5 Dollar Preps: DIY Fire Starter

how to start a fire for survival

Being able to start a fire in an emergency situation is critical to your survival.  Fire provides warmth, comfort, protection, and the ability to purify water.  A low cost do it yourself fire starter might be just what you are looking for.

By Dave H, a reader of SurvivalCache.com

Here is a cheap and effective way to build your own fire starter cubes.  Low Cost Fire StarterThese cubes can be used to start a reliable fire in any weather situation.  The best news is you can make these fire starters for very little money.  You will need an egg carton, dryer lint, paraffin (~1lb), aluminum foil and a way to melt the paraffin.

How To Make It

The first step is to cut off the top of the egg carton.  Place the egg carton on top of the sheet of aluminum foil.  This will keep you from having a very big mess.  Plus it is easy to remove the excess wax from the aluminum.  Next, fill the egg cups with dryer lint.

low cost fire starterNext: After you have topped off all of the egg cups, pour melted paraffin over the dryer lint.  Stop when the wax reaches the bottom of the cups.

low cost do it yourself firestarters for survival

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Finally: Place the egg carton and foil into the freezer.  If you decide to skip this step, the egg carton will become porous and the wax will run through to the aluminum foil.  Bottom line, don’t skip this step.  Once the wax solidifies you can continue pouring the liquid wax into the cups. When the cups are about half full, I stop again and place the egg carton into the freezer.  After the wax hardens you can safely fill the egg carton with wax.  When the wax cools you can break apart the cubes.  I wrap the cubes in the aluminum foil.

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Enjoy: When using the cubes I place them on the aluminum foil to prevent the wax from going to the ground.  It will also make an excellent barrier when trying to start a fire in the snow.  After you complete all of these step, insert your fire starter into fire tender and light.

low cost fire starter for survival

All Photos by Dave H.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

jeff July 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm

You can do the same thing with wood shavings instead of dryer lint. My wife makes fire starters using free wax from Craig's List and the wood shavings we buy for the pets. They work great.

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wally July 17, 2013 at 4:38 pm

thanks for the review

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Rod July 17, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Using something like this is all well and good "IF" you're not in a HOT climate area! The wax will melt, run all over, and make a real mess of things surround them.

Personally, I'd use a magnesium bar with a flint striker on the side and dryer lint. If the lint get wet, shave off some of the magnesium bar and it WILL light!

Keep things as simple and low tech as possible and LEARN how to use it!

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Kyle July 18, 2013 at 7:17 am

Children's crayons can also be used as a fire starter or even a candle if you have something to hold it upright. Break the tip off the crayon so it's level with the paper on the outside and light it with a lighter. One crayon will burn for 15-20 minutes when held upright. You can easily cut a small piece off the crayon and set it under your kindling to get a fire going.

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KWE July 19, 2013 at 6:55 am

I've done this a couple times in the past, and to test how hot it could handle I've kept a carton in the trunk of my car for about a month so far, lately the weather has been between 90-95 for at least the last week or so. I can only imagine it is hotter in the trunk, and they have yet to melt again.

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cdnmongoose July 19, 2013 at 8:14 am

corn chips work great. they burn like a candle

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Terry July 20, 2013 at 6:46 am

pretty cool, I also saw magnesium strikers for $2 each at Harbor Freight. These usually run $8 and up so if you have one near you check it out.
I've got plenty of lint balls…………..lol…………..so this is pretty neat

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eb young October 24, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Test whatever strikers you buy before you leave the parking lot. Strikers that generate zero sparks are epidemic – imagine the Chinese doing such a thing?

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Doc Montana July 20, 2013 at 11:37 am

Careful. Some of the cheaper mag strikers have major flaws like hard-to-shave magnesium, poor quality striker material, and bad adhesive between the two causing early separation.

The Mg should be soft enough to make a nice little pile in just a few blade strokes. The HF/Chinese ones can dull you knife before yielding enough Mg to fire up, and even then the low quality Mg is hard to light.

Make sure you give all your survival supplies a test run before trusting your comfort or life to them. Look-alikes are plenty, but unless you use the good stuff, you have no idea how bad the wanna-be's can get. Even some of the name brands like Coghlans can vary in performance amongst themselves.
http://professorprepper.blogspot.com

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joel August 29, 2013 at 1:04 am

so which ones do you recommend?

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Rob July 22, 2013 at 8:06 pm

My daughter and I make these, but we cut them into individual cups, then dip them in the melted wax. Also, we make some out of wood shavings, and pistachio shells. For those, I use bigger craft cups, and pour the wax. The lint ones burn for about 10 minutes, the others burn for 30 minutes.

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bob leeper July 24, 2013 at 1:42 am

great way to warm it up using lint bombs

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Rob B. July 25, 2013 at 1:58 pm

For hot environment areas, I use the cotton ball and petroleum jelly (Vasoline) wrapped in foil. puncture the top of the foil pack and pull up small portion of the cotton ball and away you go. Will work well as a candle or fire starter under tinder.

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Mike July 27, 2013 at 12:02 pm

I have always made fire starters from cotton pads and candle wax. Just get enough wax melted to submerge the pads and let them sit for a few seconds until they have absorbed enough wax to lightly coat the outer layer and let them cool. When ready to use, break them open, expose some cotton and light it. Simple and works great.

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Tim M August 3, 2013 at 10:30 pm

That's cool. It's nice to learn another way to make fire starters.

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Aazine August 13, 2013 at 10:18 pm

I was looking to learn in such education to make DIY fire and hopefully I've learned it from here, Your post is really very educative to learn this things and I'm benefited highly. Thanks

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Dustin August 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Hands down the best way I’ve found is cotton balls with petroleum jelly, you can get a solid 4-5 minute burn in any weather, they are dirt cheap to make and easily store in an old pill bottle.

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Vicki August 28, 2013 at 2:51 am

I won't use dryer lint because of the toxic fumes they'd give off, from synthetics, etc. Instead I sarurate cotton balls in petroleum jelly, put them in sandwich bag, then into a jar with matches & a candle…voila, firestarter in a jar. You can't blow out the fire and the cottonballs stay lit for hours.

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guest September 2, 2013 at 11:01 am

Another DIY fire starter is paraffin soaked cotton sash (curtain) cord. Melt quantity of paraffin, using cup inside water filled cup (don't mix the two!). Then immerse cordage into paraffin, let soak for a minute and pull out using tool to cool, Cut to size – 1 1/2" long will burn for nearly 10 minutes.

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More Than Just Surviving September 13, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Nice. I should really try this.

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Hboom September 22, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Newspaper tightly rolled into a thickness of about inch then tied off every 3 inches or so with cotton blind cord, or 550. Cut in between with a hacksaw. Drop into boiling parrafin wax until it stops bubbling. Put on aluminum foil sheet until cool. Light the blind cord "fuse" and start a fire even with damp tinder. Boy Scout 101…

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Nate October 10, 2013 at 5:23 pm

As far as fire tender, I always carry cotton balls coated with Vaseline in a sealable container. The slightest spark gives instant fire.

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Daniel Henegariu October 24, 2013 at 4:34 am

Can I buy a DIY Fire Starter?!

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EB Young October 24, 2013 at 3:47 pm

WalMart, Kroger, any store that sells bar-b-que stuff – these are places that sell fire starters. Look at YouTube for ideas of how to make your own. An easy way is to get scrap firring strips at Lowes – they're free – and cut the strips into 6 or 8" lengths. Put them in a plastic bag – a plastic shopping bag wrapped around them works well. Have a prescription bottle full of cotton balls saturated in Vaseline in the bag. Carry twice as many as you think you'll need and you'll be fine.

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EB Young October 24, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Dryer lint contains all kinds of crappy stuff because clothing, towels and such are (normally) laden with chemicals, detergents, etc. Dryer lint often stinks when it is burned. A bag of 100 cotton balls is a buck, isn't saturated with stuff and doesn't stink when it burns. Live large – forget the lint.

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Marian November 2, 2013 at 5:47 am

A bag of 100 cotton balls is a buck, isn't saturated with stuff and doesn't stink when it burns, I agree with you!

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Chris November 20, 2013 at 7:56 am

Tea cup candles burn for hours and are cheap also cotton balls dip in wax burn for about 20 min I like both just cant start them with just a spark oh

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Kath November 30, 2013 at 10:19 am

I make these using the paper from my household paper shredder! It works great!

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Cartman December 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Steel wool is also a great tinder material and it sill works when wet.

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joe December 9, 2013 at 10:53 am

another thing that is handy is a 9 volt battery and a hand full of steel wool. (with out soap.) I discovered this quite by accident when cleaning the garage. Had a pile of junk I was using to strip paint off the out door furniture. Inadvertently tossed a 9 volt battery in the pile. It connected with the steel wool and started a small fire. I keep; fire extinguishers all around and did not have any trouble. I experimented with the various grades and found the 4out (0000) worked the best. Also if you are going to use magnesium for starting fires, forget scraping magnesium off the starters you by. Check with a local chemistry supply house and by a small can of powdered magnesium instead, put it in a film container or better yet an old pill bottle. a small amount will get the wettest wood burning. Just be sure to not use too much and do not depend on anything like a coffee can or anything of thin mettle it will burn right through it.

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Debbie January 5, 2014 at 9:56 am

Not a good idea to use dryer lint – which is mostly made up of non-natural fibers that don't burn well and just melt. Your wax method (perfected by Girl Scouts forever) will just melt in heated storage, and this is way too much work, anyway. The best and easiest fire starter is made with cotton balls and petroleum jelly. Dab some on a cotton ball and pack them in prescription bottles and you're ready to go. Fold up some tin foil and stick it in your pack. It's easy to light the cotton ball with a spark striker, (use the foil in the snow or frozen ground), and start your blaze. Keep it simple and smart.

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Roger February 5, 2014 at 12:16 pm

I like using tea candles, about 5-7 fit in a plastic pill bottle, with cotton pads on top of each candle both in case they melt and also with cotton pad placed in aluminum cup and shaved down wax plug placed back in makes a very good fire starter; just light the wick! Carrying a tea candle lantern (UCO makes a good one, collapses down to 3"L X 2 1/2"D, and stores 3 candles) enhances the use of tea candles, and a little aluminum foil around backside increases usable light! Citronella tea candles are also available!

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pirater facebook gratuitement May 8, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I

am waiting for your next post thanks once again.

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