Alcohol burner

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An alcohol burner or spirit lamp is a piece of laboratory equipment used to produce an open flame to act as a heating source.


Alcohol burners are glass or metal containers (rarer ceramic), consisting of a bottle with a wick and a lid. The bottle is filled with a flammable solvent, most often ethanol, though other flammable solvents can also be used. A cotton or fiberglass wick is used to act as a capillary, which draws the flammable liquid upwards, where it burns. To extinguish the flame, a cap made from a non-flammable material is placed on the burning wick, snuffing it. This process is similar in function to the classical Zippo lighters.


Alcohol burners are sold by lab suppliers and online, though they're rarely used these days, as electric hotplates or gas torches are safer to handle.

DIY alcohol burner

A simple alcohol burner can be made by taking a small glass or metal bottle with a metal lid, drilling a hole through the lid and inserting a wick through the hole. Use a metal cup or lid to act as snuffing cap, unless your bottle already has something similar. Denaturated alcohol can be used as fuel.


  • Small heating and flame source
  • Burn waste solvents


Alcohol burners, like all open flame sources, pose a significant fire hazard, and must only be used when heating aqueous solutions or non-flammable items, like metal.


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