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The Iconic Zippo Lighter

From its start in the 1930s, WWII, and the present, Zippo lighters are truly an iconic American company as it has manufactured its lighters in either the United States or in Ontario, Canada. Currently, all of their lighters are made in their headquarters in Pennslyvania.


Zippo Lighter’s price range is from under $12 to thousands of dollars. This huge price range is because some Zippo lighters are highly collectible. In fact, an 18-carat gold, special edition Zippo can set you back over $20,000!

Customer Service

The Zippo Lighter company is known for their excellent customer service ranging from offering personalization to their lifetime warranty on all of their lighters.

Other Products

Zippo lighters have also branched off into other product lines. Some of which are closely related to their traditional lighters. i.e., Candle lighters, Torch lighters. They also offer a butane lighter that is geared toward outside/campfire use.

Non-LIghter Products

Zippo also has products that are not related to a cigarette lighter. Some examples are camping lanterns, hand warmers, and they even offer a hand warmer for PC gamers.

Brief History Of The Iconic, Zippo

The Zippo Lighter Company was founded in the 1930s by George Blaisdell, who, while golfing on a windy day, saw a friend struggle to light up his cigar using an Austrian-made lighter. The lighter was tough to handle as it required two hands to even light it up. However, Blaisdell noticed that even in windy weather, once it was lit, it stayed lit, as its chimney-like design protected the flame from, wind, rain, and other stormy weather conditions.

Seeing this lighter, Blaisdell, became inspired and soon afterward, he designed his own lighter that fixed the Austrian lighters inefficiencies while keeping the innovative chimney-like design. The result was an iconic Zippo lighter.

Per, Zippo’s website, Zippo’s origin of the name is quite simple. Blaisdell simply liked how the word zipper sounded. So, Zippo is just a variation of Zippo.

The first Zippo lighters were recognized by their rectangular case and hinged lid. The case was also made smaller, which resulted in it being able to be used in one hand. More importantly, the chimney-like design, for easy lighting in windy weather, was kept, and the Zippo soon became known as a windproof lighter.


Zippo Black Ice 1941 Replica

Vintage Replica of Zippos First Lighter

During WWII, in 1941, Zippo in a mixture of patriotism and marketing only made their lighters for US military personnel. As they say, the rest was history. The Zippo for forty years then became the number one lighter in the United States.

The 1970s

In the early 70s, the Gillette Cricket and Bic disposable lighters came out, which many thought could have been the death of Zippo. However, Zippo survived and thrived.  Watch this Flic My Bic commercial for some nostalgic fun.

Recent History

In 2010, Zippo bought out Ronson lighters, which included Ronson lighter fuel.

Why Would You Choose A Zippo Lighter?

Zippo lighters cost more and need to be filled up with fluid. So, if you do not care about how your lighter looks, why would you carry a zippo instead of a disposable, Bic lighter, or a generic cigarette lighter? The main reasons are quality and ease of use.

The Zippo lighter has an amazing lifetime warranty, which means that your lighter will be there when you need it the most. Second, with the chimney-like, windproof design, when you are freezing your A$# off you are not going to have to worry about windy, nasty weather, snuffing out the flame on your lighter.

Why You Would Not Buy a Zippo?

A few downsides with Zippo lighters is that their lighters do not come with fuel, and for best results, it is recommended that you purchase relatively expensive Zippo fuel.

What Is Zippo Lighter Fluid Made From?

Zippo Lighter Fluid 12 oz. (2 Pack)

The official Zippo lighter fluid is made from a petroleum distillate which, is commonly called naphtha. This lighter fluid comes in two, 12 oz bottles and can be purchased at Amazon, Walmart, your local smoke shop, and other local stores.

The Problems With Zippo Lighters

Disappearing Lighter Fuel

The only information that I could find, concerning evaporating fuel, was from obscure blogs and forums. So, I do not know if this info is exactly correct. However, I see no reason why they would lie. The trend that I saw was that Zippo Lighter Fluid when it is in the lighter, will last from one to two weeks.

Zippo also mentions on their website, that their fluid does evaporate, even when the lighter is not used. They also recommended that you keep the lid closed when it is not in use. So, it is a possibility that the users that mention one to two weeks did not always close the lighter lid.

Zippo Fluid Alternatives

Zippo’s lighters are legendary, and (this is not an exaggeration) are as American as apple pie. However, the Zippo lighter use is limited, during a long-term disaster if there isn’t a  substitute for zippo lighter fluid.

if only if the Zippo premium lighter, fluid, can be used in their lighters. As a result, you should know common substitutes for Zippo, lighter fluids.

Guide To Alternative Fuel For Zippo Lighter

Zippo, sells lighter fluid that they claim is specifically manufactured for their lighters. However, it is not mandatory that you use this fluid. This is even stated on their website, where they say that Zippo lighters are specifically designed to work BEST with the “Zippo Premium Lighter Fluids and Flint.” Notice they said best, and not only.

With the above in mind, the question is not whether you can use alternative fluid. Instead, the question is “IF” you should use alternative fluid for your Zippo lighter. FYI this is a trick question as the answer depends upon your situation, and how you use your lighter.

My Findings

Under normal circumstances, you should use Zippo Premium lighter fluid or a close equivalent. My definition of normal Circumstances would be during a normal, non-SHTF, scenario. Zippo Premium lighter fluid is made of naphtha and other additives. This premium fuel is made to help the Zippo’s wick and flint inner parts stay clean longer.  The problem with many major alternative fuels is that they are dirty and/or filled with additives, which often prematurely make the Zippo’s wick and filter dirty.

Vegetable Oil

Some Even Have Used Vegetable Oil For Their Zippo

During a disaster though, or if you are far away from civilization, there are several alternatives that will work perfectly fine with your Zippo.

Dependent Upon How You Use Your Lighter

Pretty much any flammable, liquid will work. A proper substitute depends upon whether you use your lighter for smoking or for lighting your campfire or use it for other non-smoking uses. The problem with some fuel alternatives is that these substitutes will give tobacco a bad taste and also smell up the air. So, if you do not smoke, or you are using another lighter for smoking, your options are more varied. Below, are a few zippo fuel substitutes that you should know for both the smoker and non-smoking tasks.

Best Alternative For Smokers

  • Ronson Lighter Fluid-Ronson lighter fluid is owned by Zippo, and this fuel is designed to be extra clean and clear of impurities.
  • Coleman Fuel – This fluid is also called white gas or naphtha. Like Zippo’s premium fuel it is manufactured from petro and unlike gas, it does not have any additives.
 Ronsonol Lighter Fuel (Pack of 2)

Notice, like Zippo Fuel, It Also Contains Petroleum Distillate

MSR Super Fuel White Gas

Not Coleman, White Gas, Just The Same Though

Best Substitutes For The Non-Smokers

I was unable to find any scientific studies or even non-scientific studies on Zippo fluid substitutes. I only saw trends on forums and blog posts that where certain individuals stated that certain flammable substances would work. A couple of individuals even said that they used paint thinner and vegetable oil for their Zippo lighter.

The main reason for this “bad taste” effect is the additives in the fuel source. A prime example of this is that gasoline and diesel fuel both contain additives. Another less known example is charcoal lighter fluid where, because of added chemicals, a cigarette lit with charcoal lighter fluid will stink and taste awful.

Isopropyl alcohol (AKA-rubbing alcohol) is another example, as it contains, the added substances of sucrose octaacetate, and denatonium benzoate. And to beat a dead horse, denatured alcohol (AKA-methylated spirits), which to prevent abuse has additives that are specifically designed to make it taste awful.

The additives should not matter that much for lighting a campfire or other non-smoking uses. However, if possible, I would stay away from these, for lack of better terms, “Dirty Fuels” as you don’t want to abuse your Zippo lighter’s flint and wick unless it is necessary.

Final Thoughts

Zippo lighters have battle-tested reliability as they were the lighter of choice for US Military Servicemen. However, unlike a disposable Bic Lighter, the Zippo lighter, as the fluid evaporates, is not a light that you can fill up, and place it in your bug out bag, and expect it to work when you need it during a disaster. Zippos will serve you well if you have enough manufacturer premium backup lighter fluid and you only use certain non-naphtha substitute fuel for non-smoking purposes.