Zippos are an American classic that smokers and survivalists have carried for years. Keeping your Zippo filled means always having fluid on hand, but can you put any lighter fluid in a Zippo? No one wants to wreck their useful and iconic lighter. Although the Zippo company guarantees their lighters for life, it’s still important to maintain and use your lighter properly. Plus, you won’t have your lighter if you’ve sent it in for service.
I recommend keeping two, so you’ll always have a spare, but they rarely need service when treated right. These classic windproof lighters have been around for almost a hundred years, and yours could last another hundred. It only takes a moment to change a used flint or refill dry cotton. Not only are Zippos better for the environment, but they’re a lot less likely to fail you at a critical moment than some dollar-store disposable.
As an avid Zippo fan, I have carried one of these lighters everywhere for years because they look great, save money, and seldom need more than minimal upkeep. I will share what I’ve learned about Zippos and lighter fluid, so you always have a flame when you need it most.
Can any lighter fluid go in a Zippo? You can use any brand of naphtha lighter fluid inside your Zippo brand lighter. The Zippo company recommends either Zippo brand fluid or Ronsonol, which is also high-quality. Generic fluids can be less clean and cause a lot of smoke instead of burning clean and smoke-free. The resulting buildup is bad for your lighters’ function.
Is Zippo Fluid the Same as Lighter Fluid?
You can’t put any old lighter fluid in a Zippo. In fact, some lighter ‘fluids’ aren’t even a liquid. Zippo brand lighter fluid is naphtha. That means it’s remarkably like gasoline but without any additives that make gas good for your car.
Although you should never use a non-lighter fluid in your Zippo, it is more like white gas than most other lighter fluids. Please do not put lighter fluid in your car or vice versa. Doing this could be extremely dangerous, causing damage to your car, lighter, or worse.
The umbrella term ‘lighter fluid’ refers to several different flammables. Some, like butane, are stored compressed. Meanwhile, others are just encapsulated liquid. Yet even among these liquids, not all ‘lighter’ fluids are meant for a cigarette or cigar-style lighter. The lighter fluid you use in a charcoal grill, for example, has a different formula and is not safe for your pocket lighter.
It is important to read the container of lighter fluid and choose a wick-style pocket lighter fuel made of naphtha. In general, stick to well-known and trusted brands. Naturally, Zippo brand fluid is great for Zippo lighters. Alternately, you can use Ronsonol.
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Are There Different Types of Lighter Fluid
Lighter fluids come in several varieties, and each has its own correct usages. Since you shouldn’t use ‘just any’ lighter fluid in your Zippo, I will walk you through the differences to know what they are and how to use them. The list below are the top four flammables that are sold as ‘lighter fluid.’
- Zippo/Ronsonol aka Naphtha- Gasoline and naphtha are both petroleum derivative fuel sources. However, while gasoline is stable and more difficult to ignite, naphtha is more volatile. Reputable brands like Zippo and Ronsonol are pure and undiluted naphtha. Sadly, off-brands may contain other ingredients that cause inefficiency with burning.
- Butane- Butane comes from the refining process of natural gases. This flammable hydrocarbon gas is colorless and makes a great lighter fluid if you can keep it pressurized. Unlike liquid lighter fluid, this gas requires no wick.
- Kerosene- Kerosene is distilled petroleum. Typically, this less volatile fluid is used for lamps or as a cleaning solvent. Notably, this is also one of the safer fuels to store.
- Charcoal Lighter Fluid- This liquid can be either petroleum-based or alcohol-based. Often it uses both Isoparaffinic Hydrocarbon, which is light kerosene, and naphtha. This is better for hot fast blazes meant to ignite other longer burning substances. Hence, you would use it to light charcoal, or wood fires.
It is important to pay close attention to what you put inside a Zippo. A fast-evaporating fluid such as butane will leave you without a source of fire. Meanwhile, a charcoal lighter fluid might give you a more explosive flame, and kerosene isn’t meant for this or any lighter style.
Especially if you happen to be a smoker, some potential gases are more dangerous to inhale than others. Stick to a formula that is designed for your intended purpose to avoid accidents and injury. No one wants to get burned.
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Popular Alternative Zippo Lighter Fluids
|Number of percentages
|Gasoline in emergencies
|Lantern Fuel in emergencies
Zippo Lighter Fluid Alternative
Although you can technically put lots of different flammable liquids into a Zippo, you really shouldn’t. The inventor of Zippo lighters, George Blaisdell, was committed to creating a high-quality product. Zippos weren’t meant to have potentially dangerous knockoff liquids inside. They are well-engineered and work best with pure naphtha.
A badly created lighter won’t work well for long. Likewise, a bad lighter fluid won’t make your top-tier lighter perform its best. Worse still, those alternative fuels could cause your zippo to malfunction. This is especially dangerous when you’re carrying a volatile, combustible in your pocket. Please use naphtha in a Zippo.
Why Zippos Need Naphtha
The story goes that George Blaisdell was at a country club one evening in the early nineteen thirties and noticed how difficult it is to light a match when there’s any breeze. After watching numerous failed attempts, he decided something needed to be done about it. That’s where Zippo windproof lighters began.
George designed Zippos to run off naphtha because it was the best option for a windproof lighter. Matches and butane lighters blow out too easily. Hence the lantern-wick style design of the Zippo.
If you cannot find Zippo or Ronsonol brand naphtha, choose another well-known brand. Read the bottle to make sure the lighter fluid is as pure as possible. Avoid homebrewed concoctions and other alternatives that ‘someone suggested.’
Using a different fuel in a Zippo could cause smoke to gunk up your lighter and ruin it. Alternately, some fuels will evaporate too fast or have more explosive combustion when you spark them. You wouldn’t refill a kerosene lamp with rubbing alcohol just because it burns, and you can’t expect other lighter fluids to work in a Zippo.
Almost a hundred years after Mr. Blaisdell invented them, Zippos are going strong because they are simple and reliable. If you want to keep your collectible and durable Zippo lighter for years or even have it outlive you, then you need to use the right lighter fluid.
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Can You Refill Zippo with Butane?
Choosing the right fluid to fill your Zippo means you can’t just grab any lighter fluid. Butane is a common filler for lighters. However, most Zippo lighters don’t use butane.
When you buy compressed cans of butane, they have a tiny nozzle. This is intended for some refillable lighters. The style you need for a butane gas refill has a notch at the bottom where you press this nozzle and use it to fill up. Zippos don’t have that feature.
Instead, when you fill a Zippo, you open it up and pour a liquid into the absorbent material inside. That material keeps your fuel from evaporating too quickly. Moreover, it gives your wick a way to absorb the necessary liquid without having that flammable liquid risk splashing or spilling out.
You can sometimes find special Zippo brand lighters that use butane, but please do not spray this gas into a regular Zippo lighter. The company isn’t making new butane lighters anymore, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for this rare style in thrift and antique shops.
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Carrying a Zippo has always been a smart choice. Since you can refill it with any lighter fluid, they’re easy to keep lit. Moreover, all they need is occasional cleaning, and the company will repair anything that happens if you have a lighter to send in. That’s a nice bonus feature and shows how truly top tier these lighters are.
Despite the useful and beautiful nature of Zippos, they might never have gained the popularity they have now. In nineteen forty-one, Zippo stopped making lighters for civilians and put all its energy into making lighters for soldiers in the war. Millions of military personnel relied on Zippo in the trenches, thus establishing a dynasty that has stood the test of time.
If you only add one lighter to your EDC or BOB, make it a Zippo and carry plenty of excellent quality lighter fluid. In an emergency, any brand will do but stick to Ronsonol and Zippo whenever possible.