How To Make a Fire With Cotton Balls: Petroleum Jelly, or No?

by Matthew Wilson

Great cotton balls of fire. Camping in the winter can be exhilarating. But it also can be downright cold and frigid, especially at night. Don’t worry though because Outsider is going to show you how to make that roaring fire.

Whether you’re in a survival situation or just need to warm those toes, you can’t go wrong with this survival hack. What do cotton balls and petroleum jelly have in common? Well, they make for a great fire starter for one. You should consider packing a little Vaseline and cotton in your survival outdoor kit.

So how do cotton and petroleum combine together to make a flame? Outsider’s Abby Casey walks us through the simple but effective process. “I’m going to show you a quick little cool tip on how to make some fire starter or kindling,” Casey said in the video below.

Combine Cotton and Petroleum Jelly

Pretty much any brand of petroleum jelly will do. But for this experiment, we stuck with Vaseline. The first thing you’re going to do is unfurl your cotton ball. Stretch the cotton out, and then you want to apply the petroleum jelly. Be sure to cover the entire width of the cotton ball.

Now, we know what you’re thinking – couldn’t you just light the cotton ball on fire? But we’ve tested both a normal cotton ball and one with jelly. The normal cotton just goes out almost instantly, becoming a curled ball of ash. But the cotton with petroleum lasts both longer and brighter than its counterpart. The petroleum prevents the flame from instantly snuffing out and overwhelming the cotton.

So when is this hack useful? While you still need a spark or source of flame, the cotton ball is incredibly useful in getting a fire going. Finding dry wood, especially after a rain spell, can be difficult. If the wood is wet, then it’s not going to catch and you’re not going to have a fire. Keeping dry cotton balls and petroleum jelly can be useful in a pinch and help make sure you have a source of heat.

As for a source of flame or a fire starter, don’t worry we have that covered as well.