Dryer-Lint Fire-Starters (Fun With Trash for Lag B’Omer)

roadkill fire-starter

roadkill or wax-soaked lint?

[Making flammable treasure from trash, with kids.]

Fake fire crafts are cute, but they don’t make sense unless kids have helped make a real fire. Lag B’Omer gives us an extra excuse to get outside, play with sticks and mess about with fire-building skills. Everyone needs to know how to build a fire. And how to put one out.

Most scout or outdoor-skill sites have fire how-tos galore, so I needn’t repeat a tutorial. (For example, Smoky the Bear’s simple outline: How To Build A Campfire.) I just want to emphasize how fun it can be to get real.

Speaking of real, you might really need a bit of help to start the fire. May I suggest a fun, family project: Dryer Lint Fire-starters?

This DIY is a classic for Girl Scouts and Survivalist bug-out baggers alike, because it turns trash into portable fuel ready to kindle weenie roasts or post-apocalyptic signal fires. (Or Lag B’Omer fires of any size.)

I’ve seen pastel-pretty versions of lint+egg carton+wax firestarters on Pinterest, but come ON: Pinterest perfection need not be a goal with this project. Dryer lint is ugly. Yours is ugly too, unless you can meet all of the criteria below:

• you are an Olympic swimmer who waxes 100% of body hair
• you wear only all-cotton, ecru garments
• you have no pets
• you live and launder alone

dryer lint so unrealistically smooth it made national news

dryer lint so unrealistically smooth it made national news

Our dryer lint is disgusting. It’s full of gobbets of mystery, random colors and textures, fur from dogs living and dead, playground mulch, and too many types of human hair. All the better to catch fire and burn long enough to ingite the kindling.

After you coax the hairy mass into a cardboard egg carton, do not do what I did.   Most DIY tutorials say to “melt wax in can on stove and pour.” For some reason, I opted to light an old red taper and drizzle. Drizzled red taper takes forever to get any coverage, and frankly, the spatters look like a winter nosebleed. I also learned that mere lashings of any color will not saturate and thus disguise lint as crisp, solid blocks of Girl Scout fuel.

do not drizzle

do not drizzle

By the way, ideally the wax is also an upcycle: wax that would otherwise be tossed out, such as crappy restaurant crayons, used birthday candles, or decorative pillars too hideous to keep. (Note there is no need to peel the crayons: those paper tubes act as wicks.)

Back to my project: To remedy the nose-bleed look, I melted random candle butts in an empty can and poured. Now, instead of bloody spurts I have a whole roadkill thing going on. Possum, I’d guess. Not squirrel, because squirrel has ombré highlights.

The end result? A set of fire-starters that are perfectly hideous. But guess what? They are also perfectly functional. Those stray hairs and gobbets are a bonus: they ignite super-fast. Next time we need to roast marshmallows or burn the junk mail, these ugly bombs will light our fire just fine.

random candle butts

random candle butts and restaurant crayons

TIPS for the meticulous:
* Most tutorials tell you to cut the egg carton apart after all has cooled. This is harder to do than it sounds. That wax is THICK. In fact, I wished heartily for a Reciprocating Saw. Next time, we’re cutting these babies apart before we wax them, and we’ll line them up in a disposable something to catch the spillage (which we will save to melt for the next, next time).

* Empty toilet paper tubes are an alternative to cardboard egg cartons, but I prefer cartons: kids can see the lint absorb the wax and thus get a better sense of how much is enough.

* Do not save your lint for birds to use as nesting material. Is isn’t good for them at all. See AllAboutBirds.com (favorite bird site) for better alternatives (scroll down to Nest Materials).

* Here’s a “prettier” version, with crayons:

thrilled to melt restaurant crayons

don’t unwrap the crayons: they’ll burn better

See a detailed Fire-Starter tutorial for a vaseline version (more reliable) and waterproof crayon version at Chica and Joe. (Double boiler method is far safer than a can placed directly on the stove eye, and remember, paraffin wax catches fire when too hot. A little heat is  enough.)

CBS story about an artist who makes massive “tapestries” from color-coded dryer lint. Nary a mystery gobbet or dog hair in sight. You have to see her 14 ft. long Last Supper.

Dryer Lint Handicraft Trivia Bonus Points: Can anyone remember what handicraft Iola Boylan made out of dryer lint? (Mama’s Family, a spinoff from the Carol Burnett Show.) I’ve googled too long and still can’t find it.

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