What can you use instead of firelighters? Natural and Household Substitutes

When it comes to igniting a fire, whether for a cosy evening by the fireplace, a backyard bonfire, or a camping trip, firelighters are a common go-to solution. However, environmental concerns, availability issues, or simply the desire for a more cost-effective method might lead you to seek alternatives. Below, we explore various natural and household items that can serve as effective substitutes for commercial firelighters.

1. Newspaper and Cardboard

Old newspapers and cardboard are among the most accessible and easy-to-use alternatives to firelighters. To utilise them effectively, crumple or shred the paper and cardboard to create air pockets that enhance combustion. These materials catch fire quickly and, if arranged properly, can ignite kindling and larger pieces of wood.

2. Dryer Lint

Dryer lint, the fluffy fibers collected from clothes and textiles during the drying process, is an excellent fire starter. It’s lightweight, highly flammable, and usually abundant in households with a clothes dryer. For best results, stuff a handful of dryer lint into an empty toilet paper roll or a small cardboard box to create a compact firelighter.

3. Cotton Balls and Petroleum Jelly

A combination of cotton balls and petroleum jelly makes a long-lasting . The jelly acts as a fuel that burns slowly, while the cotton ball serves as a wicking material. Simply coat the cotton balls in petroleum jelly and store them in a waterproof container for use when needed. Each ball can burn for several minutes, providing ample time to get your fire going.

4. Pine Cones and Resin-rich Wood

Natural materials like pine cones and resin-rich woods such as pine or spruce are excellent fire starters due to their natural oils and resins. Pine cones can be used whole, whereas small sticks or chips of resinous wood catch fire easily and sustain the flame. These materials are particularly useful for outdoor fires.

5. Wax and Sawdust Briquettes

Creating your own wax and sawdust briquettes is a great recycling project that results in effective firelighters. Mix sawdust (or any fine wood shavings) with melted wax (old candles work well) until the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape. Form it into small cakes or cubes and let it harden. These briquettes are slow-burning and reliable for starting fires.

6. Homemade Alcohol Wipes

Alcohol is a highly flammable substance that can be used to make DIY firelighters. Soak paper towels or cotton fabric scraps in rubbing alcohol and store them in a sealed container (ensure it’s fireproof and leak-proof). These wipes will ignite quickly and burn intensely, making them perfect for lighting up kindling.

7. Char Cloth

Char cloth is a lightweight fabric that has been converted to carbon through the process of pyrolysis, making it extremely flammable. To make char cloth, place a piece of cotton fabric (like an old T-shirt) in a metal container, seal it tightly, and place it in a fire until smoking stops. The resulting char cloth catches sparks easily and is a favourite among survivalists.


While traditional firelighters are convenient, the alternatives listed above not only provide you with a variety of options based on what’s readily available but also help you reduce waste by repurposing household items. Whether you’re an avid camper, a fireplace enthusiast, or someone preparing for emergency situations, these solutions ensure you can start a fire efficiently and sustainably. Experiment with these alternatives to find what works best for your specific needs, keeping in mind the importance of safety and the environmental impact of your choices.