For those of us in Arizona right now (or pretty much anywhere in the west coast) summer means fire season. No, not the fun “let’s toast some s’mores” kind, but the “only you can prevent forest fires” kind. It’s an amazing time of the year to camp under the stars, but the 3-4 month long fire ban means roasting marshmallows will just have to wait.
Fortunately, that also means it’s the perfect time to resupply on these super easy and practically free homemade fire starters before fall. They work like magic – seriously, I’ve started fires in pouring rain and crazy wind with these bad boys without a problem. Plus I feel good about recycling stuff I already have around the house.
Here’s what you need:
1: Dryer Lint – Yep, there’s a reason so many house fires start with a dryer – this stuff burns really well.
2: Egg Carton – Make sure it’s the cardboard kind.
3: Wax – I generally use up the bottom of all the candles I’ve had around my house all year… big bonus, your fire starters will smell great! If you don’t have any candle stubs laying around, grab the cheap pillar candles from the dollar store or look for chunks of paraffin wax online.
4: Wax Paper or Parchment Paper – Whatever you have laying around your kitchen should work fine. I prefer the parchment paper because it holds up better when I pack these in with a bunch of other stuff in my backpack, but wax paper burns excellently.
5: String – Cheap cotton string works best.
6: Bonus item: Sawdust – Not completely necessary, but if you’ve been working on some home improvement projects and happen to have a bunch of sawdust, it’s perfect for making these burn a long time. You can also use newspaper torn up into small pieces or tiny chunks of that Amazon box you just got delivered.
Step by Step:
First, prep all of the supplies:
Chop up the candle wax into grape size pieces. This helps it melt faster at lower temps. I typically use about 2 cups of wax chunks for each batch of 12 fire starters.
Cut the lid off of the egg carton – you’re going to need just the cup portion.
Break the dryer lint up and mix it with a cup or two of sawdust or paper shreads. Divide it into 12 loose balls slightly larger than an egg carton cup and drop each ball in. It will shrink once you pour the hot wax on it. I generally reserve a bit of extra sawdust and lint to add on top once the wax gets added.
Cut the wax paper or parchment paper into 12 squares approximately 10″x10″. Then cut the string into 10″ lengths.
Time for the fun part:
It’s time to start melting the wax and assembling the fire starters. Melting wax can be a bit messy and the residue seems to stay around forever so I recommend using utensils and pots you don’t mind allocating just for crafting use.
I use a medium sized pot filled with about 2 inches of water, then place a mason jar into the middle of the pot. Put about 1/2 cup of wax into the jar at a time and heat on medium heat. The water will help warm the wax inside the jar evenly so it doesn’t get too hot and catch fire. Stir fairly constantly with a long spoon. The jar will get hot quickly and you want to make sure you don’t get any water in the jar, so I tend to use a pair of leather work gloves to hold the jar while I’m stirring. Keep adding wax chunks a few at a time as the wax melts until it’s fully liquid.
Very carefully pour a small amount of melted wax into each egg carton cup over the top of the dryer lint/sawdust mixture, just until it’s saturated. Add some additional lint mix on top to fill up each cup.
(Pro tip: make sure your egg carton is on some newspaper you can throw away if you spill or the wax soaks through. It will save you a ton of cleanup!)
Let everything sit until completely cooled – about 30 minutes. Then using a sharp knife, carefully cut the egg cups apart into 12 pieces.
For each cup, place it in the middle of a piece of parchment or wax paper. Pull the paper up around the cup and tie it together with a length of string.
Using your homemade fire starters:
I throw a bunch of these into a ziplock bag and keep them with my camping gear and firewood. They crunch down really nicely, weigh very little and keep forever.
When you’re ready to build your fire, just stick one of these in the bottom and light the paper tips and string. They’ll burn long enough to start a fire most anywhere. I’ve even used them instead of lighter fluid when starting charcoal for my dutch oven!