What is in Firelighters?

Understanding the Components and Their Functions

When it comes to igniting fires efficiently, firelighters are an indispensable tool for both indoor and outdoor applications. This article provides an in-depth analysis of what firelighters are made of, their various types, and the roles each component plays in facilitating quick and safe ignition. Whether you’re lighting a cosy fireplace, a barbecue grill, or a campfire, understanding the composition of firelighters can enhance your usage and safety practices.

What is in Firelighters?

Key Ingredients in Firelighters

Firelighters are designed to catch fire easily and sustain a flame long enough to ignite larger, more combustible materials like wood or charcoal. They typically contain the following key ingredients:

  1. Paraffin Wax: Often used as the primary fuel source in solid firelighters, paraffin wax is a petroleum derivative known for its ability to burn cleanly and steadily. It is solid at room temperature and melts and burns when lit, providing a stable fuel source.
  2. Kerosene: This is another common petroleum-based component found in many firelighters. It has a lower flash point than paraffin wax, which helps the firelighter ignite quickly and effectively.
  3. Vegetable Oil: In eco-friendlier versions, vegetable oils may replace or complement petroleum-based oils. These oils serve a similar purpose in terms of fuel provision but are sourced from renewable materials, making them less harmful to the environment.
  4. Sawdust or Wood Chips: These are often used as a binding agent in solid firelighters. Sawdust and wood chips also provide bulk and help maintain the structure of the firelighter while adding to its combustibility.
  5. Binders: Chemical or natural binders are used to hold the components together in a cohesive block or tablet. Common binders include starch, natural gums, or cellulose.

Types of Firelighters

Firelighters come in various forms, each suited to different ignition needs:

  • Solid Firelighters: These are compact blocks or cubes that typically contain a mix of paraffin wax and sawdust. They are the most common type, ideal for outdoor grills and fireplaces.
  • Liquid Firelighters: Composed mainly of lighter fluid (such as kerosene), these are poured over the material to be burned and ignited. They are favored for their quick action, especially in charcoal grills.
  • Gel Firelighters: These are thick, viscous substances, often alcohol-based, which burn cleanly and are easy to apply to specific areas needing ignition.
  • Eco-friendly Firelighters: Increasingly popular, these are made from natural materials such as waxed wood wool, compressed cardboard, or biomass. They aim to reduce the environmental impact while still providing efficient fire-starting capabilities.

Safety and Environmental Considerations

While firelighters are highly effective, they require careful handling to ensure safety. Always store firelighters away from heat sources and out of reach of children. When using liquid or gel firelighters, ensure adequate ventilation to avoid inhalation of fumes.

From an environmental perspective, the shift towards eco-friendly firelighters reflects a growing awareness of the need to minimise ecological footprints. These alternatives not only provide a sustainable choice but also help in reducing the release of harmful chemicals into the environment.


Firelighters are a blend of science and practicality, ingeniously crafted to enhance the experience of lighting fires. Understanding what is in firelighters, from their basic chemical components to the types available, can empower consumers to make informed choices suited to their specific needs while considering safety and environmental impacts. For anyone looking to simplify their fire-lighting process, investing in the right type of firelighter can be a game-changer.