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Can You Use Diesel Fuel in a Kerosene Heater? | What to Know

Whether alternative fuels like diesel can be used in a kerosene heater is a common question that I get. Running out of kerosene on a cold day or night is a major inconvenience, and often you just don’t want to go out and buy more, and sometimes you can’t due to being snowed in. I looked into the matter, and this is what I found out.

Diesel can be used in a kerosene heater, but it depends on the type of diesel you are using. Unlike kerosene, diesel does not burn well in its liquid form, consequently diminishing the power of the heater. Also, the particles that evaporate from it when heated up are toxic.

For this reason, it is not recommended that you use diesel in an indoor heater.

Now you know a little more about the dangers associated with feeding diesel to a kerosene heater. But what else can you put in it to keep your home warm in the absence of kerosene? Read on to learn more.

Using the Number 1 Diesel in a Kerosene Heater

Black Kerosene Heater in Home

Number 1 diesel is the best type to use in place of kerosene. There are many reasons why you would decide to use diesel. For example, kerosene is twice – sometimes three times – as expensive as diesel. Moreover, diesel is widely available and accessible if there are no kerosene sellers around.

However, when you decide to use diesel, there are precautions that you should take to keep the process safe for both you and the heater. Some of the essential tips you should know about are:

  • Diesel Additive – You will need to add an additive to the diesel to ensure that it burns cleaner without causing damage to the wick. Some of the recommended types are kerosene, kerosene additive, or isopropyl alcohol.
  • Number 2 Diesel – Avoid number 2 altogether, as this is a more substantial kind of fuel. We are going to have a look at the qualities that make number 2 diesel an excellent choice in the next paragraph.
  • A high-quality wick – The diesel will burn the candle faster. It is essential to find a 100% wick that can stand such a burning rate.

If you really need your heater to work, yet you are out of kerosene, you could get up to feed the machine number 1 diesel. This type of fuel varies from number 2 diesel and boasts characteristics that are similar to the ones of kerosene, such as:

  • It does not include as many aromatic compounds that can be detrimental to your health when released into the surrounding air.
  • It produces around 135,000 BTU per gallon, less than number 2 diesel, and similar to the power generated by kerosene.
  • Burns cleaner than number 2 diesel, causing less damage to the wick and releasing energy in the environment slower.
  • It needs less lubricative power to burn compared to number 2 diesel, yet it still needs more than standard kerosene.

Kerosene heaters are among the most popular appliances to heat apartments, houses, and rooms. Thanks to the low running cost and long-lasting performances, their popularity has been increasing steadily. However, many kerosene heaters owners have been falling into the trap of just adding any fuel or combustible liquid into it.

Such liquids can produce heat and therefore reach a similar result as kerosene would. However, the continuous use of such substances might be damaging the internal mechanisms of your heater. Even worse, they might be releasing particles that are toxic and detrimental to your health.

Can You Use Dyed Kerosene in a Heater?

The short answer to the question is yes, you can, but once again, only with caution. Many factors are contributing to the dangers associated with dyed kerosene, and many of them derive from the actual dye.

First of all, what is dyed kerosene? 

If you have been the owner of a kerosene heater for a while, you know that you can fuel it with any kerosene advertised as 1-K. 

So if red-dyed kerosene bears the K-1 mark, can you use it? 

Let’s have a look.

In brief, red-dyed kerosene is the same substance as K-1 kerosene, but in another color. The addition of the dye is a federal requirement by which the untaxed kerosene not destined for road use needs to be highlighted. 

Effectively, such dye is telling you that this kerosene is meant to fuel your stove.

Controversially, the color applied to it makes it harder to identify potential contaminations. And the kerosene with added red dye creates increased deposits and residues on the wick, which can lower the power of the machine.

How Can You Test the Quality of Kerosene With Red Dye?

In the case of clear kerosene, the best way to find out if there is something wrong with the fuel you are using is to examine it. Such a process might be more challenging in the case of red kerosene, but it can offer you unique insights into the quality of the fuel.

To do so, gather the residual kerosene that lies at the bottom of the container. You can do so through a siphon and then proceed to place it into a clear jar. Wait for at least an hour and then examine the sample again.

  • If the surface boasts bubbles, the kerosene might be water contaminated
  • If particles are floating on top, other materials are contaminating the liquid

Ultimately, the surface of the kerosene should be completely even.

Another test for you to try is to start the heater and analyze both the flame and odors. The smell of kerosene should be minimal after your heater reaches the optimal burning level. If you have any doubts about the quality of the fuel, it is best to throw it away and buy a new batch.

What Can Be Used Instead of Kerosene

Old Metal Canister For Flammable Liquids

So what else can you use to get your heater to warm up your room? Due to the frequent fluctuations in price and availability, many kerosene heater owners have to deal with this dilemma. If you are struggling to find enough storage space for your reserves of hard-to-find kerosene, you might be in such a position quite often.

Even if using lamp oil or number 2 diesel might be tempting choices due to their reduced price, you should stick to either K-1 Kerosene or number 1 diesel. Indeed number 1 diesel is very similar to kerosene and makes an excellent substitute for it. 

However, any other type of fuel can lead to damage to the internal mechanisms or the wick of the heater. Even worse, while you might be enjoying the heat that your heater is producing, you might not realize that the substitute fuel you have added to it might be toxic for you and your family.

Indeed, kerosene heaters can cause substantial indoor air pollution and, if poorly handled, asphyxiation. By following the manufacturer’s instruction manual properly, you can reduce the possibility of these eventualities. However, swapping K-1 kerosene for other substances, such as number 2 diesel and cooking oil can cause your heater to release toxic fumes that can be detrimental to your health.


Kerosene heaters are an excellent and cost-effective solution to heat any home or living space. If properly maintained, they can last a lifetime. However, if you have been looking for a cheaper and more readily available alternative to standard kerosene, you should only opt for number 1 diesel to feed your heater. 

Indeed, any other substance can be particularly dangerous for anybody that inhales the fumes released by the heater. In any case, you should read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions before deciding to swap the fuel in your radiator.

Disclaimer: Kerosene heaters are designed specifically to work with kerosene. This article serves to provide information only based on research, please use alternative fuels at your own risk.

For more, don’t miss Is It Safe to Heat Your House With the Oven? | The Cold Truth.