Gel Fuel and How to Make it

Gel Fuel -- Gel Fires

Gel fuel is a relatively new substance, and its possibilities are really intriguing to me, especially since it's so easy to learn how to make gel fuel. Gel fuel is an alcohol-based product that doesn't give off smoke or odor, or at least no odors that are toxic or noxious. It's primary use is in fireplaces, but it has uses in catering or any other indoor event where odorless fire could be helpful. The applications for gel fuel are pretty amazing. When I first heard about it I was excited to try it out. And being a nerd at heart, I wanted to learn how to make gel fuel and see how it compared with the real stuff, which I've written a section about below. But the greatest thing about gel fuel is that you're able to install a fireplace that doesn't need a vent? Check out the pictures below.

Best and Cheapest Gel Fuel

Gel fuel can be fairly expensive, especially for the top brands. Below, I've left you a video and links to the supplies for how to make gel fuel yourself, but if you're not interested in that and just want a good gel fuel at a cheap price, I've left you two products below. One is to individual cans of gel fuel that burn for three hours each, and another is to an interesting product called pourable gel fuel, which you can use to refill your cans of gel fuel. Pourable gel fuel is actually quite a bit cheaper due to the fact that you're refilling your old canisters and that it doesn't generally seem to burn for quite as long. But for the cost, it can't be beat.

How to Make Gel Fuel

Before we talk about how to make gel fuel, I was recently informed by my friend Greg that burning 91% isopropyl alcohol lasts almost as long as the gel fuel solution itself. It's true that it's a bit more dangerous because of the viscosity of liquid isopropyl alcohol, but for the ease, it might be worth it. So if you don't want to go through the hassle of making gel fuel, check out just burning 91% isopropyl alcohol. Just be careful!!!

One of the best things about gel fuel is its simplicity. Gel fuel can be made safely at home and ready for use. Just like wax candles, gel fuel can be created in large quantities for those who don't want to spend the coin. It's combustible property is the isopropyl alcohol content, also known as rubbing alcohol. It generally sells for about $1 per quart so it's very economical. You'll also need a thickening agent to turn the rubbing alcohol into a gel. There's some debate on what the best thing to use for this is. Some have said that soy wax will do the trick. But more people seem to like a substance called calcium acetate, which can actually also be made at home pretty easily from common household items. Watch the video to see how.

How to Make Gel Fuel Video

Gel Fuel Supplies From the Video

Swan Isopropyl Alcohol, 99%, Pint, 16 OZ
Swan Isopropyl Alcohol, 99%, Pint, 16 OZ

99% isopropyl alcohol, if you can't find it in the grocery store.

 

Here's the text explanation from the video. If you take normal chalk in powder form, and take approximately 4 parts grocery store white vinegar to 1 part chalk and mix them together, the result will be that the chalk, which is calcium carbonate, and the vinegar, which is acetic acid, will combine to create carbon dioxide, which will evaporate away, and calcium acetate, which will be left over.

In the above video, I used 1/2 a cup of white vinegar, 1/8 cup of chalk, and mixed them together thoroughly. After that, I let 1/2 to 2/3rds of the water evaporate away through heating it in the oven at 200 degrees for about 3 hours. Then, taking the rest of the mixture, I measured how much isopropyl alcohol I would need to add in order to make the solution 9 parts isopropyl alcohol to 1 part calcium acetate/water. Once you have it measured out, adding the alcohol will cause the solution to quickly begin to gel on its own. Stir the solution to mix all of the alcohol with the calcium acetate and water mixture.

The total compound must be 90% alcohol or else it won't burn very well. Depending on whether you bought your calcium acetate or made it at home, you'll either have to add water or not. If you have dry calcium acetate, you'll need to combine 2 parts water to every 3 parts calcium acetate and stir them until the substance is dissolved. But either way, as long as the final substance is 90% rubbing alcohol, it should burn great. And just like that, you have your own gel fuel! One extra tip. If you want the gel fuel to crackle just like a normal wood fire, you have to add something to it that will pop when the fire gets to it. Oil and water work very well for this. If you take 1 tsp of oil and 2 tsp of water for each soup can and mix it into the gel, it will make the fire occasionally crackle and pop when it comes across those small pockets of oil and water. It's pretty neat.


Ventless Fireplaces for Gel Fuel

A completely non-traditional fireplace for gel fuel application
A completely non-traditional fireplace for gel fuel application
A more traditional fireplace for gel fuel application
A more traditional fireplace for gel fuel application

Gel Fuel for Ventless Fireplaces

That first fireplace is pretty neat isn't is? All made possible by gel fuel. I think we're all suckers for a good fire every now and again, especially on a cold night where indoor coziness is required. Gel fuel even crackles like a normal wood burning fire. And one little container of gel fuel burns for about 3 hours. The cool part is, as you can see from the first picture, installing a fireplace for gel fuel doesn't even require demolition or installation to the house. If you get creative, you can build a modern fireplace in a lot of different ways.  The greatest thing about ventless fireplaces is that they can be freestanding.  There are companies online that sell freestanding ventless fireplaces that sit against the wall and give off the appearance that they're actually a part of the wall itself.  These require no installation or demolition whatsoever, and still give off the beauty of a regular fireplace.

But I think the main reason why I like gel fuel is because of the added value it can bring to a home. I'm soon to be in the market for a fixer-uper condo. When I buy it, I'll not only be replacing all the old, rundown aspects, I'll be looking for cheap ways of installing new features to up the property value. And you can be very sure that if it doesn't already have a fireplace, I'll be installing a ventless fireplace for gel fuel use.

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Comments 235 comments

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

That sounds incredible! And so simple - thank you Benji - and it's great to see you here again!


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 6 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Thanks Shalini :) I'm trying as much as possible to be able to spend more time on HP. I've just had so many other projects recently. Thanks very much for your encouragement!


lefseriver profile image

lefseriver 6 years ago from Northern Minnesota

Why get a condo there when you can get land here? :) interesting hub though. Gel to get the fire going...


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 6 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Haha that's true. Most likely, I'm eventually going to buy a condo so I can fix it up and rent it out. I don't plan on living there myself. If I were though, I would definitely prefer to own some area of property.


Medic1259 5 years ago

Thanks for getting back to me. Great post. Just so I understand. With the 3 cups vinegar to 3/4 cup chalk power.

Could it be heated or simmered to be reduced?

Thanks again


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

You know I've never done it that way before, since I live in San Diego and the sunshine is enough to evaporate the water. But others I've read about prefer to put it into the oven on low heat to skim off some of the excess water. So yes, it can definitely be done that way. You're very welcome. I hope it works out for you and saves you a good amount of money. Just make sure the chalk you get is calcium carbonate. There are different kinds of chalk out there and it needs to be calcium carbonate to make calcium acetate.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

This is great information! I'd been looking at the gel burning fireplaces a while ago, but couldn't justify the cost of the gel.

Can you explain, "If you take normal chalk in powder form...". I don't take chalk, and haven't got the foggiest idea of what this is. Also, when mixing the chalk and vinegar, are you talking about volume or weight measures?

Everything else sounds very do-able. Love the tip about making the crackling sound.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Sally. That's funny that you're asking these questions now, because I'm actually going to put up a video tomorrow of me going through the process of making gel fuel using the ingredients and processes mentioned.

To answer your questions though, chalk in gel fuel is just the same compound used by teachers on chalkboards and kids drawing on sidewalks. And the measures are volumetric, not weight measures. That's a great question. I'll have the video up by tomorrow afternoon hopefully. Maybe you could watch it and see if it answers your questions.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Super about the video! I'll be looking to this Hub for the link. Thanks so much.


Calafia 5 years ago

Can't wait for the video :)


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Sweet, I'll be putting it up in a few hours.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Definitely. I lived next door in Cambodia for awhile and it was hot year round.


Rosemary 5 years ago

I made some yesterday. Mine did not gel but it still burned. Quicker I think because of it not gelling. I didn't get the water evaporated I think. I wish there was a way to skip this step. It would be great if you could skip this step. I used chalkboard chalk. Maybe that was it. I love my gel fireplace but just don't use it because of cost and gel fuel not available here in stores. You have to order.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

I agree with you. Evaporating enough water takes a long time. The only feasible way to skip that step is to use 10% vinegar instead of the standard 5% that you get in grocery stores. At that point you can mix in double the chalk and the water ratio should be much less. 10% vinegar is difficult to find though and you often have to special order it. But it can be worth it to save you the extra time.


Gina 5 years ago

i did every step you did as you were doing it. For some reason it didn't gel up.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hmm, is it semi-gelled at least? Is it just very liquid? I've done it once or twice where I didn't quite let enough water evaporate and the solution comes out really watery. I've never gotten an all out liquid before, but you'll probably want to try again and just evaporate 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the water away instead of half. That's the only thing I can think of. Sorry it didn't work right.


Disneyfan 5 years ago

Thank you so much for this video. 2 things

1. Do you need a wick for use in the fireplace?

2. How long should it store and still be usable?

Couldn't you just use a small syringe to eliminate the water from the top? or will that disturb the Cal Acetate at the bottom? My wife and I are buying a Gel fireplace and looking to make our own fuel. I was going to do the soy wax but may try this method instead. Thank you again


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Disneyfan, thanks for your questions. You don't need to use a wick in the fireplace. If you put the gel fuel in an old can of soup, it should burn slowly and consistently for a few hours.

You know I've tried using a syringe before and it has never worked. I've also asked other people who make gel fuel and they have said the same thing. So I really can't tell you chemically why that is, I just know that using a syringe to take off excess water doesn't work.

As far as the shelf life, I've never really tested it. I always use it within a month or two of making it. So I know it lasts at least that long. I'm in the process of testing that right now. People have been asking so I made a batch of gel fuel a month ago and am going to keep it unused and test how long it lasts. I'll have to get back to you on the results.

Thanks for stopping by!


greg 5 years ago

I bought Calcium Carbonate Limestone Powder 5 Lb on ebay for $9.48. Is this right? If so, here is the link from the auction so people know where to get it. Thanks. Looking forward to the experiment.


Greg 5 years ago

How many ounces of gel fuel does your current formula make? What size jar did you use? Thanks. I forgot to add the link before for everyone, assuming it is te right stuff i bought. Here it is....

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item...


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey Greg, thanks for that link. I have a link to the one I bought at Amazon as well. Since the Isopropyl alcohol is 90% of the solution, generally you make a little bit more gel fuel by volume than the amount of isopropyl alcohol you add. So if you find a gallon bottle of 99% strength isopropyl alcohol, you can make over a gallon of gel fuel, which should last a pretty long time. That's what I like to do. I can make a gallon of gel fuel for just over $5. It's pretty great.


Kathy 5 years ago

I can only find 91% alcohol, will that work? I have checked at walmart and even a couple of pharmacys with no luck. Anyone know of a place online to obtain 99% alchol?

Also, if you purchase the calcium acetate powder and just add 91% alcohol to the dry powder wouldn't that be the same combi...nation as acetate powder mixed with water and 99% alcohol? The 9% water in the bottle of 91% alcohol would be taking the place of adding water to dry acetate powder to then mix with th 99% alchol recipe. I hope that I didn't confuse you too much.


kathy 5 years ago

Ok, I just answered my own question. I made the vinigar/calcium combination and evaporated it in the oven till about 3/4 liquid was gone. The slurry looked like whipped watery egg white. I measured 1 Tablespoon of slurry and placed in a small can and added about 6-7 tablespoons of the 91% alcohol. Worked like a charm. I placed the can in the fireplace and had beautiful flames.

Now my next question is...the gel fuel that I purchased in a quart bottle is clear where the home made is white. What do the other companies use to make clear gel fuel? Could it be corn starch? Has anyone tried to make it with corn starch instead of calcium?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Kathy, that's awesome. I'm really glad it worked. Thanks so much for coming back and explaining what happened in case other people run into that same situation. I love gel fuel. It's just awesome, especially when you make it yourself. Thanks again!


greg 5 years ago

How many oz of gel fuel does your video make exactly. That would be helpful for the size soup cans being used. Thanks.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey Greg. I'm not sure about the exact measurement of the video since I don't usually make it in a small quantity like that. But we tried figuring it out and we think that it was about 16 oz. But really, the solution comes out to about the amount of isopropyl alcohol you use, since that's 90% of the overall solution. The water and calcium acetate only each account for about 5% of the solution.


greg 5 years ago

Hi, sorry to bother you again. I have made 2 batches using your instructions and both times it came out watery, no gel what so ever. The 16 oz. burned for about 2 1/2 hours, but no gel. Any suggestions? I put the solution in the oven at 200 degrees for 3 hours and it evaporated about 1/2 the water. Would a hire temp. work or should i leave it longer? Also, I live in new york and would prefer leaving the solution outside, but the temp. is around freezing. Will the solution evaporate or will it freeze do you think?Thanks. I appreciate your help.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey Greg, sorry about the lack of success with the solution. It definitely can be a bit temperamental and I've had it come out watery myself once or twice. If the solution is watery, it means you have too much water :) The water in the solution does nothing chemically, it affects the physical state, meaning the more water you have, the more watery the solution will come out. I've evaporated up to 75% of the water away, and the gel just gets really thick. Doing that just takes longer in the oven. It could need to sit in there up to

As far as the cold, I'm fairly positive you shouldn't have a problem unless it gets well down into the negatives, like negative 25 degrees or lower. Then it might start to freeze on you. But alcohol has a much lower freezing point than water does.


greg 5 years ago

Thanks. I will try for more evaporation then. Thanks.


Barbara H 5 years ago

Really nice job on the video - very informative - nicely done and I think with the ease of instructions that my friend can actually do this - thanks!.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Thanks Barbara! I hope it works out for her.


greg 5 years ago

i did the oven at 375 for about hours, i think my oven cooks slower than yours, but it worked and it gelled, thanks.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Excellent! I've never heated it that hot myself. I'm really glad it worked. Sorry about all the hassle. I should update the video to tell people about some of the issues that might pop up.


lymeris777 5 years ago

Hi Ben,

I too ran into runny solution. But I discovered I used 70% alcohol by mistake. Which brings me to my 91%-99% issue.

I'm really grateful Kathy asked (an answered) this question. As I too can not find 99% alcohol anywhere and even 91% is limited but available. I guess its the so flammable. You have to order it on line (99%). I plan on going with 91%. So here's my question.

Because of this situation for me and maybe others, would you consider in your video of addressing issues showing us how to make this with 91% alcohol? I'm unsure as to whether to evaporate the solution down to 3/4 as Kathy did, or dry it out altogether if possible and let the 9% water in the alcohol be the water used.In other words, have carbonate acetate and add the 91% alcohol to it.

Problem with that if it worked is getting the carbonate acetate is not as easy as the alcohol and vinegar is. Yet another thing to order online. So I'd rather reduce it down 3/4 or totally dry it out, maybe using my dehydrator (lower electric bill).

Another idea. I bought 100% powdered calcium carbonate from a health food company fairly cheap. I ordered two containers of 12oz each (over a lb) and shipping was only $4 flat rate. The bottles were only $4.79 each.

Just another tip.

Thanks for all you do,

Lynne


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Lynne, I think that's definitely worth adding into the video. I'll modify it this weekend. To answer your question though here, you really need to use at least 90% isopropyl alcohol. The 70% has just too much water in it. So if you can find 91%, you'll be able to use it. Using 91% alcohol is basically a math equation. 91% isopropyl alcohol is already 9:1 alcohol to water. Since we're looking for the overall solution to contain 90% isopropyl alcohol, if you want to use 91% isopropyl alcohol, then you'll have to dry out your calcium acetate pretty thoroughly, either in the over or using your dyhydrator like you mentioned, in order to keep the ratio around 9:1. It's not essential that the ratio is exactly 9:1. It'll just change the consistency of your gel depending on how much water is in there. What Kathy did worked because she evaporated most of the original water away.

Thanks for the tips as well. Ordering from a natural health store is a great way to go. I just ordered from Amazon because I knew 1 lb of calcium carbonate would last just about forever and I didn't mind paying the extra shipping. But if you can find it elsewhere, then definitely do that.


lymeris777 5 years ago

Thanks Ben,

Definitely show us for the 91%. The 70% mentioned earlier was about an error in picking up the wrong alcohol.I wondered about Kathy drying the water 3/4's leaving some water in place. So thus the inquiry.But no matter, she was successful and that's really all that counts.

Still, if I successfully dry my calcium acetate in the dehydrator, I'll probably want to make a much larger portion to save dehydrating time and store it up for future use.

Also, do I put one part cal acetate (10%) to 9 parts alcohol then (90%)? Put in 1/8 cup powder to 1.125 cups alcohol, correct? ( Is that correct? Whatever the portions would be it seems to save a step down the road if you make a batch in advance.Then its just powder and alcohol and HAZZAH! Magic! :)

Your video was the best I've seen out there. Very clear. Very helpful.

Thx again,

Lynne


Lynne 5 years ago

Sorry.

I just realized, the proportions depend on the amount of alcohol you are using and over complicates the preparation process trying to guess that out. So how about if you just put a portion of cal acetate in a jar or bowl and added slowly the alcohol til it gets to the right gelling consistency (or vice versa). I'm guessing You can start with a consistent amount of powder and an equal amount of alcohol and then just add more alcohol til it starts to do what you'd like.

I know I'm posing a lot of questions, but I'm in minnesota and the idea of having a nice little fire in the firepot inmy art studio soon is driving me forward. : )

P.S. I think I'm going the oven route because my dehydrator won't go as high in temp, so it will go a lot faster. I'll just do a large batch in a casserole dish.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Lynne,

No worries about the questions. It's really helpful in the long run because anyone else who has the same questions in the future will really benefit from your thought process. Sorry I didn't get to your first comment before you answered most of your own questions but lets go from your second comment.

What you said is exactly right. If you have dry calcium acetate then you can definitely just start adding alcohol until the solution gets to where you want it to be. The excess alcohol will ultimately rise to the surface of the solution and stay in liquid form. This should work great for your 91% solution of isopropyl alcohol. You should maintain nearly a 9:1 ratio and your solution should gel really nicely. It may be slightly on the liquid side because of the water content, but I'd definitely give it a shot and see how it turns out. Sorry I can't be more help. I've just never done it the way you're doing it before. I've always had access to 99% isopropyl alcohol, so I thought it was pretty common.

I used to live in Minnesota as well. Fire is definitely essential this time of year. You won't get a whole lot of heat value from the gel fuel, not nearly as much as a wood fire, but just having an indoor fire is great.


lymeris777 5 years ago

Hi Ben, or is that Benji?

Maybe I'll order 99% alcohol from you! LOL! Anyway, I have all the ingredients. I'll let you know exactly what works for me and you can do it yourself and see if its worth doing a video for everyone. I'm not able to do video on YouTube so that would be a great service.

You'll be hearing from me in another chapter your writing soon. . . .

Stay tuned,

Lynne


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Thanks Lynne! And you can call me either Ben or Benji. People call me both. Yeah, I'd definitely be interested in making another video for the 91%. That would be really handy for most folks.


lymeris777 5 years ago

Benji,

Working on the gel fuel but I want to know more about Hub.

This subject doesn't belong here though so I'm leaving an email address for you. Simply hit reply back at me and I can send you questions if you're open to that. If not, no problem. But that way you don't have to share your email here.

lcason@embarqmail.com

Lynne


SuperiorInteriors profile image

SuperiorInteriors 5 years ago from San Diego, California

Hey Benji, super useful Hub! Thanks for sharing this info, and the cool video :)


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Thanks!


lymeris777 5 years ago

Hey Ben,

My 91% alcohol isn't working out. I always forget and leave the evaporating in the the oven too long or don't know how far down to let it evaporate. The amount of alcohol with 91% stumps me.

When do you think you can do a 91% alcohol video for those of us?

Did you get my last email about HubPub? I think this website is on it. Look at the very top, it says Hubpages. So that should help.

Look forward to a new video O'fuel gel master. : )

Lynne


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey there, sorry the 91% video is taking me so long to do. I was ready to do it this morning but I got called in to work :( I have all the supplies ready but it may take me another week or so.

Thanks for the email. I got it but I haven't been able to write back yet. I'm still playing catchup from the holidays. Thanks for stopping by! I hope you're well.


WhiteStores profile image

WhiteStores 5 years ago

Hi there, Thank you for your video and guide, as a supplier of firepits and chimineas to the UK Market, would you recommend the Gel Fuel for use in Outdoor Chimeneas and Firepits? always looking to push eco methods on to my customers and i would love this method to help them with fuel choice

Thanks

Whitestores


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey there. Using gel fuel outdoors is probably not the best application for it since gel fuel's main positive attribute is that it can be burned indoors without noxious fumes. If you're already outdoors, I burning gel fuel won't give you much warmth at all, but if you're looking for eco methods then gel fuel is definitely a great alternative to wood burning.


WhiteStores profile image

WhiteStores 5 years ago

Thanks for your advice Benji!


Chito 5 years ago

How thick should it get when using 91% with the Dry calcium acetate? I can't seem to get it to gel very well.

Thanks!


sj 5 years ago

Ok- I ordered the calcium carbonate, mixed it with the 5% vinegar and blah blah blah and all I end up with is soup. All I could find was 91% alcohol. Could that be the problem?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Sj, yeah the 91% is definitely where you're having problems. It has 8% extra water in it than the 99%. I'm going to make another video soon about how to make it with 91% strength. Hopefully this weekend I'll have it done.


BenF 5 years ago

Do you think I would be successful using ordinary limestone purchased from Home Depot?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

I'm not sure. I've only bought the real stuff just to be safe. Since one pound of chalk will make literally gallons of gel fuel, I've always just made sure I get good quality chalk and payed the extra for shipping. I'm not sure if other kinds of chalk work or not. Sorry I can't be more helpful. You can always try it and see.


Benf 5 years ago

I think I will give it a try. I will post my results -good or bad.


nikolius 5 years ago

I can't find isopropyl alcohol where i live, so my question is can i use ethil (ethanol) acohol instead????

thanks in advance


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Good luck Ben.

Nikolius, I'm really not sure about that one. Never tried it with ethanol. I'm really surprised that you can't get rubbing alcohol where you live. I had always thought it was pretty common.


nikolius 5 years ago

I leave in Macedonia Europe. Just after sending the message I've tried your recipe but with ethanol alcohol and it worked.


Paul 5 years ago

Hi Benji,

I was not able to find calcium carbonate near my place, so I purchaced Agricultural Lime(Dolomite Lime). so will it work for making gel fuel?

Can you let me know?

Thanks


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey Nikolius, congratulations. I'm really glad it worked. Thanks for sharing so everyone else can know about that too.

Paul, limestone should work, but it really depends on the purity. The calcium carbonate chalk that I buy is 98% pure. So if you're buying something that's below that, like around 75% pure or so, it may not be very effective. You'll just have to try it and see. I've left a link to the calcium carbonate powder that I use. After shipping it's only about $10 or so. So if you try the limestone powder and it doesn't work, at least you'll have an alternative.


Joyce 5 years ago

Hi Ben,

I have tried two market products and one claims to have not odor, but that is not the case. Will your recipe have an oder and give off fumes? What thoughts do you have on the other "recipes" out there that simply call for wax and alcohol?

Thanks,

Joyce.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey Joyce, yeah those recipes of wax and alcohol definitely give out an odor. With this recipe, there's definitely an odor of rubbing alcohol that comes from the gel, but it doesn't give off an odor or any kind of smoke as it burns.


gary 5 years ago

hi, we made your gel and it worked just fine. But why do I have to make the gel the alcohol burns the same amount of time, looks the same without the gel, what does the gel do?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

That's really surprising that your gel fuel only burns as long as liquid isopropyl alcohol. An ounce of gel fuel for me burns for about 15-20 minutes. Does your gel burn for that long?


gary 5 years ago

we took the same amounts of gel and 91% alcohol in the same size metal cans and the gel went out and about two min later the plain alchol went out. This is why I mailed you, why the gel. Try 1 oz of each and let me know. Thanks Gary


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey Gary, thanks for more info. I'll have to try that. I've never thought to burn them side by side before. I just figured that since the gel fuel lasted for what seemed like a long time that the straight liquid isopropyl alcohol wouldn't last nearly as long. The next time I make gel fuel I'll do that test.


gary 5 years ago

ok thanks, do u know what the real reason for the gel is? so it can't spill? Now I got to know this bugs me. How about we make our own alcohol????


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Haha, that's awesome. I had originally thought that the reason for the gel was to extend the burn time of the alcohol. But if that's not the case then I suppose it helps keep everything stable from spilling and what not.


gary 5 years ago

hey i have been all over the web and a bunch of people are saying the same thing that they burn straight alcohol without the gel and get the same results. They all think the gel is in case it would spill. The gel would stay in one spot and not spread. Just becareful and use alcohol?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey I guess you learn something everyday. That's really helpful. I'm assuming that you're talking about the 91% that lasts about the same time as the gel fuel? I'll add that info into the page. I think people will be really happy to hear about that. Thanks so much for the info.


greg 5 years ago

would 99% last longer than the 91% with straight alcohol? thanks


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Now that we'd have to test. It might burn up quicker because there's more available fuel. I would think that it would burn hotter and faster because it's purer fuel. But that's just my assumption. I can't say for sure. What do you think? By the way, I added in that info into the beginning of the second section. Thanks again for sharing that.


sj 5 years ago

How I FINALLY got it to gel:

First- I doubled the calcium carbonate/vinegar. (I got to thinking, MAYBE I just needed more like when you add more cornstarch to gravy to make it thicken...) I added the calcium carbonate to the viegar VERY slowly and stirred for about 10 minutes. Before, I was just dumping the vinegar to the powder and that does NOT work!

Next, I let it evaporate for about an hour at 200. Then I went to bed and work and just left it sitting all day. The next evening I let it evaporate for about 2 hours at 240 because I forgot about it.

By this point there was just a little bit of water left.I scraped the crystals that had formed into the mixture and stirred it up. Then I put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes to let it cool down. I don't really think it is neccesary to take that long evaporating it, it just happened to be late when I started.

Since all I could find was 91% alcohol, I added it in slowly and "TA-DA!!!!" It started to gel. (MIRACLE! After all of my previous attempts!) I just kept adding alcohol until it formed a paste. It seemed like after it sat a few minutes, it kept setting more. So, I got about two 13 oz. cans worth of fuel ready to go. It is now burning like a charm! Now that I got a recipe that works, my daughter can make some for her science fair project! I thought maybe this could help for people who can't find 99%! (I ordered calcium carbonate off of ebay for like $9.50 for 5 lbs- with free shipping.) Thanks for the info!


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

SJ, that's awesome. I didn't know making it with 91% was such a headache. I've always gotten 99%. But now that you know what you have to do, you'll be able to make it over and over. Thanks for the detailed description as well. Hopefully people will read it and try it out themselves.


Deb 5 years ago

To SJ-

Do you mean you only doubled the chalk but not the vinegar?

Please answer because I'm dieing to try a recipe that will work with the 91%. So far it's too liquidy.

Thanks!


Shafiullah 5 years ago

Dear Brother,

I have successfully made the gel fuel. Please tell us how to make transparent gel fuel.

Thanks for everything.

Shafiullah,

Bangladesh.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hello. Congratulations on making the gel fuel. Unfortunately I can't tell you how to make clear gel fuel. I've never seen clear gel fuel before and I'm not sure how one would do it. Sorry I couldn't be more help.


Lorie  5 years ago

Hi Ben, could you please share the amount of Calcium Carbonate and amount of vinegar that you use to make a gallon of gel fuel at a time? I'm not really good with ratios, so if you could explain it in terms of ounces and cups, that would be awesome. Do you store it in the gallon container also? Thanks very much!


greg 5 years ago

i have used just the alcohol and it burns the same amount of time, however it leaves a whole lot of black film everywhere ie. the ceilings, walls, fire place. very messy. Can someone who has tried both tell me if the gel creates less black film.


Javier 5 years ago

I have a gel fireplace and burned straight drug store 91% Isoproponal. It created soot, smoke, and set off my smoke detector.

I have also bought the real flame gel fuel but it gave off a strong odor. When we burned 3 cans at a time it would give a strong enough odor to give us a headache. Had some soot on the top half of the can but little to no smoke after a 3 hour burn.


Javier 5 years ago

I also just received lab grade Mono-hydrate Calcium Acetate. Made a few attempts to make gel fuel and was semi-successful. Seems like a powder layer forms at the top of the fuel as it burns. Anyone else noticed this?


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Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey Javier. That's a shame that you've had such a bad experience. I've never used lab grade mono-hydrate calcium acetate before, so I don't think I'll be too much help on that issue. I can tell you that when I create my own calcium acetate from chalk and vinegar and then use that to make gel fuel, it definitely does leave a powder layer behind. But mine forms on the bottom and allows the gel fuel to completely expend and burn up. I don't know why yours would form on the top but I can see how that would get really annoying.


SJ  5 years ago

To DEB-

We used 1 cup of vinegar and 1/4 cup of calcium carbonate. Make sure you stir it a lot and let it evaporate til the water is almost gone. (Scooping out the water does not work) We just added in 91% alcohol until is got thick like paste. I'm not sure how much, probably about 1 1/2- 2 cups.


Sheli J 5 years ago

As I was reading all this I remembered that Hermit Crab sand at pet stores is made of Calcium Carbonate and was wondering if it would be an easy solution. However, it also appears to have magnesium carbonate. Any idea how that might affect the formula?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hmm, not sure about that one. I would bet that magnesium carbonate wouldn't work too well because it's the calcium in the calcium carbonate that combines with the acetic acid to form calcium acetate. Without calcium, you don't have a good formula. But it's worth a try at least.


Sheli J 5 years ago

Ok, just for fun I tried the Hermit Crab sand that's made of Calcium Carbonate but mixed with magnesium carbonate. Doesn't work.


lakshman , Gell freak 5 years ago

For the people interested in formulating this gel who have failed to get their alcohol to gel.

Please do all the mixing in a glass beaker as it will be very easy for identification and you will not make mistakes

1.Calcium Acetate This is easy to find

2.Isopropyl alcohol % higher the better

To get the alcohol to gel

Take 20ml of water and add 2tbsp of Calcium Acetate.

The solution will be not transparent,Add 20ml of water to your solution this will make the solution transparent { gel will look much better }.

you will have a clear solution of 40ml Calcium Acetate.

Take 50ml of Isopropyl alcohol %{ higher the better }

Start adding 1/2 tsp and continue to add until gel is formed. You may need about 5 tsp max to gel 50ml of gel. For 100ml increase the value of Calcium Acetate

solution to 10 tsp and so on.Hope this info will be helpful.Try in small quantity's

Send me your results

Lakshmandisa@email.com


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Thanks for the extra info. Hope it helps those having problems.


Eggie 5 years ago

Thank you so much for the instruction.

After I read your article and did more research on google, I decide to use chicken eggshell instead of buying chalk, which is made of 95-97% of calcium carbonate.

I crush some eggshell, pour vinegar over it . Once the bubbles stop coming out, I pour liquid to a medal tin, I then pour 99% alcohol to it, this will form gel right away, this gel burns nicely. Once I finish burning, I scratch the white residue, add some alcohol (80-90%), it became gel again!


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Eggie, that's really good to know. I had no idea that chicken egg shells were made of mostly calcium carbonate. I love how fast and easy it is to make gel fuel.


Dangerou 5 years ago

I watched your video and when you marked your Beaker at the bottom and it was about "1" inch high with the Calcium Acetate. You said to add 9 parts Isopropyl Alcohol and you then measured it to 9" inches high on the glass that is only 8 Parts Isopropyl alcohol.

1 part plus 9 parts is 10 parts TOTAL. How much of affect does this have?


Dangerous 5 years ago

I watched your video and when you marked your Beaker at the bottom and it was about "1" inch high with the Calcium Acetate. You said to add 9 parts Isopropyl Alcohol and you then measured it to 9" inches high on the glass that is only 8 Parts Isopropyl alcohol.

1 part plus 9 parts is 10 parts TOTAL. How much of affect does this have?


Dangerous 5 years ago

I watched the video again. wow. 1" of solution and based on my calculations you had a 6" high beaker. how did you measure 9" (it should have been 10" total by the way).


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Yeah, you're right, the video is flawed. I didn't realize until someone else pointed it out earlier. The beaker is 10" but I misspoke in the video. I measured everything earlier so I knew where I was going to fill everything to. But in the video I misspoke. You sound pretty technical though. I'm sure you'll be able to figure it out.


Nicolas Simons profile image

Nicolas Simons 5 years ago from San Francisco

Sounds really easy or you made it sound easy. Thanks for the above tips. Voted up and useful.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Thanks Nicolas. You should give it a try. It's lots of fun.


dangerous 5 years ago

I bought 25Lbs of Cal Carbonate, that will last everyone's lifetime as you said the one LB would. hah.

I'm making it now. Why do you heat the solution to evaporate the water instead of just siphoning off? does it make a difference?


dangerous 5 years ago

That beaker can't be more than 6". or you have ARMS that are HUGE!!.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

I've tried both heating and siphoning, and evaporation makes a better solution at the end. Siphoning gives you more of a chunky, watery solution.

You might be right about the size of the beaker. I may have measured wrong. I'm not sure. I thought it was 10" but you're right that it doesn't look like it in the video. Hmm, I'll have to go back and check.


Dangerous 5 years ago

We all (my employees and I) analyzed your video and here is what we came up with.

your Beaker is a 6" beaker. Your Calcium acetate at the bottom measured about 1" as you stated, or just under 3cm. you then measured to 9cm and marked (not 9 "). I think your intent is to have 3 parts Isopropyl to 1 Part Calcium acetate solution. I watched the broken "engrish" video on youtube and that is about the ratio she used. 1oz of solution to 3.3 oz of Iso.

Your Video is informative, thanks...


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Weird. I must have miscalculated somewhere then. I wish I had more time to rework it. Now I'm intrigued to see where the calculations were off.


Dangerous 5 years ago

Also, my Solution Gelled, but after leaving in a closed container, it separated. I left one sample in a cup open and the next day it was still in a ball. not sure what was going on there..


OLUMS 5 years ago

Dear All,

We have actually set up the small mixing unit but lack capability to get the right ethanol from molasses and again the mixing of the components to form the right gel. All great ideas are welcome and possibility of training that l'm ready to pay and setting up. emilaugenergy@ymail.com Skype: olums12


nigusu 5 years ago

I have got the gel. But it is a white gel that left with wgite sedements on butning. Is there a method to prepare a gel that burn complitely?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

No, unfortunately there's not. There will always be a residue left behind with homemade gel fuel.


ChefGL 5 years ago

Hey Benjimester...I have tried this 4 times now in the recent week, and I cannot get it to work! The first two times I did it, and it didn't work, I assumed I hadn't let enough water evaporate. It stayed liquid, and it wasn't till it sat until the next day, that it kind of jelled up. I did a third one, using 1000mg Tums, to see if the calcium carbonate I have was the culprit, but that didn't work either. This last time, I placed the jar in a 300F oven for about three hours and got all of the water out...literally all the water. I had to add just enough water to get the "powder" to come off the bottom of the jar. That still didn't work! I got the calcium carbonate off the internet, I am using the 5% distilled vinegar, and then once it has evaporated, I have been using 91% isopropyl alcohol since I can't find 99%. And after reading others post and your replies, I really let the water evaporate since there was already the 1 part water in the rubbing alcohol. I am really at a brick wall right now. The "jell/liquid" burns, but quite fast, and is not the thick jell like that in your video. Please let me know if you have any thoughts. I really want this to work, and thought I would post a comment to see if you have any other suggestions.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hmm, man I just don't know. This stuff seems trickier to make than I had first assumed. You really have to have all the right ratios for the right ingredients. Let's just go through the checklist. Are you sure you have

5% white vinegar

At least 95% calcium carbonate

Let me think about it for a minute and ask some other people and get back to you.


ChefGL 5 years ago

Hey Benjimester......yeah, I have tried all sorts of things. I am using 5% white vinegar, I got the calcium carbonate off the Internet and it's 99% pure(I believe)....got it from dudadiesel.com. So i don't know....I even went out n bought new vinegar and a number of things of rubbing alcohol. The stuff I make, makes probably 2 parts a white milky substance that you have to have a spoon to get out, but it does burn like your stuff, but the other remaining 8 parts or so, are just the alcohol as best I can tell. It just never jells like yours does in the video. So yeah!! If I can figure out what is going on, that would be awesome. And if I need to try a different carbonate, I guess I will. Thanks for responding and trying to help me figure it out.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

After talking with some people, it seems like it's probably the carbonate that's the problem. Both white vinegar and isopropyl alcohol are pretty standard, so really the carbonate is the wild card. If the mixture isn't working properly, then it's most likely that the carbonate you're using is a variation of chalk that doesn't mix super well with the vinegar.

One question though. When you add the calcium carbonate to the vinegar, does it bubble pretty vigorously? That's a good indication of how well the calcium carbonate and the acetic acid are interacting. The more it bubbles and gives off gas, the better it's reacting.


FeatureDECO profile image

FeatureDECO 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Thank you this is an excellent posting which I will have to try out!

I did notice someone asked the question about clear gel without an answer, so maybe I could ask again...

Has anyone found another thickening agent we could use to create a clear gel, or another method to make the gel clear?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

I'm not familiar with any thickening agent that makes clear gel fuel. I wish I knew of one because that would be much better than the whitish grey gel that comes out with the calcium acetate. Sorry.


ChefGL 5 years ago

Hey Benji,

Thanks for getting back with me....I started to think it was the carbonte I am using too, so I guess that is what I will try differently now. And to answer your question about the reaction of adding the vinegar to the carbonate, yes, it does bubble and foam up. It may not be bubbling up as much as yours, and that answers the question on the carbonate.....but it did react enough that I didn't question it until now. So I will get some new carbonate, and go from there. Thank you very much for getting back with me and helping me out.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Sure man! No problem.


Annie 5 years ago

Just bought a patio gel fuel burner and was looking for a cheap way to make my own fuel. If you buy it from Home Depot it costs about $11/quart! So your video is just what I wanted. I do have a suggestion about how to decrease the amount of water. Don't much like the idea of evaporating it in the oven -- from an environmental standpoint. Since the water is lighter than the other ingredients, why not just siphon it off with a turkey baster? Much quicker!


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

You know, I did that exact thing the first time. And for some reason, it didn't gel up properly. I think that there's some of the calcium acetate dissolved in the water. That's the only thing I can figure. You might have better luck than I did, but the only way I could get it to work properly was to evaporate it in the oven :(


ChefGL 5 years ago

Hey Benji....I just wanted to let you know that I finally got it to work!!!! It ended up being the calcium carbonate that was not working correctly like we had talked about. I got the carbonate from a different company, and after going through the process, it gelled right up and is perfect. Thanks for your help weeks ago, and thanks for originally posting this info....it's great!!


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Chef, that's awesome. Yeah, the calcium carbonate can be a bit tricky. You're very welcome. Gel fuel rocks.


garmonbozia 5 years ago

we were buying citronella fire gel for use in outside fire pots (it kept the mosquitoes away). Do you have any thoughts on adding citronella or other additives? I'm assuming that as long you achieve 90% alcoohol and the desired consistency, you're good?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Yes, that's my understanding as well. As long as the formula is at least 90% alcohol, you can add other things into the mix. I know that some people like adding eucalyptus oil for the scent and for the bug repelling qualities. I'm sure that citronella would work as well.


LJ 5 years ago

Is it possible to add to much vinegar? I figured why waste the Calcium Carbonate and added vinegar until the major foaming action turned to a vigorous fizz.

Is the dust in the bottom of the solution in the jar the calcium acetate? If so then I have a long wait till enough evaporation occurs. I think I'll add more Calcium Carbonate and see what happens.

By the way, the C.C. I used really foamed a lot when I added the vinegar. I barely added any and had to put a plate under the jar to catch the foam-over. It was hard to tell how much vinegar I added in total because of all the foam, which is why I kept adding the vinegar until it began to settle down.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

LJ, if you add too much vinegar, then you'll have a little bit of excess acetic acid floating around. I wouldn't worry about wasting the calcium carbonate. It's only like $6 for a whole pound of it.

The dust at the bottom in the calcium acetate. I'm not sure what exactly comprises the liquid part, but it has got to be more than just water because you can't just suck half of it out with a syringe. I have tried that, as well as some other people, and it doesn't work.

The calcium carbonate really does foam quite a bit. When I mix it, I only add in a little bit of CC at a time to keep it from foaming over. If you keep adding vinegar to speed up the reaction, you'll just be left with acetic acid floating around in the mix. I'm not quite sure what that'll do to the final product.


Amr Mourad profile image

Amr Mourad 5 years ago from Cairo, Egypt

Hi Bnej

Finally, I've come across your very illustrative video. Thank you very much for taking the effort to post it and thanks to all people who shared their experience and info. I have just finished doing the gel fuel guided by your video and it worked like charm. Just want to share some experience with you guys.

1- I started the experiment using 2 pieces of chalk that we used to use at schools (about 20 grams). I didn't grind them hoping I dont get a vigorous reaction with acetic acid and this is what happened.

2- Added 50 ml of 10% acetic acid (prepared form glacial acetic acid).

3- After 20 minutes no more reaction was visible and the smell of acetic acid was minimal.

4- I removed the remaining pieces of chalk and filtered the remaining fluid to get rid of the sediment (excess calcium carbonate). I ended up with 50 ml of calcium acetate in solution.

5- I put 35 ml of calcium acetate solution in a metal cup and started adding 99% isopropanol. Gelling took place immediately. I needed 220 ml of the alcohol as more than that will keep excess alcohol in liquid state.

6- It burns beautifully. Thank you again Benj


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey thanks so much! Glad it worked for you. And thanks for sharing your experience with it for other people who might be having problems.


Gregg 4 years ago

Hey I have read so much about the experiences everyone has had trying to make the gel fuel. It appears some are having success and others are not. I have also read that some are just burning 91% isopropyl. I am curious has anyone compared the burning times of a can of gel fuel vs a can of just plain 91% isopropyl. I did a mini experiement since I didn't have a can available . I burnt in a small bread loaf pan about 1/4 cup of 91% isopropyl and while it burned beautiful it lasted only 2 minutes. Has anyone tried the gel vs straight isopropyl?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Yeah, I still haven't tried burning just straight 91%. 2 minutes sounds like a pretty short time though. I'd be interested in hearing the results of a test like that too.


Saurabh 4 years ago

Excellent article & perhaps the only one on the internet !

Search on google for this points this out directly :-)

I have a noob question regarding the water evaporation process.

Why not simply take a syringe and remove the excess water ? Wouldn't that work ?

Thanks once again for your excellent article.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Thanks! About your question, I've actually tried that before, as have others, and it doesn't seem to work. The liquid must be more than just water. I think there must be some part of the calcium acetate that's dissolved in the liquid. That's the only thing I can figure. You're welcome to try it and see if it works for you. I've just never been able to get it to work like that and I'm really not quite sure why.


Saurabh 4 years ago

Hmm...

Actually, I don't have a gel fuel fireplace yet. In fact what lead me to this article was that I was trying to compare the wood fireplace option to the gel fuel fireplace and the main disadvantage that I could make out with the latter was the running cost (i.e. the cost to buy the gel fuel from the market).

Coming back to the question - Since the liquid we syringe out contains some calcium acetate, it might be worthwhile to analyze how much of calcium acetate it is. Perhaps by evaporating the complete sample and checking the acetate residue left behind. Once we have that measure, then it could be valuable information as one would probably just need to syringe out the water and then add that quantity of calcium acetate to offset the balance.

Do you think this approach could make sense ?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Yeah, that definitely makes sense. I think that's a great approach. If you do try that, would you let us know what happens? Another thing that a person could try would be to extract all of the liquid and put it into its own jar, and then add some 99% isopropyl alcohol to the liquid and see what kind of a reaction you get. If it begins to gel, then you definitely know that there's some calcium acetate dissolved in the water.

Actually, I'm not quite sure that would work. The calcium acetate might react different when dissolved than sitting in solid form at the bottom of the solution. My best guess is that the liquid is completely saturated with calcium acetate and the solid calcium acetate at the bottom is the rest that couldn't dissolve into the water. I think I'll try some experiments.


Saurabh 4 years ago

I wish I was able to try out some experiments, but I don't have any gel-fuel fireplace to be able to test the results on :-(

But I am looking forward to the results of your experiment !

If we are able to work out an easy to use process through which large quantities of gel-fuel can be made by home users, a "gel fuel kits" industry of sorts could be born :-)


Saurabh 4 years ago

Hi, you mentioned in your video that the bigger can will burn for a couple of hours (arnd 3). But then in this article (http://gelfueltips.com/9/homemade-gel-fuel-profess... you mention that it gets expended in about an hour.

Which is the correct one ?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Yeah, unfortunately, the second one is correct. When I made the video, I hadn't burned too much of my own homemade gel fuel. I thought it burned longer and only tested it later on and found that it burned less than what I thought. Most of my cans burn for a little longer than an hour. Some people have reported better success.


Paula 4 years ago

Whoa. I just came across this and am totally pumped. I too have a ventless indoor fireplace and find it crazy expensive to keep buying fuel. I'm going to try this, using the eggshell method. Was there no evaporating time during this process? She didn't mention doing that step during her explanation.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

There still will be an evaporating process with the eggshell method. As close as we can tell, the calcium acetate is water soluble, meaning that there's a lot of it dissolved in the liquid. So if you suck it out instead of evaporating, you're actually sucking out water that's saturated with calcium acetate. We haven't been able to figure out another method that's quicker :( Sorry, I hate the evaporation too. That's the biggest bottleneck in the process.


Alecks 4 years ago

Im actually making my own gel fuel right now, what I noticed about your measurement using the tape measure is you said about an inch of the calcium acetate then 9 inch to the mark, but I think you were looking at the centimeter mark, there is no way that bottle is bigger than 9 inches ;-)


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Yeah, sorry about that. Someone else pointed that out also. I don't know why I misread it like that.


Alecks 4 years ago

Hi Benji, so finally made my fuel gel, I was able to reduce my calcium acetate to about 1 inch on my bottle, I eventually poured in the whole bottle of 99% alcohol, total volume came up to almost 4 inches on my bottle. It is very soupy,what can I do to fix this? Can I make another calcium acetate mixture, reduce it then slowly mix it in my mixture until it gels up more? I did try it and it burn really good. My sister even think that the fire is too strong. Thanks for your video and feedback.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey, awesome to hear! Yeah, I've made it soupy before myself. Adding more calcium acetate will definitely do the trick. I usually just mix up a ton of calcium acetate and evaporate the excess water so that I'll have it on hand. I don't usually do precise measurements. If I pour in too much isopropyl alcohol, I just add in a bit more calcium acetate.


martygrimani@hotmail.com 4 years ago

Hi - Love your video and instructions. Bought the wrong kind of chalk tho, magnesium carbonate. Made fuel anyway, obviously it doesn't gel but it does burn (tried it outside). Is it safe to indoors?

Thanks,

M


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hmm, most likely it's safe to burn indoors because the alcohol is the burning agent, and that burns clean. I can't say for sure though, so you probably ought to just buy the right chalk. It's pretty cheap. You can get a pound of it for under $5.


Donna James 4 years ago

I am very interested in making the gel as our central unit just quit and this will be our only source of heat for a while. I have a few questions, 1. is it safe to burn in the oven with pets in the house because of fumes? 2. can we use the tin cans that the gel came in to burn in the oven, we have been saving them to refill, also, how long will they last stored in cans and where do you find the 99 % alcohol usually bought to use.Thanks, your video is very informative.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey there. It should be safe to burn in any indoor environment. There aren't fumes to be worried about. You can definitely use the same cans you already have and pour the new gel fuel right into them. I'm not sure about using it in the oven. I would think you could use it in the oven, but I've never tried. If you can't find the 99% isopropyl alcohol in your grocery store, I've left you a link where you can buy it online. Good luck!


jdonnabndt 4 years ago

We tried to make the gel tonite, we bought the 91%, it did not gel, but it is burning fine. has been burning almost an hour now, flame is high, no fumes, we have another one in the oven now, we are only doing one at a time as we wanted to see how it works, the one in the oven is in a mason jar glass. Wanted to see if it would gel with that.I bought the chalk from amazon and it is lot. If it works well, I am going to make up a large batch and store them for when we need them. Thanks for all the information.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

JDonn, I really hope it works for you with the 91%. I think if you evaporate more water away from the calcium acetate solution in the oven, then the 91% should gel better.


lata 4 years ago

This is awesome! I was just going over the cost value of having to buy a ventless fire place and just about decided against it because the gel fuel is SO SO SO expensive. This is so handy and the video was really helpful. I am guessing since adding oil is okay replacing the cooking oil with essential aroma oils should be just fine too.

Thank!


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Lata, yeah that should be just fine. It will burn as long as the total solution is more than 90% alcohol.


Delvyn 4 years ago

At what point do you add the cooking oil, and how much of it do you add? I am interested in making mine crackle and pop, but don't want to do anything dangerous.

Thanks for the video!

-Delvyn


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

You mix it in once the gel is finished. You'll probably only need a tablespoon of oil per soup can of gel fuel. I don't usually add it, so I'm not sure what the perfect amount is. Shouldn't be too dangerous at that level though.


challe7nger3 4 years ago

i had found calcium carbonate pills. would that work? dose the alcohol have to be 99%?


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Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Yeah, the pills will most likely work. The alcohol doesn't need to be 99%, but you have to evaporate more water away from the calcium acetate if you use the 91%.


Lex 4 years ago

Hi - great video! You are a true scientist! Unfortunately, I also got soup (twice) like the others but it still burns. I used 1 to 1 ratio vinegar/calcium carbonate (98.8% calcium carbonate), burnt off every last drop of water, poured in 91% isopropyl alcohol and no gel. I am going to buy the 99% and am thinking 1) I got ripped off on the calcium, 2) WalMart's Great Value distilled white vinegar is not 5% acidic like it states (it barely bubbled the solution - yours really fizzed! or 3) Kroger's 91% is not a true 91% alcohol. I am on a quest to find out who is responsible for this mistake and will report back. Thanks again.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey Lex. Thanks for sharing. Yeah, there is a lot that can go wrong unfortunately and make the end result come out as a soup instead of a gel. I've still not tried to make it with the 91%, because I have the 99% available at my local grocery store. I think you're right about the Walmart vinegar not being very good quality if it didn't fizz very much when you added the calcium carbonate. It should really fizz quite a bit. Yeah, definitely come back and tell us when you get it all working right.


Benji 4 years ago

Hey Benji. I'm a Benji too. Thanks for making this great hubpage. I'm wondering if you know of any way to make the gel fuel burn longer? I have a healing center where I'm putting in some gel torches for ambiance. It would be nice to be able to just light one can of fuel and have it burn all day, instead of just a couple hours. Any thoughts on the chemistry of that, I'd sure appreciate it.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey there, very good to meet you. Unless you buy the professional stuff, I don't think it's possible to make it burn a whole lot longer. The professional stuff has a higher grade of fuel that lasts a bit longer, generally around 3 hours per can.


Benji 4 years ago

Good to meet you too. Thanks for your advice. I think I shall have to experiment, then.


Dav S 4 years ago

If you want a cheap local supply of calcium carbonate, go to your local stained glass supplier. They have a product refered to as "whitening" used in the stained glass process which is pure calcium carbonate and it is about $4/lb.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Very cool. Thanks for that tip Dav. That's a great cheap source.


Dave 4 years ago

Not to be too critical but a couple things.

If you do 1" of water/CaCO3 mix and make a mark at 9" on the jar that is actually 1 parts: 8 parts (or 1 IN 9 parts). Judging by your consistency though that is at least the proper amount if not less.

I have yet to undertake this but I will probably take off more water than shown in the video. Removing water is very easy and doesn't require any time. Just buy an eyedropper and apply negative (NOT POSITIVE) pressure to the dropper and drain out the water. You will remove a little bit of CaAc but not that much. Do not apply positive pressure with the dropper or you will disturb the resting precipitate at the bottom.

The idea is to do this with as little water as possible to get the longest burning flame and leave behind the least carbon residue. There are things online saying to use 70% iso but that will really gunk up your fireplace (70% iso means 30% water and the water is what makes the carbon gunk) and burn much quicker. You can always add more water to your gel mixture if needed but once you add iso it is difficult to separate the two.

Lastly, MAKE SURE YOU WASH YOUR HANDS before lighting any gel fuel when you've made this stuff. It will catch your skin on fire and burn you badly if the flame catches any gel fuel that got on you.

Thanks for the video!


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Dave, thanks for those tips. Those are all right on. Yeah, sorry about the wrong measurement. A couple of people pointed that out. I wanted to remake the video, but it has a bunch of comments on Youtube and I didn't want them to all get deleted by making a different video :( So I'm just living with it.


Linda 4 years ago

I just wanted to say THANK U for doing this. Made my first batch today and worked like a charm. Didn't get the crackle but will try just oil next time.


Nadine 4 years ago

I just stopped by our local beer and wine brew supply, and they had four ounces of calcium carbonate for $1.20. He said he could order a pound bag for me for about $5--no shipping!


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Thanks guys! Very glad it worked for you Linda. That's a good price on calcium carbonate Nadine. A pound will last you a very long time.


Marcia 4 years ago

I guess I'm too lazy to try to make the gel fuel myself yet--We received the fireplace we ordered but the Sunjel fuel had not yet arrived so we went to Lowes and bought a SIX pack of small cans of gel fuel meant for a decorative firepot--(only $8 for six)-- we placed them on top of an empty, cleaned out green chilles can to raise them up to regular height--(an empty tuna can wasn't quite high enough).. they burned for 2 hours!!!--nice flames and crackle noise.. I think we will keep refilling the little cans with the gel from the larger cans when they come.. a BIG savings and worked great.. may have accidentally hit on a great way to save a bundle-- :-) I've bookmarked your site.. may try to make a batch when the case of larger cans runs out.. thanks!


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Marcia, thanks so much for stopping by! $8 for 6 cans is pretty cheap, especially if they burn for two hours. I've not ever found them for that cheap. If the larger cans run out, you can either try making your own gel fuel, or they have a pourable version of gel fuel to refill your old cans which is pretty cheap as well.


Shalom 4 years ago

Was wondering if this gel will work in a liquid biofuel/bioethanol fireplace?

Thanks!!!


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Yeah, definitely. It burns without giving off fumes. You should be good to go.


Wordlady 4 years ago

I haven't tried your recipe yet but am going to! Wanted to throw out a few thoughts for others though:

- In California we have "Spare the Air" days on which burning of solid fuel is prohibited. Gel fuel is not solid fuel, and puts off little or no (bad) gasses, so we use it in our fireplace when we want the ambiance of a fire on a Spare the Air day. It is a really great option. We do not have gas to our fireplace, but I got a good-looking concrete log set (intended for gas fireplaces) on clearance that sits on our regular fire grate and disguises the cans. When we do burn wood, we just remove the fake log set.

- For those who'd like to use the gel fuel but don't have a fireplace, and don't want to invest in a professionally made tabletop one, a basic terra cotta flowerpot is a great and very inexpensive option. For about $2 you can get a pot that is the right size to fit the standard 13 oz fuel can. (I would use a trivet or something below it to add extra protection for your table surface.) You could also get a larger one, put some sort of riser in the bottom to raise the top of the can up level with the edge of the flowerpot, then fill up the rest of the flowerpot with decorative stones. This gives you a safe yet decorative way to use gel fuel in your home. You can even mosaic or paint the outside of the flowerpot to fit your décor. This can be great on the coffee table--if you don't have children or pets--or a regular height table, even a plant stand if it is very stable. Do ensure that it is not too close to the wall, bookshelves or other surfaces...it is possible for the flames to blow sideways a little if a door is opened, etc.

Hope this inspires some others!


ScentsForCandles profile image

ScentsForCandles 4 years ago from Utah

This is so cool. I was just wondering about something like this the other day.

I have a really old house and I don't trust the chimney. I think I could use something like this in the fireplace and not smoking myself out or burning down the house.


BlueRoofFarm 4 years ago

Ben, This looks very cool, but I just can't seem to make it work. I bought some chalk (crayola) and crushed it up, but when I poured the vinegar over it, it didn't foam at all, so I think that it is not calcium carbonate.

I've been trying crushed egg shells. That foams decently. I filtered out the left over shells and then let all of the liquid evaporate. I had white scale left in the jar. I poured some 91% alcohol it, but it didn't do anything at all.

I'm pretty convinced that I am just going to have to buy the chalk from Amazon.

Have you ever tried boiling off the water from the acetate solution in the microwave? I've been doing that too. I don't see the difference between 300°F in the oven, which will heat the water to 212°F or just boiling in the microwave. It takes only a few minutes.

Maybe someone who is successful at this could try the microwave for the evaporation process and see if it still works?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey guys, thanks for stopping by.

Wordlady, thanks very much for the tips. Terracotta is a great idea.

ScentsforCandles, definitely give it a try. Let me know what you think.

BlueroofFarm, you're conclusion is right. If it doesn't foam, then your chalk isn't calcium carbonate. The reaction will be surprisingly strong. I've never tried the microwave but that's probably a fast solution. I guess I just thought it might be a bit dangerous putting foreign chemicals in the microwave to boil. But if you've done it successfully, then that's another great tip that people can try. Thanks for sharing.


Cindy 4 years ago

I just wanted to post my experience with this recipe. After burning quite a few of these cans of gel, I noticed that there was soot all around my white painted "faux fireplace" mantel. After that I noticed that there was soot on everything in the entire room. Ceiling, drapes, windows, decorative items. Just something to beware of. It might be expensive, but the product I bought at the store didn't leave soot behind.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Thanks Cindy for sharing that. I mainly use mine outdoors, so I hadn't noticed that. I did notice the white soot left behind in the cans once the fire goes out, but I didn't realize that it might be infiltrating the air as well. That's good to be aware of.


Marcy 4 years ago

Hi there! Wanted to check in and say that for those thinking of trying the paraffin or soy wax versions - don't bother. I gave them a run through, and it gives off a noxious "just blew out a candle" scent as the wax burns. Yechh. Right now, I am burning straight 91% isopropyl alcohol in the cans, and it makes a lovely yellow-orange, high-burning flame. Quite a bit higher than gel fuels, so that should give a person pause if they have a smaller fireplace. I would estimate the height of the flames at about 7" steady, 8-9" flickers. Don't use straight alcohol in a fireplace with a lower top, or you might well catch something on fire or warp it. I can say however if you have the right setup, that it burns beautifully. Be careful lighting, as the fumes tend to collect inside the can and can ignite with a small, contained 'whump'that can be surprising if you are not prepared for it. Once going, it's fine. Just use a fireplace starter match or a BBQ lighter.

I tried the chalk method tonight using chalkboard chalk I bought at the drugstore and quickly realized that the chalk I snagged is obviously not the right sort - there was almost no bubbling, so it won't work. I'll have to order some of the real stuff, and give 'er a go again. Great video, and awesome follow up on answering people's questions.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Thanks Marcy. More and more people are going towards just burning straight 91% alcohol like you mentioned doing. It's super easy, quick, and effective. I hope you can get the chalk working. It's weird that not all chalks are the same.


Mike 4 years ago

I tried the 91% alcohol in a 8" cake pan with lava rock (outside). 16oz only burned for approx 40 minutes. The flames were pretty high also. How can I slow the burn down so I get longer burning time? I would try the gel however I'd have to take out the rocks every time I want to do a burn.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

If you're just going to do a straight 91% alcohol burn, then there's not much that I'm aware of that you can do to extend the burn time. That's partially what the gel is for. It slows down the burn.


Obsessedracing 4 years ago

Is there a reason I mix per video an it burns of dark black soot??


Obsessedracing 4 years ago

Burning 99% alcohol leave dark black soot any thing to help? I mix as per video stops my smoke detector from going off but still burn a lil soot mixed but straight 99% leaves alot of soot any help??


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

That's odd. That shouldn't happen. The only thing that sometimes gets left behind is a white soot from the chalk in the gel mixture. Is it a lot of black smoke or just little spurts here and there?


Obsessedracing 4 years ago

If I burn just 99% alcohol it's burns alot of soot I buy it in 5 gal drums

Now if I mix per video with calcium it leaves very lil but still there doesn't put off smoke alarms as just burning alcohol does just wonder why an if anything I could do?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

I've noticed that occasionally, when the flame spurts a bit, it can puff out a small cloud of black smoke. But it's pretty rare. Most people that burn alcohol directly burn the 91%. It burns a little colder. About the smoke though, I don't know what you can really do about it without changing the formula.


MelishaP20 4 years ago

Can You give me a receipe and directions for 91%.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

I think if you read the comments, someone put a specific recipe for 91%.


MelishaP20 4 years ago

I didn't see One. Ben can you please do one for 91%

And the Vinegar need to be of what in its contents?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Oh there's not one? Most people who use 91% alcohol just prefer to burn it straight without any type of mixture. It'll be pretty evenly for a long time. There's not a whole lot of reason to mix it into a gel because the 9% water content keeps it burning evenly. In order to turn it into a gel, you have to get rid of excess water content from the calcium acetate/water solution. You'll need to evaporate about 3/4ths of the water away instead of 1/2 the water.


Nancy 4 years ago

I just wanted to thank you for the video. Nice job. Not the voodoo I thought it was to make my own gel fuel.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Sure! Thanks for saying so.


nati 4 years ago

Dear all.

How can I made ethanol gel other than calcium acetate?


Fertiman 4 years ago

Regarding the CaC03 (Lime) you can get a large bag from any Agriculture store or home and garden store. You want to use a fine a grade as possible and you want to look at the % purity as well. The higher the purity the more "Reactivity" you will get out of the Lime. I assume the same will apply here as the fineness and purity are the factors of reactivity.


Fertiman 4 years ago

Also forgot to mention that I saw a few posts about people using wall board (drywall). Wall board is made using Gypsum or CaS04. I believe this would change the reaction and you would get a rotten egg smell either during the process of making the gel or when burning. I just purchased a Gel stove, so I will be looking to make my own gel, providing I can make it cheap enough. Has anyone tried getting a large bulk quantity of isopropyl alcohol from a bulk fuel outlet? I believe this may bring the price down considerably as long as the grade is 99%.


Fertiman 4 years ago

Alright I did some quick math and I can produce my own gel for around $2.29 can (365ml). This is approximately 1/2 of the cans I just bought from Home Depot for $3.99 per can. The key here is to buy the Isopropyl Alcohol from a wholesale electronics store. The bulk Isopropyl Alcohol is approximately $6.60/ litre (1.06 US quart). The Amazon price on line showed up as $8.30 / pint or $16.60 / litre.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Fertiman, thanks so much for that research. That's really helpful. Yeah, if you can find bulk isopropyl alcohol at 99%, you'll definitely save a ton of money. Best of luck man.


Fertiman 4 years ago

NO problem, thanks for the great video.


ChangedMyMind 4 years ago

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/11/nyregion/a-firep...

"The explosion did not hurt him, Mr. Mitzman said. But it covered Mr. Stone, 24, in the flaming jelly. Mr. Stone, who until recently had been working as a hotel doorman and an intern at The New York Post, dropped and rolled, but that only set the terrace floor on fire, Mr. Mitzman said. Another friend ran out with a blanket to smother the flames, but the blanket caught on fire. The two friends finally extinguished the flames on Mr. Stone’s face with a sweatshirt, and led him into a shower to dowse the rest."


seonaresh 4 years ago

Excellent article. Hope fully it helps everybody who is into it. I have seen an Indian manufacturer whose quality is better than other brand in U.S. www.dishwarmer.com . The site as advantages or uses of gel fuel, which can used for research purpose.


furniturez profile image

furniturez 4 years ago from Washington

Thanks for helping me save money... you're a life saver!


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Jonathan 3 years ago

I looked all over you page for a video, but don't see it????


nicole 3 years ago

http://www.dudadiesel.com/ great source for all supplies needed for this project and the items can be shipped together to save on shipping cost...


GARY SIMPSON 3 years ago

HI

I'VE BEEN MESSING WITH MANY FORMULAS OF FIRE GEL FOR MONTHS NOW AND HAVE FOUND A SIMPLE RECIPE THAT WORKS EVERY TIME.

IT SEEMS THERE ARE A COUPLE OF PROBLEMS THAT MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE.

ORDINARY 5% VINEGAR IS NOT STRONG ENOUGH AND TO FIND 10% HEINZ VINEGAR IN THE UK HAS PROVEN DIFFICULT.

IF YOU HAVE A LOCAL SUPPLIER OF POLISH FOODS, THAT'S WHERE YOU WILL GET YOUR 10% CLEAR VINEGAR AND CHEAPLY OFF THE SHELF.

CALCIUM CARBONATE CAN VARY MASSIVELY IN PRICE AND CAN BE IN A GRANULATED FORM WHICH IS LESS EFFECTIVE.

ON EBAY THERE IS A UK COMPANY THAT SELLS CALCIUM CARBONATE POWDER FOR ABOUT £6 FOR 1KG.

THE BEST ALCOHOL IS 99% ISOPROPYL WHICH CAN BE BOUGHT BY A UK SUPPLIER ON EBAY. THE MORE YOU ORDER, THE CHEAPER IT IS 25 LTR COST AROUND £45 INC DELIVERY CHARGES.

BURNING THE ALCOHOL NEAT BURNS TOO FAST AND GIVES OUT TOO MUCH HEAT IN ONE GO. THIS WILL BE EXPENSIVE AND FILL THE ROOM WITH AN UNPLEASANT HAZE.

THE RECIPE IS AS FOLLOWS.

ADD 15ML - APPROX 1 HEAPED T/SPOON OF CALCIUM CARB POWDER TO 60ML OF 10% VINEGAR. THIS WILL REACT AGGRESSIVELY AND FIZZ.

GIVE IT A GOOD STIR AND LET IT SETTLE. YOU WANT THEN REDUCE THIS SLURRY BY 2/3 TO 1/2 VOLUME WHICH CAN BE EASILY DONE USING A MICROWAVE ON A LOW SETTING, BUT DO THIS IN STAGES OR IT WILL BOIL OVER.

ONCE THIS HAS REDUCED AND COOLED, STIR AND POUR INTO A CONTAINER WITH PLENTY OF BASE AREA, LIKE A PLASTIC TAKE AWAY CONTAINER .

THEN ADD 120ML ONLY OF THE ALCOHOL, SLOWLY AND EVENLY OVER THE SURFACE AND AGGITATE WITH A FINGER TO DISTRIBUTE THE LIQUID AND CREATE THE GEL. REFRIDGERATE AND STORE.

THIS SMALL QUANTITY ALONE WILL BURN EVENLY FOR ABOUT 1/2 AN HOUR AND HEATS UP OUR ROOM WHICH IS 14FT BY 12FT.

TO MAKE LARGER QUANTITIES, JUST INCREASE THE INGREDIENTS PROPORTIONATELY.

HOPE THIS IS OF USE, GARY.


Bryan 3 years ago

thank you for the article. Has anyone used denatured alcohol for their fireplace? I can't find 99% isopropyl alcohol locally but I can find denatured which says for use in marine stoves...


Bryan 3 years ago

Nevermind about the denatured alcohol for the gel fireplace, it Burns low and blue like a "Sterno" flame.


Teresa 3 years ago

Bryan, add a little bit of table salt and that will turn your denatured flame yellow. I burn it in my fireplace.


Ken 3 years ago

Has anyone altered the recipe at all to make it last longer? Most of the commercial store-bought gel fuels last roughly 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Apparently this receipt lasts just about an hour, maybe a little more. Has anyone been able to add anything that would make it last longer, maybe 2 hours?


Geof 3 years ago

I am having a hard time finding calcium carbonate locally, but was wondering if anyone has messed with (or would know more about the chemistry) using sodium carbonate in place of calcium carbonate?


Emily4oaks@aol.com 3 years ago

Hand sanitizer gel, like GermX and Purell, burn as well and as long as the gel fuel you can buy in the stores. It has a higher alcohol content, I believe, and like Sterno cans burns with a flame that is blue and not easily seen. Adding sea salt (a generous portion) on top of the sanitizer gel turns the flame yellow/orange and creates a realistic popping as the salt crystals are burned. Works GREAT! I use this all the time for altar settings using firepots. Very impressive. Many thanks to one of my youth group members who led me to this solution by questioning me when he first saw me use firepots during our youth group worship time, "How are you burning GermX?" I laughed out loud but quickly stopped and thought, "Wait! That's alcohol in a gel form! That's gonna work!" And it does!! I'm told by other youth ministers that using moisturizing hand sanitizer eliminates the need for sea salt.

I do love all the info and questions in this thread! We have experimented with adding things to change the color of the flame. Haven't had too many dramatic results. Good luck with all this!

Emily Johnson

Marvell, AR


Hank 3 years ago

If your calcium acetate and water had separated naturally, why boil off, microwave, leave in the sun? Why not use a turkey baster to simply take the water off the top?


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 3 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Emily, that's awesome. I'll have to try that. Thanks for sharing your input. If you don't mind, I might go back in and add your info to the main article to give people options to try. Thanks for stopping by.


Bevan 3 years ago

Hi there

Is calcium carbonate and calcium acetate very similar? Could you use the acetate and it would do the same job?

Thanks!


Bevan 3 years ago

Sorry one more question, if I used the isopropyl alcohol alone to burn, will the gel last longer than straight liquid, the only reason I ask is because I'm making a gel fire place and I want to get the fire burning for as long as possible

Thanks!


carrie Lee Night profile image

carrie Lee Night 3 years ago from Northeast United States

Interesting hub, However I am concerned with safety. I realize many things can be made at home and in essence may be the same thing, but it is made by companies for a reason. Are you a chemist? Who is your source for this information? Has it been safely time tested? What will happen if the proportions of ingredients are off ? I may sound a little overbearing., but I....don't feel comfortable in making flammables at home. Thank you for this hub though, it was very well written. Have a great week :)


Shobhit 2 years ago

Instead of using vinegar can we use acitic acid directly.


candimeg 2 years ago

This is great! I love my gel fireplace, but I can only afford to buy a case of gel a year, so once it's gone, it's gone. Can't wait to try this out. I do have one question though. The one thing I can't stand is the odor the gel puts off (especially as it gets down to the bottom of the can). Do you know if there is some way to add a "scent" to the mixture to 1) give it the "smell" of real burning "wood" and 2) to eliminate the odor when it burns to the bottom?


brian 2 years ago

it is not cheap to make a 24 pk case of gel =$70

to make same amount of this will cost

$10 cal. carb

16 16oz bottles alcohol =$48

2 32oz vinager =$20

total of $78 +++ your time


Margaret 2 years ago

I'm interested in burning this fuel in glass but in your video you said you tried glass and it didn't work too well.


MARGARET 2 years ago

I hope this is still a viable site. The questions and answers both are informative. Forgive me if this is a repeat, but I don't have time to read all of them. I am concerned by the number of responses (not here) on the Real Flame Gel Fuel that is sold on Amazon about odor. Does your fuel have an odor and if not why is that different from the commercial brand? I need this fuel for a weekly event. I don't mind making the fuel if necessary but I would rather buy it. Any ideas? suggestions?


lesliebyars profile image

lesliebyars 2 years ago from Alabama

I thought your hub was vey interesting!! I would have never thought of making you own gas. This looks great. I voted up and awesome!!


Apros 2 years ago

You are all having trouble with the gelling because you are not using the correct ratios in the video.

The powder you see at the bottom is unreacted chalk. The clear liquid is the calcium acetate. That's why you can't siphon it away and make it work.

You are using way way way too much chalk. If you don't believe me drain the liquid away and pour some fresh vinegar over it. It will bubble because it's chalk.


kielia 2 years ago

Candimeg, this video was put up 3 years ago so there is probably a good chance you will not get an answer to your question. I think I may be able to give you an idea on the scent issue. He says in the video that you can add a small amount of cooking oil in order to get the gel to make a popping sound. That being the case I see no reason why you could not add a few drops of essential oil. I have not made this yet so I am only guessing. Logically I do not think this should be a problem. I have been playing with trying to mix different scents in order to get a "campfire" smell for several years without success. I just found a wonderful pine essential oil and I am going to call it good with that. If this is of interest to you it is by Wyndmere and is called pine needle. I found it at a health food store.


bertha 2 years ago

Great information!!!can i cook or boil water with gel fuel?


davefergus84@gmail 2 years ago

You can use Tums for your calcium not just chalk.


Tommy 2 years ago

I found the perfect gel fuel. I go to the Dollar Store and buy the 14oz bottle of hand sanitizer for 99 cents. It burns great and no smell or soot. No mixing, now waiting for evaporation time and no mixing! If you want crackling sound and smell you can buy the scented oils there to and add a few drops. Works great, good burn time and very cheap!


Ad 2 years ago

I would like to store my Solid Gel, (as I buy mine in larger quantities as its hard to find to fit my small firepots) in my outdoor Gazebo. In the winter our temperatures are below freezing point. Now, if this gel goes through a freezing mode, will it still burn adequately in my firepots?


Andrea 23 months ago

Thanks! This was very helpful!


JoAnn 23 months ago

I had a pharmacy order 99% isopropyl alcohol for me to avoid the $40 HazMat shipping fee and got 12 16oz bottles for 30 something dollars. I used ground Tums (1000 mg calcium carbonate) and vinegar and was able to make a beautiful gel I put into old sterno cans (3/4 full). They burned for about 1 3/4 hours. Got so excited I made 11 back ups because its getting cold and I wanted to be prepared. Much to my dismay this morning all the backups turned to liquid. They still burn but I am not comfortable with the liquid.

Any idea what may have gone wrong? I read a post from a few years ago where the cans/jars are left open and remained gel while the closed containers became liquid. I could not find anything else related to this problem but I'm thinking that if the containers are left open the alcohol would evaporate out.


HeatherHH 22 months ago

I know this is late but I have to comment. Apros is right. Some of the information you're giving out is just wrong.

First, carbon dioxide is odorless. If you have any odor it's from the acetic acid but that's a minor issue.

When you add acetic acid to calcium carbonate, the acid does make calcium acetate, but it is not as a solid. The calcium is as Ca+2 ions and the acetate is as C2H3O2 -1 ions and they are in solution because calcium acetate is soluble in water. Just like if you added table salt to water, the solution is clear if you don't add too much because it dissolves but unlike sugar solutions you have sodium and chloride ions. So the calcium acetate you want is in the liquid, not the solid at the bottom.

The reason you have the solid at the bottom is that's leftover CaCO3 because you didn't add enough acid to react with it. From the proportions you gave you have about 2 parts acid molecules to 7 parts CaCO3 molecules and because of the proportions of the chemical reaction you need two acid molecules for every CaCO3 molecule to react completely. So you have leftover solid and what you want is actually in the liquid which is why siphoning the solution doesn't work.

CaCO3 + 2HC2H3O2 gives Ca+2 +2C2H3O2-1 + CO2 + H2O

is the reaction if anyone is interested. C2H3O2-1 is the acetate ion.

What you need is saturated calcium acetate solution, a clear liquid. The solubility is about 35g/100ml or roughly 3 oz to a cup by mass.

The quickest way to do this is take a volume of vinegar and start adding calcium carbonate a little at a time until it's dissolved. Keep adding until it no longer bubbles when you add more and the powder doesn't dissolve. This means you've used up all the acid (H+) part and you have a solution of calcium acetate. It's not a saturated solution, which is what you need. So, let this evaporate until you see crystals start to form. I would just simmer it on the stove until reduced to about 2 ounces. The point is you want to see crystals coming out of the clear liquid then stop. This means the solution above the crystals is saturated. Let it settle and measure just the clear liquid and add that to a bit less than nine parts of 99% alcohol.

I know you probably have good intentions but when you're dealing with chemical reactions (yes, this is tame compared to most) and fire, misinformation can get someone hurt or worse.


Mike0408 21 months ago

I am confused on how this actually saves any money. I can purchase sixteen 13 oz cans of gel fuel for $60.00. That is 208 ounces or 29 cents and ounce. 208 ounces is 1.625 gallons so the per gallon cost is $36.90 per gallon. The cheapest I have been able to find 99% alcohol for is 16 ounces for $7.oo. So to purchase a gallon of alcohol I need eight 16 ounce bottles at a cost of $56.00. Not even considering the vinegar and calcium acetate I am up to $56.00 per gallon to make the stuff compared to $36.9 per gallon to purchase. Can someone tell me what I an missing here?


johnny603s01 20 months ago

response to Mike0408.

I think the main issue is when this site was originated (based on the comments of up to 4 years ago), the price of 99% isopropyl alcohol was at least 4 times less than what it is today. I have done substantial research on trying to find it a the cheapest price and the best I could come up with is about $32 -$33 per gallon including shipping through Stanley Supply. I read a different article on this subject which also included this video and the author stated "Finding that is difficult in a large enough quantity for it to be cost effective. After several hours of fruitless searching, I finally discovered it in gallon containers with 99% concentration at a store most major cities have: Grainger, Medique brand, item number 3WHL2 . It runs about $11/gallon when purchased onsite." I looked up that brand using the above item number on Grainger and it now sells for $63 per gallon and you have to buy it in quantities of 4!

I did the math (as you did) and buying the gel fuel on amazon is about .23 cents per ounce and just buying the isopropyl alcohol on Stanley is about .26 per ounce. This also does not include the cost of all the other products plus the cost of purchasing containers to properly store it in large quantities.

In the end, I think that years ago, this website and others that teach you how to make it was invaluable to saving tons of money on gel fuel, but currently (2/1/15), it is not feasible anymore. Now that I know this I almost wish I didn't buy the new gel fuel fireplace/media console I ordered because there is currently no way to get around the cost of the gel fuel cans such as that sold on amazon. I will still enjoy the gel fuel fireplace but it will be on special occasions.

The one plus is that I can buy a duraflame electric log to put in the fireplace if I want to get the fireplace effect for ambiance to offset the cost of the fuel but it just wont be the same. My wife can also place large candles inside for a different look.

I will certainly save the recipe for creating my own gel fuel in the future but that will all be dependent on the cost of the 99% isopropyl alcohol, which seems to be the main factor for this to be cost effective.

I also found a concerning opinion on ventless fireplaces that I thought I would share but that will be left up to each persons own individual opinion: http://www.treehugger.com/gadgets/are-ethanol-stov...


James442 19 months ago

Hi I have a Gel fireplace, and ran out of the gel so I used the old cans and burned 91% Isoprophyl alcohol. I have recently found on some of the blind/walls, and other plastic items in my house to have a black soot type of marking on them. It doe wife right off but was wonder, Could this be from not using denatured alcohol or the gel by chance?


dawn 14 months ago

heat baking soda in oven @200 degrees for an hour and you are left with sodium carbonate


Steve Young 13 months ago

This post is reckless and irresponsible. It puts the people attempting to make their own gel fuel in danger. It puts and entire gel fuel industry and the companies that manufacture gel fuel safely at risk for liability. The formula and process in this post has not been tested. Gel fuel can not be put in to just any kind of container. The fuel in whatever container it is going in has not been tested for storage. The fuel formula and combination of chemicals have not ben tested for how they breakdown over time or for what injury can be caused if swallowed. There is no material safety data sheet in case of an emergency. With the pour gel recall of 2011 suggesting that anyone should make a gel fuel on their own for a refillable fire place is flat out liable. The issue on the recall was that some of the pour gel products burned blue and were difficult to see causing the consumer to attempt to refill their fire places while they where still burning because they couldn't see the flame. The other problem was that the bottle the pour gel was in did not have an arrestor at the tip that would block the fire or lit fuel from entering the bottle of fuel and exploding the oxygen and fumes inside. The recall was a result of 65 plus injuries and 2 deaths including a 13 year old boy. There were dozens of law suits putting 7 companies out of business. I appreciate that folks are looking for an inexpensive alternative for their fireplace however using anything other then the two main brands that have been tested and proven over the last 28 years is dangerous and irresponsible.


12 months ago

Hey, I have been doing this for some time with no problem. I purchased garden lime to use. However, now I have a question. When I mix in the alcohol 91% it gels fine, but after it sits a while it separate's and turns thin. What am I doing wrong? I am using the 1/8c garden lime to 1/2c vinegar, reducing it by half, and adding between 2 and 2 1/4c of alcohol. Can you give me a tip?

Yes, to some of the other comments, if you are not doing this safely and handling it like any other flammable liquid. You can get yourself or someone else hurt. Be safe, use your common sense..


Al 10 months ago

if you start with an inch and top it up to 9 inches that makes it 8/1 ratio surley


Daniellekuehn80 10 months ago

There are those oil burning incense things on the market so they sell bottles of fragrance. Is it safe to add some of that frangrance oil to the homemade gel fuel mixture?


sailor4510 8 months ago

Ca(OH)2(s) + 2CH3COOH(aq) → Ca(CH3COO)2(aq) + 2H2O(l)

Mason lime + glacial acetic acid = calcium acetate + water

I'm going to experiment with this combination cause it should be wicked efficient. mason lime is ten bucks for 50lbs and glacial acetic acid is 20X stronger than vinegar and I can get it for $35/gallon. has anyone else used pure acetic acid to make their gel?


Girish sonarthi 7 months ago

how to made clear transparent blue gel fuel

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