Burning Diesel Fuel in a Kerosene Heater: How To Do It Safe and Effectively

Trying to stay warm when the power is out can be difficult, leading people to use heaters in an effort to keep their living space comfortable and warm. While many people have kerosene heaters that they can use to stay warm during the cold, they only work if you have fuel.

You can burn diesel in a kerosene heater, but you need to take some additional steps before you do. 

  • Mix 5mL of 91% or better isopropyl alcohol in each pint of diesel
  • Use only a high-quality wick (preferably 100% cotton)
  • Alternative method: Mix kerosene and diesel in a 1:3 to 1:5 ratio and burn normally

Running out of kerosene during the middle of a storm or when you can’t get to the store to buy more is very scary, which is why more and more people are considering what else they can burn in their heaters to stay warm. One popular option that people are turning to is diesel.

Before you keep reading, just make sure that you read your manufacturer’s manual and only use your kerosene heater in the way that the manufacturer intended!

Burning Diesel in a Kerosene Heater

There are a lot of reasons why you may decide to try to burn diesel in a kerosene heater. It could be the middle of a storm and you’re running out of kerosene, maybe kerosene isn’t readily available in your area, or maybe you just don’t want to keep paying for kerosene as the prices just seem to be getting higher and higher.

Why burn diesel in a kerosene heater?

Reasons why you may decide to burn diesel in your kerosene heater:

  • You’re low on kerosene
  • You have no way to get more kerosene
  • Kerosene costs 2 to 3 time more than diesel

Is it safe to burn diesel fuel in a kerosene heater?

The first question we should discuss is if it’s safe to burn diesel in a kerosene heater.

The good news is that it is safe to burn diesel in a kerosene heater. Diesel and kerosene are relatively close to one another. The main difference is that diesel burns a little cooler and will cause the wick to build carbon much quicker than kerosene.

How to Burn Diesel in a Kerosene Heater

Whatever the reason is, the good news is that you can burn kerosene in your heater as long as you know what you’re doing.

Collect the items you need

Before starting your heater you will want to make sure that you have all of your supplies on hand. This is important no matter if you are going on a planned event, such as camping, and need heat, or if you are preparing for an emergency situation.

It’s a good idea to invest in a heater that is dependable and easy to use so that you don’t run into problems when trying to burn diesel. Choosing a heater that you are comfortable with will help you get the best use out of it when heating your space.

What you need to burn diesel in a kerosene heater:

  • Diesel
  • Quality Wick (preferably 100% cotton)
  • Diesel Additive (Kerosene, Isopropyl Alcohol, or Kerosene Additive)

Choosing your additive and wick

When using diesel in your kerosene heater you have to use an additive for the diesel to burn correctly. Diesel burns at a higher temperature than kerosene, which can lead to incomplete combustion, and reduced flow of fuel through the wick.

Incomplete burning of the diesel fuel will lead to your wich getting clogged or a build-up of carbon that will reduce wick life. You can reduce this by using a 100% cotton wick or a high-quality fiberglass wick and using an additive in the diesel.


Diesel needs to have something added to it to allow it to burn cleaner so it doesn’t destroy the wick as quickly. You can use isopropyl alcohol, diesel fuel additives, kerosene fuel additives, or straight kerosene.

Isopropyl alcohol should be 91% pure or higher. You can usually find bottles of isopropyl alcohol near the hydrogen peroxide in most stores. For best results, add 5mL of isopropyl alcohol to 1 pint of diesel fuel.

You may need to adjust this mixture a little because diesel fuel isn’t the same at every gas station or even during different seasons.

Diesel fuel additives are recommended in a lot of places when you look up this topic. You can try them, but they’re usually formulated to make diesel engines run better which means they have additives that you just don’t need in your kerosene heater.

Kerosene additives are another option if you’re going to burn diesel in your heater. These are made to be added to kerosene to help it burn cleaner and more efficiently. Just mix them with your diesel as recommended on the bottle of kerosene additive.

Adding kerosene to your diesel is actually the best way to burn diesel in your heater. It’s also the easiest because you don’t need to get an exact ratio of kerosene to diesel and you don’t need any special additives.

Just fill the heater with 2/3 or 3/4 diesel and fill the rest up with kerosene. The more kerosene that you add the less likely that you’ll mess up the wick.


The wick is a very important part of your heater. It doesn’t matter if you’re burning kerosene or if you’re using diesel. You require a quality wick to get the most out of your heater.

There are two different types of wicks that you can have in your kerosene heater. Most new wicks are made with a layer of fiberglass along the top.

Fiberglass wicks have a ring of fiberglass at the top. These are much stronger than cotton wicks when burning kerosene but they aren’t ideal for burning diesel. The fiberglass at the top can’t be trimmed away when it gets covered in carbon and no longer burns well.

When a fiberglass wick is all that you can get for your kerosene heater, you’re going to have to remove it and clean it as best as you can when it gets clogged with carbon and doesn’t burn well.

Cotton wicks are the better choice for burning diesel fuel. They don’t last as long as fiberglass wicks but the burning edge can be trimmed away when it gets charred and filled with carbon.

When a cotton wick stops working well, you can trim off the top and then keep burning it.

There are also pinned and non-pinned wicks. Pinned wicks have three metal pins in the middle of the wick which holds the wick in place. Non-pinned wicks don’t have pins and can be moved up as you trim them.

The best wick for burning diesel in a kerosene heater is a cotton wick that doesn’t have pins.

Getting Your Heater Running

Before you start your heater, make sure that you let the wick soak up the diesel for about 30 minutes before you light it. This is especially true for cotton wicks. If you light the wick before it’s had time to absorb the diesel then you’ll be burning the wick itself and doing damage to it.

Does Burning Diesel In a Kerosene Heater Smell?

Burning diesel in a kerosene heater is about the same as burning kerosene in the same heater. You’ll probably get some smoke and odor when you first start the heater and you’ll probably get some smoke and fumes when you turn it off. Pretty similar to a kerosene heater.

Just make sure that you have the right amount of air going to the heater. If you don’t you’ll see some smoking until you get it right. Just slowly adjust it until the smoking stops.

This short video shows a kerosene heater running on diesel fuel for 6 hours in a smaller room with normal oxygen levels and zero CO levels.

Kerosene Heater Safety

Any time you have a heat source there are some safety concerns that come along with it. Kerosene heaters are no different in this aspect.

Heat hazards

Kerosene heaters produce a lot of heat and some can get very hot. Make sure that you don’t have any flammable materials close enough to the heater that they could catch on fire and don’t store any fuel near your heater while it’s running.

Combustion gasses

Kerosene heaters are usually unvented. This means that they’re dumping all of the gasses produced by burning the fuel straight into the room that they’re in.

This usually isn’t all that bad but heaters that are low on fuel or not burning fuel completely will produce a lot more pollutants and gasses like carbon dioxide that heaters that are burning cleanly.

Is it safe to burn a kerosene heater indoors?

Kerosene heaters can be burned indoors but it should only be done in an area that has decent ventilation due to the possibility of gasses like carbon monoxide building up. You also have to be sure to keep flammable materials away from the heater.

Can you sleep with a kerosene heater on?

Technically, you should never leave a kerosene heater running while you sleep. When they’re low on fuel it’s possible for them to produce a massive amount of harmful fumes and gasses.

It’s better to be safe and turn the heater off before you go to sleep. Then, wake up when it gets cold, run the heater until it warms up again, turn it off and go back to sleep.

The Difference Between Kerosene and Other Types of Fuel

There are several types of fuel oil out there that people often get mixed up. Hopefully, this quick rundown will make it obvious what you’re dealing with when you see the different types of fuel out there.

Is #1 diesel fuel the same as kerosene?

Kerosene is roughly equivalent to #1 diesel fuel. They are not the same, but they can sometimes be used interchangeably.

Many people have good luck burning #1 diesel fuel in kerosene heaters without any additives.

Is #2 diesel fuel the same as heating oil?

#2 diesel fuel and home heating oil are different but they are similar enough that it’s suggested that you can run #2 diesel in almost any furnace that uses heating oil with no problems.


It’s completely possible to burn diesel fuel in a kerosene heater! Just keep in mind that it’s probably not recommended for your heater, so you do so at your own risk.

As long as you understand the risks, have an additive for the diesel fuel, and understand how to maintain the wick, you shouldn’t have any problems.