Cigars 101

The Urge to Purge: How to Purge a Lighter

Why do you need to purge a lighter?

When you first buy a torch lighter, it does not come filled with butane. Instead, your lighter’s gas chamber is filled with oxygen that needs to be purged by being replaced with butane. Have you ever received a new lighter, filled it with butane, and when you tried to light it, a flame shoots out for a split second and immediately goes out? Well this is because the butane is trying to ignite, but because oxygen is not as flammable as butane, the oxygen from the chamber blows the flame out. To prevent this from happening, you need to purge the air so that only butane is released. Another reason to purge your lighter is to release excess air pressure that builds in the gas chamber, expelling butane from your lighter every time you fill it. If the pressure is not released after each use, it can build and build with every refill, meaning less and less butane will flow into the gas chamber every time you refill it. This may lead you to believe that your lighter just isn’t holding butane any longer, but you’ll see that regular purging will make a world of a difference.

How to Purge a Lighter
Purging a lighter is very easy to do and only requires a can of butane and a paper clip. Simply take your new lighter and turn it upside down. You should see the fuel valve on the bottom of your lighter. While learning these steps, keep in mind you NEVER want to aim the fuel valve towards your face (this you can learn the easy way or the hard way).

1) Take your can of butane and fit the nozzle over the fuel valve. Firmly push down to fill the gas chamber in 5-10 second intervals until it cannot take any more.

At this point, both oxygen and butane are in the gas chamber and pressurized. The butane will appear as a liquid in the gas chamber, and the oxygen is still in its gaseous form. What you can’t see is there is vapor from the liquid butane mixing with the oxygen. The next step will release this mixture, leaving behind a small amount in your gas chamber.

2) Use your paperclip to release the mixture by bending it so one end sticks out like a spear. Turn the lighter upright and use the pointed end of the paper clip to press down firmly on the fuel valve. Be careful because the butane comes out extremely cold. While it won’t give you frostbite, it is pretty unpleasant if you get too much on your fingers.

After you complete these steps, fill the fuel tank again with butane and you should be good to go. If it still does not light, adjust the fuel level to increase or decrease the amount of fuel being expelled each time you press the button to ignite the lighter. Follow these same steps after a few uses to relieve the excess pressure in your lighter and it will continue to take a proper amount of butane during each filling.

In Closing
Lighters make great gifts for holidays, birthdays, and many other special occasions, but if you want your lighter to last as long or even longer than my trusty Nibo, it’s useful to know how to care for it properly. Without proper maintenance the quality of the lighter gradually declines with some damage being irreparable. I always preach that it’s important to learn about cigars in terms of leaf type, flavor profiles, etc., but it’s equally important to learn how to properly use and maintain your accessories. By learning proper use and maintenance, you’re sure to get the best from not only your cigars, but your lighters, cutters, and humidors, too, lasting for years to come. You might even get to the six year mark like me!