Sources of Tinder and Fire Craft in the Urban Environment

Gathering tinder is for when you are out in the bush right?

True, locating and identifying good sources of tinder and fire craft is more commonly related to bush survival. However, in a SHTF situation knowing where the available sources of tinder and fuel are and how to use them could save your life. In the usual urban environment shelter is readily available. This leads us to the next second priority – fire.

Making fire when the gas and power is out, even for a short time, can be a real challenge unless you are willing to think outside the box and use everything around you. This, in itself, is the essence of prepping.

First things first – Getting heat

You can put all methods of fire craft into practical use in the urban environment if you can get hold of the raw materials, from the fire plough with a couple of chair legs to a bow drill with a shoelace and coat hanger. However, with modern living comes modern solutions to starting a fire. Commonplace household products, materials and cleaning chemicals can be used to create fire.


Below is a list of ways of making sparks / a flame with simple household items.

1 – A lighter – Even with no fuel the spark given off from the lighter is enough to ignite good dry tinder such as toilet paper. This is better known as a prison match. This spark can also be used to ignite flammable fluids or gunpowder.

2 – Reflective surfaces – The benefit of living out of nature is the amount of reflective, shiny things. CDs, crockery, aluminum foil, cans, bottles or machine parts can be bent and used to focus sunlight to the point of ignition. You can polish some of these surfaces with household cleaners or chocolate. (see below)

3 – Children’s toys – While it is less common nowadays, some toys do still use a wheel and flint to light up toy parts. Crack into the casing and you have yourself a flint and striker. Again in modern children’s toys this is less common due to the fire risk. That said, electronic children’s toys on the whole could well provide a solution or materials for making fire.

4 – Batteries – Batteries when connected with aluminum foil or steel wool will heat to the point of ignition. However, remember that the initial charge held by the battery must still be good. Also, make sure the foil is thinnest in the center of the strip you use to speed the process. Similar to a light bulb filament. (see below)

5 – Break fluid and chlorine – Household chlorine for the pool and standard break fluid will make a big exothermic reaction. Pound the chlorine into a fine powder, make a decent size pile, add the fluid and stand way back. Keep in mind that these materials should be handled with care and used in a well-ventilated area. (see below)

6 – Any battery-powered electrical items when the main power wires are found can be used to make a spark. Wear gloves when doing so. A good example of such are battery-operated flashlights, hand-held games, radios and digital clocks.

7 – Car Batteries – A car battery and jumper cables will make a strong spark. However, take great care when attempting it. Be sure to thoroughly inspect the cables and battery before use and wear gloves.

8 – A working flashlight – By carefully breaking the bulb and leaving the filament exposed it will heat and ignite dry tinder. This can leave you without a working light and only work once. Keep this in mind and only use it as a last resort.

Tinder and Fuel – Think outside the box.

We all know about the usual sources of tinder around the home, dryer lint, newspaper, toilet paper, gasoline, but have you explored every option? It is highly probable that in every room of your home there is something that you can use to create a spark or flame.

Below is a list of items that people may overlook.

  1. Hairspray (spray onto toilet paper or cotton for a better and longer burn before ignition)
  2. Deodorant / Aftershave (spray onto toilet paper or cotton for a better and longer burn before ignition)
  3. Oil – Cooking oil burns well depending on the type. Also, the oil from inside cans of food such as tuna. You can make a very effective oil lamp using said cans.
  4. Crayons – As we know crayons will burn like a candle. However, be sure to keep the area well ventilated. The fumes can be dangerous.
  5. Cleaning products (Different products regardless of their use have different contents. When burning these products, always do it in a ventilated area and only to get the fire going.)
  6. Potato Chips (foods with high corn and oil contents burn well, Doritos for example)
  7. Dry pasta – Spaghetti for example when lit will burn like a match. By keeping the piece unbroken at full length you can potentially light a few dozen candles to place around your home in a black out. This will save you time and conserve the other fuels and sources of fire that you have.
  8. Labels from food and household items. Most people will over look this and see the can as being metal, not remembering that it is wrapped in perfectly flammable tinder / kindling.
  9. Hair (works as tinder but has an extremely bad odor when burnt)
  10. Dryer lint from inside the machine (Even if the trap is empty, lint builds up inside the machine itself. Open up the casing at the back or bottom to check.)
  11. Oranges / Butter –  (these videos explain the process well)
  12. Bicycle inner tube or car tire (will burn for a long time, but has poisonous fumes)


All of these ideas and methods came from either my own experience or the hard work and research of other dedicated preppers. This is not a comprehensive list of all possible ways to make fire, just a few ways that might inspire a few more. Keep prepping and keep safe.

by Mike Turner

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