Online searching can result in a plethora of ideas to cook during an emergency. We encourage you to exercise caution and actually experiment with your chosen methods before disaster strikes. Some methods are safer than others. A disaster is a lousy time for a house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning (not that there is ever a good time). Emergency personnel will be in short supply and may not be available to assist you. Be wise! Don’t do stupid things!
This stove can be found by searching under “Emergency Alcohol Cook Stove” or “Stove-In-A-Can” and might be a good option for emergency cooking and heating outdoors. We are concerned about the safety of using it indoors even though pure alcohol is a good fuel for indoor use. Knowledge is power and the concepts taught by this design might be very useful sometime. If you decide to use it, practice with it to ensure it works the way you need it to.
Supplies needed include: one gallon paint can, one quart paint can, paint can opener, one roll of toilet paper, one quart alcohol, and matches.
Homemade Alcohol Can Stoves
An inexpensive portable alcohol stove can be created with new paint cans, toilet paper and alcohol. The original design called for a one gallon paint can, a quart paint can, a small tile, a paint can opener, a roll of toilet paper, and rubbing alcohol. We experimented and decided that we would not use this design indoors due to safety concerns. However, it would be a great tool for emergency use outside.
We have often been asked how we like the alcohol burner made from a paint can and roll of toilet paper. The concept is great. A roll of toilet paper (with the cardboard center removed) is stuffed into a quart-sized paint can and filled with rubbing alcohol. A small tile is placed under the alcohol filled can while burning. A gallon-sized can is converted into a stove by punching ventilation holes in it around the top and bottom. The gallon can is used to store all of the supplies and doubles as a stove top. Refuel with more alcohol but the toilet paper does not need to be replaced. Sounds great ... in theory.
We tried creating holes in the paint can with a can opener. It was a messy proposition. Then we tried drilling holes in it, which created a lot of sharp edges. We even took tin snips and a file to fix it. The result was a can with a lot of safety issues. Paint cans were probably sturdier when this was designed. The newer paint cans are so thin we are concerned about them safely supporting the weight of a pot.
We created a stove out of a #10 can using a can opener around the top and tin snips on the bottom. It is slightly shorter than the paint can. It burned very hot and flames licked out of the holes all around the edges. We decided we would not use this indoors due to the fire hazard.
This alcohol stove brought water to a boil very quickly. We used a Corian cutting board for a safe, non-flammable surface. The tile in the kit was too large to allow the can to be stable.
True to our nature, we had to seize the opportunity to compare different forms of alcohol in action. After stuffing a roll of toilet paper in each can, we filled one with 70% isopropyl alcohol, another with 91% isopropyl alcohol, and one with denatured alcohol.
The picture illustrates the results accurately. The 70% isopropyl alcohol did not burn as well as the 91%. The flame is noticeably smaller and appeared to not be as hot. However, we didn't have the correct instruments to accurately measure that. The denatured alcohol produced a nearly invisible flame. It was VERY HOT! We could only place our hand about the level of the top of the center flame in the photo before feeling the intense heat. Denatured alcohol burns very clean and is a good choice for indoor use. However, great caution must be used because the flame is not easily visible.