Richard Bucker

charcoal lighter fluid or something else; healthy alternatives

Posted at — Jun 26, 2016

Following up on a previous post about my solo stove and the national parks; and my inability to start a fire. Let me add to that a video I watched for removing tree stumps.


I have a huge stump in my backyard that I want to remove. The fastest way to remove the stump is to rent a stump grinder and get to grinding. The easiest way is to pay someone else to do it. But this fellow said that the easiest way to do it myself….
  • drill a bunch of holes from the top down and evenly spaced
  • pour vegetable oil in the holes
  • watch the stump over the next few months topping off the oil (he used a gallon in total)
  • Then he placed a bag of charcoal on top of the stump, opened it up, poured more vegetable oil on the coals, added some loose paper, and then some more oil. It started up right away.
So that got me to thinking. While I was going to make tinder from cotton balls and Vaseline I’ve decided to transition to cotton or jute twine and hand sanitizer; and now maybe vegetable oil. The benefit is that both hand sanitizer and vegetable oil serve more than one purpose.

And the kicker. Let’s compare prices:




Charcoal lighter fluid is volatile. The slightest spark can set off a vapor. Hand sanitizer is much less volatile but has a gel like property not unlike napalm (not that I would know). But vegetable oil is more like a wax.

I like the idea of vegetable oil because it’s cheap, not explosive (try squirting lighter fluid on a fire), it’s very stable, bio degradable, and if you need to cook you can use it to fry or coat your pots and pans. One other thing… if you use a natural coal or charcoal and vegetable oil then you will not be ingesting chemicals from the lighter fluid etc. Seems to be safer all the way around.

these are my portable oil containers. left: vegetable oil; right: olive oil
One very last point.  I use vegetable oil to coat my blades after use. This prevents them from rusting and unlike honing oil or other petroleum oils I do not have to worry about cleaning them before use in a food prep situation.