Fire training and safety, Coloured Flames FAQ

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Coloured Flames

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As much as we all love the yellow/orange flames produced by kerosene/parraffin - there is something captivating seeing a flame that is the "wrong" colour.
By adding the right chemicals to fuel, it is possible to turn your flames; Blue, Green, Red, White, Purple, Orange (but *really* Orange) and black.

Well ok, not black.

This article is a compilation of all the knowledge acquired over the years at Home of Poi about achieving coloured flames - what to use, how to use it, how not to use it, and all the relevant safety information.
Full credit must be give to all those that contributed to the boards about coloured flames - Many Thanks

Before we get into all the chemicals, here's a few things you should know before trying these:

1) Your wicks will be ruined.
~ Not only are some of the chemicals corrosive to metal, the higher burning temperature of the methylated spirits means the kevlar will degrade quicker too. If you can, it's advisable to have a normal fire wick/poi/staff and a coloured flame one - even going so far as a different wick for each different colour. Some of the chemicals can leave a manky reisdue which builds up on the wicks after a while - not only looking (and often smelling) unpleasant, but severly reducing the wicks' burn-time.

2) Toxic: Hazardous to Health
~ Some of the chemicals (including just Meths!) are pretty nasty - both in their "natural" state and the vapours they produce whilst burning. It's advisable to not regularly use any of these (try and limit yourself to 2 burns a night) even go as far as wearing a pollution mask. Wear some rubber gloves whilst handling them, and wash your hands before touching your eye or any other sensitive area of your body No one likes a chemical burn.
DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER DOING FIRE BREATHING WITH ANY OF THESE CHEMICALS

3) It's hot
~ May seem obvious, but it's always good to be aware Whilst you may feel happy doing bare-skin wraps with kero/paraffin, it's not really advisble to do it with these mixes. Not only does the Meths burn hotter than both kero and Coleman's/White Gas, the chemicals will also be burning and could do nasty things to your lovely arms. Wear nice loose fitting natural fiber tops and trousers. No-one likes a spinner in a shell-suit
~~~
So, onto the chemicals

What chemicals make what coloured flames?
(NB - There may be other chemicals which produce these, and other, colours, but these are the best for fire spinning)
Green - Boric Acid
Red - Lithium Chloride
Lilac - Potassium Chloride
Purple - Potassium Nitrate aka "Saltpetre" (*Warning* Burns VERY hot)
Blue - Copper Chloride

Where can I get these chemicals?
Apparently, they are all available through pottery stores as they are all used for different colour glazes. Boric Acid is easy to find, your local (big) pharmacy should have it, some DIY stores also stock it as "Roach Powder". Lithium Chloride is a bit tricky to get hold of as it's an anti-depressant. For the rest, try an internet search, or if any of you know chemistry students - ask them to ask their lab assistants.

What fuels can I use to dissolve the chemicals?
Methylated Spirits (Meths) is best for this, you can also use denatured alcohol, however this is a lot more volatile and burns a lot hotter.

How much chemical should I use?
The general consensus is "as much as will dissolve in the meths". Stir the meths and keep pouring in the chemical until it won't dissolve anymore. More meths can be added to "soak up" the extra chemicals.

What are the health risks of using these chemicals?
As with all fuels - your first port of call should be the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) If it doesn't have one - try looking it up HERE
Just burning meths produces toxic vapours - these chemicals all add to this. It's sensible to limit yourself to two coloured spins a night, and also to wear a pollution mask. If you feel at all unwell/dizzy/high - put them out, walk a fair distance away and take some nice deep breaths of clean air. No matter how pretty the flames are, it's not worth getting sick over.

I mixed the meths with x-chemical but it didn't work - why?
There could be many reasons for this - however the most common is using your regular wicks to try these out on. It's best to use the chemicals on un-used wicks. If you tried using your normal fire wicks, chances are the residual parrafin on the wicks was burning too and burns brighter than the other fuels thus "drowning out" the colour. The more often you use a chemical on a wick, the clearer that colour will become - as mentioned earlier it's best to have a seperate poi/wick/staff for your coloured flames - even a different prop for each colour.

My poi don't burn as brightly or as long as I'm used to - why?
There's no way around this unfortunately. Due to the higher temperatures involved in burning meths, plus all the chemicals being used, the flames won't be as bright and the fuel is used up a lot quicker. Only solution is to use bigger wicks

Update June 2008
And now HoP makes it much easier with...
Tribal neon flame dye


Keywords: Colored Flames, Colour Color

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Comments

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Comments/replies: 5
Parabola1313
Member #123472
Reged: Dec 2010
21st Dec 2010 9:20 AM 

Purple - Potassium Nitrate aka "Saltpetre" (*Warning* Burns VERY hot)

I can’t get this to work... The potassium nitrate doesn’t even dissolve in the denatured alcohol.
Any suggestions?

originalsmit
Member #5610
Reged: Aug 2003
6th Apr 2011 9:08 AM 

im surprised anyone can get saltpetre, its one of the 3 ingredients for gunpowder, and the other 2 are not hard to get.
in my expreience coloured flames are a lot of hassle, destroy your wicks and are less spectacular than glowsticks.
stick to parrafin, its safe and good.

------------------------------
my original signature was tooo long.
this one is shorter

djgrishkin
Member #181431
Reged: Nov 2013
14th Nov 2013 6:56 AM 

Will this stuff work with white gas/coleman fuel, and or kerosene???

Patrick_Casarow
Member #173364
Reged: Jun 2013
21st Dec 2013 10:21 PM 

Not to be a jerk but lol @ people who ask questions on forums with the answer staring them in the face Emoticon

Icouri
Member #195451
Reged: Jul 2014
4th Feb 2016 7:20 AM 

I am wanting to begin spinning a blue fire poi, and I feel the instructions are missing a step. After mixing the additive, do you then just light the additive, or let it soak into the wick and then soak in kerosene before the burn?

Comments/replies: 5

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