DIY Repurposing

5 Cheap and Easy DIY Fire Starters You Can Make in Minutes

Trying to get a blaze going in your fireplace? Crumpled newspaper won't cut it. Instead, use materials that are otherwise destined for the dust bin to make a DIY fire starter.
Donna Boyle Schwartz Avatar
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If you love your fireplace and spending time in front of a cheery, crackling flame, you’re no doubt familiar with fire starters like Duraflame and fatwood. These treated wood pieces facilitate the burning of firewood, helping to get the show on the road more quickly. Neither type is cheap, though, and you may not always have one readily at hand. Learning how to make a DIY fire starter using common household items will cut household costs, and ensure that you can always get those home fires burning in a flash. Here are  some clever, inexpensive ways to make your own fire starters.

1. Dryer Lint Fire Starter

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Photo: JannHuizenga from Getty Images Signature

The easiest DIY fire starter to make involves two things that are pretty easy to find in American homes: dryer lint and a cardboard toilet paper roll. Whenever you clean the lint trap in your dryer (which should be after each use, by the way), set the fuzzy fibers aside until you have enough fluff to stuff a cardboard roll end to end. For best results, use two or three lint-stuffed rolls to start your next fire. Pro tip: The lint won’t burn properly if it’s packed too tightly. Be sure to leave enough room for air to circulate through.

2. Waxed Pine Cone Fire Starters

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Photo: Glenda Taylor

Looking for a fun, practical use for all those fallen pine cones in the yard? Try making all-natural fire starters. By dipping the pine cones in beeswax, you can make fire starters that are both attractive and effective for getting wood fires burning. You’ll need the following ingredients and supplies:

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Melt the beeswax in the top of a double boiler over Low heat. Be patient: It could take up to 15-20 minutes to fully melt.
  2. Hold a pine cone by its base and dip the pointed end into the melted beeswax, covering as much of the cone as possible without getting wax on your fingers. Lift and let the excess wax drip back into the pan.
  3. Set the pine cone aside on a piece of waxed paper to cool. Dip the remaining pine cones in the beeswax.
  4. Dip each pine cone in wax again to create a thicker coating of wax. At this point, if you like, you can roll the warm pine cone in Epsom salt to give it a frosty look.

Variations: To color the pine cones, try adding a bit of grated crayon to the beeswax as you’re melting it. You can also stir a few drops of essential oil into the melted wax to give the pine cones a welcoming scent, such as cinnamon or pine needle.

3. Cotton Ball Fire Starters

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Photo: Kameleon007 from Getty Images

Handy for a slew of household needs, cotton balls are a staple in most medicine cabinets. They’re also highly flammable, especially when they’re soaked in petroleum jelly. To make this DIY fire starter, simply roll a bunch of cotton balls in Vaseline until they are saturated in the jelly. Once they’re nice and sticky, store the balls in a resealable plastic bag until you need them. Tossing three or four into the hearth at a time should get your fire going. If you don’t have any cotton balls, try using Vaseline-covered cotton swabs or rounds.

4. Egg Carton Fire Starters

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Photo: KorradolYamsattham from Getty Images

The cool thing about this DIY fire starter idea is that it yields a bunch of fire starters that are compact enough to transport easily. Here’s how to make them:

  1. Start with an empty egg carton.
  2. Collect enough candle nubs and broken crayons to fill a tin can. Place the can in a pot of water on the stove, and heat the pot over low heat until the wax simmers and finally melts.
  3. While the wax is simmering, fill each compartment in the egg carton with a combustible material such as dryer lint, sawdust, or shredded paper.
  4. Pour melted wax over the combustibles in each egg compartment. When the wax cools and dries, break apart the individual egg compartments, and you’ll have a dozen fire starters.

5. Duct Tape Fire Starter

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Photo: suslik83 from Getty Images

File this under “who knew?”: In a pinch, a ball of duct tape makes a serviceable fire starter. Duct tape is flammable, particularly when it’s crumpled into a loose ball. To really get your fire going, wrap duct tape around a crumpled sheet of newspaper, or spritz the duct tape with a generous dollop of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.