CAMPING & HIKING

How to Waterproof Matches: 5 Water-Resistant Coats for Wooden Matches

Make waterproof survival matches
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Have you ever been in a situation when your matches were soaked and you didn’t have a lighter in the middle of the wilderness? And if you haven’t been in that situation, would you like to avoid it anyway? Well, with just a little bit of preparation, you can throw together one mean match stick.

Learning how to waterproof matches is easy and you don’t even need too many ingredients to do so. Most of them are at hand in your house right now. What you’ll need is patience and passion for DIY projects that, someday, may save your life.These matches can be used in extreme situations or when you go camping, hiking, fishing and so on. Are you ready to start? Here are 5 methods to make matches waterproof.

Coating Is The Answer to Waterproofing

The main idea you want to follow when waterproofing matches, is to cover them in some sort of coat that is not affected by water. You’ll see that coating match sticks can be done using multiple solutions, such as candle wax, nail polish, turpentine or even paraffin wax.

Coating matches for waterproof feature

Next, you need to make sure that whatever the coating is made of, it can be easily removed. There’s no point in having matches that don’t get wet if you cannot use them. As soon as your matches are waterproof, you’ll only have to worry about keeping the phosphorous strip dry or find other methods to light that fire. In fact, that aspect is also covered below.

The most recommended matches to use for a real-world wilderness survival experience are strong wooden matches. Paper matches are definitely not recommended for anything else but home use. It would be ideal for you to purchase strike-anywhere matches. However, if you find those difficult to find, you’re going to learn how to make them yourself too!

Make waterproof matches with candle wax

Items that you need:

  • Small white and round candles or any other type of candles
  • Strike on the box matches or strike-anywhere matches if you find any
  • Scrape dryer lint enough to roll all your matches with
  • A tray to heat and melt the candles on
  • Aluminum foil

To pull this off, you’re going to need some candle wax, some regular matches or strike-anywhere matches and everyone’s favorite, the scrape off dryer lint. In addition, you might find a heated tray to be useful for melting the candles. However, if you don’t have one of these, then you can always run a candle for a bit until the wax starts pulling up.

Make Waterproof Matches with candle wax

Once the candles are melted, grab one of the matches and wrap some of the dryer lint around it. This will act as a nice fuel for the flame. It’s best to roll it out smoothly and cover every part except the match’s head. Once that’s done, dip the entire thing in the melted wax and then let it dry on aluminum foil.

The dryer lint is not absolutely necessary, but its properties are very useful, so it would be ideal to add it to this recipe. However, it definitely works without it too!

By coating everything in wax, you’re essentially making the whole thing waterproof. Not to mention it’s going to slow down the burn time of the match itself, which is going to give you plenty of time to build that survival fire that you need.

When it’s time to use the match, simply scrape off a bit of the wax from the head and strike it against a rough surface. Watch it go!

The result is pretty amazing, but is it really waterproof? You can check that yourself by letting a match sit in water for a little while and then pop it out. Scrape off just a bit of the wax and try it!

Video instructions you can watch below:

Make waterproof matches with nail polish

Items that you need:

  • Clear nail polish or at least nail polish without glitter in it
  • As many matches as you want to waterproof
  • Paper or some old newspapers

You might be able to start waterproofing matches right now if you have all the needed items in your house. If the nail polish is the problem, then you should know that buying the cheapest one will do the trick. It’s not recommended for the nail polish to have glitter in it because it may cause the production of sparks while lighting the fire.

Make waterproof matches with nail polish

To get started, you are going to simply take a match in your hand, dip it in the nail polish bottle and then take it out to dry. You don’t have to fully cover the match stick in nail polish. The most important part that should be covered is the match’s head.

You can place the matches on old newspapers or paper that you don’t need anymore. The head of the match should be suspended off the edge of the table in order to dry properly. Watch out for drips on that lovely carpet!

And you can watch below video instruction for making waterproof matches with nail polish:

Make waterproof matches with turpentine

Items that you need:

  • Turpentine
  • Regular matches or strike-anywhere matches
  • Glass
  • Wax paper or regular paper
  • Timer

The secret to making matches water resistant to water with turpentine is to put some of it in a glass, enough to cover around half of the match stick. You are going to place the match sticks head down in this glass, so the amount of turpentine you put inside is important.

The glass that you choose should be wide enough for you to easily put the matches inside and take them out. After you place the match sticks in the glass with turpentine inside it, you can use a timer to leave them in no longer than 5 minutes.

When you take the matches out, you can place them on paper or wax paper in order to dry. The estimated time for turpentine to properly evaporate is 20 minutes.

The lightning process is similar to the other methods. Scrape some of the coating off the head of the match stick before attempting to light it.

In case you were wondering, turpentine is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin. You can buy turpentine online or you might find it in some hardware stores or art supply stores too.

Watch video instruction below:

Make waterproof matches with melted crayons

Items that you need:

  • Old, new or broken crayons
  • Matches of your choice
  • Bowl
  • Wax paper
  • Knife

Besides making your own mean waterproof matches, you can also recycle and repurpose things that you already own. In this case, it’s about crayons. It goes without saying that crayons must be melted in order to be used for waterproofing. Crayons can be melted in the microwave, oven, or on the stove, but the simplest method is melting them in the microwave.

Preparing the crayons for the melting process is very important. They are usually wrapped in paper so you are going to remove that paper before melting them unless you want to create a mess. If the paper doesn’t come off easily, consider soaking them in water for a few minutes before trying again.

Make waterproof matches with melted crayons

After there’s no piece of paper left on the crayons, you’re going to cut them into smaller chunks with the help of a knife. If you chose the microwave method, then use a microwave friendly container to place the bits. 2 minutes are usually enough for crayons to fully melt. Even if the effect is guaranteed, pausing the microwaving process every 30 seconds in order to stir the contents would be ideal.

The matches don’t have to be completely covered in melted crayons. So, dipping them half way through should be enough.

Fun fact: Several survivalists have mentioned that this method doesn’t require you to remove the coating before lightning. Supposedly, it lights more easily.

Make waterproof matches with liquid shellac

Items that you need:

  • Liquid shellac
  • Wood matches
  • A small piece of cardboard
  • Tape

Liquid shellac is another amazing traditional finish and sealer than can be used for making matches resistant to water. This method comes with a trick that will make soaking the matches and letting them dry a lot easier and less messy than before.

You can place a few match sticks on the piece of cardboard and secure them with tape. Half of the match has to be off the cardboard. Next, you’re going to hold the piece of cardboard and soak the matches into liquid shellac. Let them dry and put them in your bug out bag!

Make waterproof matches with liquid shellac

Liquid shellac comes from a bug that lives in India and Thailand. It is also used to make nail polish, so this explains the nail polish trick as well! This coating isn’t cheap and some preppers don’t prefer it because of its price.

Alternatives to the phosphorous strip

In case you carry regular wooden matches that require a phosphorus strip in order to light up and you cannot use that for some reason, you aren’t hopeless! Among the alternatives are: a dry rock or even a window, like your vehicle’s window or mirror.  Just hold the match with your middle finger and thumb and use your index finger to press the head into the rock.

Going from left to write has proven to be effective in both situations. Moreover, a Russian man has demonstrated that a normal window can be used to light a match, as long as the used pressure and direction are correct.

Bonus Tip: Make your own strike-anywhere matches

Strike-anywhere matches are more useful than you can imagine! You could have tons of perfectly dry or waterproof matches and not be able to light them. In case of strike-anywhere matches, you only need a rough surface to get them going.

Items that you need:

  • A few boxes of matches, depending on how many strike-anywhere matches you want to make
  • Sandpaper or some kind of file
  • Small bowl or any other container
  • A pair of gloves to protect your hands
  • A pipette

Get yourself a few boxes of matches and some sandpaper or some kind of file. Next, you want to go ahead and scrape off the red phosphorous from the striking strip to a bowl or any other container. You might have to go through a few boxes to get enough powder. It’s highly recommended for you to wear gloves when you’re doing this and in general, when dealing with any chemical.

Make your own strike-anywhere matches

Once you’ve collected a decent amount of powder, you’re going to add a drop or two of water to the substance. Next, mix it well and plunge your match head directly into the mixture. You’ll probably find that you get a better effect if you go ahead and pack the phosphorous around the match with your fingers.

Once that’s done, you’re going to lay your matches out to dry and harden. After waiting for about an hour, you can test them. In order to find out if your hard work paid off, find a rough surface and strike hard.

If you’re running low on matches, try to split them in two and abstain from trying to make a fire directly rather than setting a piece of paper on fire first to make sure you’re not wasting match sticks.

Be sure to check video below for video instruction:

Let The Rain Fall Down

With so many and easy ways to make matches resistant to water, you have no excuse for not carrying some or having some set aside in your bug out bag. Remember that it’s going to be best to put these together now, not later. You want them in the case of an emergency, not after the emergency has already struck. Making a fire could save your life!

You could try them all and explain why some are better than the others. Not having to scrape off the coating from the waterproof match is an advantage that many survivalists appreciate a lot. But, of course, it all depends on your preferences. So, which one will you try first?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.

  • Mickey

    I have always used the method with regular nail polish. This is the easiest and somewhat funny way. You only need the head of a match lacquered. Definitely need to wait for the paint to dry.
    Never failed, tested by many hikes in the woods and hunting!
    The main thing is to take ugly nail polish, so that your wife won’t be mad at you then :))

    • Dennis Owens

      Well you must not compete with your wife for the nail polish bottles around the house then.

  • Calvin Burke

    If you want to waterproof tons of matches in a shorter time, you should definitely use the turpentine method. It’s faster that way but dipping matches into the nail polish bottle will make your matches produce longer lasting fire. Anyways, all the methods are way better than buying expensive waterproof matches.

    • Dennis Owens

      The only problem that I can see using the turpentine method, especially when done at home, is the unpredictable shelf-life. DIY-ing your matches for waterproofing is fine, but always do it with caution.

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