Homemade Firestarters

I love Jennifer.  I love her with all my heart and a tiny portion of my pancreas.

Jennifer is an Art of Doing Stuff reader that brought homemade firestarters to my attention.  You may have seen them before.  I sure hadn’t.  I was familiar with store bought firestarters and pinecones dipped in wax which were  a DIY craft featured on Design*Sponge a year or so ago.  But for some reason I never gave them a shot.  They seemed like a lot of work and I wasn’t convinced they’d do the trick.

Plus my local dollar store carries firestarters for a dollar.  And when I’m at the dollar store buying firestarters I can also buy a bag of Bugles, a pair of socks and metal garbage can with all of the Muppets on it.  Clearly … this gives the dollar store an advantage.

So when Jennifer asked me whether I’d tried to make my own firestarters before I thought, No.  Why would I?  That thought lasted approximately 2.3 seconds.  And then my thought was Oh my GOD.  Why, for the love of GOD have I never made my own firestarters???  WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME.  Any normal person would be making their own firestarters.  And it sounds like so much FUN!!!  Pyromaniacal f-u-n!

So I made my own firestarters.  There are about as many firestarter tutorials on the Internet as there are pictures of the Olsen Twins exhibiting poor posture while wearing oversized sunglasses.  So I probably didn’t need to add to the gluttony of firestarter tutorials – but I did.

firestarter materials


Take your egg carton …

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Shove whatever you have on hand in the cups.

Cotton balls …

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Wood chips  …

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Dryer lint … belly button lint …

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Paper towels … sawdust …

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Melt your leftover candlewax.

I found it was easiest to just drop the wax into a metal can and then put the can in a pot with an inch or so of water in the bottom of it.

Gently heat the water.  It won’t take much to melt the wax.


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Pour the wax over the contents of your egg carton.

If you don’t have an easily cleaned tile countertop like I do, make sure you put something underneath to protect your surface.  Wax will seep through.  This, by the way, is why I love my crappy old tile countertop.  There is nothing I can do to hurt it.  I put  hot pots on it, chop on it, melt candles all over it, spill vinegar on it and sometimes even tap dance on it. In-de-structible!

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Allow the wax to harden.

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Once the wax has solidified break the compartments apart.

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These are the best firestarters EVER.

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They light with one match.

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They burn long and hard.  10 minutes easily.  Definitely long enough to start a fire.

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Will I still buy my dollar store fire starters?  Yup.  They’re a dollar for the love of God.  And a dollar’s worth lights about 7 fires!   However, when I run out of them, as I have been known to do … I’ll always have these.  PLUS, now that I know this general method words, I’ll give those pinecone fire starters a shot again.

So thank you Jennifer!  From the bottom of my pancreas.  Thank you.


  1. itchbay says:

    Ha ha! This one of the three things I learned in my ONE YEAR as a Girl Scout in the 6th grade. (I lived in a very small town, and that was the only year we could actually find someone to be our guide.) Except we used dryer lint.

    • Karen says:

      itchbay – I used dryer lint! Didn’t you see? I used all sorts of different things. And all of them worked. ~ karen!

    • Kristin says:

      We used rolled up cardboard in a tuna can in the Girl Scouts. I like the smallness and lack of metal in this version WAY better and I like that I can ‘recycle’ my dryer lint!! 🙂

    • billy sharpstick says:

      Bear in mind that the dryer lint generated by most modern homo sapiens contains a fairly large percentages of synthetics.
      Decide whether or not you really want to burn plastic in your fire. It’s up to you, but it smells really bad if there’s enough of it. (I got really touchy about this subject after my redneck neighbors started burning tires at their keg parties.)
      (If you’re the bubble boy, cro magnons or treehugging hippies who do not wear spandex and such, disregard this notice. You probably don’t have dryers either.)

  2. Marti says:

    Finally… a use for dryer lint!

    I need a cleverer name. Itchbay got it all, though. Karen, do you Ravelry?

  3. I have been using cardboard egg cartons tout simple as firelighters for years and they work fine – do I have to try harder now? Mind you I do have A LOT of lint…

  4. Jeneen says:

    I have never heard of this…what a great idea!!! This is so cool!!! I wondered if I could post your article on my blog, giving you credit of course, and share with my readers. I absolutely love this!!! Thank you so much for sharing this. We recently tried to start a fire in our new firepit to do s’mores, after many many tries, it finally started. Wish I had known about this little trick then and it would have been a lot easier.

    • Richard Silk says:

      “New” fire pit? Outdoors? #1 issue with fireplaces and pits — ventilation. To work *well* a fire needs a way to suck air up from beneath the flames (hence the need for fireplace irons.) If using a recessed pit that’s dug into the earth, or lined with bricks, you need to design either 1) a cross-stacked wood pattern or 2) some form of *lower* grille (barbeque style) for the fuel/wood to rest upon. Just remember: fires burn from the *bottom up* — not the top down.

      • Lori says:

        Not really true. Did you ever see a “council Fire”, burns from the top down.
        Really great !!!!

        • Richard Silk says:

          Certainly! I’ve built *many* of them in years gone by on my former property. You are apparently missing the point of burning from the “bottom up”: if there is no room for air to arise from beneath the flames, the fire will have a very difficult time burning, as opposed to providing air flow *from the bottom up.* Example: say you have a *thick* bed of ash (I used to cook in the yard over simple fires built with scavenged dead wood) and you try building a fire by laying wood into the ash — you’ll have a very difficult time lighting it because the ash blocks the air flow beneath. By putting down bricks (or rocks) and cross-stacking wood *above* these pillars (or simply building a council fire) the air flowing from beneath will provide much better fuel (oxygen) to the wood. Fire burns from the *bottom* up.

          Another example: with a simple grass fire or other surface fires (like a stove top) you will not put it out by attacking the flames at the top — you put fire out by smothering it at the *base* of the flames, which is why they advise on fire extinguisher labels to aim at the “base” of the flames, not the tops.

        • Lori says:

          Sorry, I’m not missing the point at all.
          The type of council fire I was referring to is a four sided pyramid
          with a flat top, some as high as 5 feet. Large diameter logs are started
          at the base and from there the diameter of the logs decrease.
          DOWM. There is always oxygen entering between the logs as they
          obviously have not been ” Chinked.” These type were used by Native
          Americans in the midwest. I am not sure if any tribes west of the
          Mississippi used that style.
          I was a volunteer firefighter and most recently a Fire Life Safety
          instructor in commercial High Rise buildings.
          I have used and am certified to refill all types of extinguishers, from
          the old vintage sodas to dry, Co2 and Halon so I do know how to
          operate them. FYI the term you referred to when using a fire extinguisher
          is P.A.S.S.

        • Robert says:

          Yes..I have used these for all nights fire as well…I learned them as “Upside down fires”..big on top, small on the bottom,,,I have had one 5 feet tall burn 5-6 hours with any need to tinker with it…
          Great reflector fire!!!!!
          Thank you

      • Courtney says:

        Another volunteer firefighter here. My favorite part of basic training was fire science. The flames seem to only go upward because heat rises, but the base of the fire (and therefore the flames) can go anywhere with oxygen. Solid objects like logs actually go straight to gas form when they burn, which is why flames look like they’re hovering. For a small fire, the standard pyramid stack should work. If a log or two fall in ash, they’ll be fine. You just have to make sure there’s airflow through the fire, but not so much that it can’t light. Air doesn’t have to come from underneath either. Wood that is too wet or new, wind, using too much or bad gasoline/lighter fluid can also cause problems with lighting if you’re still having trouble with it. Hope that helps clear some things up!

  5. Liz E. says:

    Definitely a Girl Scouting classic. But I love how colorful your lint is–makes these look so upscale compared to my drab light blue-gray ones.

  6. becky mercado says:

    Yeah…great explanation. I think my town has more Dollar Stores than McDonalds … though it’s close. Hate bugles … but I buy those dollar pool noodles for wreaths. Back to the point. I start my fireplace with a gas jet and a match and whoosh. Much easier. Maybe most people don’t have jets … hmm…. stuff u learn on the internet. Yeah… you proved you could do it …. did do it… but hey…too much work. Go back to the dollar store.


  7. Jenny says:

    Now I wish I had a fireplace. That’s one drawback of living in Arizona…there’s a definite lack of need for one.

  8. Leena says:

    What happened to the cover of the egg carton? Couldn’t you just shred that and use it instead of lint or cotton. Just to simplify the recipe.

    • Gail says:

      Someone said the carton will leak (haven’t tried this yet) and to use the lid to sit the bottom in to catch the leaks/stains, etc. I would throw the lid on the fire too.

      • Gail says:

        I am now on my second batch of these!! Every time my fire goes out in my insert, I use one and it works every time! I did use the lid under the carton and no stains. Also, went out and gathered pine needles in addition to the other suggestions!
        Another thing I learned was to cut up the wick that is in the candle and stick a small piece in the wax while it’s still warm.

  9. Julie shinnick says:

    Cool! Fire! Good to know just in case they outlaw the manufacture of firelighters for some silly reason!

  10. Barbie says:

    …..again! Why or Why don’t we have a wood burning fireplace??? However we are putting a fire pit in outside sooooooo I will be needing something like this! I will have to try them…of course they would also be awesome to take on a camping trip.

  11. Phoenix says:

    I love love love your firestarters! However, hubby would be dissappointed in me if I started using props to start fires. We live in South Africa, where a good fire is essential for an evening with friends. He taught me how to build a fire from scratch, starting small, talking to it, loving it and making it promises we both know I will never keep. But it works! I can now start a fire with wet wood, a bit of kindling and nothing else.
    That said, I am going to try these starters. Just because sometimes a girl must rebel!

  12. Gayla T says:

    This is just a great idea I had forgotten all about. Now I need a tutorial on making a fireplace. I’m serious. My new old house doesn’t have one and I miss it. I have a window at the north end of my living room that is totally useless and would be a perfect place for one. I’ve been looking at the fake ones which would fit great but I don’t know if I’d like fake fire. It would be a lot cleaner. I’m torn.

    • Richard Silk says:

      REAL fireplace — fake ones are undergoing regulation by Obama (in the USA) with ridiculous restrictions. Before you know it they may even try to regulate the fireplace itself.

  13. Brenda j says:

    You forget to mention Darned purdy too! hahahahaha…ooops sorry; too much laughter here.

  14. Bev says:

    I save the dryer lint for my hubby, but it doesn’t always “take”. Now, I have a plan! Go to the dollar store 😉

  15. Denise says:

    Wow, not only are you clever, but your audience ain’t bad either! I’m pulling out this idea when milder weather comes and we start using the outdoor wood burner. It can be a pain to start and this sounds like just the ticket … not to mention the fun putting it together. Thanks. I am a recent fan and look forward to your blog every morning!

  16. Phyllis says:

    Not only are you clever…but hilarious too!! Is the “fella” missing a red sweater…only you could come up with fashionable/designer lint!..Thanks for the recipe and the giggle!!

  17. Elizabeth says:

    I have made these before but the wax? Not so good for the chimney.
    Now I use just the dryer lint or just the egg carton.

    • Karen says:

      Elizabeth – For what it’s worth … I actually wondered about wax starters so I asked my chimney sweet about these a couple of years ago (actually the sawdust and wax starters that you buy at the store) and he said they’re fine. The wax burns off just like it does with a candle so it’s not like your chimney gets coated in wax. ~ karen

  18. Nicole2 says:

    Karen, do you have to buy empty egg cartons, since I’m sure you haven’t bought eggs in forever?

    • Karen says:

      Nicole2 – Heh. People bring me egg cartons now so I have them when people need eggs and forget to bring me their baskets. (I give everyone a small wicker basket for their eggs and when they want some, they’re to bring it to my house and I fill it) ~ karen

  19. Kim Merry says:

    I have made these as well, I use old scented candle pieces to melt over them. They smell nice too!

  20. mollydolittle says:

    Ok, that works, but too much work for me. I liked the method you posted in “How to build a fire”..much easier.

  21. Julee says:

    These are great! Another use for dryer lint is in compost. It counts as one of the “browns” to mix with the “greens”. I’m not sure if belly button lint qualifies though.

  22. Lisa says:

    if you add some epsom salts, when it burns you get funky blue and green colors.

    and if you add some essential oil like eucalyptus, it smells nice too.

  23. Sarah says:

    We love making these, but we use yarn,thread and fabric scraps as we are overrun with those.

  24. jennifer says:

    Awwww! you tried them! i was wondering! i’m so thrilled to have turned you on to something! and FINALLY! a fabulous tutorial on them! yours is the best! PERFECT! my husband suggested using bacon fat in place of the wax since he saw that i had stored up a jar in my fridge. well i made a couple for fun (mostly just to shut him up) and HOT DAMN! they work too! a rather expensive wax alternative though! say hi to the pancreas! HAHA! you my day for sure 🙂

  25. Rose says:

    Gotta tell you, that red belly button lint. . . . maybe you should see someone for that. =)
    Now all I need is a house with a fireplace. Then let the firestarter making begin!!!!

  26. Karen says:

    This is when I completely hate my gas burning fireplace.. I wanna make egg-carton fire starters too… 🙁 I feel like the kid in the playground who never got picked for a team.. Hey?? but I do have an out door fire pit… I guess I can make them!! Yay…

  27. Leslie Zuroski says:

    Cool! Now I know what to do with my candle nubbins! (I’ve made new candles with them before but not very well.)

  28. Yay! A use for dryer lint; I’ve been putting it (reluctantly) in the compost bin, this is much better.
    I wondered about the chimney too, so glad to hear that, must dash and phone the chinmey sweep now, cos it’s been well over a year since it was cleaned and I don’t want my egg-carton-firelighters blamed!

  29. Kristen S says:

    My Mom does this, but with Tim Hortons cup trays. She says they are bigger and burn longer. (size and longevity do matter)

  30. Nathalie says:

    I went on my first solo camping trip last year and made these, they worked great! You can also fold the tips over and tie them with embroidery floss/twine and dip them in the wax to make them water proof.

    Bless you, you have red belly button lint 😛

  31. alison says:

    I want red dryer lint! How the heck???

  32. Judy Murray says:

    I’m a Brownie leader and we still teach this to the girls for camp. Girls love a fire on a cold night and don’t forget smores.

  33. Jane says:

    Do you know how to make ‘spills’ of newspaper to light fires? They look a bit like long matches. They are rolled tightly with a triangular bit folded on the end to light well; and look quite nice. My mother used to make them, but I, unfortunately, did not learn..

  34. Nancy says:

    I have seen this before but never tried them..I could make some for our outdoor fire pit as I have extra wax here I was going to make another candle with and there is always plenty of dryer lint..just not the fancy red variety…

  35. Brandi says:

    I’ve been saving candle-stick stubs for years just knowing I’d find a use for them. My husband thought I was crazy. Now I can prove him wrong. Bwa ha ha! Also, this will make a great present for my in-laws who all have fireplaces.

  36. Bri says:

    I started making these a few years ago. I’m pretty hopeless at starting a fire in general, but without these it’s truly pathetic. I just keep a pint mason jar by the dryer, when it’s full I know I have enough lint to make a batch of firestarters. Because you never know when you might need more! I will say that the ones with cedar chips in them are much prettier than ones with dryer lint.

  37. Chau says:

    Love this stuff. I’ll try it as soon as I collect enough lint. Thanks Karen.

  38. LARPkitten says:

    We’ve been making these at home, with a little twist:

    Occasionally, one of us will get a hankering for bacon. Especially bacon sandwiches. Mmmm. And it’s really quick and easy to make bacon in the microwave, just by sandwiching the strips between paper towels. Keeps the bacon nice and flat for sammiches. Mmmm. And well, since we have all these grease-soaked paper towels already, we just wad them up and stuff them in the egg cartons! And then when we light up the fire, we get the smell of bacon! Which makes us crave bacon sammiches. Mmmm. Repeat cycle. Neverending firestarters.

  39. Kasia says:

    Okay, been thinking this for awhile, now I’ve got to ask. What kind of camera do you use?? How do you make your photos look so incredibly awesome?? I’m really, I’ve never seen a more beautiful egg carton! Any tips or tricks you can share with us?

  40. Cindy Marlow says:

    I was having no luck starting the wood stove this morning. Damp air and damp wood were ruining my efforts. I took a bag of cinnamon scented pine cones that have been hanging around for about three years and poured wax all over them. Three of these in the stove got a roaring fire going. Thanks for the timely hint. Next up…gathering some belly button lint from all the family to make egg carton fire starters!

  41. Buffie says:

    I make my own too with the egg carton, lent from the dryer and candle wax. Good stuff!

  42. Daniela says:

    OK, Karen, fess up! Where did you get such pretty dryer lint?

  43. Glen says:

    Alcohol hand gel also makes an good firestarter. I always have some when I am in the bush for First Aide and personal hygiene.

  44. Caroline says:

    Thank goodness a friend “pinned” one of your articles so I could find you. I love your ideas. In our B&B, we have lots of egg cartons, lots of spent candles and lots and lots of lent. What a perfect way to recycle. I think that these are terrific to leave in a basket beside the fireplace (not too close) when guests want to start a fire. Much more interesting than purchased ones. Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Caroline. I’m going to try to make some today as a matter of fact using shredded newspaper. When I had my maple syrup making supplies delivered, they came packed in shredded newspaper. I’m curious to see how it works in stead of the lint. ~ k!

      • Debbie says:

        I work for a D. A. C. That sells fire starters . They are made of shredded newspapers and toilet tissue rolls dipped in wax all made by our vulnerable adults. And they work fantastically.

  45. Deborah says:

    So here I am, looking through your collection searching for ideas on how to re-purpose an o-l-d kerosene lantern and I come across this post. MAGNIFICO! I totally suck at starting fires, just ask my husband. I have been known to smoke out the house on a weekly basis trying to get our woodstove going. I JUST bought 2 dozen eggs that were on sale and now will have to find something else to hold the eggs while I steal the cartons to make me some of these! Muchas gracias chica, now….any idea what to do with an old lamp? 😛

  46. Ashlee says:

    I got on here to learn about firer Starters, but I laughed my #$% off reading your blog. So funny!! I love the Olsen Twin bit. Yes, I’m going to make firer starters for a church function. So glad I got to laugh in the process!!

    • Karen says:

      Ashlee – Great. Hope you come back for more. I post Monday – Friday. But I’m only funny on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. ~ karen

  47. Louise says:

    Silver birch bark makes an excellent fire starter. The oil in the bark burns slowly and well. Please use bark from felled trees though. : )

  48. Sharron says:

    Loved the article, I’ve made these for years and wanted to tell you that while your at the dollar store pick up some bags of the old stale Potpourri
    they always have for sale and you’ll have ample “stuff” to fill your fire starters and it’ll smell good when it burns too…. I also like to add some Cinnamon and cloves to the wax when I have melted it since I particularly enjoy that scent during the winter months…LOL

  49. Lexi says:

    We use toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls stuffed with dryer lint. Sometimes I wrap them in old newspaper or old phone book pages so I have a “tail” to light. They work great! The dryer lint burns long and hot. (its really scary how well dryer lint is at starting fires, it really makes me want to go clean out the lint trap at home…)

  50. Heather Bergquist says:

    Just wanted to know how to follow your blog…I’ve been cracking up reading your “firestarted” posts! I really need more laughter in my life! Looking forward to hearing more, thanks.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Heather. Thanks! But what do you mean “follow”? Just come on by any time. I post from Monday – Saturday. Do you mean subscribe? If that’s the case just go to my site and in the righthand side bar under the picture of me holding the fish there’s a blank section with “Subscribe” beside it. Just fill in your email address and click subscribe. You’ll get a confirmation email which you have to reply to, to confirm you are indeed a person. That’s it! ~ karen

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