Introduction: 5 Ways to Start a Fire, Using Water

Picture of 5 Ways to Start a Fire, Using Water

If you thought fire and water were elemental enemies, think again. In this project you'll see 5 ways to start a fire, using water.

Step 1: Watch the Video!!!

WARNING: Under certain conditions, an open flame can grow to an uncontrollable, blazing fire. This may result in serious injury, burns, property damage, forrest fires, grass fires, and even death. Use of video content is at own risk.

Step 2: #1 - Light Bulb

Picture of #1 - Light Bulb

Grab an old light bulb and chisel out the bottom, so you can see down inside.

Pour in a bit of hot water, and shake it vigorously. You'll notice the white coating washes right out.

After you've rinsed it a couple of times, you should have a crystal clear bulb.

Fill the light bulb with water, cap the bottom with a balloon, and voila! You've just created a makeshift magnifying glass.

Use your liquid light bulb to focus the sunlight on a piece of newspaper. It should start smoking immediately, and just a minute later, burst into flames.

Step 3: #2 - Plastic Wrap

Picture of #2 - Plastic Wrap

Find a small dish and line it with plastic wrap, and push it down so it takes the shape of the bowl.

Add water until the bowl is nearly full, then gather each of the plastic corners at the top. This will form a little liquid pouch, and by twisting the corners together, you can seal the water inside.

You've just formed, a clear liquid sphere, that fits in the palm of your hand.

Put the sun behind you, and focus the light, on a dark piece of paper.

Your tinder should start smoking within seconds, and when enough embers have collected inside, you'll soon have your fire.

Step 4: #3 - Picture Frame

Picture of #3 - Picture Frame

Take a picture frame, and cover it with a layer of plastic wrap.

Suspend it on something that is a couple of feet off the ground.

Carefully pour hot water onto the plastic. As you do this, it will begin to sag. Forming a natural and effective liquid lens.

Gather up something you can use as tinder, and find the focal point of the beam, to concentrate the heat.

When you see your tinder's smoldering, set it down so it rests in the beam.

Now just sit back and watch the elements ignite the fire for you, completely hands free.

Step 5: #4 - Water Bottle

Picture of #4 - Water Bottle

Find a juice bottle, that looks like a giant plastic bubble, and fill it with water. I used a POM bottle my wife got at the grocery store, and took off the label.

Position the liquid filled bubble between the sun, and your tinder pile, until you find the spot where it starts smoking.

Hold everything steady, so the heat will continue to build.

When the smoke is strong and steady, add something like dried grass, to help you lift the pile up, and blow the smoldering embers into a flame.

Step 6: #5 - Elemental Sodium

Picture of #5 - Elemental Sodium

If the clouds have rolled over, and blocked off your solar supply, you can use a toilet paper roll, and a couple chunks of sodium.

The paper roll should be cut in half. Cut a small piece out of the bottom, and push a wad of tissue into the top.

Use the lid of a jar as your starter base. Cover it with one square of toilet paper, and place the small bits of sodium in the middle.

The paper roll sits over top, followed by a heavier gauge kindling. Like a bunch of straw, or dried grass.

Carefully pour a tablespoon of water into the base, and run away.

In just a couple of seconds, a little flame shoots out, igniting the kindling on top. You can see how this would stoke a blazing fire, in just a matter of seconds.

Step 7: More Project Videos

Picture of More Project Videos

Now every experiment has it's dangers, so if you try these methods yourself, make sure you have proper safety equipment, as well as adult supervision.

Well now you know 5 ways to use water, to start a fire.

If you liked this project, perhaps you'll like some of my others. Check them out at


DarrellM5 (author)2016-03-22

Where can i find sodium?

Mark 42 (author)DarrellM52017-09-13


linkaylomen (author)DarrellM52016-03-22

On a popular online auction site. You'll likely find the metals there too. Be very careful.

weare_van (author)DarrellM52016-03-22


BrandX01 (author)weare_van2016-03-22

Salt = sodium + chloride. Elemental sodium is pure sodium and is a bit harder to acquire.

SherpaDoug (author)DarrellM52016-03-22

Decades ago when I was a kid I made sodium by electrolysis of molten salt. I melted salt in a tin can on a gas burner and used a carbon rod from a dead carbon zinc battery with a model train transformer to do the electrolysis. The sodium collected under the salt in the bottom of the can. After a long while I let it cool and recovered my sodium by smashing the can and salt with a hammer. Warning: The electrolysis gave off chlorine gas.

instructible01 (author)2015-03-29

Another one that is really useful for backpacking is Calcium Carbonate. Put it in an old film cannister or other waterproofcontainer until you are ready to use it. Very stable but when it gets wet, ire releases acetylene. Works great.

Where would I buy this at?

Aside from many places on line. I have found it at military surplus stores west of the Mississippi.

nabzim (author)krayzeesmoke2015-03-30

Just google calcium carbide, im sure you can find it in some online store (amazon or ebay likely) (calcium carbonate is not the stuff you want)

nabzim (author)instructible012015-03-29

No. Calcium carbonate does NOT do that. CaCO3 is very non-reactive with water, seeing as how most shelled-organisms/mollusks have an exoskeleton made entirely out of the stuff. Calcium carbonate is chalk. Eggshells. Limestone (mostly). It would not be so abundant throughout nature here on earth, if all it took to react, was water.
Now, the thing you ARE thinking of is calcium carbide, or CaC2. That one produces acetylene gas (C2H2) and calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2) on contact with water (H2O). CaC2 + 2 H2O --> C2H2 + (Ca(OH)2).
Please research or at least simply google the things you claim to be true before posting anywhere, to help stop the spredding of misinformation. Thank you.

instructible01 (author)nabzim2015-03-30

Nabzim, Thank you for correcting the mistake for the greater community but you don't have to be quite so vitreous in the response. Please don't assume that a response is meant out of stupidity or spite. Make the correction in a nice way and all in the community are enlightened and go away in good spirits. Responses like this tend to shut down the flow of information.

nabzim (author)instructible012015-03-30

I kinda already apolagized, but I guess two apologies can't hurt; I'm sorry I sounded harsh, I just personally like to capitalize words to place emphasis on the importance of what im trying to communicate. Some people think this means Im yelling at them or angry or something.... So, sorry again, next time I will consider this. (If you re-read it without any capizalized words, it actually doesn't sound mean or angry at all [in my opinion].)

johnny3h (author)nabzim2017-09-13

RIght on all points!

johnny3h (author)instructible012017-09-13

Wrongb on all counts!

instructible01 (author)nabzim2015-03-29

Hey man, sorry it was a little early. My bad. You ate correct. It is calcium carbide not carbonate. Our does work great. However I would request that you don't come out of the gate with such a repugnant attitude. Everyone makes mistakes but it's how you respond to that that makes the difference in the community. They're was no intent to deceive or come across as a know it all; just trying to contribute so a simple typo mistake Should not be am offense worth a flame response.

johnny3h (author)instructible012017-09-13

Nabzim's reply exhibited no 'repugnance,' AND was NOT a flame. It was however, a very 'simple,'' accurate statement of fact in response to what was NOT 'a simple typo'!!! AND, Calcium CARBONATE versus Calcium CARBIDE is not a 'SIMPLE TYPO'!!!

nabzim (author)instructible012015-03-29

Sorry, I didn't realize that my comment would come off so harsh. I just wanted to emphasize it, because I the other dude who commented also said carbonate, and I just want to save people the hassle of going out, buying carbonate and having it not do anything. My bad

TechPaul (author)instructible012015-03-29

Calcium carbonate is also handy for fishing, add some big chunks into a tin lunch a small hole in the lid , then toss the can in the water. When the acetylene gets to too high a pressure it explodes stunning the fish and they float to the surface. So treat that calcium carbonate carefully, it can be dangerous. And blowing up fishing holes will definitely upset anyone fishes there, which is probably more dangerous.

snoopindaweb (author)TechPaul2015-03-29

Back in the early 70's a Partner and I were hard rock mining with Acetylene lamps. Yup. ~(:-})

jrjohnwood (author)snoopindaweb2016-03-22

I was gold mining in the 50's with carbide lamps. Unscrew the lid and spit in it, even has a striker on the reflecter. Still got 6 of them left. Get carbide at welding supply. Use it in horticulture too.

instructible01 (author)TechPaul2015-03-30

TechPaul, as corrected earlier, its Calcium carbide not carbonate. I "misspoke". I bet it is a sight but beware that sort of fishing is illegal in many areas. It would probably work the same if you used a soda bottle with rocks, (balast), dry ice and water without the gas being flammable.

I think you mean calcium carbide

GSwag (author)2016-03-22

this has gotten out of hand and completely stupid. People keep referencing these oxidizing agents being mixed with some organic component, like you can just run right out and buy this stuff instead of materials made to safely create fires. Sure, I could go get some bromates, chlorates, chlorites, dichloroisocyanuricacid salts, nitrates, nitrites, percarbonates, perchlorates, permanganates, peroxides, oxygen, or organic peroxides to mix with combustibles to create a fire or worse..........or I could just go to wal mart and buy a lighter. Telling people to start fires using sodium or some of these other materials is very irresponsible, impractible and downright dangerous

johnny3h (author)GSwag2017-09-13

You suregot that right!

Cayotica (author)GSwag2016-03-22


rogue_saint_michael (author)2017-06-08

Please excuse my ignorance, but where do you find chunks of sodium?

uh im pretty sure that sodium is just another name for salt.

johnny3h (author)Miniature_Music2017-09-13

Sorry, no offense, but Salt is Sodium Chloride. Sodium is an individual element which is one of the two combined elements making salt [Sodium Chloride].


Mark 42 (author)2016-03-22

"WARNING: Under certain conditions, an open flame can grow to an uncontrollable, blazing fire."

Really? Have we come that far? If we really need disclaimers like that, we're doomed.

Meglymoo87 (author)Mark 422017-06-04

And yet if he didn't write a disclaimer and someone was stupid enough not to think it through (oh, believe me, society and the teens etc these days can make you cringe!) and caused damage or worse, I'm sure they'd sue Instructables and him etc. It's better to be safe than sorry. ;)

Mark 42 (author)Meglymoo872017-06-08

In other words, we're doomed.

Gadget93 (author)Mark 422016-03-22

Warning! A match might start a fire.

Hahahahahahahahaha LMAOROTF

rayleb (author)2016-06-10

your talking salt, and water?

sodium is just salt , right?

_-MacGyver-_ (author)rayleb2016-06-17

I can't give you an exact answer on this, but i believe the sodium he is referring to is obtained by putting basic table salt in a foundry and melting. If i remember correctly, the reactive part stays behind in the molten slag, and everything else burns off . I could be way off here though.

WalterR1 (author)2016-03-25

If you're stuck out on the tundra in the middle of winter and need to start a fire it's possible to fashion a magnifying glass out of a chunk of ice as well.

mary.beheler (author)2016-03-22

Calcium carbide + water produces acetylene. Question: It won't light itself, will it? Isn't an ignition source still needed?

SteveA35 (author)mary.beheler2016-03-25

I confess- playing with dangerous stuff as a pre-teen. Combining my knowledge of two reactions; calcium carbide + water and potassium permanganate + glycerin, I launched 3# coffee cans (anyone remember those?) 20-30' in the air.

Won't give anymore details in case some aspiring young chemist is reading this junk.

consgarden (author)2016-03-24

Another easy way to start a fire is to use a small fresnel lens. An 8"x10" size fresnel lens is a magnifier for reading books and does a great job. They also come in smaller sizes, like a bookmark, but it would have to be a good quality lens. Credit card size ones don't work at all.

kkmmccoy (author)2016-03-24

this is great who knew that you can start a fire with something that is used to put it out

arnold.walker.77 (author)2016-03-23

Many do not seem to understand that what is old is new at times....

Your first headlights were not electric,most were calcium carbide .

At same time,both sodium and magnesium can be really mean when working with them.

There are so many things that been on the shelf,that are still useful today.

With my work on old steam engines and I noticed what commenters remarks with starting wood fired boiler,but can also take other items not commonly thought of as firestarter as well.Instead of using a propane torch to light your wood boiler can use a standard heatgun with good tender like most campers use.Add toilet paper or leaves to "spark" the flame when it flares from the heat and airflow with tender catching at blacksmith forge temperatures...if you know what you are doing.

Much of this is like my profile picture,they look and see one of the newest gas Motorcycles(Ellio).It never occurs to them that I am using a microturbine version of the most advanced engines used in a electric utility power generation plant.Run 10x the efficiency of solar or thermocouple electric at 70% efficiency.It is also plug compatible with vehicle generating electric to charge capacitors(batteries never ever can charge as often or survive the harsh environment that a capacitor can.)

Golfingpunk (author)2016-03-23

Fantastic ideas - thanks for sharing!

Dawsie (author)2016-03-23

thanks for the information :-) I have never thought of doing that with the cling wrap :-) should be fun to try at the next BBQ :-) rather than using my normal method of the old matchstick :-) I am going to give the wrapped wrap a go :-)

Thanks :-)

Cayotica (author)2016-03-22

wasn't what I was expecting until method 5. I was praying he wouldn't use sodium it's nasty stuff, doesn't know the difference between water and body sweat. It takes guts to handle sodium, yep most of them. Reminds me of an old adage "any fool can blow nitro, and nitro can blow any fool."

halfwolf (author)2016-03-22

You can also use sodium chlorite (finely
powdered) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C), also finely powdered, in equal parts and mix them
good. A couple of drops of water along with stirring it will cause a
reaction which quickly turns to fire.

User1 (author)2016-03-22

OT: Anyone know how some responders here got the "a year ago" time that they responded?

I'm not a noob here but pretty freaking close.

Cheeseguy (author)2016-03-22

As long as we're talking chemical reactions, potassium and water react about as violently as sodium and water. Potassium permanganate (available at Lowe's or Home Depot, just google it) and glycerin (available at any health food store) when mixed will also create a flame after a few seconds. Potassium permanganate has several other SHTF uses and should be part of everyone's bug out bag.

About This Instructable




Bio: Random Weekend Projects
More by The King of Random:5 Ways to Start a Fire, Using Water How to make a Batarang like "The Dark Knight"How to Make Ninja Stress Balls
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