Looking for DIY Fire starters? Whether you call them friction fire starters, bow fire starters, or char cloth fire starters, one thing is clear, they can help start a fire quickly and we found the best ways to make them easily and make sparks fly quickly. You may not always have flint or other fire starters stocked in your camping gear. Knowing how to make some easy homemade fire starters is a great (and affordable) way to always be prepared whether you are camping, in the backyard, at the grill, lighting a wood stove or at your fireplace staying cozy.

Lighting a fire isn’t always as easy as you’d hope. Whether you’re starting a fire in your fireplace, on charcoal grills or enjoying nature around the campfire, sometimes we could all use a little help with these best fire starters you can DIY.

What is the best DIY Fire Starter??

My guess is you already have a houseful of items that are destined for the trashcan, but instead could be put to use helping you start a fire faster!! Making DIY fire starters is easier than you may think! And, you can make them for FREE, which is even better! After literally starting THOUSANDS of fires in our outdoor fire pit (sob, our new home doesn’t have a fireplace – yet!!) we know how hard it is to start a fire when it’s wet out, or windy. That’s why keeping a supply of fire starters on hand is so helpful!

Don’t get stuck striking waterproof matches over and over again in wet weather conditions without this backup idea for getting that fire started.

Here’s our list of favorite fire starters:

1. Dryer Lint + Toilet Paper Tube For Fire Starting

Yup, you read it right. The most effective way I’ve personally found to start a roaring fire is probably one you’ve never thought of…dryer lint.

Toilet paper tube stuffed with dryer lint

Yup, the regular old’ lint that you are probably just tossing straight into the trash every day is a goldmine of fire-starting goodness for fire starter reliability. All you need is a lighter, some logs and matches!!

To make a fire starter with lint:

  1. Take a cardboard tube (like the one from your toilet paper or paper towel roll).
  2. Pack it full with lint.
  3. Set it in your kindling, light and enjoy!

2. Pinecones – Second easiest way to start a fire

Natural materials work wonders! Use pinecones alone – the sap is SUPER flammable and smells SO GOOD as you are starting your embers. Grab a match and hold it under the pinecone for a fast flame. BUT… pinecones alone they can light up fast and disappear just as fast. Which can be a problem when the logs or charcoals haven’t caught the flames. To make the pinecone truly be a fire starter, dip it in wax first. The wax will hold the flame a little longer helping your logs catch fire.

3. Needed Supplies for Emergency Situations & Beyond

Planning ahead for your next fire makes everything less stressful.  It is one of the reasons why I love The Camping planner which includes not only ALL the checklists you could need to make sure you don’t forget the important necessities, but also a GIANT list of roughly 50 memory-making activities to enjoy while you are camping so you can enjoy the fire… and the best thing is it’s only $7!!

4. DIY Fire Starters – Burn Smudges!

These smell so SO GOOD!! That is why we made it our #4 choice. A solid campfire just gives you a cozy feeling, but in the early stages of your fire you will have a lot of smoke (especially if your wood or fire pit is a touch damp). Making smudges helps your fire especially in that early smoky stage so much more pleasant!! These are always my favs. Grab your knife and cut up a batch of  aromatic branches like sage, lemongrass, mint, cedar, rosemary, roses, cinnamon sticks, pine needles, bay leaves, lavender… Basically, if it smells good ADD it!!  You can smell the lovely flavor!

5. How to Start a Fire with Paper Logs

Create paper logs using household items (see the list of suggestions below). These are super easy to create and the mix of items (using paper or lint and small branches or orange peels) will help your logs and charcoal catch fire more quickly.

We like to add a paper log at the bottom AND at the top of our log stack. This will allow the fire to completely “catch” the flames in your entire wood stack, your campfire will be ready for smores in no time.  These also look really nice stacked like wood next to indoor fireplaces.

Here are some DIY fire staters we’ve used to create paper fire logs:

  • Cotton balls – we love to mix cotton with small twigs or even cinnamon sticks.
  • Shredded paper – Use those old bills!! Ha! Best use of the shredded statements!
  • Dried orange peel – not only will this smell great, but it works great too!
  • Corks soaked in rubbing alcohol – soak wine corks in rubbing alcohol for a fire starter that’s super easy to use. Store them in an airtight container like a mason jar to ensure the alcohol doesn’t evaporate (or smell).
  • Greasy potato chips – the higher fat content, the better for this one!
  • Hand sanitizer – we are all well-stocked with sanitizer these days. Drizzle or spray some onto your firewood pile and you have an instant fire starter!
  • Duct tape – yup, a fire starter is just one of the many things you can make with duct tape!
  • Pencil shavings – create wood shavings and use them to start your campfire simply by sharpening a stick.

HINT!! To keep the items contained, wrap them in plain brown paper. This helps your DIY fire starter “supplies” not blow away from your logs as the fire is starting. They also look great on top of the wood pile!

6. Cotton Balls + Petroleum Jelly = Fire Starter!

Another very basic, yet effective DIY fire starters are cotton balls! The balls themselves will work okay, but when you add in petroleum jelly, aka vaseline – who knew it could be used for this – they work very well and are known for their compactness, but be sure to store them in a waterproof case!

You may need to get your hands a little messy for this one. Simply put a spoonful of petroleum jelly in your hand, then add a cotton ball and massage the jelly into the ball. Store them in a plastic bag until you are ready to use! Thanks Picky Stitch for this idea!!

7. Sawdust + Wax + Cupcake Liners = Great Fire

If you have someone who enjoys woodworking in your life, take advantage! Ask them to save you some sawdust and you can make a simple siy fire starter for F-R-E-E!

To make this fire starter, you’ll need wax, sawdust, and paper cupcake liners. Then follow these step by step directions:

  1. Pour a layer of sawdust into the cupcake wrappers, filling them about halfway.
  2. Melt the wax, then pour a layer of wax on top of the sawdust. Make sure the sawdust is fully submerged.
  3. Let cool completely.

Don’t have any sawdust on hand? No problem! You can make the same fire starter as above, but with shredded paper instead.

8. Cardboard Egg Cartons!!

Making a fire starter with an egg carton and dryer lint

You can fill the carton with charcoals, stack them under and between layers of wood, or even make them into wax “pellets” – each “egg spot” can become a fire starter when you fill it with flammable items. Just add a little beeswax to slow the burn time, and you have a portable fire starter you can take anywhere.

If you don’t have beeswax available, you can instead use wax from old candles, or even crayons in a pinch!

To make this homemade fire starter:

  1. Melt wax in a double boiler until it is fully liquid.
  2. Take an egg carton and feel each slot with a mound of dryer lint.
  3. Pour the wax on top of the dryer lint to fill each carton.
  4. Allow the wax to cool completely, then cut each carton so they are fully divided into 12 sections.
  5. To use, flip it upside down and light the side with the carton material.

9. Collect Tinder in Burning Discs for Your Fire

We saw these on Pinterest and LOVED them!! (could not find the source, so if this is you let us know so we can link to you!!) Fill a paper cupcake liner with some wadded toilet paper or confetti, add spices like anise pods, cinnamon, cloves, small pine cones! Not only will your fire start quickly, it will smell AH-MAZ-ING!

Now that I know how easy they are to make and have on hand all the time, I’ll never struggle with lighting a fire again. These fire starters help you get a fire blazing in no time (and for a lot less money)!

While many of these ideas can be used both indoors and outdoors, read the directions carefully just in case one is too dangerous for an indoor fire. We want you to stay safe and warm.

If you’re in the mood to try something a little more involved or different, give some of these clever DIY fire starter projects a try!

10. Build a Mini Fireplace – In a Can

This is literally the most genius mini-campfire! You take cardboard (plain brown and without dyes is best) make a coil with the cardboard as tight as you possibly can, pour wax over the cardboard – or vaseline if that’s what you have on-hand… and viola! You have a mini household or backpack-ready fire pit!

11. Create a DIY Fire Starters Kit to Take Camping

Complete with matches, a striker, cotton balls, small pieces of wood, and even marshmallows, creating a firestarter tin will help you be prepared for any camping trip inside a water-resistant case.

campfire starter kit in a tin

12. Make Waterproof DIY Fire Starters

Make waterproof fire starters for your survival bag. These are simply sections of straw stuffed with cotton and sealed at both ends. Easy peasy and you don’t have to worry about it drying out or moisture getting in!

13. DIY Fire Starter Kit

All of these ideas we’ve given you…put them in a jar as a gift!! Yes, a jar of DIY fire starters!! Put some matches, a striking surface, tinder (pine needles, dried leaves, etc.), and some sage (to keep the bugs away) in a mason jar, and decorate it nicely. 

Aren’t these ideas amazing? I love that you don’t need expensive tools in order to start a fire when you go camping.

With these recipes and projects, you don’t need to spend tons of money on buying expensive fire starter supplies – or need to worry about running out of your supplies again.

Instead, you can simply use common, everyday materials that you already have to make your own campfire starters and always have reliable homemade fire starters on hand.

More Camping Resources From One Crazy House:

Which fire starter idea are you going to try first?  I thought the DIY firestarter kit was pretty cool!

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  1. Oh my goodness, my yard is full of pinecones! The pinecone fire starters would make adorable Christmas gifts using supplies from my own yard. I love both useful and budget friendly gifts.. these are perfect!

  2. We love having fires outside our house and these diy fire starter ideas are amazing. I am so excited to surprise everyone with a quick starting and great smelling fire next time.