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My wife recently switched from using wax candles to oil in glass cups when lighting for Shabbat. The cups were about half water, half oil. She put some floating wicks in and lit them the way she normally lights. About 20 minutes later, the entire surface of the oil cup was on fire, and spitting tiny fireballs whenever the oil bubbled. B"H, everything is fine, no damage at all!

We're not sure if we did something wrong, or if there's some technique for using oil cups we don't know about!

Below is a picture of the oil cups as they are now, fairly burnt. Also, here's a link to the type of wicks we used: https://www.amazon.com/Ner-Mitzvah-Round-Floating-Wicks/dp/B0064CEWD4

Any idea what happened here? Or how we can prevent it from happening again?

enter image description here

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    Whatever advice you get, please practice lighting them and letting them burn not on Shabbat to make sure it works! – Double AA Oct 27 at 16:28
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    Looks like you are using paraffin, not oil. I have never used paraffin, but I understand it is a lot more inflammable than oil. From my experience floating wicks often fall over, so they might not be a good combination with paraffin. I would suggest using the tall cylindrical wick supporters usually available for Chanukah. – simyou Oct 27 at 16:56
  • DANGER! STOP! The floating wicks you are using are designed for OIL - not paraffin. You shouldn’t use paraffin with floating wicks or cotton wicks. – Danny Schoemann Oct 28 at 10:35
  • Wanted to provide a quick update - using olive oil in these instead of paraffin oil seems to have solved the problem! I didn't realize there were multiple kinds of oil, I just bought whatever the Judaica shop had. – Jake Nov 7 at 14:30
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Shabbat candle lighting, unfortunately, is fraught with danger, especially when you have toddlers and babies in the house. Generally, the smaller / shorter you can keep the flame and the shorter the flame stays lit, the safer things are. (I don't understand why most Shabbat wax candles stay lit for 4 hours, and some, as much as 6 hours. Do we need them on that long?)

If you're going to use the liquid paraffin as you have described, I highly recommend the enclosed Ner Mitvah holders which has the wick inside a glass container with a small bit of the wick hanging out. This eliminates the floating wick, and there's o drippy mess anywhere either. Additionally, you can control the fuel level so that you can have the candles burn, say one hour. (I think that's enough, but ask a rav what the minimum should be.)

  • Thank you! I think one issue is for sure the type of oil - I don't think we realized there were multiple kinds. I'll also check out those bulb-like glass containers, those seem like they'd solve the problem entirely. – Jake Oct 28 at 0:17
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    I haven't used them, but many of my friends have and they are all extremely pleased with them, especially how clean they are. No wax drippings anymore. – DanF Oct 28 at 0:46
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    @Jake Note that the enclosed bulb lighter (which is made for the parafin oil type fluid) uses fiberglass wicks which also prevents flareups and last properly. They also keep the fuel properly feeding the flame at a safe steady rate. – sabbahillel Oct 28 at 1:44
  • @sabbahillel Interesting info about the wick material. It seems that they must have had some good engineers in their research / manufacturing dept. – DanF Oct 28 at 13:41
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I know this is essentially a repeat of the other answers, but this is a matter of life and death, chalilah!

The floating wicks you are using are designed for OIL - not paraffin. To quote the Amazon link you provided:

FOR CHANUKAH & SHABBAT: Perfect for your Hanukah Menorah or to use to light Shabbos candles, these wicks fit almost any oil cup.
MULTI-PURPOSE: These wicks will fit in almost any oil candle cup and have many uses. From religious ceremonies and spiritual events, to soft mood lighting and emergency candle lights.
SAFE USE: Designed with your safety in mind, the lights will be put out if the wick tips over into the oil. Never leave these wicks or any flame unattended.
PREMIUM QUALITY MATERIALS: The wick is made from 100% cotton, and the cork discs are designed to keep the wicks afloat without falling into the oil. For short term use only.

Paraffin needs different lamps and different wicks! As you can see on their page for Ner Mitzvah 1 Gallon Paraffin Lamp Oil it clearly states:

  • You shouldn’t use this with floating wicks or cotton wicks!

Suggestion: Replace your paraffin with oil. Any olive oil, (even the cheapest kind) will work.

Here (in Eretz Yisroel) they also sell a mix of olive and vegi oil - looks like olive oil, but is missing the Hidur Mitzva of using olive oil. It's also cheaper, but considering how little oil you need per week, may as well use 100% olive oil.

BTW: Not sure what you planned on gaining by switching from candles to paraffin; halachically you may be better off using candles than paraffin. See Kitzur Shulchan Oruch 75:3

P.S. Floating wicks will (eventually/always - depending on your luck) blacken the cups. But if you use metal wick holders, then the cups remain clean.

metal wick holders

  • Thank you for the very thorough comment! – Jake Oct 28 at 13:16

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