Homemade charcoal starters are cost-effective, easy to make and burn longer than lighter fluid and other liquid charcoal starters. The combination of paraffin wax, also known as household wax, vaseline and cotton create a nearly waterproof starter that is easily stored and transported. The cotton ball acts as wick for the vaseline to burn, while the paraffin wax protects the cotton ball and makes for easier lighting and longer burning as the wax begins to melt.
Scoop out the contents of a jar of vaseline and place it into a small pot over low heat. Allow the vaseline to heat just until it melts and becomes liquid.
Stir the cotton balls into the vaseline and allow them to soak for one or two minutes. Remove the cotton balls and place them on a sheet of waxed paper or aluminium foil until they cool.
Cut paraffin wax into small chunks for easier melting. Place the paraffin pieces into a clean, dry coffee can.
Add a couple inches of water to a clean pot. Bring water to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Place the coffee can into the simmering water and allow it to heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the paraffin wax is melted.
Dip the vaseline soaked cotton balls into the melted wax; turn to coat all sides. Remove the cotton ball with a pair of tongs and place it on a sheet of waxed paper.
Allow the wax to harden and cool before storing them in an airtight container. Store the container in a cool, dry location until ready to use.
Use the charcoal starters in place of liquid starter or lighter fluid. To use the homemade charcoal starter, place three or four prepared cotton balls in between layers of charcoal. Use a match to light the cotton balls and allow them to burn. Use more cotton balls for lighting large amounts of charcoal. The charcoal starters can also be used to light wood stoves, fireplaces or camp fires.
Adult preparation is required. Children should not attempt to make or use the charcoal starters. Use only pure paraffin wax. Do not attempt to use old candles or other wax products as these may contain other ingredients that cause harmful fumes when melted or lit. Vaseline and paraffin wax are flammable and should only be melted over low heat. Do not melt the paraffin wax over direct heat. Immediately remove the wax from the stove if it begins to smoke or splatter out of the coffee can. In the case of a spill or fire, do not put water on the wax as this will cause the fire to spread. Smother the fire with a pan lid or fire extinguisher. Do not store the charcoal starters near heat sources.