Lighting Up Summer Nights: DIY Tiki Torch

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Summer Nights by DIY Tiki Torch Light

Summer nights — grilling on the deck, enjoying a glass of wine lakeside, or throwing an all out summer-time bash … none would be the same without the warm glow of torch lights.

I’m a sucker for Tiki-Torches, but if you know me by now, I’m also the first to find a way to “light up my life” without having to spend a penny. 

That said, time to take out my doo-dads and stuff to work a little DIY magic.

Here’s what you’ll need:bottles for diy tiki torch

  • Bottles – all shapes, all sizes BUT smaller bottles work better simply because you won’t need so much torch fuel. More about that later.
  • Cotton String – it MUST be cotton otherwise it will not burn – it’ll melt  … OR this year I experimented with the tightly wound paper handles you find on fancy shopping bags.  Boy do they work like a charm!
  • Salt
  • Boric acid  (Borax)
  • Metal nuts & washers – all sizes and with varied sized openings
  • Torch fuel

Step One: Making the wicks

I do not know why or how this works but it does. I’ve been doing it for several years and while it’s a little time consuming, it’s well worth the wait simply because torch wicks can be costly.


1. Combine 1 Tbsp. of  salt with 2 Tbsp. of boric acid.

2. Add 1 cup of water and mix very well until the salt and the Borax are dissolved.

3. Pour the mixture into a jar.

4. Add the string making sure it’s completely submersed. If you wish, you can cut the string to your desired length – at least long enough to hang down the entire length of the bottle you are using.braid wick for DIY torches


 5. The string needs to soak at least 12-hours.

  6. Remove the string and hang it out to dry.  Now it must dry completely – some website “tutorials” will say five days. If your string it thicker then yes.  If not, leave them out as long as necessary. The thinner string takes about 2 -3 days.

7. Braid three pieces of string together.


Step Two: Making the TorchesDIY tiki torches — selecting washers

1. Gather your washer and your bottles.

The idea here is to first choose a washer large enough to cover the bottle opening. More than likely the opening in the washer is going to be too large to hold the wick in place. That said, keeping adding washers or nuts with smaller and smaller openings until the last opening is small enough to ensure the wick fits snugly and will not fall out.


2.  Take the braided wick, bring it through the openings in the washers/nuts until you have just enough poking through on the top to create a flame.

3. Fill the bottle half-way with torch fuel making sure to saturate the the entire wick. This is pretty easy as whatever the boric acid and salt mixture does, the fuel easily travels the entire length of the wick. DIY summer tiki torch

Get your matches and light away. This is one of my favorite bottles … easy to see why. It’s also the wick I made using the paper bag handle. I actually like this better because there’s no braiding involved — it saves the somewhat tedious step of having to braid the string together.

More about Torch Fuel

Tiki-Torch fuel is expensive and in my opinion it’s rather stinky. I know it’s supposed to smell like citronella but I just don’t get that. I found two recipes on how to make your own torch fuel on line and mixed one together. I used isopropyl alcohol, distilled water and essential lavender oil. Not sure if I did it right or perhaps my adding a little food coloring messed up the brew. While it lit, it wasn’t very happy to stay lit.

Recipe for DIY Torch Fuel

Then there is a recipe I have not tried using mineral oil and another using vegetable oil which seems pretty easy.

1. 1-2 tsp. of your favorite essential oil of choice. These help keep those nasty flying pests away: cedar, lemon grass, citronella, eucalyptus, chamomile or rosemary.

2. 1-cup of vegetable oil

3. Mix well and you’re done.

I have not tried this but I can’t imagine it wouldn’t work.


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About the author / 

Green Diva Mizar'

Green Diva Mizar is a former co-host of the GD show. GD Mizar is also dedicated to providing safe, clean water to all through her company Pur2o Water Filtration & Purification.

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    casey July 16, 2013 at 4:49 pm -  Reply

    I used the lid that came with my beer bottle and just drilled a hole slightly smaller then the wicks. Will this work.

      Green Diva Mizar July 17, 2013 at 9:01 am -  Reply

      Hey Casey,
      What a great idea!
      I can’t see any reason why that wouldn’t work.
      Send us pictures when you’re done.
      Thank you for your question and for logging on to!

    Kalee April 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm -  Reply

    so with the water and alcohol fuel do you use a gallon of distilled water?

      Wendy September 27, 2015 at 7:22 am -  Reply

      Hi Kalee,

      I made my tiki torch fuel using the alcohol recipe and so far it has worked very well. I bought the 91% isopropyl alcohol at CVS. I would have purchased the 96% but they didn’t carry it. I got 3, 32 oz bottles for around $10. I think I saved $3-4 by purchasing the 3. I added 2 tsps of distilled water to the 32 oz bottle of alcohol…1 tsp distilled H2O per 16 oz of 91% isopropyl alcohol. I put the cap back on the alcohol and shook the bottle. I gave it a shake before every use.
      I this formula works perfect for my needs. I can’t say the recipe will with a different type of wick or when other ingredients are added. My tiki torches stay lit and last. When they go out all the fuel was used up….nothing left in the canister.
      I hope this helps anyone looking for an alternative to tiki torch fuel. I can’t it was any cheaper though. Maybe even a bit more expensive when u add in the price of the water. I’m sure I could find the alcohol cheaper than what I paid at the CVS.

    Stevie June 7, 2015 at 12:05 am -  Reply

    Did you ever use the vegetable oil fuel?

    che graham June 13, 2015 at 5:16 pm -  Reply

    Id like the measurements of the alcohol distilled water formula

    Cassie July 3, 2015 at 10:34 pm -  Reply

    I was wondering if the glass ever crack or break since the fire gets so hot. I would love to make a couple of these as I live in Minnesota and our state bird really should be the mosquito. I just don’t want any exploding glass. Any advice?

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