Awesome Firestarters From Everyday Bathroom Objects





Introduction: Awesome Firestarters From Everyday Bathroom Objects

About: I'm a student at Harvey Mudd College in CA who loves to play sports and to run, and I always like to play a good game of Ultimate Frisbee. I was a scout, so I greatly enjoy camping, tying knots, cooking over...

        In this Instructable I intend to explain how to make some of the easiest to make, most portable, and overall awesome burning firestarters that you will find. All of these products in the fire starters are things that I found in my bathroom (or my sister's bathroom), and did not purchase just for my own pyro-esque uses.

Almost all of these creations are my own, or ones that I stumbled upon while looking at warning labels that "warned" that the product was very flammable, which is like warning a child that there is sugar in some food, as if that will stop him/her from eating it.

I have entered this in the Unusual Uses Bathroom Challenge, so if you like my 'ible, please vote for it in the contest. Thanks.


Step 1: Materials

All of the materials that I used are ones that I found around the house, but if you need to you can also buy some of the materials, as these fire starters are not to be missed.

To make these you only really need three things:

-Some sort of cotton : That includes cotton balls, cotton squares, and cotton rounds. You can buy these at a pharmacy, or presumably any place that sell nail polish, because that is what cotton balls are mainly used for. (I think?)

-Some sort of alcohol: That includes denatured isopropyl alcohol (or similar), and if nail polish if you are desperate. I suppose that if you have some moonshine sitting around you could also use that. you can buy this in the first aid section of a pharmacy or a Wal Mart-like store.

-Some sort of concentrated petroleum product : (and I don't mean gasoline) That include petroleum jelly A.K.A. Vaseline, and mineral oil. You can buy these at a pharmacy, or at a Walmart-like store, I don't know where to get the petroleum jelly specifically, but the mineral oil will be labeled as a laxative, and you don't need the food grade kind. (You're not eating it are you?)

Personally, I don't think it matters what kind of cotton you get, but the balls are more portable, yet I like the flat squares the best.

For alcohol, get the highest concentration of alcohol possible (90% or above), but if you are lazy, you can use nail polish, but it is not nearly as awesome. A bottle isn't that expensive, and it may not be a bad investment, as it is actually really got for cleaning cuts anyways.

For the petroleum, I think the jelly is the best as it is the most concentrated and hottest burning, but the mineral oil is still very good, and it is much less messy, and you don't have to worry about  spreading it.

If you are planning on storing the fire starters, you may also need some sort of sealed container/ baggie, and you may also want some sort of bowl for mixing the ingredients.

Step 2: Pull Apart the Cotton

The first step is to tearing up the cotton, or pulling it apart to increase its volume.
When you add the alcohol, it will shrink, but when I'm trying to make a one time use fire starter, I still think it's important to pull it apart, because it makes it easier to put the petroleum jelly/mineral oil in. It also helps it absorb a little bit more alcohol, although it doesn't make a huge difference.

Step 3: Add the Alcohol

The next thing that you need to do is add the alcohol or nail polish. Don't add more than the cotton can absorb or you will just end up wasting the alcohol. You want to add almost as much as the cotton can absorb, so that when you work the petroleum jelly or mineral oil into them almost no alcohol will squeeze out.

Step 4: Work in the Petroleum Jelly/Mineral Oil

If you are using Petroleum Jelly
To finish making your fire starter(s), you need to mix the petroleum jelly into the alcohol soaked cotton ball. I like to use my hands, and I suggest that you do too, because it mixes the two together better, but if you prefer to stay clean, you can. Before and after you do this, you probably want to wash your hands, because they can get pretty nasty from handling messy petroleum jelly. This doesn't require any special sort of finesse, although you want to add enough, (at least a tablespoon's worth, but less if you are only making like one or two cotton ball's worth) so that it is completely covered in the petroleum jelly, and so that is mixed throughout the cotton. When you've mixed it in, give the cotton a little squeeze, unless it is pretty dry, to get out any excess alcohol.

If you are using Mineral Oil
To finish making your fire starter(s), you need to mix a small amount of mineral oil into your alcohol soaked cotton ball. Before and after you do this, you probably want to wash your hands, because they can get pretty oily from handling a lot mineral oil. To mix it in, put a small amount of the oil on you hands and knead it into the cotton mixture. Continue to do this until the cotton is pretty oily, but not dripping, as you want enough, but not too much. When you've mixed it in, give the cotton a little squeeze, unless it is pretty dry, to get out any excess oil/alcohol

Step 5: Storage (Optional)

If you want to store your fire starters, I suggest putting them in a plastic baggie (preferably, one that zips shut), or some sort of container that you can reuse, such as an empty bottle of ibuprofen which doesn't take up much space in a pack, or a washed out jar of salsa for larger quantities.

Step 6: The Fun Step (Lighting Your Fire Starter)

Now you get to use your awesome fire starters! In case you don't know how to set up wood for a fire, you can learn how to light a fire on this 'ible . They will burn for approximately ten minutes, so if you are super lazy (like me) you can probably get your tinder after you have already lit your fire starters. What makes them so effective is that they burn in 3 stages, first the alcohol burns, until it has heated the petroleum product to a gas, after which it lights, and then when those two run out, the cotton ball itself burns. These are also easily flammable enough to light with any sort of fire-lighter, not just matches or a lighter, so you can use your trusty flint and steel, or one of those old Native American techniques, and it should work quite easily. Also, these will light when wet, and you can literally have them burn on water (as you can see in my picture).

Note:   Also, these fire starters make good torches, that last from somewhere from 5-15 minutes depending on how big a fire-starter you use. All you have to do is tie a bundle of it to a green stick using some sort of non-flammable rope (or wet rope), and light it. 
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    64 Discussions

    Listerine could be good, It has alcohol in it (I know you talked about other alcohol fire starters)

    Another good firestarter is to take a plastic straw, cut it into 1-1/2" lengths, Heatseal one end with a pair of cheapie knockoff leatherman style pliers you don't mind heating the tip on, stuffing it full of petroleum jelly saturated cotton, heat seal the other end. You then have a waterproof firestarter that will burn for about 1-1/2 minutes (timed one once).

    2 replies

    I don't know about using drinking straws... fire + plastic = toxic fumes that you don't want to breath in. But as long as you don't care, it's fine with me.

    Take the cotton out of the plastic and fluff it up. sorry for not including that.

    The vaseline and cotton by themselves lights very easily. You just have to fluff up the fibers before you add the spark. After you massage in the vaseline, fold the cotton ball into a small square of alluminum foil. When you need to use it, cut an "X" into the foil and fluff up the fibers. It will probably light on the first spark. The foil contains the jelly until you need it.

    This looks more like a Fire Fuel then a Fire Starter. Looks like you used a match to start it

    2 replies

    Well in America, the word fire starter refers to both the fuel, and the external source of heat with which you light it. It's kinda stupid and confusing, but that's the way the word is used, so that's the way I used it.

    Weird. I live in America and have never heard it used like that. Fire starters seem to be things that start fires. And fuel is fuel. Maybe it's where u live because I have never heard it used that way :) nice to know

    also works great with dryer lint... i store mine in empty toilet paper rolls (the cardboard) great for storage and not messy. just cut off about an inch at a time, its all you need to start a fire pit

    1 reply

    I've done the drier lint bit, and while it works, it's not as reliable due to accumulated skin, oils, hair and other inert materials. the burn is not as even, and not as long lasting.

    I wash out and reuse little brown pill bottles. They're small, hold 12-15 saturated cotton balls, and don't break. Nice tutorial!

    I posted a really neat and fun to way to make fire starters on my blog
    I use these firestarters everytime I make a fire in our firepit and they never fail me!

    I thought of a similar but different fuel last year.
    There's the link if you are interested. I think yours would be messier to make, but easier to store.

    2 replies

    Hey, I like getting messy. What am I gonna do about it. Nice job on your Instructable, though. If you have a video of you burning it, then it might attract more viewers.

    Thanks! This was my first non-photo 'ible, so I'm happy to know you think it's cool.

    Wouldn't melting the vaseline then mixing the alcohol into it be another way to accomplish this?

    1 reply

    I tried lighting plain cotton balls and Vaselined cotton balls.The ones with Vaseline did not want to light at all. So the alcohol seems very important. Is that your experience that cotton balls and Vaseline wont light? I read that cotton ball thing on some survival web site or camping. The idea was to keep the cotton ball dry. But I never had any luck with it and the Vaseline. Cotton balls in a 35 mm film container for camping sure work out nicely