Incredibly Simple and Cheap Emergency Lamp


This post is by Bernie Carr,

It’s been a couple of months since my last homemade lamp creation, and it continues to be a very popular post.  I thought it’s about time to try making an even simpler one, with items that can be found in most homes.  This lamp, as my previous one, was learned from reading  Lanterns, Lamps & Candles by Ron Brown, which contains a wealth of information about emergency lighting.

The items needed for this lamp are super easy to find:


Cotton ball or cotton puff

Glass container – I used a clear candle holder from Goodwill, but you can use a cereal bowl or even a tuna can

Vegetable oil

Aluminum foil

Matches or lighter

Flammable liquid (you can use a drop of nail polish, nail polish remover or petroleum jelly)



  1. Soak the cotton ball with vegetable oil. Shape a little tip on one side of the cotton ball.  This will be your wick.20121218_145117
  2. Cut a piece of aluminum foil the size of a nickel and poke a small hole in the middle with pencil.20121218_145226
  3. Pull the tip of the cotton ball through the hole in the aluminum foil.
  4. Place a drop of flammable solution (petroleum jelly, polish remover or nail polish) on the cotton ball tip.
  5. Light the cotton ball wick.

This lamp should last for a couple of hours.


I realize there are cheaper fuels that vegetable oil, but it is good to know how to make  lamps from easy to find materials in case of emergency.

© Apartment Prepper 2012

For beginning preppers


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This is Cool: Solar Water Bottle

My daughter sent me a link to this YouTube video, since she knows I like sustainable, low-tech ideas like these.

Made from 1.5 liter Coke bottles, 2 cap-fuls of bleach and tap water, they are able to provide lighting to people who would otherwise live in the dark.  They are made from recycled materials, are solar powered, and only need replacing every five years.  I think the bleach keeps algae from growing in the tap water, which will eventually cloud the water.  The only drawback is they do not work without sunlight, but since the families perpetually live in very dark areas, even in the daytime, having the solar water bottles is a big improvement for them.

This is the nonprofit organization in the Philippines is helping provide families who have no electricity with indoor lighting:

In the event of a lengthy power grid power failure, it doesn’t hurt to know about a variety of lighting sources such as this one.