If you know how to make fire starter straws, you’ll never be stuck out in the cold! These everyday items turned survival tool could save your life one day!
One of the most important things you need in a survival situation is fire. Fire keeps you warm, helps you purify water, cooks your food and gives you a psychological sense of security. When you’re ready to light your fire, how will you do it?
Matches (hopefully they’re waterproof matches), lighters and ferro rods are great tools to carry with you. With the addition of these DIY fire starter straws, getting the fire to take and last will be much easier. You won’t have to light multiple matches or use up too much of the fluid in your lighter.
Why Do You Need Fire Starter Straws?
Lots of people carry fire making implements with them in their EDC (everyday carry) kits. The only problem is, if you need to make fire and either kindling isn’t very plentiful or everything is damp or wet, it’s going to be pretty hard to get a roaring fire going. Using these fire starter straws will make things much easier.
They give off a great flame and last a good little while (about 2-3 minutes) which will make lighting a fire much easier. Because they are completely encapsulated in plastic, they are totally waterproof. You could drop them into a pool of water, and they’d still serve their purpose.
If you make these and carry them with you, you could use them to help you get any fire going anywhere, but I wouldn’t. In fact, I would recommend that for every 20 or so fires you make, you only use the fire starter straw once.
Use one for practice now and then (although it’s not hard to make them work) because in a SHTF scenario, you’ll want to know that what you have made will work. The rest of the time, don’t use them for the same reason – in a SHTF situation, you’ll want to know that you can get fire started without them.
How to Make Fire Starter Straws
Materials Needed for this Project
- Plastic Drinking Straws – waterproof capsule to hold tinder. I usually use straws from McDonald’s, but any will do. These would be perfect!
- Cotton Balls or Dryer Lint – base tinder material to accept the fuel. You could also use cotton facial pads, but I prefer regular ol’ cotton balls.
- Petroleum Jelly – fuel for the fire. Vaseline is the name brand, but generic store brand petroleum jelly works fine, too.
- Needle Nosed Pliers – to pinch the ends of the straws.
- Lighter – to melt the pinched ends of the straws
- Scissors – to cut your straws
Putting it All Together
Cut the Straws
Cut the drinking straws into lengths of about 2½” to 3″ each. You can actually cut the straws into any length you want depending on where you’ll be storing them.
Mine are going into pill bottles (specifically the pill bottle that holds my waterproof matches), so I’m cutting them just under 3″ to fit in there.
Work the Fuel into the Tinder
Take 1 cotton ball (or a small handful of dryer lint) and work a little petroleum jelly into it. When I say “a little petroleum jelly” I mean VERY little. You won’t need more than about 1/8 of a teaspoon (if you really want to measure). I found this out the hard way when I glopped a ton of Vaseline on a cotton ball the first time. It was a HUGE mess!
You’ll want to fluff the cotton, put the Vaseline into it, then close it in on itself. Repeat the fluff and close until the petroleum jelly isn’t one big clump, and the cotton is fairly well saturated.
Stretch out the cotton ball and twist it up a bit. This will help work the petroleum jelly into it more, and it will make it easier to stuff into the straw.
Stuff the Straw
Slide the end of the cotton into the straw and continue to twist while you push it in. If you need some help with this part, use your needle nosed pliers to help push the cotton into the straw.
I used a wooden dowel that I had sharpened the end in a pencil sharpener for this. You could also use a chopstick, bamboo skewer or something of the sort here, as well. Poke the material into the straw with the pointy end, then use the flat end to pack it together.
Seal the Straws
You can seal your straws in one of two methods.
Method 1: Using your pliers, pinch off one end of the straw and burn it closed with the lighter. I like to use a butane wind resistant lighter for projects. The flame melts the plastic faster.
Method 2: Bend the end of the straw vertically in the middle, then fold the tip over. Clip off a small piece of the unused leftover straw and slide it over the folded end of the fire starter straw. I call this the “fold and hold” method.
How to Use Your Homemade Fire Starter Straws
Access Your Fire-Starting Material
To use your cool new fire starters, you need to access the material inside.
- Cut the straw from end to end and pull out all of the cotton.
- Snip off a tiny bit from the very end and pull out just a little of the cotton (so you can seal the end back again and save some of the fire starter straw for another usage).
- Slice the middle of the straw and pull out the cotton.
- If you used the “fold and hold” method, you can slip the ends off, unfold the straw, and pull out your material.
Prepare the Material
Fluff the cotton up a bit so it’s closer to the consistency of cotton candy than matted dog hair. This will ensure more surface area and a little air flow.
Be gentle when fluffing the cotton so you can keep it in one piece. If it rips, it will still burn, but the consistent burn won’t be as good.
Fluff up the cotton as much as possible to achieve a “cloud-like” consistency. More surface area means a faster lighting time.
Light the Material
All you need is a spark to set the cotton ablaze. A ferro rod works here, but you can strike a match if you want. You may even be able to use your lighter to get a spark to it without using any of your fluid in the process.
Remember, you’re igniting petroleum here, so be careful. You don’t want to burn off your eyebrows.
Where to Store Your Fire Starter Straws
Now that you have some emergency fire starters, you’ll want to put a few of them in every survival kit you have – your bug-out bag, get home bag, tackle box, vehicle emergency kit, pill bottle survival kit, hunting bag – anywhere you think you could possibly need them.
I keep mine in the same pill bottle container as my homemade waterproof matches. It’s like a small, failproof fire-starting kit!
More Tips for Fire Starter Straws
- Straws come in all different thicknesses, and some are wider than others. The wider the straw, the easier it is to get the cotton into and the more material it will hold. McDonald’s straws are my go-to straw of choice.
- Straws also come in different materials. If you don’t want use plastic, you can find decent sized paper straws, do the same process as above, and then coat the completed fire starter straw in wax to render it waterproof.
- If you would rather not use a straw at all, you can store the Vaseline-laden cotton in a pill bottle, 35mm film cannister, or Altoids tin. This will allow you to store more at a time in one place, but it takes up a little more room in your bug-out bag.
- Just because this cotton will stay lit for a few minutes doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ready to get a fire going first. Always be sure to have your tinder and fire bundle ready before you light the fire starter straw.
- Don’t limit your straws to only being fire starter straws. Cut them to any length you want and fill them with anything you want – matches… fishing line, a weight and a hook… salt, pepper, or other spices… the possibilities are only limited by the size of the straw and what you’re trying to put into it.
Have you ever made Fire Starter Straws?
Leave me a comment and let me know if you’ve ever made and used fire starter straws. Also let me know what you lit them with.
If you make some fire starter straws from my tutorial, post some images on social media and tag me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!
Patrick & Jessie homestead in Middle Georgia with two of their four children and their three dogs. They love gardening, food preservation, and keeping their family prepared for any disaster that may come.