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   Make campfire starters Posted by Chica 
May 20, 2008 
Chica
 

Toolbox

  • paper egg carton
  • dryer lint
  • petroleum jelly
  • old bits of crayons

My husband and I love to camp, and if there’s one you thing you have to have for a successful camping trip, it’s a fire. We learned long ago that the availability of dry kindling will vary from campsite to campsite, so we now come prepared with our own homemade fire starters. These little gems will light every time, and make starting quick, easy, and free of frustration. They are safe to carry, environmentally friendly (a great way to recycle otherwise-wasted products), and non-toxic.

Make your own fire startersThere are two different types of fire starters that I make, depending on the supplies I have on hand. However, both styles have two key ingredients in common: paper egg cartons and dryer lint. These are both items that are usually discarded without a second thought, but this is a great way to reuse them and keep them from the landfill.

The paper egg cartons (don’t use the foam or plastic ones) have twelve perfectly sized compartments and are made of a material that is easy to light. The dryer lint will burn very easily, and for a long time when packed tightly. All you need to add is a little long-burning “fuel”, and this can be in the form of petroleum jelly or — believe it or not — old melted crayons.

Petroleum jelly fire starters

To make the petroleum jelly fire starters, start by filling the egg carton compartments halfway full of dryer lint. Then grab a big glob of petroleum jelly (generic brands work just as well as Vaseline, and are cheaper!), measuring about 1 tsp or so.

Make your own fire startersMake your own fire starters

Put the petroleum jelly in the middle of the lint then pack the carton tightly with more dryer lint.

Make your own fire startersMake your own fire starters

Finally, cut the twelve compartments of the egg carton apart with scissors.

Make your own fire starters

Melted crayon fire starters

To make the melted crayon fire starters, I start with some old broken bits of crayons. You may remember in my post titled “Recycling old broken crayons into fun new shapes”, when I melted down a bunch of my niece’s old broken crayons to make new rainbow crayons for her. When I did that project, I only used the pretty colors, and did not use the blacks, grays, or browns. Those leftover bits were perfect for fire starters, though, because I don’t care what color they turn out to be!

Start by packing the egg carton tightly with dryer lint.

Make your own fire starters

Then melt the crayons in a aluminum can placed in a pan full of simmering water until the wax is fully melted. Wait a minute for the can to be cool enough to touch, then carefully and SLOWLY pour the melted wax onto the lint, giving it time to soak in.

Make your own fire startersMake your own fire starters

Leave the wax to cool and then cut the twelve compartments apart with scissors.

Make your own fire starters

Using the fire starters

Whichever technique you use to make your fire starter, be sure to store them in a zip-top plastic bag so that they stay dry. When it comes time to start a campfire, just place the fire starter under the kindling and light it.

Make your own fire startersMake your own fire starters

Once the fuel (petroleum jelly or wax) lights, it will burn steady and strong for at least 5 minutes, which is plenty of time for your kindling to light and for your campfire to develop.

Make your own fire starters

Choosing a technique

To help you decide whether to use the petroleum jelly or wax for your fire starters, here are some pros and cons:

  • The petroleum jelly approach is great for kids to help with, because there is no heat involved, and petroleum jelly is easy to acquire. However, it is messy and the dryer lint on top of the fire starter may come off in your hands as you handle it.
  • The melted crayon approach makes a nice sealed fire starter that is not messy at all once cooled, but the hot wax is not kid-friendly and your supply of old crayons may be limited.

Both methods burn equally well, though, and I suggest you just choose the style based on what you have on hand!

My husband and I always keep a few of these fire starters in with our camping supplies. Whether we’re in the middle of the woods or at a campsite, we’re always ready for a quick fire at any time. We even keep a bag of them at home under the kitchen sink, for those impromptu fires in our patio patio fire pit. Our friends are always amazed at how well they work!

25 comments so far:

  1. Marie Russell said: (August 12th, 2009 at 6:33 pm)

    Genius! Thanks

  2. Chica said: (August 12th, 2009 at 6:34 pm)

    Thank YOU, Marie :)

  3. Mary Melnyk said: (November 24th, 2009 at 12:23 pm)

    I like your idea, I always kept those old cartons for the transplanting my seeds to a pot or the garden as they break apart and help with the compost. I make firestarters with wax, crayons, etc. with leftover sawdust or small pets bedding from the pet store and put them in a cupcake paper. I used to make (L.O.L.) tampon dipped in wax, has own wick and if you drop it in the water, no big deal it will still light. I did not know that petroleum jelly was an accelorent and the egg cartons are perfect. Thanks sooo much.
    P.S. I have my kids Elementary schools sending home the old crayons the kids can’t use anymore. Just call them, with the recycling craze finally catching on they are more than happy to help.
    Thanks again,
    Mary

  4. Chica said: (November 24th, 2009 at 12:40 pm)

    Great ideas, Mary. I especially like the sawdust idea. My garage has a big pile of it in the corner from some work we were doing over the weekend :) Thanks for sharing!

  5. Maven said: (August 15th, 2010 at 1:41 pm)

    We make these with the big egg crates we sweet talk the school cafeteria ladies to save for us. Since our school participates in a breakfast program, they have several of them per week, far more than we could use. Each sheet has about 30 “dimples” per sheet. I save dryer lint, pencil sharpener shavings, and any other burnable debris I can find to fill them. Then, when we have enough, I get the candles I buy for pennies from garage sales and melt them in a pan I picked up at Goodwill just for this. They work fantastic in our wood stove, and the hard wax of those fat pillar candles makes each piece burn for 12 to 15 minutes! Plenty of time to get the kindling started.
    I’ve been thinking that if I topped each dimple with red or orange tissue paper to make them attractive, and sold them in blocks of 16 (4×4 dimples) they might sell well as a Fall fundraiser for our school.

  6. Jo said: (August 15th, 2010 at 6:18 pm)

    Maven, what a great idea for bundling them together to give as a gift or to raise money for a cause. This is something kids could help do as well. Little Jo just started Kindergarten so I will have to see if I can get some egg cartons from the cafeteria as well, thanks for the tip!

  7. Becky said: (June 22nd, 2011 at 3:38 pm)

    I have done similar using old candle wax instead of vaseline or crayons and it works fine – burns HOT.

  8. Lia said: (June 22nd, 2011 at 5:23 pm)

    I just had an idea I will use if we try this… To use vaseline, I’ll put it in a baggie and cut the corner so I (or the kids)can pipe it on like icing!

  9. Jaime said: (June 22nd, 2011 at 6:46 pm)

    My mom and I have made these with the candle wax and wood shavings(pet bedding). We then wrap each one up in tissue paper and tie it with cotton string. Both are flammable and it looks really cute sitting in a little basket by our fireplace. They make great gifts this way too.

  10. Chica said: (June 22nd, 2011 at 7:07 pm)

    Lia, piping the Vaseline is a great idea!
    Jaime, you and your mom sound very clever :)

  11. DavetteB said: (August 19th, 2011 at 5:42 pm)

    if you don’t have crayon ‘butts’ to use you can always use the little cheap crayon 4 packs the give at restaurants and fairs; we always have them for some reason. the last bit of candle wax from jars or tapers works too.

  12. Chica said: (August 20th, 2011 at 3:34 pm)

    Great idea, DavetteB. Those restaurant crayons always end up everywhere!

  13. agirlandajeep said: (February 15th, 2012 at 1:07 pm)

    My dad makes something similar with sawdust from his shop and candle wax… I wonder how “safe” the dryer lint is in a fire place. Outside great idea…

  14. Chica said: (February 15th, 2012 at 1:16 pm)

    Your dad is very clever, agirlandajeep. I love the idea of finding a use for sawdust. As for burning dryer lint in an indoor fireplace, my guess is that since dryer lint is made up of the fibers from your clothes, it would be safe. I’m no chemist, though, so I can’t say for sure.

  15. Brandonsmom said: (April 24th, 2012 at 10:40 pm)

    Would either method work for an indoor fire place? It takes me forever to get a fire started the few times the power has been out. Thank you for the post!

  16. Chica said: (April 25th, 2012 at 7:01 am)

    Brandonsmom, these starters would technically work indoors, but I have no idea if there are any safety concerns with fumes emitted from burning either the wax or the petroleum jelly in an enclosed living space. It might be fine, but I’m just not sure!

  17. sheila said: (June 12th, 2012 at 1:27 pm)

    My guess is that any fumes from the actual wood burning in an indoor situation would far outlast any dryer-lint issues. I’d say not to worry. Great to have a use for dryer lint, though. I’ll probably do mine with paraffin, not having small kids around for crayons. will add some wood chips and sawdust for a variety of burning times. thanks for the article!

  18. Sunday said: (June 18th, 2012 at 1:45 am)

    These were great. We just used them this weekend for our fishing/camping trip. Wonderful, thank you!!

  19. Sarah said: (September 4th, 2012 at 7:20 pm)

    Are the ones made with crayon wax messy? What I mean is, if the kids make these as gifts for my folks to use in their indoor fireplace, will they have a rainbow colored mess in the bottom of their fireplace to clean or do they burn up and gone? Thank you!

  20. Chica said: (September 5th, 2012 at 8:13 am)

    Sarah, I can’t guarantee that wax won’t leak onto the bottom of the fireplace, but I do know that the wax will burn, so theoretically it should all eventually burn away. However, I am no chemical genious and can’t say if it would be safe to use these indoors or not — we recommend them only for outdoor campfires.

  21. Sarah said: (September 6th, 2012 at 8:53 am)

    Thank you! I think we’ll try it. I don’t know why she worries about everything being clean including the fireplace but she does :) . Very old school. Anyway, I’ll let you know back on here after the holidays how it went. :)

  22. Donna said: (December 1st, 2012 at 7:39 pm)

    Another great container to us are those old fashioned dixie cups that are for the bathroom. The small ones work great.

  23. Backpackhaven said: (December 4th, 2012 at 10:09 am)

    Great ideas, thanks!

  24. Craig said: (February 9th, 2013 at 11:38 am)

    I use candle wax from candles that have not burned down all the way.

  25. Chica said: (February 10th, 2013 at 10:53 am)

    Great idea, Craig. Anything wax will work great.

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