How to make a simple, inexpensive, and effective lamp when SHTF

When the power goes out, you also lose access to electric light sources. Portable light sources like flashlights and lamps will definitely come in handy, but it’s also good to have non-electric light sources as a backup. This DIY emergency lamp is made using instructions from Ron Brown’s book, titled “Lamps & Candles.” (h/t to

Making the DIY emergency lamp

You can make this DIY emergency lamp ahead of time so you have a backup light source that doesn’t need batteries.


  • Aluminum foil
  • Cotton ball or cotton puff
  • Flammable liquid (e.g., a drop of nail polish, nail polish remover, or petroleum jelly)
  • Glass container (e.g., clear candle holder, but you can also substitute a cereal bowl or an empty can)
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Vegetable oil


  1. Soak the cotton ball in some vegetable oil.
  2. Form a little tip on one side of the cotton ball/puff. This tip will be the wick of the DIY lamp.
  3. Cut a piece of aluminum foil the same size as a nickel, then carefully poke a small hole in the middle with a pen or a pointed tool. Slowly pull the tip of the cotton ball through the hole in the aluminum foil.
  4. Put a drop of the flammable liquid on the cotton ball tip.
  5. Light the cotton ball wick whenever you need it.

The lamp will last for at least a couple of hours. There are other cheaper fuels available, but this is one way to recycle old vegetable oil that you don’t want to use for cooking.

As a prepper, it’s always good to learn how to create makeshift items out of various materials, especially when SHTF.

How to make a Crisco candle

If you need a lamp that will last longer than several hours, you can make a candle out of some shortening, like Crisco. (Related: What’s in YOUR bug out bag? 10 must-have multipurpose survival tools.)


  • A container of shortening (e.g., Crisco)
  • A natural fiber wick (e.g., a mop strand or a shred of material from a cotton shirt)


  1. Use a forked stick to press a natural fiber wick to the bottom of a can of Crisco.
  2. Put some shortening on top of the wick to make it burn better. This emergency candle will last for about several days.

You can view more articles about how you can use household items to make an emergency lamp and other tools at

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