Skip to Content

Cotton Ball Fire Starters

Create a quick fire with these Cotton Ball Fire Starters.

Campfires are one of the favorite camping activities. They are used to provide warmth, cook, fun (poking sticks), and to keep bugs away. Besides smoke, the biggest issue with a campfire is getting it started.

Campfire Made with Cotton Ball Fire Starters

How does the old saying go?

It takes a whole box of matches to start a campfire, but only 1 match to cause a forest fire?

We encourage you to listen to Smokey the Bear because it is true that only you can prevent forest fires. Follow all local and campground rules and warnings about burning a campfire. When in doubt, do not burn a campfire!

We live in the Midwest where the climate is wet and humid, making it hard to get a campfire started. We have had success using Lint Fire Starters or Fire Starter Logs along with a cotton ball fire starter.

campfire pit near a lake

When we need an instant light, we use these cotton ball fire starters.

How to Make Cotton Ball Fire Starters

You may have seen cotton ball Vaseline fire starters, but this method uses a different accelerant; baby oil. I purchased the cotton balls and baby oil for this project at the Dollar Tree. Yea, only $2!

supplies to make fire starters

This DIY project can get messy, so consider using disposable gloves. If you use a thicker zippered plastic bag, you will not need gloves.

Open up the package of cotton balls and pour all of the baby oil inside. Squish the bag around to coat all the cotton balls with oil. Please note, the plastic in cotton ball bags is thin so you can get oily!

At first, you will have spots that are wetter than overs, but if you keep massaging the bag the oil should distribute among all of the cotton.

The kids will enjoy helping make Pine Cone Fire Starters!

How to Quick Start a Fire

Set up the wood for your campfire. Add kindling or your preferred quick burn items. Add 2-3 cotton balls.

Light a match or click a lighter and touch a cotton ball. You will get an instant small flame that will burn for a minute or two.

before and after of a campfire started with fire starters

If you add some treated cotton balls to a fire that is burning down, you will need to light them. Coals are not hot enough to ignite these cotton balls.

We have tested vegetable and olive oil with cotton balls, but they do not work as well as baby oil. Petroleum jelly does work very well!

We also tested makeup removers with baby oil. These do not work very well.

close up of a campfire that used fire starters

Yield: 100

Cotton Ball Fire Starters

cotton balls being lit on fire

Need an instant light for a campfire? These cotton ball fire starters will do the trick!

Prep Time 2 minutes
Active Time 3 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Difficulty easy
Estimated Cost $2


  • Cotton balls*
  • Baby oil
  • Zipper plastic bag


  • lighter


    1. Open the bag of cotton balls and pour them into a large zippered plastic bag.
    2. Pour the baby oil into the plastic bag, squeezing it out over the cotton.
    3. Seal up the bag, removing air as you zip.
    4. Massage the bag until all of the cotton balls are evenly coated with baby oil.
    5. Use 2-3 cotton balls to start a nice smelling fire.


*We used a 100-count bag of cotton balls and a 6.5 oz bottle of baby oil from Dollar Tree, which turned out to be the perfect ratio. If you use thicker cotton balls or a bigger bag, use more baby oil.

Did you make this project?

Please share a photo on our Facebook page or on Pinterest!


Wednesday 27th of July 2022

brilliant, I would have done this for years had I had that creative touch

Diana Hansen

Wednesday 27th of July 2022

Thank you, Denise!

Let's Camp S'more is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to
Skip to Instructions