Homemade Fire Starters from Everyday Materials

When I was in high school, I used to go on camping trips with my family. My mom has always been really thrifty, and great at making use of things she already has. I remember her gathering up old egg cartons, dryer lint, and wax from old candles and making her own fire starters for us to use on our camping trips. 

Now that I'm grown up and I have a home heated primarily by our wood burning stove, I find we use a lot of fire starters. At first, we used some that we purchased on Amazon. They worked great, but at some point, Ryan told me that they were costing us about $.50 per day, or $15 per month. It's not a huge amount, but it also seemed unnecessary. I thought back to the days when my mom made all those fire starters and decided to give it a try myself.

They're pretty simple to make, and you'd think that instructions wouldn't be necessary, but I made every mistake possible when I was figuring it out so I thought it might be helpful to share some tips here with you. 

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Making Your DIY Fire Starters

1. Gather Your Materials

The first thing you need to do is decide what materials you will use and gather them up. I use cardboard egg cartons, dryer lint, and wax from old candles. Old Scentsy wax works great too. If I don't have any old candles, I'll grab one of the unscented white candles (paid link) we occasionally use for power outages. 

If you can't scrounge up enough dryer lint, you can also use lightly used paper towels. I have a box where we set aside dryer lint and paper towels that weren't completely decimated when they were used. They burn well, and I think it's a better use for them than just tossing them out. You can also use items like bits of old newspaper or sawdust. I've even used old pieces of parchment paper. 

2. Prep the Egg Cartons

The first thing you need to do is stuff your egg cartons full of your burning material. I like to start with dryer lint and once I've used all of that up, I'll start adding the paper towels. I use just enough material to fill the hole. 

You need to protect whatever surface you're working on. I typically do this on my granite countertop, so I just lay down a couple of paper towels under the egg cartons to catch any stray wax. If you're working on a wood table, it might be wise to put down a towel and cardboard, or possibly cookie sheets. Anything to protect your table from the hot wax.

3. Melt the Wax

The next step is to melt your wax source. If you have an old, scented candle with a little wax still in its glass jar, you can just fill up a pot about halfway with water and put the candle inside (like a double boiler). Heat on low until it's all melted, then remove the wick (or wicks) and it's ready to pour.

If you end up using a candle stick of some kind, make sure you take off any stickers first. I've found that these melt fastest if I just put them straight into a pot and heat on low. 


Heating the wax on low takes longer, but there's less risk of you shattering any containers that you end up pouring the excess wax into. How do I know this? Experience. And it's not easy to scrape solid wax off of your countertop, floors, and cupboards.

Again, once your candle stick is melted, fish out the wick and set it aside. 

4. Pour Wax onto Dryer Lint (Or Other Chosen Material)

Once your wax is melted, use a METAL measuring spoon (paid link) to pour about 1 tablespoon of melted wax into each hole. I emphasize using a metal measuring spoon here because if your wax is too hot, it could warp or melt a plastic one. Another one of my unfortunate learning experiences...

If you see the wax sizzle when you pour it on top of the dryer lint, it's too hot. Wait for it to cool a bit before you continue. 

I usually don't need more than 1 TBSP, but I like for all of the material to be covered with wax because I find that it burns longer that way. If after 1 TBSP there is still some dry material, I'll add a little more until it is completely covered.

5. Pour Extra Wax into a Container for Later Use

To store your extra wax, I recommend using these silicone muffin cups (paid link), not an old pickle jar. I tried using a large canning jar as well, but that led to its own issues with reheating (like shattering yet another jar). 

These little muffin cups are perfect because it's easy to remove the wax once its cooled and store them for later use. When it comes time to reheat the wax, they are already in nice little portions so you can reheat only what you need.

6. Allow Fire Starters to Cool

After you've poured your wax, allow the starters to cool. This is a good time to clean any wax out of your pot. I've found that it actually wipes out pretty easily, but if there are any stubborn spots, boiling water will help to loosen it up.

7. Break into Individual Pieces for Storage

Once your starters have cooled, they will be pretty easy to break or tear into individual pieces. I put mine in a bowl, and then move them into a box in our storage closet. When we need to start a fire, we just grab one along with our trusty butane torch (paid link) and we've got a fire in seconds - no kindling necessary! We love using a butane torch because they are refillable and last forever. And they're easier to use than a standard lighter, in my opinion.

If this all seems like too much effort, you could always just buy some of these fire starters (paid link) instead. We used them for years. They burn for a long time, so most of the time there's no need for kindling. 

I hope having a bit of instruction and examples of what NOT to do was helpful! Happy homesteading!

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