OUTDOOR BASICS

How to Waterproof Matches: Step-by-Step Tutorials to Easy DIY Methods

Water resistant matches ready to use
Jerry Mueller
Written by Jerry Mueller

The match stick itself is a great invention that helps us light fires easily even today. However, it has its limitations and when it gets wet it loses most of its amazing properties. This is something you definitely don’t want happening while you’re camping or stranded somewhere in the wilderness.

That’s why today we are going to discuss how to waterproof matches at home so you won’t have to worry about losing your only chance to a campfire in the outdoors.

But first, we shouldn’t take regular matches for granted. The first who thought of this simple solution were the Chinese who used a stick covered with sulfur to light a fire. Before that a fire was started by focusing the rays of the sun on something tender such as grass. This is how they got fire. And, if you have ever tried using a piece of glass to start a fire you will discover that it is not an easy task.

After explaining the history of the match stick, let’s look at the topic of the day. First, you should know that the waterproof coating will make the matches harder to light but at least they will still be usable after they come in contact with water or any another liquid.

Why Waterproof The Matches?

Waterproof matches are that one thing you cannot do without! Regular matches are not good for outdoor adventures because even if they are not soaked in water they can be rendered unusable by humidity. Imagine yourself in the middle of the Amazon forest without waterproof matches – you will never light a fire in this case!

Waterproof the matches

Some environments are humid and cold at night. On top of that, there are predators that can attack you. This is a very scary situation to find yourself in and a fire may be the only way to get warm and feel protected. So you shouldn’t take the idea of a spark source lightly.

Now, you should know that waterproof matches are quite expensive to buy. However, if you decide to make the investment once, they usually come in a waterproof container. Don’t throw the container away once you’re done with the matches – you can use it to put matches that you made on your own.

If buying waterproof matches is not something you are willing to do, then it is important to learn how to waterproof ordinary matches.

Making Waterproof Matches on Your Own

Waterproofing matches is an exciting activity, but make sure you take all necessary precautions whilst doing so. Some methods involve some health risks therefore it is important to take safety precautions. Keep in mind that you will be dealing with flammable substances.

How to waterproof matches with candle wax

Wax is one of the best and cheapest waterproofing materials. Wax is a good coating material because when it dries it becomes a protective exterior that does not allow water to get through to the special flammable mixture at the end of match sticks.

Waterproof matches with candle wax

Waterproofing matches with wax is very easy and requires minimum investment of time or material. This kind of waterproofing can be done with simple household materials.

Items required:

  • Candle or candle wax
  • Matches;
  • A disposable container for melting candle wax.
  • A big piece of paper in order to protect the surface you are working on;
  • Anything that blows warm and cold air such as a hair dryer.

When you have gathered all the necessary requirements you need to melt the wax. If you choose to use a candle, light it up and let it burn till you see a small pool of melted wax at the top.

If you choose to use pieces from old candles or any other wax, you will need a metal container which is heat-resistant. Make sure you use a container that you are ready to throw away because the wax cannot be washed off (another alternative is to keep the container just in case you will need to use it to waterproof more matches in the future). Put the pieces of wax inside the container and heat them up.

Make sure that the wax pieces don’t start boiling.

When the wax melts, deep the top side of the match in and make sure it is covered in wax. Deep the matches half way – it’s better if the wax covers at least an inch of the matches. Pull the sticks out and use the hair drier to quickly dry the wax on the match sticks.

Remember to use cold air in doing so. Do this quickly and make sure the wax doesn’t soak into the matches, because they will become unusable. Furthermore don’t put too much wax on the matches because will be difficult to get them to ignite.

When you are using this type of waterproof matches you will have to scrape off the wax off and then use them. I highly recommend that before going to your outdoor activity and using these matches to first test a few of them at home.

Be sure to check the above YouTube video.

Using paraffin wax

This method differs from the one described above. First of all, matches which are waterproofed using paraffin wax are easy to light and burn longer (they can burn for as much as five minutes).

Items required

  • Strike anywhere matches
  • Paraffin wax
  • Straight pins
  • Cotton Yarn
  • Aluminium foil
  • Two containers of different sizes (pots)

Tie an overhand knot at the base of the match head with the yarn cotton. Continue to wrap the cotton yarn down the shaft. Remember to tuck the end of the yarn under the wrap. Then cut the excess yarn.

Paraffin wax

Melt the paraffin wax inside a homemade double boiler – a clean coffee tin and an old pot will work just fine. Fill the larger pot halfway with water and place it on a hot stove. Make sure that the heat of the stove is not too high.

Put the paraffin wax in the smaller pot then put the smaller pot into the larger pot. Please take note that paraffin wax can easily burst into flames when it is overheated. Ensure that the paraffin wax is full melted.

Insert a straight pin into the non-striking end of the wrapped matches and dip the matches into the wax for around five seconds. Use the foil to set the matches so that it hardens. Make sure that you deep the matches several times to provide a waterproof coating that also serves as fuel. Then you can remove the pin and seal the pinhole using some of the paraffin wax.

The best part about paraffin wax coating is that it allows the matches to burn for a long time. If you use strike anywhere matches, you can even strike on a rock in order to light the matches. This comes in handy if you are in the wilderness because there is always a rock around.

Using fingernail polish

Waterproofing matches with fingernail polish is another fantastic method you might want to use if you are an outgoing person. This method is even more popular than wax coating.

Waterproof matches using fingernail polish

Items Required

You will need:

  • Nail polish
  • Matches
  • A newspaper or a pig piece of paper
  • A hair dryer or anything that blows warm air and cold air

There are two ways to waterproof matches with fingernail polish. You can simply deep the matches in the nail polish bottle or you can paint the top part of the matches. In order to ensure that the match is really waterproof you have to apply the fingernail polish evenly.

Important: Make sure you do not put too much nail polish because the matches will not be able to light.

After finishing applying the polish dry it with the hair dryer and put the matches inside any waterproof container. You should note that with fingernail polish you don’t need to scrap of the fingernail polish when you want to use the matches. You can just use them like normal matches. The best part about fingernail polish is that it helps the flame to burn, because fingernail polish can easily catch on fire.

Check the above video for video instructions.

Waterproof matches with turpentine

Wax and nail polish are the most used waterproofing materials but this also has a convenience factor to it. Turpentine is not always around the house so this is why it is not the most used material in waterproofing matches.

Waterproof matches with turpentine

Items required:

  • A glass jar or any cup like container
  • Matches
  • A hair drier
  • Newspaper
  • Turpentine

Pour the turpentine in the glass jar. Make sure the container is half full. The newspaper should be placed underneath the container because turpentine can permanently ruin wood surfaces.

Like with the wax process and the fingernail polish the process is very simple: you simply deep the matches in the turpentine. Remember that it is important to leave the matches in the turpentine for around five minutes.

You can remove them and dry them with the hair drier. However, this time you can also choose to dry them naturally. In this case you need to place the matches sparsely on the newspaper for at least 20 minutes. Any excess turpentine will evaporate this way.

Important: Matches that are waterproofed using this method will resist for a very long time.

Tips on Waterproofing methods

Even if you are using simple household items to waterproof matches, there are some precautions you need to take:

  • If you choose to use the candle wax waterproofing method, make sure the candle is off when you deep the matches in the wax. If the candle is still burning it can burn your fingers.
  • Hot wax burns the skin, so make sure that the wax does not boil and is not too hot when you melt it.
  • When using paraffin wax, make sure it is on a flat surface and there in no chance of you tilting it.
  • Paraffin wax is very flammable. Therefore ensure that you do not expose it to too much heat. Using a medium level stove heat will help you from being burnt or burning down the whole place.
  • Do not put turpentine in a plastic container because turpentine will melt it.
  • Turpentine has the capacity to remove moisture from wood and this is why it is one of the best substances to waterproof with.
  • If you want, you can cover the entire matches with wax so that moisture does not go up though the wood.
  • Turpentine is a very poisonous substance if inhaled or swallowed. Make sure you reduce your exposure time with turpentine because it can cause severe illness and death.
  • When waterproofing your matches make sure you take extra care. Make sure the area you are working in has no pets or children around.
  • Always have a striking surface with you when outdoor with your waterproofed matches. Striking surfaces tend to be in short supply in the wilderness.
  • It is advisable to store your waterproof matches in a waterproof container in order to keep them extra safe from moisture for a long time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Mueller
Jerry Mueller

Jerry ‘Boy Scout’ Mueller spends 99% of his time camping or teaching others how to live in the wild. He became an Eagle Scout which is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting division when he was 17 and after that he still lives the scout life. Jerry always plans neatly every trip, takes leadership very seriously and if you listen to his tips and stories, you can learn tons of useful things.

  • Millie Anderson

    Just to add to the waterproof fire starting theme, my husband and I coat cotton wool balls in Vaseline. They make great fire starters and will burn for around 5 minutes. Obviously, you need fire to begin with so the idea of waterproofing matches is a good one. Dryer lint, too, can be a really good option! Always seem to have loads accumulated in the dryer anyway so it’s an endless supply…

    • Jerry Mueller

      Beats buying when you really need a lot of waterproof matches. Some campers don’t want the extra cost of purchasing these matches which can be quite expensive. Just make sure you have a waterproof container to put all those DIY waterproof matches so all your effort won’t go to waste.

  • Jay Cooley

    To go along with Millie, another great way to carry a source of reasonably long lasting fire around with you is to cut 1 or 2 long strips of cardboard that are about an inch wide, roll it up so that it makes a flat circular shape, and then place it in something like an Altoids tin. Then similarly to waterproofing your matchsticks, you pour some melted wax over it. Now you have a contained source that, when lit, can burn for several hours. And it fits conveniently and without mess into your pocket, emergency kit, or BOB.

  • Jerry Mueller

    I’ve read something similar to this and it’s such an innovative way to waterproof our matches. I think having options to buy or make DIY projects like this one is great. You won’t be worrying about the cost of packaged waterproof matches since an inexpensive option is available.

  • Rebecca Jones

    I was literally just doing some research on how to waterproof matches and one of the ways was to put wax on them. Do you think it’s good to also have a waterproof case for the matches or will they be fine just having the waterproof matches by themselves?

  • Jerry Mueller

    You should put them in a waterproof container too so all your efforts won’t go to waste. There are small canisters especially made for those, you may want to search online.

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