Ethanol burners

Decorative alcohol-fuelled burners, called ethanol burners, have caused a number of serious burn injuries in Australia.

Ethanol burners, like those pictured, are designed for domestic use and produce a flame using alcohol as fuel. They are mainly used for decoration, although larger models may also provide heating.

There are 3 common types of ethanol burners:

  • table-top devices (small, inexpensive devices designed to sit on a table)
  • freestanding devices (larger, heavier and generally more expensive than table-top devices)
  • fixed devices, often referred to as ‘fireplaces’ (require installation in a fixed position—usually wall-mounted or recessed).

Mandatory safety standard

To prevent the sale of unsafe burners, the mandatory safety standard was introduced in October 2017.

The mandatory standard requires ethanol burners to:

  • be a permanent fixture or have a dry weight of at least 8kg and a footprint of at least 900cm2
  • meet the stability test set out in the European standard
  • come with a fuel container with a flame arrester or an automatic fuel pump system
  • carry a prescribed warning.

Find out more about the decorative alcohol-fuelled devices safety standard.

Sale of ethanol burners

Retailers and suppliers are not permitted to sell ethanol burners unless they meet the requirements in the mandatory safety standard.

Devices that do not comply must be removed from store shelves and online stores.

Consumers are entitled to a refund for products that:

  • do not meet mandatory safety standards


Safety advice

If you own an ethanol burner that does not meet mandatory safety standards, we strongly recommend you stop using it.

This safety video, Don’t fuel the fire, shows how easily ethanol burners can go from decorative to dangerous.

Duration 0:36

It is important to follow the below safety tips when using an ethanol burner, even if the product is covered by the mandatory safety standard.

Setting up the burner

  • Strictly follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use before setting up and lighting the burner.
  • Keep the instructions in a safe place and within reach.
  • Put the burner on a solid and level surface, where it will not be accidentally kicked or bumped.
  • Keep the flame away from combustible materials, such as clothes or curtains.
  • Make sure the burner is away from drafts or breeze from open windows and doors or fans.
  • Have an appropriate fire extinguisher nearby.

Refuelling and lighting the burner

  • Never light a burner that has not been fully assembled.
  • Use a kitchen lighter or long barbecue match to light the burner.
  • Always use the fuel recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Use a funnel when refilling to prevent spills. If a spill occurs before lighting, wipe it up immediately with paper towel, wash the area with water and wash your hands. Don’t use the burner until all fumes and traces of fuel have left the room.
  • Store fuel in a separate room to the burner.

While the burner is in use

  • Never leave the product unattended while in use, especially if there are children or pets around.
  • Always maintain a safe distance of at least 1m from the burner while it is on.
  • Extinguish the flame when leaving a room or before going to sleep.
  • Make sure the flame is out and the burner has had plenty of time to cool before attempting to move or refuel it.
  • Never throw anything combustible at the burner or into the flame.
  • Never use the burner for cooking.
  • Never use water on an ethanol fire. Water could spread the fire. In the case of an uncontrolled fire, use a powder extinguisher or fire blanket to smother the fire.

Some models have an open flame which can be difficult to see, particularly in daylight, and this creates a risk that someone may think the flame is extinguished and try to refuel or move the device while the flame is still lit.