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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution


DIY Fire Starters from Recycled Materials

There’s nothing quite like a crackling fire in the fireplace or wood stove on cold winter nights. Not being able to get a fire easily started, though, can really put a damper on things. Fortunately, there are easier ways to start a roaring fire than just rubbing two sticks together or buying expensive kindling logs. An added bonus is you can put them together with mostly recycled materials you probably have laying around the house.

family warming feet in front of fireplace
Photo by Fotolia.

Toilet Paper Roll Fire Starters

Lint is the secret to success with these easy-to-make bundles—it’s highly flammable and makes great tinder. All you need is dryer lint, scrap paper (like newspaper or paper grocery bags—don’t use glossy paper as it tends to have chemicals in the ink you don’t want to burn), cardboard toilet paper rolls and twine (save your garden twine from trellising plants this summer). Assembling them is easy: Stuff a tube with lint, then wrap it in paper with a couple of inches overhanging each end. Twist the ends of the paper, in the way peppermint candies are wrapped. Tie a little bit of twine on each end to keep it closed.

Egg Carton Fire Starters

These cartons utilize soy wax, making them extra long-burning. That’s a great feature when trying to start a fire with damp wood, or outdoors while camping in poor weather conditions. You’ll need a paper egg carton (do not use Styrofoam cartons—Styrofoam should never be burned), dryer lint, and about a cup of plain soy wax flakes. You’ll also want a large can to melt the wax in—you can use this for all of your wax melting projects so you don’t have to worry about cleaning up dishes or pans.

First, cut the top off of the egg carton and reserve it for another project (makes a great disposable tray for paint or crafts for kids) since we’ll only use the bottom of the carton for the fire starters. Stuff each section of the carton with lint, then set aside while you melt the wax. Put the wax flakes into the can and set it into a saucepan about half full of water, to form a temporary double boiler. Simmer the water, stirring the wax occasionally, until it’s completely melted. Carefully pour a tablespoon or so of molten wax over the lint in each cup. Let the wax cool and harden, then cut each cup apart, so that you have 12 individual fire starters.

Pine Cone Fire Starters

All that’s needed for these is foraged pine cones and soy wax. Melt the wax using the above method, and dip each pine cone into the wax, lightly coating it. Leave about a half-inch bare at the top so the pine cone can be lit (and so you don’t burn your fingers). Due to the wax extending the burn time, these are also nice to use with damp wood or in adverse conditions.

Herb Bundles

Dried herb bundles make good fire starters and have the added benefit of smelling wonderful. Lavender, sage and rosemary are great for this! Just take a handful of dried herbs (still on the stems) and wrap it in a little twine—instant fire starter!

If you know someone who appreciates a well-laid fire or enjoys outdoor pursuits, putting together a basket of fire accessories is a gift that can be enjoyed on multiple occasions. Choose a nice basket (half bushel baskets look great), or something fun and unusual, like an old-fashioned coal hod or a wood carrying sling. Fill it with your choice of fire starters—a selection is nice if you have the time and materials to make several different kinds. Add in some nice wooden or waterproof matches and a bundle of kindling sticks, and you’ve got a nice gift set that any fire aficionado will appreciate!


Amanda is passionate about cooking, gardening and crafting. To read more, please check out Apartment Farm.