How to Make DIY Waterproof Matches (4 Ways)

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Learning how to make waterproof matches will ensure you always have a fire when and where you need it. We’ll make waterproof matches 4 ways in this article.

Any good emergency survival kit will include multiple ways of making fire. One of those ways should definitely be waterproof matches.

If you’re into hiking, bushcrafting, camping, or you just enjoy getting out into the woods from time to time, having a fire-starting kit is absolutely a necessity. They’re also handy to have in case of emergency at home, especially if you have a fireplace. If matches are part of your fire-making kit, you need to have a way to protect them from getting waterlogged.

We’ve got 4 methods for you to make waterproof matches – Nail Polish, Wax, Turpentine, and Shellac. These methods either impregnate or coat the match to make it impervious to water.

Why Do I Need Waterproof Matches?

Raining in the forest means you need waterproof matches to start a fire.Have you ever been camping, and during your trip it rained? Has a flood ever hit your area?

If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, you already know why you need waterproof matches. You already have to deal with everything around you being soaked, but that rain will make starting a fire almost impossible.

If matches are your primary source of making fire, they will become useless when wet. These DIY waterproof matches will keep working, though, and that can be an absolute lifesaver.

Not everyone thinks about how important these may be in an emergency situation. So, make some for yourself and give some to your friends and family so they’re prepared, too.

Should I Make Waterproof Matches or Just Buy Them?

Coghlan's Waterproof MatchesBefore we get started on how to make waterproof matches the DIY way, you may be asking “why not just buy them?” You can absolutely buy waterproof matches online, and the prices aren’t even that bad. However, they’ll still be more expensive than regular matches.

At the end of the day, it’s all about trying to do things for yourself. Most of the ideas here are based on household products that you already have. So, if you have the time and materials, it’s just as easy (and cheaper) to do it yourself.

If you’d rather just skip the DIY part and buy them (and it’s ok if that’s your plan), here are three brands I would recommend:

Which Matches are Best for Making Waterproof Matches?

There are a few types of matches on the market. The wooden “strike-anywhere” matches, the wooden “strike-on-box” matches, and the paper matchbooks used primarily as a marketing tool for businesses.

While you can use any of the three for this DIY project, I would highly recommend going with the wooden matchsticks. The paper ones would have to be torn out of the books and are sure to deteriorate a lot faster than the wooden ones.

Box of Diamond brand strike on box wooden matches

The strike-on-box matches need the strip of phosphorous on the matchbox to provide ignition. That’s not a big deal in the long run because you can tear off part of the strip from the box to include in the container where you’ll store your waterproof matches. They are cheaper, so that’s the ones we’ll be using.

The easiest to use are the strike-anywhere matches. They can be lit against any rough surface such as concrete, stone, a zipper, or any other surface that provides a rough area of friction. The problem is that they’re harder to find and more expensive.

How to Make Waterproof Matches

Make Waterproof Matches with Nail Polish

Why use nail polish?

Nail polish is made of polymers that form a water-resistant coating to prevent water from soaking into fingernails and toenails.

Waterproofing a wooden matchstick with nail polish.Step 1: Prepare Your Nail Polish

There’s really nothing to do here except open the bottle. I would recommend against using glittery nail polishes. The glitter may cause the matches to burn unevenly and/or spark as the fire consumes it.

Step 2: Dip Your Matches

Dip the striking tip of your matches into the nail polish to completely cover the head plus an extra 1/4 inch of the matchstick below. You don’t want a thick layer, but you do want the whole striking head to be covered.

Alternatively, you can just paint the matches with the nail polish brush. Just be sure to get a good coating to ensure they’re waterproof.

Step 3: Let Them Dry

Letting matches dry on the edge of a surface.

Place the base of the matchsticks on the edge of a table so the painted side is hanging over the edge. You can also tape the matches down to your work surface with some masking tape to keep them from toppling off. 

Although nail polish dries quickly, you might want to put some kind of protection under them so they don’t drip and make a mess. You can also use a hairdryer to help speed up the drying process.

Step 4: Using the Matches

Scrape off a small bit of the nail polish to reveal the striking head underneath, then use as you normally would.

Make Waterproof Matches with Wax

Why use wax?

Wax of any kind will completely seal the match and make it completely waterproof. It will also lend to the burn time of the match making it burn longer and hotter. Your fire will be sure to light.

Using wax to make waterproof matches.Step 1: Prepare the Wax

For starters, put down wax paper to protect your area.

You can use candles, wax melts (the ones that smell good), beeswax, crayons, or any other wax you may have available. 

If you’re using candles, you can simply light the candle, allow it to melt, and you’re ready to pour. Alternatively, you can use a double boiler, wax warmer, or even your microwave to melt your wax.

Although the coating process goes a bit slower, I personally like using the wax warmers because there’s less mess and the wax stays liquified while you work.

Note: If you’re using the microwave to melt your wax, be sure you remove any metal from candles (the thing that holds the wick into place at the bottom) before microwaving.

Melt the wax until you have a puddle large and deep enough to fit the matchsticks.

Step 2: Coat Your Matchsticks

You can either coat the match head or the entire matchstick. I like to do the entire match to add more fuel for the fire to burn longer.

Coat the head: Hold your match from the wooden stick, dip the striking tip into the wax covering the head completely. Make sure you’re covering an additional quarter of an inch of the wooden stick below it as well.

You will want to be sure not to let the wax soak into the matchstick head because it will cause it not to be able to strike. You shouldn’t dip the matchstick in the candle for longer than 1 or 2 seconds.

At this stage, you can also wrap a thin strand of cotton string down the matchstick under the striking tip and coat it in wax too. You’ll have more tinder for your fire and have full on waterproof fire starters.

Step 3: Let the Wax Solidify

Allow wax to completely solidify and harden.

After taking the matches out of the wax, use cool air to immediately help the wax partially solidify. “Pre-dry” them for about 20 seconds or so before laying them down. This will ensure the matchsticks don’t stick to each other or the surface they’ll be laying on to finish drying.

Lay the wax-coated matches on an aluminum pie pan or a sheet of waxed paper to further help them release fully without breaking the wax seal when completely dry.

To use the wax-covered matches, scrape off the wax coating at the striking tip, and it should be ready to light.

To use, scrape a bit of the wax off the head and use as normal.

Make Waterproof Matches with Turpentine or Shellac (Untested by Author)

Why use turpentine?

Turpentine is a hydrophobic liquid extracted from pine trees and used to thin paint. When used to make waterproof matches, the turpentine will soak into the wood and the match head to render them resistant to water.

Waterproof matches made with turpentine do, however, tend to lose their waterproofing quality over time. It’s best to use these matches within a few months.

Turpentine is available in most hardware stores in the paint section. If you can’t find it there, you can get it online from Amazon or WalMart.

Why use shellac?

Shellac is a resin that is secreted by female lac bugs after sucking the sap from trees in India and Thailand. Because shellac is predominately used as a wood finish, it only makes sense to use them to protect your matches from water.

(Side Note: I have not yet tried either of the above methods, but I will update this article when I have. They are very much like using fatwood for fire starting.)

Waterproof matches in a waterproof container.Word of Caution:

Before you get started with turpentine or shellac, protect your work area with newspaper. Turpentine can ruin wood or painted surfaces, so it’s best to work on concrete or metal, if possible. Shellac will surely make as big a mess, even if it doesn’t ruin surfaces.

Be sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area. Both turpentine and shellac have toxic fumes. If you want to be extra cautious, you might even use a respirator.

Step 1: Prepare the Dip

Pour some turpentine/shellac into a glass bowl or small jar with a wide mouth that’s deep enough to submerge your matches. You can also use a metal container such as a paint roller pan, but do not use plastic. Turpentine will eat through plastic and cause a huge mess. If you’re using shellac, you can use glass, metal or plastic for this, as shellac has not been known to eat through plastic.

Step 2: Dip Your Matches

Put your matches into the liquid and let them soak for about 5 minutes. This will ensure the matches get fully soaked.

Step 3: Allow Matches to Dry

After 5 minutes, remove the matches and spread them out on a piece of waxed paper to dry. It will likely take about 20 to 30 minutes for them to fully dry.

Storing Your DIY Waterproof Matches

Hot glue a striker pad into the top of your waterproof matches container.

To store your DIY waterproof matches, use a rigid, small container like an old film canister, an empty spice bottle, or an empty pill bottle. You can store that in a Ziploc bag, a dry bag, or inside a larger container. Every extra layer of protection ensures your matches don’t get soaked with water.

If you use strike-anywhere matches, hot glue a small piece of sandpaper to the lid of your container so you always have a striking surface.

If you use regular matches, be sure you include a phosphorous strip that you can buy online or a piece from a matchbox in your container.

Note: Strike-on-box matches will not work with sandpaper.

Making Your Own Waterproof Matches is Easy!

It’s easy to make waterproof matches from household supplies. If you don’t already have some, make them today for a rainy day!

Safety Notes:

  • Projects that involve matches are meant to be done by adults only or with adult supervision. They can involve some fire hazard.
  • Be sure to make these projects in a well-ventilated room away from any flammable materials.

How to Make Waterproof Matches - Pinterest Image

10 thoughts on “How to Make DIY Waterproof Matches (4 Ways)”

  1. I don’t think I ever thought about waterproof matches before, but they are certainly a smart part of being prepared. I love that you have four different ways to get the job done detailed here.

  2. We go camping a lot as a family. This looks like an essential project before we plan our next trip. I love the idea of making our own waterproof matches.


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