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What is Kerosene?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco

Kerosene, sometimes known as paraffin oil, is a combustible liquid obtained by distilling petroleum at a high temperature. It has been widely produced since 1846, although it didn't become popular as an useful element until a few years later, and only thanks to the work of several chemists in distant corners of the world. Kerosene Gaslight Company, founded in 1851, was the first company in the world to sell this fuel for both commercial and home use.

The primary uses for kerosene are heating and fueling vehicles. Up until electricity was invented, it was the main source of lighting, as it was used widely in home lanterns. It is still used for that purpose by the Amish, but this fuel is considered too dangerous to be used in enclosed areas, and its use as a lighting source is discouraged by many health agencies. Kerosene-based heaters, however, are popular in Asia, where the liquid is readily available, and in outdoor-supply stores, where it's sold as an alternative fuel for camping stoves.

A kerosene lantern.
A kerosene lantern.

Kerosene is used as a primary source of fuel for many types of aircraft, including rockets, although in this case, the fuel is mixed with liquid oxygen in order to produce enough of a heating source. While there are no cars that can run on this product, many people use it to either extend the life of their gasoline or to keep gas from freezing during winter. It's important to note that this fuel is as volatile as gasoline, so it should be handled with care at all times.

Kerosene is often used to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.
Kerosene is often used to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.

Although kerosene is deadly if ingested, it has been used through history to treat a number of diseases. Folk medicine sees it as a powerful antidote for snakebites, and it is also often used to kill lice and prevent mosquito breeding. In underdeveloped countries with limited access to medicine, it is often used as a replacement for alcohol to treat cuts and burns, stop bleeding, and against athlete foot and hemorrhoids.

Discussion Comments


What are the dangers of red kerosene other than explosions

smell, etc.?


Every Saturday at 7 a.m. in Malaysia, fogging spray is carried out to kill the mosquito larvicidal activity. The man doesn't wear a gas mask or goggles, we see maids washing cars, people walking dogs and people jogging while the fogging is being carried out.

The smoke gets into our homes through the gaps in the windows and the smell is terrible. I'm concerned about the health of all of us breathing in the smoke. What are the short and long term health hazards? All I'm told is the dilution rate of 10ml product + 1000ml diesel/kerosene (1:100) for thermal fogging. Please advise.


It was about 45 years ago in Pakistan that I had a head injury (I fell from a swing).

My mother put kerosine and a cotton pad on it. Later my father came home after a few days and took me to the hospital who removed the cotton (it was stuck) and I got a bandage. I still have scars of that injury on my head.


At 12 years old I caught a baby rattlesnake. I then took it home, and thought it would be good pet. Duh I had been holding it's head for about two hours. I thought that it had relaxed enough that I could trust it. When it looked at me, I knew what it what was thinking: "I like you but I am a rattlesnake." It had been wrapped around my harm. It opened his mouth and out came the fangs. It slammed down those fangs between my thumb and finger. It pumped a lot venom in me. My Mom came out with kerosene and made me soak my hand in it. The kerosene must have worked I had no reaction to the poison.


The benzene boiling point is 80 C. Kerosene has a higher boiling point, and should not contain any benzene.


So, is Kerosene good or bad for healing diseases?


When I was a child, my father gave me a teaspoon of sugar with a couple of drops of kerosene in it for a sore throat. It seemed to work, or that's what they told me.


I was told to soak a lemon in kero for a week then use it to massage joints painful with arthritis. I tried it twice today and seemed to get relief. Any comments? How about the "poison" from the kero going into my system?


i read that too. salt in the kerosene will absorb any water, helping to reduce rust. I'm not sure about explosions, though.


what is the chemical formula of kerosene?


Kerosene kills athletes foot and ringworm. I use it regularly for these types of superficial fungus infections. It is also good for cuts.

This may be hard to believe but I have a friend who, as a teenager, was bitten by a ground rattler. His dad soaked the son's foot in kerosene and he never went to a doctor. Maybe the snake didn't inject much venom at the time of the bite. But this is what happened.


i had an accident because of kerosene spilled on the street, and the qatari traffic police said that kerosene doesn't make the car slide like if it was on ice. I had to pay $3000 us dollars to fix my car, though i know for sure that kerosene is known to be a lubricant. Anyone has any experience with kerosene spilled on the street?


I live near the airport in Adelaide and the last few weeks with the strong wind blowing this way the kerosene smell is so awful that you can't go outside. You hear the huge roar of the the plane and then the terrible smell comes. It's quite engulfing and I usually quickly go and get any washing off the clothes line as it absorb the kerosene. The experts can say all they want that it's not harmful - but I differ.

We did not have this problem in Brooklyn Park before they built the new airport nearly to the residential area.


i want to know about refractive index of kerosene i.e., paraffin oil.


Kerosene contains benzene which is medically known to induce myelofibrosis which my mother had (she passed away three years ago as a result) and now her sister has been diagnosed with the same disease. Please do not ingest kerosene for any reason or use as a wound treatment - research myelofibrosis for more information. This is one of those old timey treatments that need to stay in the old times. In my mother's time, they even used Kerosene to treat sore throats by dipping a feather in the kerosene and tickling the throat. My Mom was treated at Duke University by Dr Lockerman for approx 17 years for this disease and it is fairly rare but not at all strange for siblings to also have the disease.


Yes you r correct. When I get cut on my feet, my mother helped me with kerosene 4 times a day. Now I feel better. I think it acts like a antiseptic ointment. I wondered if my mother is not educated well. She stopped at primary level school studies but she knows some medical tricks like this.


Hail Kerosene!

Kerosene as medication:

It is common to many parts of Asia (India, China & Far East) to use kerosene as an ointment on wounds and other afflicted and/or mutilated parts of the body. Sometimes, kerosene mixed with salt will prove an effective pain remover or soother and more so with arthritis rheumatoid pain in joints and on muscles.

Kerosene as anti-rust agent:

It is also common knowledge to have some kerosene spread on rusty bolts, nuts and other metal pieces to loosen them and/or cure rust to some limit.

Kerosene is known as far back as the days of King Solomon (the Jewish King). In fact, the Tanach (Hebrew Bible) talks about earthen lamps filled with kerosene (oil from the earth).

So, kerosene has been around always and has not been discovered by the modern world, which has only found new marketing and industrial strategies with the advent of the postwar technological development and streamlining of financial and industrial hub by the western world. Kerosene is here to stay. Baruch Ha Shem! S. Naarai


My wife read in the book "little house in the big woods" that Salt was added to Kerosene to keep it from exploding. Any idea why?



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    • A kerosene lantern.
      By: Gino Santa Maria
      A kerosene lantern.
    • Kerosene is often used to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.
      By: saidin jusoh
      Kerosene is often used to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.
    • Folk medicine recommends kerosene for treatment of lice and to reduce the itching associated with them.
      By: diego cervo
      Folk medicine recommends kerosene for treatment of lice and to reduce the itching associated with them.
    • Kerosene has been used as a remedy against hemorrhoids.
      By: Andrea Danti
      Kerosene has been used as a remedy against hemorrhoids.