how to make firelighters cotton balls and vaseline

Having to buy the easy light firestarters every few months was starting to put a dent in the bank balance. We use the firelighters every day to light the main firepit in our log cabin each winter.

So it was time to look into a way that I could make my own cheap firestarters. In the past, I have used 1-year-old dry pine cones which catch on fire and burn nice and hot. The problem was still getting these to catch alight.

Now I have discovered a way to make my own firelighters that burn for a very long time which are perfect for camping, bug out bags and safe to store flat in a draw at home. I call them the Cotton Ball Vasoline Firelighter.

How to make firelighters – DIY

Firelighters or Firestarters they both mean the same thing and so let’s go ahead and make some. To make these cheap firelighters you will need the following household items.

  • Bag of 100% cotton balls
  • Tub of pure skin 100% Vaseline, Equate Petroleum Jelly 13oz
  • Large ziplock bags
  • Box of matches or another source of heat to ignite your cotton balls.

how to make homemade vaseline cotton balls

Start by separating all of the cotton balls into smaller individual packs of around 10 or 20. Use one of the ziplock bags as a glove. You can do this by turning the bag inside out and then put your hand inside. Large hands will need a large bag.

Grab a large scoop of vaseline with your hand. If the jar is too small you can use a spoon to add some vaseline into the ziplock bag.

Now remove your hand and invert the bag again. This is the cleanest way I have found to get the petroleum jelly into a bag. Now you can add the cotton balls and mix well by squishing the cotton balls around inside the bag with the vaseline. This will coat each cotton ball.

how to make firelighters using vaseline and cotton balls
Pre-packaged vaseline coated cotton balls ready to use.

Finish by zipping up the bag and storing it away for a quick cheap easy to light firestarter. Remember that when you remove the DIY firestarter that it will be greasy. Don’t worry you can just rub the petroleum jelly into your hands, it is a great moisturizer out in the wild.

These homemade firelighters will last a lifetime and save you a small fortune in the process.

How to use vaseline cotton ball firelighters

The trick here is to light the flammable cotton ball fibers. The vaseline won’t light very well with only a match so you need to separate a cotton ball to get to the pure fibers in the middle.

bear grills firestarter strikerPull apart the coated cotton balls until you find some fresh cotton. Use a match, magnifying glass or your firesteel striker to set the cotton ball on fire.

For the tech-savvy person check out this post on making fire without matches using a USB plasma lighter. This will set fire to your cotton balls using a bolt of plasma electricity.

Once the fibers are on fire the vaseline will provide the fuel to keep the cotton ball on fire for longer. Much like a candle and wax without the wax, the candle will burn too fast. This is why we don’t boil and dissolve the cotton balls into a hot vaseline solution. All the internal fibers would be coated and harder to ignite.

DIY home made firestarter cotton ball vaseline

Shown here in the picture is a homemade firelighters cotton ball coated with Vaseline petroleum jelly. It was quite windy and still, the flame burns strong.

Make sure to add some small tinder, sticks or dry grass to begin building up your campfire. The homemade firestarter is only there to give the initial heat for lighting small combustible items. As it burns longer its great for slightly damp twigs and grass.


These DIY firestarters are water and wind resistant. They will survive getting wet on the outside due to the waterproofing properties of petroleum jelly, but don’t fully submerge them.

This is because we need to have the cotton ball fibres dry in the middle of the ball for easy combustion and a strong flame. They will also stay lit during a strong breeze which is handy in stormy weather when you are trying to light a campfire.

What is Petroleum Jelly?

Vaseline Petroleum Jelly is a must-have product in every home. In fact, we have a jar in our first aid kit. This purified petroleum jelly is used by millions of people around the world as a protector for minor cuts, scrapes, burns, relieve dry chapped skin and help protect skin from the drying effects of cold weather.

Vaseline Jelly works by creating a sterile sealing barrier that locks in moisture. This protects the skin and promotes its natural recovery process.

My wife uses it as a skin barrier when doing eyelash and eyebrow tinting. This protects the skin from getting colored the same. Its really hard to remove eyebrow tint from your skin, but the vaseline works great and wipes of easily.

Make sure if you are using this Vaseline to make homemade firestarters that you should buy a full jar just for this task. This is because it’s cheaper to make them in bulk, and you will go through the whole container.

A full 13oz (368 gram) jar will make around 150 small cotton ball firelighters depending on the coating layer.


Like any DIY homemade product make sure to label and store your petroleum jelly firestarters in a safe place. This will stop someone sticking their hand in the plastic zip lock bag trying to get a cotton ball out to use for something else and getting quite the surprise.

I like to store my homemade vaseline cotton balls in my survivalist bug out bag as well as a few extra ones inside the first aid kit for emergencies.

Box of 100 fire-starters lightning nugget
Click for more information over at Amazon

In the past, I have been using these lighting nugget firestarters shown above with great success. But I love making my own as it is 1/4 the price for the same 100 amount. If you light fires every day then the savings will very quickly add up.

Plus I think its more fun to make your own and be a real prepper in this world of throwaway consumables. For something different what not try your hand at making some sawdust and wax firestarters.

Good luck and have a fun time making your own petroleum jelly firestarters. Drop me a comment below on any other ways you know how to make firelighters.

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5 years ago

That’s really cool thanks for the tip. I’m going to try this out on my next scout camp.