Make Waterproof Matches
- Make sure to transfer unused turpentine into recyclable plastic water bottles for safe storage, it is best to transfer outside in case of spills.
Waterproof matches are generally expensive to buy. But you can make your own for only a fraction of the price. Listed below are a number of effective & proven ways to make waterproof matches that you can use when camping, backpacking, or in an emergency.
All the below methods 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.
Method 1 of 4: Use Turpentine
The BEST & SAFEST Method is to use Turpentine. (Turpentine has a higher "flash point" relative to Acetone, which commonly used in Nail Polish. Nor does it involve the use of flame as is needed in the Wax or Paraffin methods.)
1Pour 2 to 3 large tablespoons of Turpentine into a small (Tumbler sized) glass.
2Place 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.
3Remove 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.
Method 2 of 4: Use Nail Polish
1Dip 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.
2Hold 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.
3Place a sheet of newsprint below to catch anything that may drip off.
Method 3 of 4: Use a Candle
1Light 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).
2Extinguish the candle.
3Dip 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.
4Hold 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.
5When the wax has cooled, but not completely hardened, pinch the end of the wax coating (towards the stick), forming a tight seal.
Method 4 of 4: Using Paraffin Wax
- 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.
- Wax in its liquid state is very hot and may cause severe burns. It may also catch fire.
- Turpentine is poisonous if swallowed. or inhaled intensely over a period of time.
- 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.
- Always use caution when working with 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.
Things 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.