How To Make a Colored Campfire

Easy Steps for Making Rainbow-Colored Flames

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How To Make a Colored Campfire." ThoughtCo, Feb. 20, 2017, thoughtco.com/how-to-make-a-colored-campfire-606197. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, February 20). How To Make a Colored Campfire. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-make-a-colored-campfire-606197 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How To Make a Colored Campfire." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-make-a-colored-campfire-606197 (accessed September 25, 2017).
Add chemicals to the wood to make a colored campfire.
Add chemicals to the wood to make a colored campfire. PM Images, Getty Images

A campfire always adds warmth and excitement to an outdoor experience, but you can easily kick it up a notch by coloring the flames. There are several ways to achieve the effect, so you can choose one that works best for you.

Sprinkle Chemicals on the Campfire

You can buy little packets of chemicals to sprinkle over a campfire to make colored flames, but it's easy to make these yourself. Simply add chemicals to a zipper plastic bag and add them to the fire.

It's best to add chemicals after you're done cooking, to avoid any chance of accidental contamination. These chemicals aren't very toxic, so they won't produce dangerous smoke or harm the ground.

  • white - magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt)
  • yellow - sodium chloride (table salt)
  • green - borax (laundry booster or roach powder), boric acid powder (disinfectant), or copper sulfate (algae treatment)
  • blue - copper chloride
  • purple - potassium chloride (salt substitute)
  • pink - lithium (from a battery) or lithium chloride
  • red - strontium nitrate or strontium chloride (in emergency road flares)
  • orange - iron oxide (rust)

Most of these chemicals you can get at a grocery store. Others you can order online. There are also many more chemicals that produce colored fire, based on the flame test, but be sure to check how safe one of these other chemicals is before adding it to a campfire.

A word of advice: if you can, avoid adding yellow (sodium chloride) because it will overpower all the other colors!

Anyway, a campfire is mostly orange and yellow, so you don't really need those colors.

My personal preference is just to use copper sulfate. Why? The salt manages to produce almost the entire spectrum of colors all on its own, plus copper is already present in relatively high concentration in soils.

It's also pretty easy to find.

Burn Driftwood

If your campfire is located near the beach, you can get a colored fire simply by burning driftwood. Driftwood produces an eerie blue to purple flame. The natural salts that have soaked into the wood to produce the color also produce a smoke that isn't good to breathe, plus you should not cook over a driftwood campfire, but on a still night, the effect is breathtaking.

Add Chemicals To Paper, Sawdust, or Pinecones

Another way to make a colored campfire is to add pre-treated paper, sawdust, or pinecones to the fire. Make a mixture of the desired material with one of the coloring chemicals and a small amount of water or rubbing alcohol. Some chemicals dissolve better in rubbing alcohol, producing better results. Let the chemical solution soak in ​for several hours or overnight. Allow your material to dry. You may want to spread it out a bit to speed up the process. You can pack it in a paper or plastic bag, and carry it with you on your camping trip. Toss a treated pinecone, handful of sawdust, or crumpled sheet of treated paper into the campfire to color the flames.