View Full Version : Ronsonol/Lighter fluid = ???

12-17-2004, 02:26
Hi Forum.

What is Ronsonol, Lighter fluid, more exactly?(I mean chemically, or whatever - should have an universal name not related to lighters or brand of manufacturing or such.
Or, for the european members - what else can i find here to use to clean the shutter (Synchro-Compur) of my Ikonta?
Alcohol, 97%? Acetone? Toluene? HF? :D
Yes...i was a bit optimistic. After a few tens of shutter releases, it got very slow and sometimes does not close anymore.

and cheers

12-17-2004, 02:33
Pherdi, I think you can use Zippo lighter fluid - you should be able to get it in any better newsstand or a place where they sell cigarettes/tobbacco.... It's more or less the same as Ronsonol - i.e. ordinary lighter fluid - stuff you use to refill (old-fashioned) cigarette lighters.

I've tried Zippo ligter fluid, and it works. Use it sparingly, unless you disassemble everything and use it as degreasing bath :)


Brian Sweeney
12-17-2004, 02:34
I believe that Ronsonol is "Butane".

Acetone will dissolve any plastic parts that may be in there, I would stay away from it. I found some 99% Isopropyl Alchohol that I also use. For whatever reason, at least in the temperature/humidity for Virginia, the jammed shutters that I cleaned with Ronsonol in August are all still operating.

12-17-2004, 02:36
Thanks, Denis & Brian.
Brian, -why is that a miracle, that they still work?:)

Brian Sweeney
12-17-2004, 02:44
Others on the Forum have tried Ronsonol on the shutters with little luck. The problem that they ran into was that it dried too quickly and left the dirt/grime in place. The Shutters operated for a few hours then siezed up again. They had better luck with Isopopyl Alchohol. I had success with the Ronsonol, but NOT with the alchohol. Our summers are hot and humid; I had to place the Retina IIIS over an air conditioning vent for an hour to get the Ronsonol to dry out.

So, some trial and error testing is required to find your best solution (Yes, pun intended)...

12-17-2004, 02:50
OK, i think these are all higher-order alcohols (butanol, isporopyl alcohol etc) so i will first look around in our chemical corner at the lab to see if i can find the best solution. Acetone (and HF) was kinda joke. It damages even metallic surfaces. Otherwise, i will try with simple ethanol, i have plenty if that, and if it does not work, i'll go shopping :)

12-17-2004, 03:04
I use lighter fluid, then alcohol to remove the residue left
by the lighter fluid. Careful cleaning of the shutter blades
with alcohol and a swab and drying by a heat gun works.
Then a light oil on the gear pivots.

12-17-2004, 03:28
Originally posted by Pherdinand
Hi Forum.

What is Ronsonol, Lighter fluid, more exactly?(I mean chemically, or whatever - should have an universal name not related to lighters or brand of manufacturing or such.

Naptha (Old style dry cleaning fluid)

12-17-2004, 04:01
To the best of my knowledge, Ronsonol or lighter fluid is Varsol. Easily found at any hardware/paint store. Coleman stove fuel is the same thing. Butane would evaporate quickly, Acetone will eat plastic, Toluene is highly toxic and should be left well enough alone. Alcohol is easy to work with but doesn't do much good. After you apply Ronsonol/lighter fluid sparingly with a Qtip or equivalent swab, be sure to use three or four clean swabs to wipe off as much of the accumulated crud as possible, then either air dry or use compressed air sparingly. Several applications are usually necessary since the crud usually reappears as soon as the parts dry. Wait till you've done this a few times, then reassemble your camera otherwise you'll usually find the shutter or other parts won't work once they dry. Been there, done that many times. Have a Merry Christmas and good shooting.

12-17-2004, 04:12
Thanks Rob, Laika and Curt.
Depending on how complicated it looks, i might completely disassemble the shutter so that i can flush-clean it. We also have an ultrasonic bath - thing here which does miracles with simple ethanol. But if it looks very complicated, i'll try without taking it apart...

12-17-2004, 04:33
Originally posted by Laika
Naptha (Old style dry cleaning fluid)

I think butane was a slip of the mind/finders by Brian Sweeny, who is usually right on with all his comments, especially on RF repair. For the technically minded (who can understand it, I don't), a google brought up the following:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Butane is an alkane </wiki/Alkane> hydrocarbon </wiki/Hydrocarbon> with the empirical formula </wiki/Empirical_formula> </wiki/Carbon>4</wiki/Hydrogen>10. It has the following display formula </w/wiki.phtml?title=Display_formula&action=edit>:
| | | |
H - C - C - C - C - H
| | | |
It is a flammable, colorless, easily liquefied </wiki/Liquefy> gas </wiki/Gas> that is used extensively as a fuel for cigarette lighters </wiki/Cigarette_lighter> and portable stoves </wiki/Portable_stove>.
Butane exists as two isomers </wiki/Isomer>:
n-butane is a fully hydrogenated </wiki/Hydrogen> linear chain of four carbon </wiki/Carbon> atoms: CH3CH2CH2CH3. Its boiling point is −0.6 </wiki/Celsius> and its melting point is −138.3 C.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
(Redirected from Cigarette lighter </w/wiki.phtml?title=Cigarette_lighter&redirect=no>)
</wiki/Image:Lighter%2C_metal.jpg> </wiki/Image:Lighter%2C_metal.jpg>
</wiki/Image:Lighter%2C_metal.jpg> </wiki/Image:Lighter%2C_metal.jpg>A nice metal lighter
A lighter is a device used to create fire with the intent to ignite another substance such as a cigarette </wiki/Cigarette>, smoking pipe </wiki/Smoking_pipe>, or charcoal </wiki/Charcoal> in a grill </wiki/Grill>. It consists of a metal or plastic container filled with lighter fluid (usually naphtha </wiki/Naphtha> or liquid butane </wiki/Butane> under pressure).

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Naphtha is a group of various volatile flammable liquid hydrocarbon </wiki/Hydrocarbon> mixtures used chiefly as solvents </wiki/Solvent>.
It is obtained from petroleum </wiki/Petroleum> refineries as the portion of the distillate which is intermediate between the lighter gasoline </wiki/Gasoline> and the heavier benzene </wiki/Benzene>. Naphtha has a specific gravity </wiki/Specific_gravity> of about 0.7.
It is also the main ingredient in some lighter fluids for wick type lighters like Zippo lighters. Other uses include removing tar, grease, oil and labels.
See also: naphthalene </wiki/Naphthalene>.

12-17-2004, 04:36
Ronsonol is Naptha

Laika and Curt are both correct. Ronsonol (also sold as Zippo liquid lighter fluid in the USA) are 100% naptha, which is also known as Varsol in other places.

Naptha is a chemical solvent that has been used as a dry cleaning solvent, as Laika mentioned.

Butane is a gas - Ronsonol is available to recharge non-disposable butane lighters, but that's not what you use to clean shutters with.

Naptha is a hydrocarbon, like gasoline and jet fuel. Since it is used as a liquid lighter fluid, it is obviously flammable by design. Extreme care should be taken if it is to be used.

Here is how I use naptha - I do not recommend that anyone else follow my practice, nor is this intended as advice. This is just how I do it.

I clean stuck shutters and aperture blades outdoors or in a well-ventilated area, away from all open flame. I pour out a small amount of naptha into a container like the lid of a 35mm film cannister and close the Ronsonol container, which I keep well away from my workplace. I use q-tips (cotton swabs) dipped in naptha to slowly clean shutters by directly swabbing and gently rubbing them with naptha-soaked q-tips. If the shutter leaves are stuck together, I press down ever so slightly while massaging them - this allows some fluid to run inside and between the leaves.

If the shutter is under tension (because it had been wound and fired, but had not actually worked), it may suddenly spring open as soon as the debris or yuck that's keeping it closed is cleared. So be ready for that. Otherwise, I just keep trying to wind and fire until it finally does.

On fixed lens rangefinders, the aperture leaves are usually behind the shutter, so once I get the shutter working, I keep cleaning it until the leaves are smooth and shiny looking, but then I use the "B" setting to hold the shutter open (a cable release with a lock works great here) and then I can get at the aperture blades. I give them the same treatment as the shutter, but they won't suddenly spring open. I find that when the shutter blades close, they pick up more dirt / naptha, so you do this process over and over again. It can take an hour or more per lens. Just be patient.

If I have been sparing in my use of naptha, the rear lens element will be clear, but if any has dripped, obviously it must be cleaned out as well. There are tools that allow you to remove the rear element from inside the camera (www.micro-tools.com), and I have a couple of those, but generally, I just clean the inside of the lens out with q-tips and lens cleaner once I get the naptha out.

If a shutter is totally stuck, I might try 'flood cleaning' where you just douse the thing good and proper in naptha - but of course outdoors and well-ventilated. Then leave it sit for awhile. That might cure it, but of course you'll have to clean out the aperture blades and the inside of the rear lens element, since they'll have been soaked as well.

I have slowly gotten better results in recent years with these methods. I would say that I get better than 50% success rates. I find that by continuing to clean even after the shutter frees up, until the blades are bright and shiny, gives me a better overall fix - otherwise, the blades eventually tend to bind up again.

Shutter blades need no lubrication, and neither do aperture blades. Once they are clean and shiny, make sure they are dry of all naptha and button the lens up.

That's pretty much it. Works for me a lot of the time, but if that doesn't do it, then I either discard the camera/lens or plan to send it off to be properly done by a professional, depending on what it is worth to me. I recommend trying it on a cheap camera/lens first before trying it on an expensive/classic camera/lens.

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks

12-17-2004, 04:37
Naphta = Naphtalene? i thought that's only in solid version! (at least at room temperature heheh) That stuff stinks like hell! Our gramma's used solid naphtalene to get rid of those little flying bugs that eat up the clothes made of wool in old unventillated drawers etc.

thanks oftheherd:)

12-17-2004, 04:38
Wow, thanks Bill.

rick oleson
12-17-2004, 05:10
I don't live anywhere but the USA, so I can't speak for the terminology in other countries, but this translation issue has been a problem for a long time. I understand that the same liquid is referred to as "Benzine" (not to be confused with "benzEne", a totally different and hazardous chemical). Its common generic term in the USA is Petroleum Naphtha, and it can be bought by the quart by that name in paint stores.

I think that Zippo-type, liquid fuel cigarette lighters have been sold in countries all around the world ever since they were made popular by American GIs during the war (i was pretty young then though...). So the question I would like to ask our European and other non-US friends is: What do you call the stuff that you squirt into those cigarette lighters to fill them up? THAT is what we mean by Ronsonol (a brand name), Zippo (another brand name) or "Lighter Fluid". In the USA there is another quite different liquid that we also call "Lighter Fluid", which we use to ignite charcoal fires on the barbecue. That is NOT the stuff to use for cleaning cameras. Neither is gasoline or kerosene (though I have to admit that I have never tried either of those to find out what would happen).

I would be interested to know the correct common term for this liquid in other countries to aid in clarity of communication, and I invite anyone who can help in this to email me at [email protected] .... If I get a helpful response I will post a guide on the Tech Notes page of my website to help people understand what they need to use.

12-17-2004, 05:21
Rick, in Croatia the (liquid) stuff you pour into cigarette lighters is called "benzine". OTOH, the stuff you pour into your car at a gas stations is also called "benzine" - but it's not quite the same. Some cars use diesel fuel, though :)
"Naphta" in Croatian is a term used to describe the raw black oily stuff that is being pumped out the earth in oil-rich countries, which then gets transported by tankers, and, unless they spill it along the way, goes to refineries, where they process it into various liquid and non-liquid chemicals - mostly for fuel.

12-17-2004, 05:24
Zippo lighters i know as well, but i did not know there's a special fluid that goes into it. I was sure it's simple gasoline. In fact i remember my father using gasoline in Zippo copies 10-15 years ago.
Gasoline leaves nasty residues when evaporates - and it evaporates rather fast. OTOH, there's something we call "washing gasoline", "washing benzine" or such, that is gasoline purified(?) and it leaves no residue. Doesn't smell that bad neither. That's why it is used for cleaning heavy stain from cloth. (It is NOT iso-propanol = iso-propyl-alcohol.)
Luckily i checked and there are about 5 litres of isopropanol and one bottle of this "washing benzine" in a corner of our lab so i will try both.
Solvents like benzene and especially chlorobenzene are very good solvents - but they are heavy cancerogene stuff so they should be avoided at all costs.

12-17-2004, 05:31

Here's a photo, and the UK website, if that helps any!

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks

12-17-2004, 05:37
In regard to the international naming confusion, I found this, if it is of any help at all:


Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks

12-17-2004, 05:38
Aword of caution: do not use acetone if there's any plastic for it to touch. Acetone melts plastic!

Isopropal alcohol has a very small percentage of an oil in it's composition.

I normally use denatured alcohol to clean parts. I use a small plastic tub with a sealable top to prevent it from evaporating between uses. A small brush is used to remove the gunk after the part has soaked for awhile. The brush is also used when I clean a part outside of the tub...... such as the gears on a body that hasn't been taken apart.


Bill K.
12-17-2004, 07:11
One of the first things that a Chemistry student learns in Organic Chemistry is "like disolves like".

Lighter fluid (Ronsonol or Zippo) is is naphta gas or white gas and is a also similar to the Colemen stove fuel used in camping stoves. It is a good solvent for petrolium bases oils and grease.

Isopropyl Alcohol on the other hand is not very effective in disolving petrolium products but can be a good cleaning agent for removing organic based dirt from most sufaces including most plastics.

Acetone and / or laquer thinner will eat many plastics and paint finishes.

Bill K.

12-17-2004, 09:55
In German 'lighter fluid' is 'Feuerzeugbenzin' (BTW, both Ronsonol and Zippo brands are available in Austria, I guess in the NL, too, just check at larger tobacco stores); 'Benzin' is also German for 'gasoline', and there is also 'Waschbenzin' - purified gasoline for washing purposes; BTW, it is not really a good idea to use car-type gasoline in a Zippo lighter, since there are a lot of additives, some of them carcinogenic, in there...


Brian Sweeney
12-17-2004, 12:07
Ohhh. Yeah... Back of the little bottle says "Contains Naptha". Some of my old repair books say use "Naptha" for cleaning oil. I always though it was replaced by Ronsonol...

Never was one of those people who stuck burning things in my mouth! Feet stink, may itch, but don't burn...

12-17-2004, 12:33
Reportedly some people prefer Ronsonol because they claim that it is it is purer than the common naptha used for cleaning automotive parts and paint brushes. (Varsol etc.) After using Ronsonol on iris blases and shutter blades, I almost always have to go back and wipe them either with an electrical contact cleaner or with ethanol to remove any residual oil.

Be careful with the more volatile stuff like gasoline or ether. You can blow yourself up of at least start an inadvertent fire by adding sparks or a hot light.


12-18-2004, 06:11
Thanks again, folks.
Seems that "wasbenzine" (purified gasoline) works; however i have serious problems getting out the brass ring on the front which has the focusing helical and the second(middle) lens element. Since it's in the way of the shutter box cover, i am getting pissed off. :bang:
No web resource shows such a ring - although servicing this exact type of ikonta i have not found yet.
Will keep you updated.

rick oleson
12-31-2004, 07:37
Well, it looks like it's more confusing than I had hoped. There is a special fuel for Zippo lighters, the image Bill posted is a good example..... this stuff is a good solvent and safe for plastics (use caution around inks, like the printed meter displays in viewfinders).

You may be able to use gasoline in a lighter, but don't clean parts with it (unless we're talking about engine parts, it works on carburetors pretty well). The table that Bill posted the link for is geared toward the interchangeability of these liquids as stove fuels and it cannot be trusted to indicate that they are actually the same chemicals. "Coleman Fuel", for instance, is the term most commonly given in the table for the equivalent of "Naphtha"..... it is not the same stuff (and it may vary from country to country), and neither is white gasoline. However, there is some good information in the table and in the subsequent comments.

To be safe, wherever you are I would try to find a can of packaged cigarette lighter fuel, ideally Zippo or Ronsonol brand.

One standard reference that you might be able to find is the CAS identification number - but I'm not sure you'll see that in other countries either. It is:

Solvent naphtha (CAS #64742-89-8)

Given the degree of uncertainty in translation and in supply in different countries, you might have to experiment to find what works best for you.

rick :)=

rick oleson
12-31-2004, 07:48
Pherdinand, the cell holding the second element in the Compur (and preventing removal of the shutter cover) is right-hand threaded and very tight. I recently serviced an Ikonta B shutter and this was probably the tightest one I've encountered in a long time. I usually try to unscrew these by wrapping a rubber sheet around them to get a grip, but that was not good enough for this one. Try getting some of the double-side-adhesive foam tape stuff that 3M makes, wrap that around the cell and then carefully grip the outside of the tape with a pair of slip-joint pliers.

It turns counter-clockwise to unscrew.

rick : ) =

rick oleson
01-03-2005, 07:22
I've been doing a little more reading, and it looks like Coleman fuel is the same stuff as lighter fluid. The source that showed it as 45-50% naphtha described another 45-50% as "aliphatic petroleum distillates", which has a different CAS number but is chemically basically the same thing.

Coleman's current US specification sheet calls for 1 ounce per 1,000 gallons of rust inhibitor and less than 1/2 ounce per 1,000 gallons of green dye.... not a lot of contaminant there.

Chemically, Solvent Naphtha appears to be an aliphatic hydrocarbon blend (this family includes gases Methane and Butane, and solid Paraffin waxes), consisting primarily of n-Octane and n-Nonane (C8H18 and C9H20).

Maybe this will put it into terms that can be understood in different countries without having to hunt for specific brand names...

rick :)=

01-05-2005, 00:32
thanks rick