Trying to start a campfire from nothing can be quite a challenge. However, with a few ingredients, you can make super easy DIY fire starters for little to no expense. The kids will love making them and later, you’ll all be roasting marshmallows over the campfire they started. The best part is most of the ingredients to make a fire starter are things you can recycle right from your home or RV.
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Fun & Easy DIY Fire Starters for the Campfire, BBQ & Hearth
These fun and easy-to-make DIY fire starters contain three main components. The combustible fuel, substance and a method of keeping your fire starter together work together as the foundation of building a fire.
A fire starter makes it easy to ignite and stay burning until your kindling and wood can catch fire.
DIY Fuel Starter Substance Combustible Ingredients
To make these simple-to-make DIY fire starters, you’re going to need substance. These are raw dry ingredients or content like paper, cardboard or wood. Anything dry and nontoxic that you can recycle from your own home or RV is ideal.
You can visit a high school wood shop class and ask if you can have the saw dust and wood chips from their lathe machines.
Ask your friends if they can start collecting certain components to these DIY fire starter projects. If you have dry herbs that have expired in your spice rack, you can add those too for aromatic effects!
You should never include any plastic or toxic ingredients in your homemade fire starters. Burning plastic can emit toxic fumes into the air that you breath but also will affect the environment and wildlife.
- Dryer lint
- Sawdust (check your local wood shop)
- Pencil wood shavings (from schools)
- Small wood chips
- Shredded paper (from office)
- Dried orange peels
- Clean tissue paper (from gift bags or boxes)
- Wrapping paper
- Packing paper (from moving boxes)
- Paper confetti
- Liquor bottle paper sacks
- Pint size liquor bottle paper sacks
- Wax paper
- Parchment paper
- Natural wine corks
- Dried herbs & flowers
- Dried Rosemary
- Cinnamon sticks
- Tiny craft pine cones
- Sticks and twigs (from outside)
DID YOU KNOW?
Adding dried herbs such as Basil, Citronella, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Lemongrass, Mint, Rosemary, Sage and Thyme to your fire starter materials helps drive mosquitos and bugs away from your campfire? And, they make your campfire smell great too!
DIY Fire Starter Combustible Container Ideas
There’s several different homemade fire starters that you can make using different burnable containers.
Cardboard tubes from toilet paper, paper towel, wrapping paper and kitchen wraps are perfect holders to pack in dry combustable ingredients.
However, you may not want to wait months to even years to get enough to make any quantity of fire starters. So, you can substitute your wait time to just buy bulk supplies listed below.
Whereas paper egg cartons, brown paper cupcake liners, paper Dixie cups and paper soufflé cups are ideal for using with melted wax fire starters.
For fire starters made out of paper vessels such as the cupcake liners, soufflé cups and paper cups (listed below), I highly recommend placing each into a silicone muffin pan first. This allows them to hold their shape when pouring hot wax into. But also, should they leak a little, it’s in the muffin pan than on you table surface. I prefer silicone muffin pans because the wax is easier to clean out than metal muffin pans.
Please note, you will NOT be using the muffin pans in the oven or microwave! More later about that below.
Here’s a great one-stop shopping list of great fire starter containers that are ideal to use for making your campfire igniters.
DIY Fire Starter Combustible Fuel Ideas
The fuel in your fire starters will be in the form of a flammable combustible like paraffin wax, old broken crayons, left over candle wax and even vaseline. We’ve also learned there are other fire starter fuels that work as well and are safe to use.
DID YOU KNOW?
Greasy potato chips & Doritos make great fire starters!
Which wax works best for homemade DIY fire starers?
You can also recycle your old candles to include in your homemade fire starters. To recycle the wax from old jar candles, place each jar in the refrigerator to harden the wax to make it brittle.
Then take the jar out of the refrigerator and carefully chip the wax into small pieces using a butter knife (no sharp knives!). Be very careful not to break the jar.
If you opt to use beeswax, be aware that when beeswax cools, it can be brittle and chip off. However it’s great to use in my DIY pine cone fire starters because they look prettier; especially if you’re giving as gifts.
You can also recycle old broken wax crayons. They are great to add into your wax melting process (that section is next). Or, you can just stick one or two into your liquid form wax as an extra propellent.
If you don’t have kids of your own, ask one of your teacher friends. They usually have boxes of them at school they can offer you.
Or, it may be easier to just buy a bunch of cheap wax crayons and be done with it.
How to melt paraffin or wax
Some of these DIY fire starters require paraffin wax. Or, you may wish to recycle old soy candle wax or old broken crayons by melting them.
You can also opt to use inexpensive beeswax. Of course, you can melt down regular beeswax blocks.
However, I found the beeswax pellets easier to melt and manage. And, there’s no additional cleanup from having to cut up or shave the beeswax blocks as opposed to the pellets.
But, if you do want to use wax blocks instead of wax pellets, you’ll want to shred or hand-shave the blocks to speed up the melting process. This goes for both, regular paraffin and beeswax.
Whichever form of wax (block or pellet) you choose to melt down the wax, you can’t just dump your wax into a pan over a direct heat source. You’ll only end up scorching the wax, ruining your pot and quite possibly even starting a fire. Yeah, let’s not do that!
Instead, a better and safer way to melt wax is using a double boiler pot set that’s made precisely for this type of task. If you don’t want to spend a bunch of money or this is a one-and-done project, a candy melting pot that you place over one of your own pots will suffice.
In a double boiler pot, fill the bottom pot with water and the top pot with your wax (shreds or pellets). To get the paraffin to melt, you first need to bring your water to a rolling boil.
Once the water boils, turn down your heat to medium. Set the top pot of your double boiler onto the bottom pot and set your paraffin wax blocks in the top pot. Wait for them to melt completely.
I do want to note, while you may be tempted to use your oven or microwave to melt your wax, DON’T!
Using your oven or microwave to melt the wax can be ineffective or even dangerous! So, it’s always best and safer use a double boiler as noted above for the optimal results.
✰ CAUTION ✰
Before melting any wax in your home or RV, make certain you have a dry chemical fire extinguisher or box of baking soda easily accessible. While wax fires aren’t common, it’s better to be prepared for those just in case moments.
Setting up your workspace to make your DIY fire starters
- Before you start your fire starter making project, you’ll want to wear old clothes if you’re going to work with melting wax. As well, you’ll need to lay down either brown craft paper or parchment paper to catch any wax or liquid messes. This makes cleanup simple and quick.
Please do not to use plastic tablecloths as they are not eco-friendly and can’t be recycled.
Personally, I prefer craft or parchment paper because it’s recycled material that’s environmentally friendly. And, you can even recycle the paper from the fire starter projects using wax for other fire starter craft projects.
So, now that you’re all set with knowing all of the materials and combustibles to make your DIY fire starters, let’s get busy!
Toilet Paper Tube Fire Starters
We’re starting with one of the most popular homemade fire starter because they’re super easy to make. And, these are great DIY crafts that kids can make without much supervision.
And, you incorporate a small lesson in reusing or recycling simple items that would normally go into the trash.
However, this fire starter idea starts weeks or even months prior to making them because you need time to collect toilet paper tubes. You can also use the cardboard tubes from paper towel, wrapping paper and kitchen wraps (aluminum foil, wax paper, etc.).
But, if you’d rather not waste time, you can actually buy cardboard tubes for this DIY fire starter project.
You’re also going to need to collect lots of dryer lint. To speed up time, ask your friends and family to help collect supplies for this recycling project as well.
Once you have collected plenty of toilet paper tubes and lots of dryer lint, you’re ready to make your toilet paper tube fire starters.
Working from both ends of the cardboard tube, stuff ample amounts of dryer lint into the center of each cardboard tube. However, don’t pack them so tight. You still want little air pockets between ingredients to allow the material to combust.
Also, leave enough room at each end to add golf ball size wads of wax paper to pack into the ends of each cardboard tube fire starter.
Once all of your cardboard tubes are stuffed, wrap each tube in a sheet of wax paper or recycled wrapping paper like a piece of candy. Twist the ends tightly, like a candy wrapper, to keep all the combustible materials inside.
When it’s time to build your campfire, just set one (or two) cardboard tube fire starters under your kindling and light the wax paper ends.
Paper Log Fire Starters
These homemade fire starters also really fun for the littles to do just like the cardboard tubes above.
But, instead of cardboard tubes, you’re going to use liquor bottle brown paper sacks. The reason for these kind of paper sacks is they’re longer than a standard size lunch bag to create a ‘log’ appearance.
You can instead, use parchment or brown craft paper to make your log tubes. However, you’re going to need to tie jute twine around them to keep them from unwrapping.
Whichever you choose, start collecting all the substance ingredients and fuel for your paper log fire starters.
Collect the dryer lint in your laundry room. Go outside in your yard and collect some thin and dry, dead twigs (no green wood).
For your fuel, shred some wax as mentioned earlier. And as funny as it sounds, grab that hidden bag of old stale potato chips (the greasier the better!) in the back of the pantry.
Once you have all of your ingredients, it’s time to assemble your paper log fire starers.
Working end to middle, start by pushing in about 2 tablespoons of shredded wax to the middle of the bag. Then, from both ends, push in wads of dryer lint and the other ingredients with more shredded wax. Go ahead and throw in those greasy potato chips and broken crayons.
Keep doing this until your bag is about 1/3 full in the center leaving 1/3 of either end of the bag empty to allow you enough room to twist the ends to seal them shut.
When it’s time to build your campfire, put one your paper log fire starter under your kindling and light the ends and watch it and your kindling catch fire.
Egg Carton Fire Starters
Most eggs you buy in the grocery store come in recycled paper egg cartons. Because they’re paper, they make perfect vessels to create 12 DIY fire starters per egg carton.
First, cover your table with craft paper or parchment because this project may get a little messy.
Start with a clean and dry paper egg carton. Then, pack in small piles of dryer lint, paper shred and sawdust into each egg compartment.
Then, slowly pour in melted paraffin wax over each lint pile allowing the hot wax to seep into all of the combustable dry materials.
While the wax is still liquid or somewhat soft, sprinkle a small bit of sawdust on top of each fire starter. Use a spoon to push it in if you need to.
The wax acts as a waterproofing agent that keeps each fire starter from getting wet or to keep them dry from moisture. It also helps the fire starter stay ignited longer.
Allow them cool and harden for about at least 6 hours.
Once your egg carton fire starters are completely hardened, you can either carefully cut apart each compartment from the egg carton to give you 12 fire starters. Or, leave them intact as a whole egg carton and cut them as needed with your camping knife.
Smudge Fire Starters
I’m sure you’ve seen smudge bundles in gift shops and craft stores. Usually, they are stems and leaves made from dried sage plants that are bundled tightly together and wrapped with twine or string.
Even still today, Native Americans and naturalists use smudging for medicinal and wellness purposes. Common smudging plants used in smudge bundles are sweetgrass, cedar and sage.
On the same principle of those smudge bundles, you can make your own but for the use of starting fires. Simply gather dry, dead sticks, twigs and herbs (no green wood or plants). Cut them to uniform size. Then, bundle and wrap them tightly with natural jute twine.
Be aware, if you’re going to forage for your herbs, you need to know exactly what you’re picking. Know your herb plant identification. Never use poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac in any of these homemade fire starters.
Also, know that some dried herbs will smoke more than others. But, on a good note, the smoke and aromas will help deter mosquitos and other pesky flying insects.
Smudge fire starters are also great for aromatherapy, oftentimes giving a zenful and peaceful feeling while enjoying the ambiance of the campfire.
Pine Cone Fire Starters
Pine cone fire starters are actually one of the easiest campfire igniters to make. All you need is a bunch of clean, unbroken pinecones, your double broiler with melted wax and a bowl of fine sawdust.
First, lay out a couple sheets of parchment paper onto your table to protect it from wax. Then, carefully dip each pinecone into your melted wax. For best results, dunk three times allowing about 20 seconds per dunk to allow the wax to adhere and harden.
Then, after the third dunk, place each wax pinecone onto your parchment paper.
Working quickly before the wax hardens, sprinkle sawdust all over the pinecone to add a little extra combustible material. Then, allow them to completely dry and harden. Store them in a dry paper sack inside small plastic totes.
Cotton Ball Fire Starters
Many campers make their homemade fire starters out of cotton balls or cotton makeup pads.
Depending on how much fuel you put on them and the size of each cotton ball will determine how long they burn. Larger cotton balls should burn anywhere from about 2 or 3 minutes; enough to get your kindling to catch fire.
But, it’s not the cotton ball that’s actually catching fire but the fuel within the cotton ball that ignites it.
Soak a whole bunch of super jumbo size cosmetic cotton balls or cotton facial pads with unscented hand sanitizer, vaseline or even baby oil in a large plastic zipper bag. Massage each cotton ball or facial pad until they are evenly coated with any one of those listed above.
Then, organize several in a small metal hinged tin to keep them ready to use in your backpack. Or, a larger metal tin is great for keeping larger quantities of these cotton ball fire starters in your camp box or RV.
✰ OUTSIDER TIP ✰ NEVER mix combustible fuels in the same container. Keep away from the hot sun and away from heat sources.
Cork Fire Starters
If you’re an avid wine drinker or friends of one, ask them to keep all of their natural wine corks for you so you can make your own DIY homemade cork fire starters.
Do know though, the rubber, synthetic or plastic wine corks will not work. They must be made of natural cork material.
Once you have a good size collection of natural wine corks, it’s so easy to make these cork fire starters!
All you need to do is dump all of your clean wine corks into a large jar. Then, fill the rest of the jar with at least 90% Isopropyl Alcohol (first aid rubbing alcohol) to the top allowing a little space for the corks to float and expand from soaking in the alcohol. For best results, allow your cork fire starters to soak for at least a week or more.
If you’re an avid camper who will be building lots of campfires or going for long periods of time, soak as many as you can in a large pickling jar. But, if you’re only going for a weekend up to even a couple weeks, a quart size canning jar will do just fine.
Keep your jar away from heat in a cool location such as your pantry or cabinet away from your stove or oven.
Then, when it’s time to pack up for your camping trip, take however many soaked corks out and store them in an plastic airtight jar with a little rubbing alcohol to keep them ready for use.
✰ READ MORE ✰ Campfire Safety Tips – Help Prevent Forest Fires!
Dixie Cup Fire Starters
Another great DIY fire starter idea is using small Dixie cups filled with fuel and substance mentioned in the beginning of this article. The cup keeps everything contained and ready for use.
All you need is just one or maybe two of these fire starters to get your kindling started.
To make these handmade fire starters, gather your small paper Dixie cups, melted paraffin and sawdust and/or small wood chips.
While you’re waiting for your wax to melt, in a large mixing bowl, mix your your sawdust and small wood shavings. You can also add in dried orange peels, dried flowers and stems, and about 2 tablespoons of dried sage or rosemary.
Once the paraffin melts completely, slowly pour the melted wax in small quantities into the large bowl of other ingredients. Mix and add in more melted wax until the mixture becomes the consistency of thin oatmeal.
Then, using a teaspoon, spoon the warm waxy mixture into each individual cup. You need to do this quickly though so the wax doesn’t set before you get it in there. You’ll want to tap the ingredients down into each cup so the waxy mixture adheres to the cup.
Then, top each Dixie cup fire starter with just a small top layer of wax and sprinkle a little saw dust on top.
If you’d rather make smaller fire starters that don’t take up as much space, you can use the same method just by filling smaller paper souffle cups.
Fancy Cupcake Fire Starters
I saved this particular DIY fire starter for last because it’s more of an artsy craftsy type project that is pretty and can be given as gifts or used when you go RVing or camping.
Melt paraffin or soy wax as directed in the section earlier on How to melt paraffin or wax.
While waiting for your wax to melt, start placing a few tiny craft pine cones and a few broken cinnamon sticks in each cupcake paper. Add in about a teaspoon of dried rosemary alone or with other dried herbs.
Lastly, adorn each box or package with jute twine and sprigs of lavender, evergreen, dried twigs, or berries.
These fancy fire starters are awesome for you but also, they make terrific gifts for your favorite tree hugger, camper or RVer.
✰ READ MORE ✰ 10 Zenful Lavender Farms in the U.S. You Should Visit
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Wrapping up how to make DIY fire starters for campfires or indoor hearth
As you see, there’s so many different ways to make your own DIY fire starters. You can use these to ignite your campfire, BBQ or even your wood burning fire place at home. You can add different variations to each fire starter idea to make it your own.
More great articles on campfires
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