No one wants wet matches when they are camping in the wilderness. Fire is important to your survival wherever you are. I put together four methods to waterproof your matches.
These step-by-step guides of how to waterproof matches can prove to be lifesavers. Depending on the situations you find yourself in the wilderness, a dry match can make the difference between life and death.
There are more ways to start up a fire, besides matches, you can find a few in my other article here. But before going to harder methods, you can just make sure your matches stay dry by waterproofing them following my methods.
Making Waterproof Matches from Scratch
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. Use protection to handle substances, and follow the instructions bellow very carefully.
Waterproofing matches using 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.
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.
- Candle or candle wax
- 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. Do not bring wax to a boil.
When the wax melts, dip the top side of the match in and make sure it is covered in wax. Dip 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, set on cold air, to quickly dry the wax on the match sticks.
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.
You can follow this video to better understand this method.
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).
- Strike anywhere matches
- Paraffin wax
- Straight pins
- Cotton Yarn
- Aluminum 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.
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.
- Nail polish
- 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.
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.
- A glass jar or any cup like container
- A hair drier
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. Our article on how to choose the best first aid kit will help you stay safe in the wilderness.
- 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.
Check out our piece on how to choose the best waterproof matches to ensure you get the best ones for your camping needs.
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!
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.
This article provides you with enough methods and full guides on how to waterproof your matches. Follow the steps carefully, take precautions when using heated products or dangerous ones.
Let me know if you know of any other methods of your own. And if you tried these methods already, let me know how it went.
Daniel is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.