What Color Is Kerosene?

Kerosene is a clear, colourless liquid in its natural condition. Kerosene is reddened to conform with U.S. federal tax legislation.

The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 mandated that kerosene sold for non-taxable purposes, such as heating, be dyed red to prevent it from being sold as a replacement for taxable diesel fuel. It also established a new federal excise on kerosene.

Clear kerosene can still be purchased from retailers, but only under certain conditions. Many retailers of heating fuel have made the decision to solely sell red kerosene.

Initially, there were worries that the red dye’s components would degrade heater performance or harm them, but all that has been observed is a slight discoloration of the heater wick.

Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.

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