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Eccological fire starters

Commercially made fire starters are mainly made of some nasty chemicals which are as bad for the environment as they smell.

These environmentally friendly firelighters use mainly waste products and because they are waterproof are ideal for barbecues, camping, fishing or to light wood burners inside the home. To make them even more useful add a few drops of essential oil to the wax while after it melts. These will then act as natural room fresheners.


  • Cotton wool. Some people use the “lint” from tumble dryers but we find this a bit smoky.
  • Petroleum jelly (e.g. Vaseline) cheap brands are ok
  • wax chips or (old candles work just as well)
  • wood shavings and/or sawdust
  • baking tray (optional)
  • A container to mould the fire starts in tart or cupcake tray in silicone is ideal. If using a metal mould use paper cases.
  • Resealable plastic bag
  • Stick to stir the mix – cocktail stick or coffee stirrer (used is fine)

Safety warning: you never want to melt wax directly on a heat source such as a stove element or direct flame. Like most things involving heat, never leave it alone!


Surprisingly, the hardest part is coating the cotton wool with the petroleum jelly. Coat the cotton wool with the petroleum jelly and work in. What you want to end up with is clumps of cotton wool a little under half the width and height of the mould. Make one clump for each fire starter you are making. Store them in a resealable plastic bag until you are ready.

Place some sawdust / shaving in the bottom of each mould just below halfway.

Heat you wax in a double burner. The safest way to melt wax is in a double boiler pan. Wax will typically melt above 37 centigrade (100 Fahrenheit) depending on what it is made of. A double boiler temperature will stop rising around 100 c well below the flash point of wax.

Once it is molten, pour the wax over the sawdust until is absorbed covered. You may need to give it a little stir with the stick.

Return the wax to the double burner

Whilst the wax hasn’t set, remove cotton wool from the bag and place one clump in each mould.

Cover with more sawdust mix leaving a gap at the top of the mould.

Cover with more wax so there is a layer of wax at the top.

To use

Scrape off the top of the fire starter to reveal the cotton wool. Pull a few strands out and light.

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