Can You Make An Emergency Light from an Orange?

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Written be Bernie Carr

I’ve seen the orange peel emergency light mentioned in many crafting websites as well as prepper hack articles and videos.

As a curious DIY’er myself, I had to try it.

Orange peel light

You will need:


Cooking oil such as olive, avocado, canola, etc.

Matches or lighter


Cut the orange in half. Scoop out the fruit, but leave the long piece of white pith found in the middle of the orange (interior stem). That interior stem will act as a wick.

In my case, I had a bunch of half orange peels as I made some orange juice earlier. I found one that still had the middle pith intact.

Add around three to four tablespoons of oil, depending on the size of your orange. I used about four tablespoons for mine.

Let the oil stand for a few minutes so the pith will be soaked with oil.

Most of the instructions I read say just light the pith with a match or lighter and you’ll have instant light. I’ll tell you what… Not so fast.

The truth about the orange peel light

When I tried to light the orange pith, it did not light. I had already used about 10 matches and it still would not light.

The flame just kept burning out. So I consulted my “go to” manual when I need to know about lighting: Book 2: Olive Oil Lamps &c. (The Non-Electric Lighting Series) Kindle Edition by Ron Brown. Sure enough, Ron tells it like it is:

Because both the peeling and the stem have a high moisture content, I expected it to sputter. It didn’t. It is terribly difficult to light, however. It took several tries, even when encouraged with a few drops of charcoal lighter fluid.

SOURCE: Ron Brown, Book 2: Olive Oil Lamps &c. (The Non-Electric Lighting Series) Kindle Edition)

Aha! So that’s what those articles failed to mention. You need some kind of “encouragement” to get the fire going. In my case, I used nail polish, since that worked for me before.

I dabbed a bit of nail polish on the inner stem/wick and that did the trick.

These are the lessons I learned while trying to make this:

  • You can make an emergency light out of an orange and some cooking oil, but it can be very hard to light. I wasted at least 10 matches trying to light it. If you are low on matches, try a different method.
  • A lot of websites that feature this hack leave out a crucial ingredient: you need some kind of fire starter such as petroleum jelly or lighter fluid to get the stem lighted.
  • The bottom of the orange is not level so it can tilt. Because we are dealing with fire here you need to make sure you keep it level and to avoid spilling the oil. Keep it away from children or pets.
  • The light is not super bright
  • The orange light does look pretty, so it would work as a decorative light, much like tea lights, when you’re trying to create atmosphere, say at a dinner party.
  • It’s a nice hack, but you should not rely on it for an emergency. I prefer my salt light and bacon grease lamp. Or better yet, stock up on flashlights, tap lights, head lamps, and other light sources before the next power outage.
  • It’s good to know a few hacks in case you find yourself somewhere away from your emergency supplies, but you should test out your favorites before an emergency so you know what to expect.

In answer to the original question, “Can you make an emergency light out of an orange?” The answer is yes, but you need to be aware that it can be very difficult to light. It’s good to know, in case you are ever caught in an emergency and you have nothing else, but if you are able to prep, I recommend stocking up on emergency lights instead of relying on making a light out of an orange.

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Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling 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. Bernie’s latest e-book, FRUGAL DIY has just been released on Amazon. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.

Image by LoggaWiggler from Pixabay

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  1. Thanks, Bernie, for the mention. I had to chuckle when I saw this. I haven’t been online for a couple of days because my wife and I just went through a 48-hour power outage here in the Southern Tier of New York State (for us the outage ended 3 hours ago). I improvised some pretty decent lighting (if I say so myself) to see us through the ordeal but, in all honesty, The Orange Peel Lamp never crossed my mind LOL. Keep up the good work. Make that Great Work.

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