Homemade Tinder

Homemade Tinder

Fire tends to play a key part in a lot of survival situations. Being prepared for these situations can make surviving them a bit easier. Having some ready made tinder that will take a spark and get a fire going in a few seconds can save a lot of time searching for material in the wild. There are some very common materials that are readily available  for you to use to make some homemade tinder.

Vaseline soaked cotton wool balls

This is a well-known homemade form of tinder and it works very well. As the name suggests it is a cotton wool ball covered in petroleum jelly (Vaseline). They are very simple to make. Take a cotton wool ball (ensuring it is 100% cotton) and cover it with Vaseline. Be careful not to completely saturate the cotton as you need some dry fibers to take a flame (this is particularly important if you are using a fire steel or magnesium rod).


Cotton takes a spark very easily and once soaked in Vaseline it will burn for a long time.
They are light weight and take up next to no space in your survival kit or bug out bag.
They are very cheap to buy and make.


Messy to make
If too much Vaseline is used, it can become harder to light.

To light a fire, pull the cotton wool ball apart slightly (making it fluffy), put a spark to it and then build your fire around the burning ball.

Char cloth

This is another relatively simple method of creating your own tinder but brings in a bit of science.

Basically it is using the process of pyrolysis (in very basic terms – the process of chemically altering a material by using heat) to turn a piece of material into ready-made tinder.

To make your own char cloth, you will need to cut some material from an old t shirt or other apparel. Only use 100% cotton. T shirts work great! Cut the material into small squares.

These squares then get placed into a tin which can be tightly sealed shut. A small hole needs to be placed in the tin (about the size of a nail) to allow for smoke to escape. Once the tin is sealed, place it over a fire. You will see smoke coming out of the hole made with the nail. Keep the tin over the fire until the smoke stops. Cover the hole and let everything cool off.

Once you open the tin you should have your own char cloth ready to take a spark.


Small size makes it light to carry around
It takes a spark amazingly well.
It is pretty quick to make.


Potentially can be frustrating if you make the hole in your tin too big, this will allow oxygen inside causing your material to catch fire as opposed to heat up.
There is a chance you could ignite it unexpectedly as it will catch even a small spark.

Tumble dryer lint

The fluffy stuff that builds up on the inside of your dryer’s door takes a spark remarkably well. This is ready-made tinder (as long as it is dry) and it takes no effort to make it. You simply collect it!


Easy to get hold of
Takes a spark easily


Burns very quickly
Lint from synthetic materials will not burn well


Another method that takes very little effort. Crumpled up newspaper makes great tinder. It will take a spark and burn long enough to get a reasonable fire going around it.


Easily accessible
Can be stored in a bag with no hassle
No preparation needed. Just crumple it up and put a spark to it.


Won’t light if it gets wet
Burns quicker than other tinder’s mentioned

Sawdust and paraffin wax

Place sawdust over a cooking tray. Cover the sawdust with melted wax. Place in the fridge to cool before cutting the end product into 1 – 2 inch squares for your kit.


Burns for a long time and at a high temperature
Can make a lot of it in one go


Can stick together if not stored appropriately (wrap in foil)
Can be difficult to catch a spark. Best if used with the flame from a match or lighter.

Experiment making different types of tinder. See which ones most easily hold a spark and flame under differing conditions.

Practice makes perfect!

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