How to Make Homemade Fire Starters

Having the means to make a fire in a moments notice is essential in a survival situation. An external heat source can help deflect hypothermia, or even cook a hot meal when you really need it. Carrying fire starters with you while you are away from home can be a great way to add a little survival insurance to whatever situation you happen to find yourself in.

To save a few dollars, I make my own fire starters out of household items that I would normally throw away.  To be thorough in my preparedness endeavors, I have put them in each of my family’s 72 hour kit, in our vehicle emergency supplies, and in our camping gear.  To make the fire starters, all you really need are 4 items:

Homemade Fire Starters

  • cardboard toilet paper roll or paper towel roll
  • dryer lint or cotton balls
  • worn down candle stubs or crayons
  • natural twine


1. Melt the crayons or candle wax down until liquefied.  This makes the fire starter windproof.

2. Stuff the dryer lint into the cardboard roll and tie with a piece of natural twine.  The twine will be used as a place to light the finished fire starter.

3. Dip the stuffed cardboard roll into the wax and roll it around until it is completely covered in wax.

4. Set dipped cardboard onto a paper towel or piece of paper to dry.

5. Once the fire starters are dry, I typically cut the cardboard rolls in half and vacuum seal them along with a few matches.


Change It Up If You Like

This recipe can be changed around to suit your needs.  If you do not have cardboard rolls, use cardboard egg cartons or cut up an old cardboard box into strips to roll the dryer lint up in.

Another method is to not use the cardboard at all.  Just roll the lint up into a ball formation and dip the dryer lint into the wax and allow it to dry.

If you do not have candle wax, try using melted crayons, old canning wax or use paraffin wax.

Another method of making good fire starters is by dipping cotton balls into petroleum jelly.  This method is a good one, but I like to find ways to re-purpose the trash that I already have on hand.

How to Make a Good Fire with a Fire Starter

Once the firestarters are lit,  they will burn effortlessly so that you can add moss, small twigs, leaves and dry kindling to help the fire grow larger.  Depending on how well the fire starters are stuffed, they will typically burn for 5 minutes on their own.  This should give you plenty of time to get a fire started.

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published May 18th, 2011
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  • Joe

    Very nice! For around the house when we’re starting fires in our old pot belly stove, we use a similar starter. We roll dryer lint in a used dryer sheet, tying the ends off in a simple overhand knot. Works great. 

    For portable fire starting capabilities, I really like the magnesium fire starters. They work great, wet or dry.



  • My partner Margaret taught me to use old egg cartons.
    She stuffed dryer lint into each and then poured some
    melted wax from old candle stubs or crayons into each
    section.  Then cut the sections apart for storage.  
    We no longer use a dryer so I collect sawdust from when 
    I use my chainsaw and let it dry out in an open jar and
    use that in place of dryer lint.  I suppose small pieces
    of old dry rags would do just a well.


  • countrygirl

    I’ve made these using egg cartons, they work great. When you pull or cut the carton apart it leaves a ragged edge that starts well. I have a friend who uses sawdust instead of dryer lint, they work ok but I don’t think as well.

  • When I get a box from an order, I cut it down into strips (against the corrugated grain) and then tear one side of the cardboard off leaving the corrugated paper exposed.  I then roll it, not unlike the method you used and soak it in melted wax.  I’ll make a few dozen of these and bring a handful every time I go hiking or camping.  The best part is storage.  They last forever unless you use them…

  • I have many goods delivered from free shipping–costs the same as the store, but no travel expense.  That means I get ALOT of cardboard boxes.  I cut the cardboard boxes into 4″strips, roll them up tightly, tie them with strips of old rags or twine, or use toilet paper rolls, then soak them in melted wax (can use old yard-sale candles, or buy parrafin wax cheaply.  Wouldn’t recommend using bees wax since it is expensive for such a use) in a double-boiler on my woodstove for about a minute. Drain the cardboard tubes of excess wax, being very careful not to spill any as it will be smoky of you do) let cool on another piece of cardboard box, store in an old feed sack.  The way we go through firestarters for our woodstove, we just don’t create enough dryer lint for what we need, and I can’t see burning all those boxes when they can absolutely be put to good use.  These work better than the store bought firestarters which are at least 20X more expensive!

    • Jason

      Tampon tubes….. duh.  stuff’em with lint.  re-use after each outing.  Or use the larger soft drink straws.  Cut them into 3 in lengths melt one end with a lighter pinched with a pair of needle nose pliers.  stuf rrepeat melting with other end.  use in 72 hour bags. camping bag. edc pouches.   Great site Tess.

  • Chuck B

    One of my co-workers dips that tobacco that comes in the round plastic box, so I snagged a couple of the empties when I found them.  One has some fishing line, stainless leader wire, couple hooks, single-edged razor, copper wire, safety pins, a P-38 can-opener, and a couple items I forget.  Another one I packed with cotton balls totally saturated with petroleum jelly then left it on the car dash for a few days, allowing it to “cook” thoroughly into the cotton fibers.  I put a spark rod (from a magnesium block fire-starter) and a P-38 in with it.  Fluff up a bit of the slimy cotton, use the P-38 to scrape the spark-rod, and it lights like a Zippo every time giving an instant blue flame.  Snuff it out and re-use it dozens of times, and if you have more Vaseline to restore it before it consumes the wick (cotton) that could be a hundred or more times.  It not only won’t absorb moisture, it’ll work in the rain.
    What I’ve seen done with the drier lint is to pack it in the bottom of those paper-mache’ egg cartons then pour hot wax onto it. Makes excellent fire-starters for camping, or even in a fireplace.  Use the Vaseline to light the waxed egg-carton blocks, maybe?

  • Alan C.

    Get a magnesium fire starter, good forever $ 2.79

  • Brian Buckingham

    how about taking steel wool and fraying it like a cotton ball, then touch the frayed parts with a 9volt battery will cause the steel wool to spark as a magnessium stick.. use it a lot during survival outings and has never failed

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