Searching for creative alternatives to toxic and non-renewable products is something I enjoy. The research and experimentation is part of the fun. I recently explored alternatives to commercial firelighters and ended up creating sweet-smelling natural citrus and beeswax fire starters.
Not only do these natural firelighters work far better than their toxic and highly packaged counterparts, they cost nothing and are made entirely from natural and renewable ingredients.
My husband snuck a box of fire starters into our home. I had a little grumble about them being a waste of money and resources – and then started looking for alternatives. I've used dried citrus peel to start fires as its high oil content makes it flammable. I dry the peel on a tray in the sun or by the fire and a few weeks later have a pile of sweet smelling fire starters. But they aren't as effective as commercial firelighters – so I continued my search.
I discovered tutorials for firelighters made from candle wax, dryer lint and egg cartons. I loved the idea, but I don’t have a clothes dryer and I rarely have spare egg cartons. But the idea was a good one and I started thinking about making something similar using waste materials I had in abundance.
Then I stumbled across a bucket of dried peel from last winter. The peel cups (left over from juicing) looked like a perfect alternative to the egg carton mould.
Searching for an alternative to the clothes dryer lint – I considered hay, dried leaf litter, shredded paper – then settled on wood shavings.
As a bee keeper, I have an abundance of bees wax, so used that instead of candle wax.
To make the firelighters, I melted the wax in an old pot.
I poured a little wax over each peel cup filled with shavings. The hot wax bubbled up when it came into contact with the shavings – ensuring only a little wax was needed to coat the shavings. The wax doesn't need to fill the mould. It simply needs to coat the shavings, preventing them from burning too quickly.
I lit one the following day, expecting it to burn for a minute or so. It burnt brightly for 20 minutes.
The packet of fire starters is long gone. And my husband hasn't considered buying more because there’s now a basket of even better firelighters sitting by the fire.
How to make your own firelighters from waste
To make your own fire starter you need a mould, wax and kindling.
Rather than rush out and buy something, look at what you have on hand.
- For the mould you could use toilet rolls, egg shells, egg cartons – or citrus peel like I have.
- Instead of beeswax you could use old candles or broken crayons.
- For the kindling you could use sawdust, shredded paper, rags, peanut shells or dried herbs (how good would that smell).
Fill your mould with kindling. Pour in a little melted wax. It's as simple as that.
Experiment and have fun.
Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 8th June 2015.