Cotton Ball Vaseline Firestarters (And 3 Alternative Methods)

Vaseline is a brand of petroleum jelly (aka Petrolatum). In addition to first aid uses, Vaseline can also be used to make DIY fire starters. Here’s what you need to know and how to make them.

Also read: 29 Homemade Fire Starters

Is Vaseline a Good Fire Starter?

By itself, Vaseline is not a good fire starter. It will melt when heated and needs a very high temperature before igniting.

However, combined with a wick – such as some jute string or cotton ball – it makes a great fire starter. The wick burns and the Vaseline acts as fuel to create a strong flame that can last for a very long time.


  • Cheap and easy to make
  • Can adjust size
  • Lots of ways to make
  • Long burn time
  • Inadvertently moisturize your hands when making 🙂


  • Not waterproof
  • Hands get messy when making
  • Produces black smoke
  • May leave a sticky residue

How Long Will Vaseline Fire Starters Burn?

A heaping teaspoon of Vaseline on one cotton ball will burn for approximately 7 minutes. The more Vaseline and cotton you use, the longer the fire starter will burn.

How to Make Vaseline Fire Starters

To make Vaseline fire starters, you need something to serve as the wick. Then you coat the wick with Vaseline.

There are two ways to do this:

  • By rubbing the Vaseline directly onto the wick material
  • By melting it and pouring it onto the wick material.  

What to Use as a Wick for Vaseline Fire Starters?

Your wick needs to be made from flammable material. Some good options include:

DIY Vaseline Fire Starter Instructions

1. Vaseline on Cotton Balls or Dryer Lint

The fastest way to make Vaseline fire starters is to rub a glob of Vaseline directly onto a cotton ball or some dryer lint. You then put the cotton balls into a plastic baggy or container.

This method can end up messy, though. If you use dryer lint, you’ll have Vaseline and fuzz all over your hands. Your hands also get messy when you take one of the fire starters out of the baggy.

I’ve come up with a method for making these which is a bit less messy:

  1. Cut parchment paper or paper bags into square pieces. Mine are usually about 3×3 inches.
  2. Put a cotton ball or some dryer lint in the middle of the square.
  3. Using a spoon, put a glob of Vaseline on the cotton or lint.
  4. Fold the paper over to make a little packet.
  5. Gently rub the packet so the Vaseline gets squished into the cotton or lint.  

2. Burlap Vaseline Fire Starters

This is now my favorite way to make Vaseline fire starters. Because you spread the Vaseline onto the burlap with a knife, your fingers don’t get messy. And, because the Vaseline is on the inside of the burlap cigar, your fingers also don’t get messy when you pick them up.

To make:

  1. Cut pieces of burlap. Mine were probably 3×3 inches.
  2. Using a knife, rub Vaseline onto one side of the burlap. Like you’d rub butter onto bread.
  3. Fold over one edge of the burlap.
  4. Keep folding it over.
  5. Now you have a burlap roll with Vaseline on the inside.

3. Egg Carton Vaseline Firestarters

These Vaseline fire starters work well. They will burn for 6 to 9 minutes (longer if you fill-up the egg carton). Just be warned that egg carton is very absorbent. If it gets wet, the fire starters won’t ignite well.

Keep them in a plastic bag, Tupperware, or some other container to keep them dry.

To make:

  1. Put your wick material into an empty egg carton.
  2. Using a double boiler, melt Vaseline.
  3. Pour the melted Vaseline directly over the wick material.
  4. Cut the egg carton sections apart and put them in a storage container.

Important: Never melt Vaseline directly on an open flame. It could ignite! Instead, you want to use a double boiler for melting Vaseline.

I didn’t want to get my cooking pots covered in Vaseline, so I made a double boiler. Here’s how:

  • Pour an inch or two of water at the bottom of an old pot
  • Put a few rocks on the bottom of the pot.
  • Set a clean tin can on the rocks. The rocks elevate the tin so it doesn’t come in contact with the bottom of the pot.
  • Scoop some Vaseline in the tin can and turn on the stove. It will melt quickly!
  • To pour, I used the pot holder from my camping cooking set.

4. Muffin Tin Vaseline Firestarters

These Vaseline firestarters are really large, so they have a long burn time of 15+ minutes. You probably don’t need a fire starter to last that long, but it is helpful if you have wet kindling.

To make:

  1. Line muffin tins with parchment paper. I cut mine to be approx. 4×4 inches. You can also use a paper bag or wax paper. 
  2. Put wick material into the lined cupcake tins.
  3. Melt Vaseline on a double boiler.
  4. Pour it over your wick material.
  5. Fold over the edges of the parchment paper to make little packets.

What If You Don’t Have Vaseline?

If you don’t have Vaseline, other petroleum-based products will also work. These include Chapstick, Bag Balm, Neosporin, and other antibiotic ointments.

You can also make DIY fire starters from materials commonly found in your home, such as old wax candles or hand sanitizer.

How do you make Vaseline fire starters? Let us know in the comments section below.

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  1. Boy Scout fire starter from the 1960s.

    Cut full-length strips of newspaper into 3-4 inch wide strips.
    Roll the newspaper strips into 1-1.5 inch wide tubes.
    Tie each roll with thread or light string.
    Heat paraffin wax in a non-cooking pan.
    Dip and roll the newspaper tubes in the paraffin so the paper is completely covered.
    Stand or lay the waxed tubes on a piece of parchment paper and let cool.

    Store the tubes in your bugoutbag with strike-anywhere matches.

    The tube design provides an area that’s protected from the wind if used at a 90 degree angle to the wind.

    Burn duration: 2-4 minutes.


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