White Gas, also called Naphtha, is essentially a highly purified form of gasoline, but is very much not the same thing. Coleman fuel is the same as naphtha, except that it has some stabilizers in it to prolong its life. White gas contains many of the same ingredients as gasoline, and is every bit as dangerous to store and handle.

One of the benefits of white gas is its much longer shelf life than gasoline. Most experts seem to agree that white gas in an unopened can will last 7-10 years. Once the can is opened, it should be used within a few months, although I have used it after 2-3 years without difficulty or problems. Adding a little bit of the same sort of gas stabilizer you use for your lawn mower will also extend the life of an open can of white gas by a couple of years, according to experts.

Used and outdated white gas or Coleman fuel is considered a household hazardous waste. That means we can’t keep it, pour it out on the ground, toss it in the trash, or burn it in a brush pile. In Brunswick, we can also not take it to the Graham Road processing facility. What needs to be done is to take it to a Household Hazardous Waste Day collection. Those are held in Brunswick in October, and they require that you pre-register online at brunswickme.org.

Before discarding the stuff, consider a couple of alternatives. One is to mix the old white gas with new at a ratio of 4:1, new to old. Most liquid fuel camp stoves will run on gasoline today (and many of the older ones will as well, although they didn’t advertise it), so you can us a similar mixture of a quart of old white gas to a gallon of gasoline. It’s also suggested in some places that you can still burn the old stuff directly well past its advertised shelf life, but it will evidently tend to sometimes clog up the stove fittings with gunk, and cleaning the parts would be tedious at best. Some people suggest adding a quart of old white gas to five gallons of gasoline and running it in the lawn mower, as well.

Gasoline contains additives to enhance its burn rate and octane rating, so white gas will not give you as much power, but it can evidently work, in small quantities, as a fuel system cleaner in an automotive engine. At least one web respondent regularly uses a quart of white gas to a tankful of regular gasoline at the end of each season as a cleaner. Whether it helps is unclear, but it seemingly does no harm, either.

The Recycle Bin is a weekly column on what to recycle, what not to recycle, and why, in Brunswick. The public is encouraged to submit questions by email to [email protected]. Harry Hopcroft is a member of the Brunswick Recycling and Sustainability Committee. 

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