DIY fire starters are one of the few guarantees in life. They’re guaranteed to make your fire starting struggles a thing of the past. These inexpensive and easy to make fire starters are all about reducing your fire starting stress. Because no one wants to come off the trail and spend the next hour fighting for a spark to catch. Or in the morning, as you stir in your sleeping bag, avoid having to do battle against the dew covered fire pit. With these DIY fire starters, you’ll be able to toss one on the wood pile, hop back into your sleeping bag and wake up slowly as the warmth and glow of the fire grows.
But before we begin, there is one technique that you’ll need to know for most of these fire starter designs: how to melt wax. We recommend the double boiler method, but you can also use a microwave if you prefer. Once you have that part figured out, you’ll be full steam ahead with this DIY project. They’re the perfect item for your next camping trip, a backyard fire pit, or even in your living room fireplace.
10 DIY Fire Starter Ideas (And How to Make Them At Home)
1. Self-igniting Fire Starter
This is a very clever fire starter design that has one brilliant bit of added convenience; it doesn’t require a lighter or other outside fire source to get it going. It’s a self-contained, self-lighting design that should be added to your emergency kit as soon as possible.
- Start with a strike-anywhere match.
- Tightly wrap at least 12-inches of toilet paper around the match. Do NOT cover the head of the match.
- Dip the match and toilet paper into melted wax, avoiding the match head.
- Set aside to let the wax dry.
- If you dipped the head of the match into the wax, make sure to scrape that wax away before use.
2. Cotton String/Pad Soaked in Wax
Here’s another simple fire starter design that will likely cost you nothing to make since most people can find the required items around the house. They’re also ultra-lightweight and a great option for backpackers that want to avoid adding weight wherever they can.
- Find one of these common cotton items: cotton string, a cotton pad, a tampon, or a shoelace.
- Fully submerge it in melted wax
- Set aside to dry
- Once the wax has dried completely, you may want to cut the cotton item into smaller segments to give you multiple uses.
3. Dryer Lint, Egg Carton & Wax
This is perhaps the most well-known fire starter design on the list. It’s a super quick way to make a dozen DIY fire starters, and there’s a good chance you already have everything you’ll need kicking around at home.
- Grab an empty egg carton
- Fill each of the twelve spots with a pinch of dryer lint, making sure not to overfill it or pack it too tightly. Leave plenty of room for wax to be poured onto the lint without overflowing
- Pour melted wax into each ‘cup’, completely covering and saturating the lint
- Poking it with a knife or fork can help the wax work its way into the lint
- Set it aside to dry on newspaper (or something similar)
- Cut out each cup to create individual fire starters
4. Cotton Balls in Vaseline/Petroleum Jelly
This one surprised me because I didn’t know that vaseline is actually highly flammable. Plus, it’s another super lightweight option for all you backpackers. And instead of preparing these ahead of time, you can just as easily toss cotton balls and vaseline into a ziplock bag and make them when the time comes.
- Grab one cotton ball at a time and use your hands to thoroughly work the vaseline into it
- If preparing them ahead of time, you’ll want to keep them in a ziplock bag or other airtight container to ensure the petroleum jelly doesn’t dry out.
5. Sawdust or Shredded Paper Cupcakes
For this DIY fire starter, all you’ll need is sawdust or shredded paper, as well as a cupcake tin or paper cupcake liners. The rest of the process is as straightforward as it gets.
- Grab your cupcake tin (or layout your paper cupcake liners)
- Put a spoonful of sawdust (or a pinch of shredded paper) inside the cupcake mold
- Pour melted wax into each cupcake mold, fully submerging the contents
- Set aside to dry
6. Pinecone Fire Starters
Here’s a cute DIY fire starter project that also makes great home decor. A basket full of pinecones sitting next to a fireplace not only looks good, but also smells great and provides extra fuel to get a fire going. Here’s a link to an arts & crafts version that would is one of the best DIY fire starter ideas around the holidays.
- Head outside to collect as many pinecones as you want
- To keep your hands away from hot wax, you can tie a string around each pinecone and then hold onto the extra length of string as you dip them into the wax
- Another option is to forgo the wax and use cooking oil instead. Both options are readily available around the house and provide plenty of fuel to start a fire
Either way, leave them to dry before use
7. Corks Soaked in Rubbing Alcohol
This one is self-explanatory. The main thing to remember with this fire starter design is to make sure you store the corks in an airtight container to prevent the alcohol from leaking and/or evaporating.
- Fill an airtight container with as many corks as can comfortably fit
- Pour rubbing alcohol into the container until it is at least half full
- Put the lid on tightly and swirl the rubbing alcohol around to make sure all of the corks have been saturated
- Store the container with the lid on, and then just grab a couple fire starters out when you’re in need
8. Dried Orange Peel
With only one ingredient, this DIY fire starter is as easy as it gets. All you have to do is peel an orange and then leave the peel out to dry. Not only is this incredibly easy but when burnt, the orange peel produces a wonderfully sweet fragrance too. You’ll be a hit around the campfire with this one.
9. Waxed Paper + Dryer Lint or Sawdust
On its own, waxed paper could also be a recommended fire starter; it burns well and for longer than you might expect. But to take waxed paper to the next level all you have to do is pack it with dryer lint or sawdust. Once the waxed paper is full, twist both ends of the paper until it is completely closed and holding the contents tightly. The end product should look like a tootsie roll that’s still in the wrapper.
10. Expert Level Fire Starter with 10-Minutes of Burn Time
Okay, this one is for the serious DIYers out there. If you want the best of the best, this fire starter design is for you. Check out this YouTube video for proof that it will really burn outside for a full 10-minutes. Pretty amazing.
What you’ll need:
- Cotton balls
- Rubbing alcohol
- Toilet paper tubes
- Cut the toilet paper tubes in half
- Fold one end in on itself. The edges of the tube should be touching when they meet in the middle, forming a closed end on the toilet paper tube.
- Soak the cotton balls in rubbing alcohol
- Place 2-3 saturated cotton balls into the tube.
- Fold the other end of the tube in on itself, just like before.
- Tie the tube shut with twine. The knot of twine should leave enough extra twine dangling to act as two makeshift wicks.
- Immediately dip the fire starter into melted wax. Don’t delay this step because rubbing alcohol evaporates quickly. Seal it in there as soon as you can.
- Set aside to let dry completely
Bonus Fire Starter Ideas:
- Use a pencil sharpener to create perfect wood shavings. Just grab a pencil sized stick and sharpen it like you normally would; the wood shavings will pile up quickly.
- Smudge sticks, which are commonly made up of sage and other dried herbs, are great fire starters that also repel insects (like mosquitoes).
- Hand sanitizer with alcohol in it is another option. Spraying it on kindling or damp wood will get things burning in no time.
- Duct tape. This is just one more of the countless ways you can use duct tape. Obviously, duct tape has some adhesive chemicals on it so stay clear of its smoke, and never use this indoors.
- Bug spray can be used in the same way as hand sanitizer; spray it on kindling or wood to give things an extra boost of flammability.
- Chips with high fat content. If you don’t have any of the above options on hand, greasy potato chips really can help you get a fire going. The fat is what makes it flammable, so the greasier the better!
These DIY fire starter ideas were brought to you by our friends at Outdoor Element