How to Store Kerosene Safely

Kerosene is a great fuel, especially for emergency heaters, because it isn’t very volatile and stores longer than gasoline.

Running it is also cheaper than propane heaters. It can last for years without going bad – but the key is making sure you store your kerosene properly.

1. Check Local Regulations

Many states have regulations about how to store kerosene.  The laws for small above-ground kerosene tanks are generally very relaxed.  Laws for large kerosene systems with pipes are much stricter. You may need a permit.

For example, Vermont law states that,

“All aboveground storage tanks shall be made of or lined with materials that are compatible with the substance(s) stored in them and shall be constructed as per one of the following designs:

  1. Single-walled tank not less than 12-gauge in thickness in its entirety
  2. Double-bottom steel tanks with end-cover protection and interstitial space monitoring
  3. Double-wall non-metallic tank
  4. Single-walled non-metallic tank for inside use only.

*Your local fire department should know the rules about how to store kerosene where you live.

2. Remove Kerosene from Heater

Never store kerosene in a heater. The same goes for kerosene lights and stoves.  The kerosene will attract water and get gunky.  It is very difficult to clean old kerosene left inside a heater. You should always remove it and put it in a sealed container.

Heaters with fiberglass wicks:

  • Wait until the fuel gauge is on low
  • Once cool, take the heater outside.
  • Burn the heater until the flame goes out.

Heaters with cotton wicks:

  • Make sure the heater is cool.
  • Take the heater outdoors.
  • Use a siphon pump to remove the kerosene.

Read: Best kerosene heater

Warning: Always Siphon Kerosene Outdoors

While it is safe to burn kerosene indoors, you should always fill or empty the tank outdoors. As mentioned in this old NY Times article,

“Even though kerosene is a slow-burning fuel, there is a hazard to storing it in and around the house. If it spills and is absorbed by a rug, for example, the rug will act as a wick and can burn readily.”

Preferably siphon kerosene on a concrete surface. Kerosene will kill grass and vegetation if it spills.

3. Choose the Right Storage Containers

Kerosene should be stored in opaque plastic containers or metal drums with clamp seals.  Avoid drums made from catalytic materials like copper as they destabilize the kerosene and cause carbon deposits. The size of the tanks depends on how much kerosene you will use.

  • For emergency preparedness: Use no-spill plastic kerosene containers which are clearly labeled.  The 5-gallon size is most popular. Containers like this one with two handles are much easier to pour.
  • For long-term preparedness: Use metal drums with good seals. Put the drums in a secondary container in case any leaks occur.  The drums will be heavy (approx. 400lbs) when full; you won’t be able to move them. Get a few 5-gallon kerosene containers and an oil barrel hand-pump so you can easily transfer the kerosene.
  • For regular use: Consider an underground storage solution.

Features to look  for in kerosene drums:

  • DOT approved
  • Sealed head
  • Threaded air cap vent
  • Cap for molasses gate

4. Additives

Kerosene additives usually fall into one of three types: antioxidants, biocides, or water dispersals.

Antioxidant additives prevent oxidation in the kerosene, which can cause gum formation.  Biocides will algae and bacteria which can also grow water that gets into the kerosene. Water dispersal kerosene additives push water out of the kerosene so microbes won’t grow.

Some options are:

*Let us know in the comments which fuel additive you use in your kerosene!

5. Choose a Good Location for Kerosene Storage

Kerosene containers should be kept:

  • Out of direct sunlight
  • Away from heat sources
  • In a cool, dry place
  • Somewhere well-ventilated
  • Where children and pets cannot get into it
  • Away from wells and water sources

Can you store kerosene indoors?

Do not store kerosene inside your home.  It emits fumes that can cause neurological damage, kidney problems, dizziness, nausea, and other issues.

It’s best to keep kerosene containers in an outside shed.  If you must keep it in your garage, make sure there is adequate ventilation.

6. Check Yearly

Contrary to common advice, there is no need to dispose of unused kerosene every year.  However, you should check your kerosene yearly.

To check kerosene:

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    • Most kerosene that you buy in the store won’t freeze until -40F (it varies depending on what additives there are). So, you don’t have to worry too much. However, the kerosene can get thicker when cold and harder to pour. You can also have some issues with getting your heater to start while the kerosene is still thick.

  1. I’ve purchased some K1 Klean for some emergency heat from Home Depot and I’ve noticed that the container that it comes in (the original store bought container) is totally sealed (little metal seal under the cap etc etc) but I still seem to smell some fumes so I put each container in its own large two gallon double lock zip-lock freezer bags and then the bags in a large plastic sealed storage tub. I still seem to smell fumes albeit very very slight. There is positively NOT the slightest LEAK and I’ve checked each original container closely. How is it possible that I still smell fumes?

  2. Beware Kero attracts Water. We use a primus burner for cooking. Blue coloured kero has caused major problems clogging fuel lines, we now use only a colourless kero (no additives) from a wholesaler. We find decanting and storing the kero in 5 litre clear plastic containers works well, although we do find significant amounts of water accumulating in the bottles. Not just at the bottom in pools, but also in tiny globules on the sides of the containers, where is can’t be washed down by shaking the containers. Thought I’d mention this as I don’t understand why kero being an oil attracts water.

  3. Kerosene additives are especially important in heaters. These tend to be seasonal and are often stored partially full of kerosene. This absorbes moisture and can reek havoc on the wick and control mechanism

  4. Great article, as most of your articles are. I would like to be printing some of your articles in case I do not have access to the internet at some time. There is really no option to print. While I can email, its generally a link. Could you consider adding a link to print (hopefully without the pictures, just text). If not, I understand its probably too much work. Either way, thank you for your diligence in sending your emails and these articles


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