A smudge pot is a type of pot with a metal base that holds some type of oil. When a wick inside the pot is lit, smoke and flame typically come up through a pipe or hole in the center of the metal base. Smudge pots are sometimes used for preventing frost in orchards and for lighting runways at small airports. A smudge pot might also be used for outdoor entertaining because it can provide lighting while acting as an insect repellent when filled with citronella oil. People do not use smudge pots as often as they did during the 1970s, and more efficient, environmentally safe means of lighting and frost prevention are now available.
The use of a smudge pot around fruit trees, often citrus trees, might prevent potentially damaging frost from building up on the trees. The pots are usually strategically placed inside groves to keep the trees warm, which makes it less likely for frost to develop on the leaves and trunks of the trees. Almost any type of oil can be used inside a smudge pot, but people normally use kerosene when attempting to keep trees from frosting.
Even though smudge pots are not as commonplace as they were in the past, very small airports still sometimes use them to line their runways. Pilots flying at night might have an easier time landing their planes, particularly when the weather is foul, when they see the smoke and flames coming up from a lit smudge pot. Larger airports normally use other types of lighting for this purpose, but smaller airports tend to rely on smudge pots possibly because they are effective while being less expensive to maintain.
It is not uncommon for people to use smudge pots when they entertain outdoors at home. Smudge pots can provide lots of light and warmth during evening cookouts or while people are swimming in pools at night. If insects are a problem, the pots can be filled with citronella oil, which is a natural insect repellent, to keep bugs away from the general area. Citronella may not be a good choice for everyone because some people are allergic to it, but even if citronella oil cannot be used, the smoke and flame from any type of oil should still keep some bugs away. Smudge pots tend to get very hot and produce much more flame than the average citronella candle or torch, so caution should be exercised when they are used around lots of people.