Waterproof matches are expensive, but you can make your own for only a fraction of the price. Listed below are a number of effective and proven ways to make waterproof matches you can use for camping, backpacking, and emergencies.
Note: All the methods below involve some risk. If you are a minor, do not carry out any of these activities, without the permission of a competent adult supervisor. The list is ranked from safest to least safe. The best and safest method is to use Turpentine. (Turpentine has a higher “flash point” relative to Acetone, which is commonly used in nail polish and does not involve the use of flame as is needed in the Wax or Paraffin methods.)
- Pour 2 to 3 large tablespoons of Turpentine into a small (Tumbler sized) glass.
- Place the matches, (Head down) into the Turpentine and allow the matches to soak for 5 minutes. During that time the turpentine will soak into the head as well as the stem. All the water will be driven off by the turpentine.
- Remove the matches and spread them out to dry out on a sheet of newspaper. Generally, 20 minutes for excess turpentine to be evaporated is recommended. Matches treated in this way remain waterproof for several months or longer.
EditUse Nail Polish
- Dip the head end of the match into clear nail polish far enough to cover at least an eighth of an inch (3 millimeters) of the stick below the head.
- Hold the match for a few seconds to allow the polish to dry and then place the match on a table or counter so that the head is suspended off the edge of the surface.
- Place a sheet of newsprint below to catch anything that may drip off.
EditUse a Candle
- Light a candle and let it burn down until you have a good amount of liquid wax (about a half of an inch or 1 centimeter).
- Extinguish the candle.
- Dip the head end of the match into the wax far enough to cover at least an eighth of an inch (3 millimeters) of the stick below the head.
- Hold the match for a few seconds to allow the wax to harden slightly and then place the match on a table or counter so that the head is suspended off the edge of the surface.
- When the wax has cooled, but not completely hardened, pinch the end of the wax coating (towards the stick), forming a tight seal.
EditUsing Paraffin Wax
- Melt enough paraffin wax in a double boiler to be able to coat with wax about a half of an inch (1 centimeter) deep.
- Wrap some twine or jute string around several matches from the bottom, to just below the wax quickly. This makes a torch that can burn for 10 or more minutes.
- Turpentine has a relatively high “flash point” in comparison to Nail polish, therefore it is the safest to use. Mineral Turpentine, Pine, or Citrus turpentine all have the same waterproofing capacity.
- The matches may also be completely covered with the wax to make sure water can’t migrate up the matchstick.
- The Nail Polish method is more volatile than Turpentine, but is better than wax that can more easily break or be scratched.
- When using either of the wax methods, work as quickly as you can while still being safe so the wax doesn’t harden.
- Do not drink from the glass that you used to soak the matches.
- If you don’t use strike-anywhere matches, be sure to store a striking surface with your matches.
- If you do not have a double boiler, you can melt the paraffin wax using a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water. You can also melt the wax in a pan on low heat, but this increases the chance of causing a fire.
- Do not use a plastic cup to sit turpentine in, as it may be melted by the chemical itself.
- Even though the matches will be waterproof, it is a good idea to store your finished matches & striker patch in a waterproof container, such as a small 35 mm film container, or any other sealable & waterproof canister.
- Turpentine effectively displaces all hygroscopically absorbed moisture content. So any wood stemmed matches (regardless of age) can be used.
- This should be done soon after buying the matches so that the matches don’t pick up too much moisture from the air.
- The candle method works best with wood stemmed matches. Do NOT USE with Plastic or Waxed stems.
- Decant the remainder of the unused Turpentine back into the original container.
- Make sure to transfer unused turpentine into recyclable plastic water bottles for safe storage, it is best to transfer outside in case of spills.
- Turpentine is poisonous if swallowed. or inhaled intensely over a period of time.
- Always use caution when working with fire.
- Paraffin wax is incredibly hard to remove from a pan. Use an old pan/double boiler or purchase one second-hand for this purpose. Alternately, use an old coffee can or #10 tin can set in a pot of water. Paraffin Wax is also highly reactive in the presence of introduced water droplets.
- Wax in its liquid state is very hot and may cause severe burns. It may also catch fire.
- Nail polish (and wax) can stain fabric and surfaces, so it is a good idea to cover your work surface in newspaper. Nail Polish is also highly flammable. Nail Polish is also a known carcinogenic substance.
EditThings You’ll Need
- Sturdy wooden matches (preferably the strike-anywhere sort)
- Candles, Paraffin Wax, Nail Polish or Turpentine.
- A saucepan or double boiler
- Tongs or fork to dip matches into wax
- Newspaper or other table covering
- Small glass tumbler.
- Fire extinguisher or fire rug.
- Life insurance.
- Choose a Suitable Site in Yosemite’s Campgrounds
- Camp Comfortably With a Hammock
- Stay Cool when Its Hot at Camp
- Make Charcoal