Alcohol Stoves

This military surplus alcohol burner is sturdy and reusable.
This military surplus alcohol burner is sturdy and reusable.

There are many homemade varieties of alcohol stoves as well as commercial stoves available. Alcohol stoves are usually small and frequently used by backpackers. Alcohol (in its pure forms) may be used indoors (with proper ventilation) because it burns so clean. However, some forms may be toxic and need ventilation. We prefer to use denatured alcohol or Everclear for burning indoors.

Any flame can produce carbon monoxide. When pure alcohol burns perfectly, it produces carbon dioxide and water. Although alcohol is one of the safest fuels to burn indoors, proper ventilation is required to ensure enough oxygen for complete combustion. Equip your home with working carbon monoxide detectors! Alcohol is a great storage fuel and has an indefinite shelf life if stored in a tightly sealed container. Two ounces of alcohol will burn in an alcohol burner for approximately 10-15 minutes depending on the stove and type of alcohol.·It has a low flash point, which means that it catches on fire very quickly. Alcohol burns about half as hot as some other fuels, but is a great choice for indoor use.

Alcohol Burner

An alcohol burner is a sturdy, reusable tool for burning alcohol. The alcohol is poured into the center reservoir and lit. It may take a few tries to light as it is the alcohol fumes that burn. Extinguish by gently replacing the cap over the flames and smothering them. Use caution as the flame may be clear or nearly invisible. Do not blow on flames to extinguish. Smother them with the cap and allow to cool completely before tightening.

Portable stove designed for use with an alcohol burner.
Portable stove designed for use with an alcohol burner.

Military Surplus Alcohol Stove 

This alcohol stove is used for camping, backpacking, and military. The alcohol burner sits in the base. The pots are placed over the base to cook. Alcohol burns half as hot as other fuels. It is extremely flammable, but not explosive. Alcohol will evaporate quickly if left open and lose potency. Keep lid closed tightly during storage.

Canned Heat – Alcohol in a Disposable Can

Sterno is a popular brand of canned heat and works well. Our favorite is Safe Heat because it burns for 6 hours and is relatively inexpensive. It can be purchased at Sam’s Club in the catering section for around $15 for 12 cans. We use a Sterno Single Burner Folding Stove for safety and convenience when using canned heat. The Sterno brand stove tends to be a little more sturdy. It might cost a few extra dollars but is worth it in the long run.

Alcohol Heater/Cooker

Heat Pal 5100 is an alcohol stove and heater in one unit.
Heat Pal 5100 is an alcohol stove and heater in one unit.

Heat Pal 5100 is light, compact, and doubles as a stove and heater. No leaks, no pump, no explosion risk, and lights easily. The manufacturer recommends using denatured alcohol.

It burns for about 5 hours on a full tank (1.2 liters) and is compact (30x30x50cm) and lightweight. The heat may be adjusted as desired. It is okay to use indoors with proper ventilation.

Homemade Alcohol Can Stove/Heater

Different forms of alcohol burn differently. Isopropyl produces a yellow flame while the denatured alcohol flame is almost invisible.
Different forms of alcohol burn differently. Isopropyl produces a yellow flame while the denatured alcohol flame is almost invisible.

An alcohol burner can be created by using a quart sized paint can with a roll of toilet paper stuffed inside. This burner can double as a heater or as a stove.

View our experiment by clicking here.

The stoves work well, however, we are concerned about the safety of using them indoors. They produce a large open flame. We recommend that they be used outdoors only. There are much safer alcohol stoves and heaters for indoor use. In our experiment with these burners we tried 3 different forms of alcohol. Notice how much better the 91 percent isopropyl alcohol burned than the 70 percent. The 91 percent is a much better fuel. The denatured alcohol has a very hot almost invisible flame because it burns so cleanly. Great caution must be exercised to avoid accidental fires and burns due to this invisible flame.

Commercial Alcohol Stoves and Fuel

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Comments 2

  • Hi
    Is it safe (Healthy) to burn 99% Isopropyl alcohol in a ventless indoor fireplace?
    There is adequate ventilation and a carbon monoxide detector.
    Thanks for your help.
    Cheers,
    Scott

  • Hello Scott,
    Isopropyl alcohol burns cleanly. I’m interested to know where you found 99 percent. The best I have seen is 90 percent. Isopropyl alcohol produces a yellow sooty flame with carbon dioxide as a product of combustion unless there is not adequate oxygen to burn. What type of fuel does the manufacturer of the indoor fireplace recommend? I would feel comfortable burning it indoors in a well-ventilated area. Be sure that any appliance you use, as well as the fuel, are both rated for indoor use. There are marine type devices (such as the Heat Pal 5100) that are rated for indoor use and would be a good choice.
    Thanks for prepping safely!
    Kylene 🙂

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