Starting a campfire can be challenging, especially if the wood is damp or you’re struggling to find dry tinder. However, with a simple DIY project, those pesky used cotton balls can be repurposed into handy, biodegradable fire starters that will have your campfire roaring in no time.
Gather Your Materials
The beauty of this project is that it requires only a few inexpensive, easy-to-find ingredients:
Used cotton balls – Make sure they are clean and dry. Cotton balls used for makeup removal or first aid purposes work well.
Wax – Beeswax is ideal, but soy wax or paraffin wax also work nicely.
Double boiler or melting pot – This is necessary for melting the wax.
Slow cooker liner or cupcake liners (optional) – These make removal and storage easier.
Popsicle sticks or toothpicks (optional) – Helpful for holding the cotton balls while dipping in wax.
Prepare the Cotton Balls
Collect used cotton balls until you have a sizable amount. Make sure they are dry and free of debris. Fluff and separate the cotton balls to maximize fluffiness. For best results, try to avoid compacted cotton balls.
You can also consider cutting larger cotton balls in half to create more individual fire starters. The more surface area, the better.
Melt the Wax
Add wax to the top pot of a double boiler or a melting pot. Heat over low flame until wax is fully melted and liquid.
Beeswax melts at around 140°F-145°F. Soy wax becomes liquid at 115°F-135°F. Paraffin wax melts at 115°F-150°F.
Avoid overheating the wax as it can become flammable at temps over 400°F.
Coat the Cotton Balls
Once wax is melted, reduce heat to low. Dip cotton balls into the wax using popsicle sticks or toothpicks. Dunk cotton balls into the wax and turn to coat.
Alternatively, simply pour the melted wax over the cotton balls in a bowl. Fully saturate each cotton ball while allowing excess wax to drip off.
If using cupcake liners or slow cooker liners, place dipped cotton balls directly into the liners to harden.
Allow to Dry
Place wax-coated cotton balls on a parchment paper lined baking sheet or surface where they can fully dry and harden. This takes 1-2 hours.
The wax will soak into the cotton ball while creating a hardened outer shell that allows the cotton fluff inside to catch a spark.
Use as Fire Starters
To use, simply place wax-coated cotton balls under your kindling. The outer wax helps the cotton ignite quickly even when slightly damp. The interior cotton acts as excellent tinder to start your campfire.
Light carefully and never leave a fire unattended. Make sure fire is completely extinguished before leaving campsite.
Store for Later Use
Leftover cotton ball fire starters can be stored in plastic bags or tins for later use. The wax coating helps repel moisture.
With just a few household items, you can easily upcycle used cotton balls into fire starters that are not only reusable but also biodegradable. Give it a try next time you are prepping for a camping trip or bracing for a power outage. Let the cotton ball upcycling begin!