One of the cheapest – and most effective – firestarters is cotton balls infused with petroleum jelly. Here is how to avoid the mess.
by Leon Pantenburg
Cotton balls and Vaseline™ are one of my favorite fire starters, and this comes from a lot of experience and experimenting. Twenty years ago, the late Dr. Jim Grenfell and I set out to find the best, most reliable ignition system for survival firemaking. After several months of research here is what we found.
Long story short, a ferrocerium rod combined with cotton balls and petroleum jelly emerged the winner as the best ignition system. Dryer lint, a favorite in some circles, ended up not being in the running – here is why.
But infusing the cotton balls with petroleum jelly can be messy and time-consuming. I go through of lot of the firestarters in classes, so I needed a quick way to produce them in quantity.
All you need is petroleum jelly, cotton balls, an ovenproof glass or ceramic bowl and a paper plate.
Here is a quick way to make the fire starters.
- Put the petroleum jelly in the ovenproof glass or ceramic bowl.
- Put the bowl in a microwave, and melt the jelly until it’s liquid.
- Briefly dip the cotton ball in the liquid jelly. Be quick about it – you don’t want to totally saturate the cotton ball.
- Put the dipped cotton ball on the paper plate until the jelly solidifies.
- Pack the infused cotton ball in some waterproof container.
This same technique works well with 100% cotton rounds used for makeup removal.
I have relied on cotton balls and Vaseline™ as a fire starter for many years. Your survival gear doesn’t necessarily need to be expensive – it just needs to work!