Homemade Fire Starters. 3 Ways to Make Them.

How to make homemade fire starters that’ll get your fire crackling immediately. 3 different ways to make fire starters with lint, wax, sawdust, belly button lint … whatever you have on hand.   They’ll start with one match and burn for 10 minutes.

A simple homemade fire starter made with an egg carton, lint, wax and wood chips.

Skip right to the tutorials.

Why go to the trouble of making fire starters?  I mean, that seems like a pain. You’re probably wondering when exactly would any normal human being ever need a fire starter.  I’d like to address this with my comprehensive list of possible scenarios where a person might need to use a fire starter: 

  1.  When they want to light something on fire.

I make a few versions of homemade fire starters because apparently I like to light things on fire, and I like to have things burst into flames, with ease.  Most of the time I just buy my fire starters at my local dollar store but sometimes I run out and need to make some.  

If you want to make some too, press on and make your own DIY fire starters. Here are the 3 types of fire starters you can make for your campfire or wood burning fireplace. 

Fire Starter Squares

Burn time: 4 minutes

Materials
  • Paraffin wax or candle stubs
  • Sawdust
  • Baking Sheet
  • Parchment paper
Instructions
  1. Chop your wax up so it will melt more quickly.  Melt it in a double boiler or in everyone’s favourite coffee warmer; the microwave.
  2. I create a makeshift double boiler for melting wax by putting a metal can inside a small pot with water in the bottom of it. Put your wax inside the can and simmer the water on the stove, gently melting the wax without ruining your pot.

Materials for fire starter squares laid out on wood counter including wax, sawdust and double boiler.

2. Line a baking pan with parchment paper, tin foil or plastic wrap and then fill it with sawdust.  Pack the sawdust down a bit with the palms of your hands. 

Pouring a tin of melted wax over a baking tray of sawdust.

3. Drizzle your melted wax over the entire tray.

Melted wax and sawdust fire starters looking very much like delicious caramel toffee on a wood countertop.

4. Let it sit until it’s hardened and then cut into squares.

Square fire starters laid on a modern white tray.

They look just like a delicious caramel dessert. 

Now is probably a good time to say don’t feed these to your children or leave them out where children will feed themselves with them.  It’s not gonna kill ’em or anything, it’d just be embarrassing for you if they said they were the best dessert you’ve ever made.


I go through 7 face cords of wood every year so I also go through a LOT of fire starters. Here’s my post on how to stack wood so it’s tidy and doesn’t fall over. 


Egg Carton Fire starters

Burn time: 9 minutes.

Materials
  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Parrafin Wax or candle stubs
  • Sawdust, wood chips, cotton balls, dryer lint, belly button lint and/or paper towels
Instructions
  1. Shove whatever you have on hand in the cups of a cardboard egg carton. Lint, sawdust, wood chips, cotton balls or paper towels.
    Egg carton filled with lint, cotton balls, sawdust and wood chips.
  2. Chop your wax up so it will melt more quickly.  Melt it in a double boiler or in everyone’s favourite coffee warmer; the microwave. Makeshift double boiler for melting wax without ruining your pot. A tin can set inside a metal pot with 1" of water.
  3. Place your egg carton onto a baking sheet lined with tin foil or a surface you can easily scrape wax drips off of.  Ladelling hot melted wax into egg carton of red and white lint.
  4. Pour wax into each egg carton cup, let them harden and then pull them apart into individual cups.  Homemade fire starter made of an egg carton, melted wax, dryer lint and wood chips.

These suckers will light up with one match.

Lighting a fire starter with one match.

 

Easy Homemade Fire Starters.

Burn time: 5 minutes

These don’t burn as long or as easily, but they DO work and you can whip a couple of them up in only a second.

Materials
  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Candle stubs
  • Dryer lint

Instructions

  • Stick a candle stub into the cup of an egg carton.
  • Pack dryer lint around the stub.
  • Sprinkle chopped up wax on top of the lint. (optional – helps it to burn better)

4 photo collage of the steps to making easy homemade fire starters with an egg carton, lint and a candle stub..

Homemade Fire starters

Homemade Fire starters

Yield: A whack of Homemade Fire Starters
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Make a bunch of fire starters out of an egg carton, lint and some melted wax. They light easily and burn for almost 10 minutes.

Materials

  • Paraffin wax or candle stubs
  • Sawdust
  • Baking Sheet
  • Parchment paper

Tools

  • No special tools required.

Instructions

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or tin foil or plastic wrap).
  2. Fill the tray with sawdust and press it down with the palms of your hands.
  3. Melt wax in a double boiler
  4. Pour melted wax over sawdust distributing it evenly.
  5. When the wax has hardened, cut into squares.

Notes

To create a make shift double boiler that'll save your pots, place a tin can inside a pot that has 1" of water in the bottom. Fill can with wax then gently heat the pot over low heat until the wax is melted.

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Your local dollar store carries firestarters for a dollar.  So I still buy them there, but when I run out or just want to use up a whack of dryer lint I make some version of these.  Besides, when you’re at the dollar store buying firestarters you can also buy a bag of Bugles, a pair of poorly made socks of questionable material and metal garbage can with all of the Muppets on it.  Clearly … this gives the dollar store an advantage.

 

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Homemade Fire Starters. 3 Ways to Make Them.

119 Comments

  1. Another option is to get your fire starters AND support kids going through cancer treatment. My cousin’s kid went through cancer himself at 13 years old and now makes and sells fire starters (the egg carton version) for cheap and donates the money to the kids’ cancer hospital in Cleveland, OH, where he was treated. Here’s a link to his facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/polenfirestarters/
    He’s a great kid doing great stuff!

  2. Marcia says:

    Arrrgh! I wish this had been posted about two weeks ago. We finally cleaned out our drier vent pipe after 38 years (EEEK!) and I had enough lint to make firestarters for everyone in the neighborhood. I’m going to make some of these to use in the stove at our cabin. I’m loathe to throw out candle stubs, so I have that ingredient. Just have to buy eggs in a cardboard carton and start saving drier lint. Thanks, Karen! Happy Halloween!

  3. billy sharpstick says:

    If you use dryer lint, be aware that most average dryer lint contains a certain amount of synthetic fabric, unless you wear all natural fabric, cotton, etc. Not a major problem, but just know that you are burning a small amount of plastic with that.

  4. Hi Karen,
    As you are busy updating blogs… you could correct the typo in this one… ? bottom para :
    ”this general method words” I believe WORDS should be WORKS

  5. Linda Bullock says:

    An otther great firestarter can be made but dunking beanie babies in wax and position them any way you like before letting them dry. I’m not sure I’d use them indoors due to the plastic content but they sure can be fun to make.

  6. JenP says:

    Hi! Great article, which I stumbled upon when reading your article on how to hang things on a brick wall (THANK YOU for that simple explanation! Now I can hang a shelf to try to attract nesting House Finches.)
    I just wanted to share how I make fire starters. Very similar to you, I begin with a cardboard egg carton and fill it with dryer lint and greasy paper towels from wiping out cast iron pans or from draining fried food. So far, it’s free, because I buy lots of eggs and generate lots of dryer lint and greasy paper towels.
    But, we really don’t use candles in our house, pretty much ever. And paraffin is expensive! At least it is where I find it, in the canning section. And I don’t want to part with my bacon drippings – that’s better used for cooking! BUT I do get lots of fat from the cheap hamburgers my husband likes to fry up. It is not particularly tasty for cooking other foodin. I used to just throw it away. Now I save it up in a jar and when the jar is full, I wash the fat once or twice by boiling it in water, then putting the pot in the fridge (crud stays in the water, a disc of clean fat stays on top) and then simmering *that* to drive out the water. Several steps, I know, but easy, and then I have a bunch of nice (free!) tallow to use as my fat for the firestarters. I second the idea from above about adding epsom salt, borax, salt, sodium carbonate, or potassium chloride in with the lint, for fun colors when it burns.
    Just for fun, and because I have so many of the darn things, I like to use the ENTIRE egg carton when I start a fire. I wrap the whole carton in packing paper or newspaper and twist the ends to have a “wick” to light.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks JenP! Last year I started to get so busy that I … gasp … started to buy firestarters, lol! I still make them as well, love the hamburger fat tip. ~ karen!

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  9. Sally says:

    I recycle my used wax tarts. You could put cotton balls in them or even wood chips or saw dust. Just make sure the candle underneath is out or the burner is unplugged, whichever type you use. I also use paper towel or toilet paper tubes stuffed with dryer lint and used dryer sheets. Or even paper towel tubes stuffed with more paper towel tubes or old catalogs.

  10. Claudia says:

    Sounds good!

    As to my temperature-of-the-hot-wax-melting-the-pill-“bottle” question, any input?

    Fun stuff! :-)

  11. Claudia says:

    I have to admit that I haven’t read all the posts in this thread, so my question may have been answered already. (Feel free to ridicule me for not looking carefully enough through what has already been discussed. )

    I’ve been using as fire starters the wrappings that cover certain brands of new, individual toilet paper rolls (along w/ lots of other non-toxic flammable stuff that normally just gets tossed) in conjunction w/ the Boy-Scout-recommended dryer lint, to loosely fill the left-over-once-the-TP-is-used-up toilet paper tubes.

    And they work as fire starters to an acceptable degree, but not as well –I’m SURE! — as the egg carton fire starters you’ve described.

    But I have a LOT more empty TP paper rolls than the sort of egg cartons discussed in this conversation. (Unfortunately the stores I shop in mostly sell styrofoam egg cartons…. which, I have little doubt, reflects poorly on my choices in stores. )

    SO, my question: Can anyone suggest how I might fill my numerous TP rolls w/ the melted wax (etc.), WITHOUT the hot wax just running out of the bottom of the TP roll?

    I was thinking, for example, of using (prescription) pill bottles, that are just slightly larger in diameter than a TP roll, to hold upright (open ends @ the top & bottom of the pill bottle) that paper- (etc.) filled TP roll, & then pouring the melted wax into the TP roll.

    Would the temperature of the melted wax ruin the pill bottle or make it usable only once for the purpose of making additional fire starters? Would a wax paper liner in the pill bottle between the bottle & the TP roll be needed so the roll could be easily removed from the pill bottle?

    Can anyone suggest other ways to fill a TP roll w/ wax, etc., to make it become a fire starter?

    Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Claudia, Just stuff the bottom with lint before you add the wax. Yes some will trickle out the bottom, but the majority of it will just ooze into the lint. The wax will also help the lint form a bottom on the toilet paper roll by “gluing” it to the sides. You can also push one end of the toilet paper roll in towards itself to form a bottom. ~ karen!

  12. Broderick says:

    Heya i’m for the primary time here. I came across this board and I
    find It really helpful & it helped me out much. I am hoping to offer one thing back and help others like you helped me.

  13. kathy D. says:

    Here’s a suggestion to make this quicker, easier and less messy:

    Fill a coffee can a third to a half full of thin, broken up wood shavings. Pour (thin stream) the melted wax into this while simultaneously mixing it in. When the shavings start to look “damp” you’ve poured in enough wax. (work quickly on the mixing and be done before the wax completely hardens.) Pack a couple of tablespoons into each egg carton compartment. I leave the cardboard edge of the compartment attached when I cut the carton apart. That’s where I light it.

    BTW colored lint comes from solid color cheap (poor quality fabric) cotton terry towels that have been washed/dried in the dryer for the first time…..lots of lint is produced.

  14. Despues de leer el post no tengo mas que daros la enhorabuena y daros las gracias por encima dee todo al creador por tomarse la molestia

  15. Chris says:

    I don’t mean to be negative but you shouldn’t be using muffin tins. If you actually use them for cooking now you have a mess on those to clean up. I like using a cookie sheet with foil or waxed paper because it is a lot easier to clean up. second of all i have been working on using the WHOLE cardboard egg carton, not just the cups. Two main reasons why I use the whole egg carton: 1. more efficient on making more fire starters to have handy, 2. Less waste, simple as that. With the Up-cycling movement going on it would be best to use the whole egg carton, and not just the cups.

  16. Tommy says:

    Thanks for the info. I’m going to try these on charcoal briquettes in my grill.

    • Karen says:

      Good idea! They’ll work great for that! Just so you know I find the dryer lint works the best (better than sawdust). ~ karen!

  17. Kat says:

    scrolllled down bypassed all comments and just saying
    I have always wondered what one can do with dryer lint.

    • kathy says:

      Does anyone know how to make the crackling wood wicks for home made candles? They can be purchased from a candle supply company but I want to make my own. What kind of wood, and what are they soaked/dipped in? thanks!

      • Karen says:

        Kathy – I’ve been working on trying to figure this out for 2 years now. I’ve tried every possible combination from using thin veneer to just little hunks of wood cedar shingles. I even dipped it in something, but I can’t remember what it was. haven’t quite figured it out yet. ~ karen

  18. deeser says:

    Do you have a friend, partner, or other who is always cutting wood with a power/table saw?

    Sweep the area when he/she is finished………..use the swept “wood shavings” along with that melted candle wax and……….VOILA! A GREAT OPTION FOR FIRESTARTER!

  19. Kat says:

    I just made a load of these for the first time a couple of days ago using candle ends, cotton wool balls and egg boxes.

    I decided to really test them out and tried lighting a paperless fire in my ancient inglenook fireplace using two firestarters, a little teepee of kindling and some oak logs. Unbelievable! That is the first paperless fire I have lit and it worked brilliantly.

    I am now a total convert and intend to try them in a kelly kettle just as soon as it stops raining!

    Thanks for the post.

    • Karen says:

      A kelly kettle???!!! What’s a kelly kettle?! Oh! And Im glad you liked them. They’re brilliant aren’t they! I’ll never use paper in a fire again. ~ karen!

      • Kat says:

        The solution to the need for a quick cup of tea no matter where you are. :)(Which is possibly a uniquely English anxiety condition.) Getting it started can be tricky, but it boils up water on just a few twigs. Miraculous. I will make small firestarters for mine I think.

  20. tracey stone says:

    hi,i found your website last night great idea!!made.my fire lighters today got home from work put the fire on with two (think i only need one) and it took no time at all to get a great fire going!!!thanks for a great idea cheers tracey

  21. bridget says:

    I’ve been collecting dryer lint for a year like a mad woman for an upcoming camping trip. Finally it’s time to test this clever lil’ recipe out.

  22. IMLizard says:

    Could you not put shredder paper in the cardboard egg cups, then put the broken wax in there and put the whole thing in a low oven long enough to melt? I’d think this would eliminate mess and save time?

  23. Rhonda says:

    I also make my own fire starters. I use a muffin pan with the paper liners, add shredded paper (from all of the bills and junk mail), then add melted wax on top. Just pop them out of the muffin pan when cooled and firm. Just light the side of the paper. I have given some as gifts and am always asked for more when they have all been used. We use them when starting a fire in our wood stove. The fire is usually burned down too low to easily start the fire by the time we get home from work. These are a life saver for us. My husband cleans the chimney once or twice a year and we have never had a problem.

  24. Cheryl says:

    Please excuse the question. I had fortten about the can ;-)

  25. Cheryl says:

    Wonderful posts. I have a friend who showed me something similar but used the wax from old broken crayon pieces. We used them at a camp fire and the colors were extrordinary. Just a thought. I am curious, how does one melt the wax ? Do you have to give up apot for it? Thanks for this post.

    • Karen says:

      Cheryl – I use an old coffee can set in a pot of water, so the pot doesn’t get ruined. The length of time it takes to melt depends on how much wax is in there. 15 minutes or so. ~ karen!

  26. ann davis says:

    i would be really careful about using the wax or grease to make those firestarters. It should eventually build up of the chimney and that is how so many of this younger did not grow up with the woodburners get home fires started. They are great for outdoors but just how long has that chimney sweep been in business?

    • Karen says:

      Ann – It’s fine. There’s a minimal amount of wax in each start. 2 tablespoons tops. Additionally I get my chimney swept a minimum of once a year, sometimes twice. ~ karen

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