Why Does My Kerosene Heater Smoke?

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Kerosene heaters once were notoriously smelly and sooty, but modern models should provide reliable heat while operating cleanly and efficiently. If your kerosene heater smokes, one of several factors may be the culprit.



There are two grades of kerosene, 1-K and 2-K. 1-K is the only fuel approved for use in portable, unvented kerosene heaters.

While red-dyed 1-K is usable, it does not burn as cleanly as clear kerosene. Try changing your fuel.

Cheap kerosene leads to carbon buildup, which leads to smoke. Only purchase quality fuel.


Purchase the wick specified by the manufacturer of your heater. A generic wick may fit improperly. If your heater uses a wick with a fiberglass top and a cotton bottom, don't try to use an all-cotton wick.


Replace your wick as often as your manufacturer recommends.

Adjust your wick; it may be too high.

Dry Burn

Check your manual. See how often it recommends burning your wick dry.


Is your chimney correctly seated? Look for a high flame on one side of your heater.


Burner Cylinder

Is your burner cylinder clogged or dented? If so, it needs to be replaced.


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Deanna Baran lives in Texas and is a librarian and former museum curator. Although she primarily writes for children and young adults, she regularly shares her interest in history, gardening, and animal husbandry through her articles.