Homestead Hacks: Make easy fire-starters for your winter preps

Homemade fire-starters can burn for several minutes.

By Vanesa Brashier,

There is a certain peace of mind that comes with being prepared, whether those preparations are for a winter storm, hurricane season, job loss or, as all of us have recently learned, a pandemic. A little planning ahead of time may help your family be ready for whatever comes along.

With that in mind, Bluebonnet News is launching a new bi-weekly series called Homestead Hacks where we will share helpful suggestions and advice, some from local residents who are proficient in a variety of subjects.

These tips will include gardening, canning and preserving food, beekeeping, building a fire, building a shelter, creating yeast for baking, waxing cheeses, saving seeds and making candles.

First up this week are step-by-step instructions for fire-starters. Before the cool air of fall makes its way to Texas, there is time to make simple fire-starters that will help ignite a campfire, brushfire or fireplace. These fire-starters are made using three items: cotton make-up pads, paraffin or candle wax, and parchment paper.

I’ve used both types of wax for fire-starters and prefer candle wax from craft stores like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s, but for these, I used Gulf brand paraffin wax that is available at grocery stores and Walmart. You can even use wax from candles that you no longer want nor need, though results may vary.

Step 1: Melt the wax over low heat. I use a non-stick sauce pot that can easily be wiped clean with a paper towel after use.

Step 2: Roll out a sheet of parchment paper and place on your countertop next to your cooktop.

Step 3: One at a time, drop a cotton pad in the melted wax. Using tongs or a fork, turn the cotton pad over, making sure that both sides are coated in wax. Then place onto the parchment paper, making sure it is flat and distanced from other cotton pads so they do not stick to each other.

Step 4: Let them completely cool. This will take just a few minutes.

Step 5: Carefully lift the wax-covered cotton biscuits from the parchment paper and store in a plastic bag or container. I’ve given fire-starters to friends as gifts, so I store them in small, clear plastic gift bags, the kind that are suitable for holiday cookies and candies.

Once you are ready to use a fire-starter, simply tear the cotton pad partially in half, leaving it connected on one side. Light with a match or lighter, and place in your fireplace, fire pit or brush fire. The pads should burn for 5-6 minutes, which is generally more than enough time to set kindling ablaze.

NOTE: You should never attempt to extinguish fire-starters with water as they react the same way as water poured over hot cooking oil; it will flare up. As always, you should use caution when handling any fire source, including fire-starters.

HAVE A SUGGESTION? We would love to hear your ideas for future Homestead Hacks. Send an email to

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.


  1. Absolutely LOVE this Homestead Hacks series! Thank you for starting this series. It will be very helpful and informative.

  2. I use these cotton rounds to absorb the old wax out of my Scentsy warmer then I put them in a baggy to save for fire starters. Dual purpose! ❤️ I love that you guys are sharing information like this. I love learning new tricks and tips. Thank you.

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