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Posted: 5/31/2008 9:03:31 PM EST
Most people here have heard of using cotton balls infused with vaseline to start a fire, and keeping them in a pill bottle or for those of us who still enjoy 35mm, the film canisters. Well, I decided to see how long they burned and what else I could come up with that might beat it. All times are from the point of ignition, and the tests were conducted during 5-10mph mild breezes on a concrete privacy-fenced patio. I have more pictures, but I've decided to be sporting, and we don't need a thirty picture OP just for campfire starters.

My Control Subjects:



My Petroleum Jelly Subjects (the sock is a little longer than the other subjects, but only by a half inch).



My Fire Stick (I have matches, but saw it as a moot point, all materials took flame within 1/4sec of having it applied. I have no flint/steel combination, I don't even know where to look for one.)



My 91% Alcohol applicator, great for cleaning glasses too without the etching effect ammonia-based cleaners have on plastic lenses:


I first burned a regular cotton ball as a control. It burned about 25 seconds, and the smoldering stoped (not much though, teeny tiny red embers) at 75 seconds. I then remembered that I had some old socks that did nothing but make my feet itch and sore because they were so thin. A peice about 2 inches by 1 inch burned for 96 seconds, and smoldered until a total of 111sec had passed.

I grabbed a spray bottle (available at any walmart for a buck) and sprayed 5 sprays about 6in from a cotton ball, rotating it in my hand, with 91% alcohol. That cotton ball burned for 70sec, and smoldered until 178sec had passed.I ran an additional test on a similar legnth peice of cotton sock with the same sprays. 54sec was all it burned, and there was no smoldering evident.



Petroleum jelly was the next fuel to be tested for the cotton balls and sock. The cotton ball burned until 209sec had passed, and smoldered until 246sec. The Petroleum Jelly sock was the real winner in this contest, as it burned out in 356 seconds. Almost 6 minutes!



I then remembered I had some gelled alcohol pellet-stove fire starter. I bought it at Walmart (i think) for a dollar a bottle.



The amount I used for each material's test:



The gelled fire starter cotton ball burned 97sec, and smoldered until 121sec had passed. The gelled fire starter sock burned 176sec, and smoldered until 207sec. This was the only test I had where the sock has smoldering embers. The flame is nearly invisible with this stuff.


Sorry for the side scrollers. My photo software offered this size for a 17" monitor (borrowed puter) and my copy of Photoshop has taken flight. These pics are actually just under 1/3 normal size.

Dumb question: I know oily rags will spontaneously combust. Is that something that could happen to cotton balls or socks infused with vaseline in a pill bottle?
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 10:06:38 AM EST
I figured this would have gotten a bigger response.
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 10:19:52 AM EST
why didn't you try burning the quarter?
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 10:39:41 AM EST
You can also used gel hand cleaner [also gelled alcohol] in this application in lieu of the purpose sold fire starter compound.

Link Posted: 6/1/2008 10:54:19 AM EST
I find that soaking a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol works really well if you actually soak it all the way through it burns with a nice little flame for awhile.
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 12:08:48 PM EST
maybe a wrapped up tee shirt with lighter fluid will last longer.

fireball
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 1:23:45 PM EST

Originally Posted By MoparMike:

Dumb question: I know oily rags will spontaneously combust. Is that something that could happen to cotton balls or socks infused with vaseline in a pill bottle?


Never

It only happens to drying oils (ie tung, boiled linseed (BLO)), which produce heat as they polymerise. To happen you need oxygen and a nice ball of rags. Two few rags and there is too much heat loss, no oxygen, no reaction, too much air and there is too much heat loss.

I use BLO on tool handles, as a metal finish, and tung oil as a food finish. Never had any problems. BLO rag goes back in a mason jar, tung rag gets tossed flat on top of the table saw.

Never heard first hand of a fire being started this way, though it can and has happened.
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 6:14:11 PM EST
I read in a manual awhile back. To use your old dryer lint and compact it into an egg carton. Then pour parrafin onto it.

Its supposed to burn hot for a long time. Givig you ample heat and flame to start a fire. I have been saving up my dryer lint for awhile. I might give it a try.
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 6:17:45 PM EST

Originally Posted By MoparMike:
The Petroleum Jelly sock was the real winner in this contest


... Cool - Just goes to show, newer ain't necessarily better
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 6:45:11 PM EST
You can't find a flint/steel firestarter? Have you tried Wal-Mart?
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 7:47:44 PM EST

Originally Posted By hungrymonkey:
I read in a manual awhile back. To use your old dryer lint and compact it into an egg carton. Then pour parrafin onto it.

Its supposed to burn hot for a long time. Givig you ample heat and flame to start a fire. I have been saving up my dryer lint for awhile. I might give it a try.


I used to make these when I was in scouts. One thing to note is that dryer lint form a load of cotton cloths works a lot better than from a load of polyester clothes. Polyester tends to melt rather than ignite when hit with a spark, although using a flame to start polyester lint isn't a problem.

Also, these contraptions are relatively bulky and heavy for fire starters. A small tinder box with heat tabs, cotton swabs, or even just an ample supply of matches, dry lint, and hot sparks will get you through most fire building. The Paraffin-Egg Carton contraption is good if you need to start a fire in heavy rain where all your wood is wet. It burns with a lot of flame for a long time. But it is no substitute for chopping your wood first.
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 7:49:41 PM EST

Originally Posted By 70satvert:
You can't find a flint/steel firestarter? Have you tried Wal-Mart?


First place I looked.
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 8:10:28 PM EST
cool test
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 8:30:20 PM EST

Originally Posted By DarthZeth:

Originally Posted By hungrymonkey:
I read in a manual awhile back. To use your old dryer lint and compact it into an egg carton. Then pour parrafin onto it.

Its supposed to burn hot for a long time. Givig you ample heat and flame to start a fire. I have been saving up my dryer lint for awhile. I might give it a try.


I used to make these when I was in scouts. One thing to note is that dryer lint form a load of cotton cloths works a lot better than from a load of polyester clothes. Polyester tends to melt rather than ignite when hit with a spark, although using a flame to start polyester lint isn't a problem.

Also, these contraptions are relatively bulky and heavy for fire starters. A small tinder box with heat tabs, cotton swabs, or even just an ample supply of matches, dry lint, and hot sparks will get you through most fire building. The Paraffin-Egg Carton contraption is good if you need to start a fire in heavy rain where all your wood is wet. It burns with a lot of flame for a long time. But it is no substitute for chopping your wood first.




I live in Oregon, that is probably why I remember reading it. I think it was the scouts manual. It rains around 9 months a year here. So finding bone dry wood is a bit of a stretch.



Originally Posted By MoparMike:

Originally Posted By 70satvert:
You can't find a flint/steel firestarter? Have you tried Wal-Mart?


First place I looked.



my local walmart has them in the hiking section. Its the same Isle with the camper black tank supplies.
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 9:35:30 PM EST

Originally Posted By MoparMike:

Originally Posted By 70satvert:
You can't find a flint/steel firestarter? Have you tried Wal-Mart?


First place I looked.


Odd. You can find them at every Wal-Mart I've ever been in, over in the outdoor/camping/sporting good area.
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 9:49:36 PM EST

Mopar excellent test. Boredom does pay from time to time. One thing I do want to try is charcoal briquettes soaked in melted candle wax.
Link Posted: 6/1/2008 11:01:40 PM EST

Originally Posted By ireload:
Mopar excellent test. Boredom does pay from time to time. One thing I do want to try is charcoal briquettes soaked in melted candle wax.


Try this ultimate firestarter. Get some potassium nitrate [stump remover] and boil some water and dissolve all you can in it. Then toss in in a couple of charcoal bricketts and let them soak a while.

Then put them into the sun to dry for a few days. I guess you could use a microwave but I'd be sure to do it outside and with one I was throwing away.

I've never tried to do what I'm outlining but you might want to be real careful when you lite one of these because I think it would set a lot of wet wood on fire. Light it with a long stick and match and stand back.

Oh, take lots of pictures too.
Link Posted: 6/2/2008 6:04:32 AM EST
About three weeks ago a woman here on the island was refinishing a desk and used boiled linseed oil to put a finish on the raw wood.She threw the rags she was using into one of those kitchen garbage cans with the step on to open the lid things. Later that night the husband heard a loud pop and woke up. Went into the living room and saw the whole house fully involved with fire. He had only SECONDS to get the wife out as the house collapsed around them. The popping was a spray can of something that the fire blew up. If he had not heard that pop they would have both been killed. The house, including a collection of rare books was completely lost. They were really lucky.
Link Posted: 6/3/2008 10:31:51 AM EST
I keep the little bottles of hand sanitizer in all my survival kits. Great for keeping clean, and very good for starting fires.
I also now keep chapstick around, in my kits, car, etc. I just scrap off a glob of chapstick and work it into a cotton ball, lint, or cotton scrap. Works pretty good as a fire starter.

I like dual purpose stuff
Link Posted: 6/4/2008 2:38:13 AM EST
alcohol wipes also
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