How to Make an Emergency Lamp from a Soda Can

A soda can probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you consider building an emergency lamp — but it works

Did you know you can make an emergency lamp from little more than an aluminum soda can? It’s true! And it’s a good skill to learn, just in case. While every house should have at least a few emergency supplies stashed away, you can’t always guarantee that things will be as they should be.

So if the lights ever go out and you find yourself without an emergency lantern or candles, don’t freak out! To light up the night, all you need is a soda can, a little vegetable oil, and an old cotton sock.

How Does That Work?

Very simply indeed. First, visit the recycling bin and select a suitable can; it should be intact and uncrumpled. Next, work the pull tab loose and set it aside, then take sturdy scissors, stab the can in the middle, and cut it in half. You can toss the upper half back into the recycling bin.

Rinse the bottom half of the can and dry it thoroughly, minding the sharp edges. We recommend that you wear gloves. Then score the top edge of the can with the scissors at half-inch intervals to a depth of half an inch, all the way around its circumference.

Fold over the edges of the can to make a safe rim. Now you can take your gloves off.

What Now?

Get the rest of your ingredients: a cotton sock and some vegetable oil. Cut a strip of sock about an inch long and half an inch wide. Roll it into a thick rope, and feed it through the attachment hole of the pull tab until about a third of it emerges from the top when the tab is sitting upside down.

You can probably see where we’re going with this.

Pour about a tablespoon of oil into the bottom of the soda can (about a cap full on most containers), and place the pull tab with the cotton wick into the middle of the puddle of oil, draping the bottom of the wick in the oil so that it soaks up the fuel. After it does, light the bit that sticks up.

How Long Will It Last?

Your emergency lamp will burn for 3-4 hours with very little smoke, providing about as much light and heat as a basic candle. Now you can save your flashlight batteries for other uses.

Admittedly, this is only a makeshift solution, and it’s not for general use, no matter how frugal you’re trying to be. But such an emergency lamp should be enough to see you through until the electricity comes back on, or until you can get things together and go somewhere safer.