-defense tips for preps

10 self-defense tips for preps

This post is by Bernie Carr,

I followed the instructions fromNon-electric lighting serieshow to make this vegetable oil lamp. What interested me about trying this out was that all of the materials are items that most people have readily available around the house.



(Video) Prepper and Survival Tips for Apartments

vegetable oil

Baby food jar or votive jar (I bought mine at Goodwill)

table salt

wooden toothpick

Cotton (must be 100% cotton, unblended)

nail polish remover



1. Fill the jar with table salt.

2. Add vegetable oil and mix well with salt. let him calm down

3. Add a little more vegetable oil after it settles.

4. Wrap a wooden stick end to end in cotton wool. Don't skimp on cotton, but don't make it too bulky either.

5. Insert the stick wrapped in cotton into the mixture of vegetable oil and sand. If it is too tall for the pot, trim the tip until the tip is flush with the pot opening.

6. Place a small amount of nail polish remover on the tip of the cotton-wrapped toothpick. Be careful not to get vegetable oil.

7. Light the tip.

You finished! This homemade light bulb will burn for about two hours.

Troubleshooting Tips

When I first made the lamp, the flame kept splashing and quickly extinguished. I contacted the author, Ron Brown, to see what I was doing wrong. He suggested the following:

  • The toothpick must be well wrapped with cotton
  • Use only 100% cotton.

On my first try, I used recycled cotton from a pill bottle, which may not be 100% cotton. Next time I made sure it was 100% cotton. I also hadn't rolled the toothpick well enough and had some gaps that weren't covered with cotton. This time I rolled the toothpick until it was completely covered with cotton but not too thick. It sure worked out great.

That experience taught me that even if you have instructions on how to do something, there are unforeseen variables that can get in the way of your success. You need to test your knowledge and practice your prep skills. The time to practice new skills is now - not when an emergency is in full swing and the power is already gone.

(Video) DIY SALT AND OIL LAMP | WAXLESS CANDLE | DIY Candle Using Rock Salt and Oil | Emergency Lamp

(Observation:Preppe Apartmentr is not affiliated with Lanterns Lamps and Candles - I have read thembook seriesand found it a great resource. Thanks to author Ron Brown for taking the time to suggest some corrections to my experiment.)

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About the author:
Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books, including the bestselling Prepper's Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller's Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper, and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Her work appears on sites like the Allstate Blog and, and in print magazines like Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about BernieHere.

How to Make an Emergency Lamp Out of Common Household Items - Apartment Prepper (5)

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  1. thanks for this We are getting ready to move into a trailer and this will come in handy when the power goes out or we get stuck.


  2. I'm torn. It can be useful now in a pinch or as a novelty with the kids. Perhaps you are in a unique position in a crisis scenario where ingredients are plentiful. I think the salt and oil will be much more important for healing or consumption. As I said, maybe in trouble when light is critical.

    Still very good to know. Buy cheap tea lights while you can!


    (Video) The Most IMPORTANT Survival Kit YOU Should Have!

    1. Hi Archer, Sand can be used in place of salt if it is more plentiful. Thanks for the comment!


      1. This is a good substitute!


    2. Hello Archers. The original source of information for this lamp is Book 2 of the Non-Electrical Lighting series. The title of Book 2 is "Olive Oil Lamps &c."
      Pages 39-40 say: “Design 13 – Filipino Design. Fill an empty, DRY baby food jar 2/3 full with sand. Dry sand. Regular table salt works too. The purpose of the sand/salt is to keep the wick upright. . .”
      In an emergency, when the power goes out and you're miles from home (and all the preparations), it's good to know that a simple pitcher, some cooking oil, some salt and a toothpick is all that's needed. you find it in almost every kitchen - plus a cotton ball for absorbent material makes a lamp that produces light on par with a candle.


  3. Hallo ApartmentPrepper,

    I wanted to point out another fabulous DIY candle: the "button lamp" that Ma Ingalls used in "The Long Winter", one of Ma's novels (I like to call them "romanized memoirs" because they are based in truth). Ingalls becomes Laura Ingalls Wilder.

    The Long Winter was the least "fictionalized" of Laura's memoirs when she began writing her life story in novel form at the age of 60.

    In the book, the family hides out in the father's store and lives in the back/upstairs, as was common in 19th century stores. The family moved from their cabin on the South Dakota prairies to the city to improve their chances of surviving the winter.

    All the kerosene is gone, there is no coal, the trains don't run, and the family is overwhelmed with food and other resources at their disposal. By the time Ma is making the button lamp, they have run out of light sources.

    You are stuck in almost non-stop blizzard conditions from November to April, with deep snow and ice cover preventing trains from reaching the city (De Smet, SD District).

    The book is amazing, my favorite of the series.

    The button lamp was built with some grease, in a can, with a button floating in the grease. A piece of cotton cloth was tied around the bud, the corners of which were twisted to form a wick. The cloth slowly absorbed the oil as the tip burned, creating a long-lasting (very, very sparse) source of light and heat.

    (Video) 5 Homemade Candles For Emergencies


    1. Hello Thornfield, This button lamp looks very creative. I should read the series, looks like we can all pick up some good ideas. Thanks for the comment!


    2. Hello Dornfeld. The Book of Oil Lamps &c. has 15 different vegetable oil lamp designs (and if you count the variations, it's more like 22 or 23). Most projects require you to add more fuel as the fuel burns. But 3 of the designs (and this is what your button lamp sounds like) have the wick suspended in a floating manner. As the oil burns, the wick goes down with it (giving a constant distance from the fuel to the flame).

      But whatever the design, I urge you to try it out and not just read about it. Note that in Bernie's article, his first attempt didn't work. Whether it's his button lamp or a design by Olive Oil Lamps & c. is, please try it before you need it. When your pregnant wife, in the midst of a power outage, she says, “Honey, the baby is coming. . .” Then it's not time to learn how to improvise a lamp.


  4. I would add this:
    Durable, long-lasting lighting (plan ahead):
    Flashlight with autonomy of 65 hours. I turn it into a 360 hour flashlight. Is easy:
    Or go for DYI Micro Solar
    Ridiculously simple LED emergency lighting:
    No batteries and no shaking or starting:


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