We like to highlight low cost and minimal effort preps that can have a high impact on your preparedness. Continuing this series, I am going to show you my absolute favorite fire-starter: PetroJelly Cotton Balls. This mini project is so simple and so cheap that there is no excuse for you not completing this one and adding it to your preps today.
The only materials you will need are 100% cotton balls, petroleum jelly, and a container. The container can be anything airtight like a 35mm film canister, Altoids tin, empty butter container, or even aluminum foil. Use the right size container for your needs. For example, I use a medium size plastic food container with a lid for the fire-starters for my wood stove, but I wrap 5 cotton balls in aluminum foil for my get home bags and backpack. Use your imagination and use what works for you.
Get your containers ready and have them nearby with the lids off. You are going to have messy hands and you want to have everything in place so you you wont have to touch it much. Set out the number of cotton balls that you will be making. Its hard to make too many because they will keep for many, many years. Now simply smear the jelly on your hand and rub it into a cotton ball. Make sure you apply a liberal amount and that it is very soaked. Ideally, the outside is coated, but you can pull the cotton ball apart to reveal dry material. Take the covered cotton balls and place them in you containers and seal them tight. If you are using aluminum foil, wrap 5 or 6 cotton balls and press it down, fold over, and seal. It sounds simple because it is!
How to use
As a fire-starter, these little petro-balls can’t be beat. To use, simply remove one or more from the container, pull it apart slightly to expose some of the dry material, then apply a spark or flame. An individual petro-ball will burn with a moderately hot flame for over 5 full minutes. Even with damp tinder, a single ball is usually all it takes to start a fire and it requires very little skill or effort. I find these home made “Vaseline cotton balls” to be better than even the store bought fire-starters costing several dollars a dozen. Absolutely everyone should have several containers of these in their home, bug out bag, and vehicles.
Aside from starting fires, these petro-balls also will work as a source of petroleum jelly in a pinch. Use a jelly covered cotton ball to prevent chapped skin or lips, apply to a burn or to frostbite, or numerous other medical purposes. They would also be useful to apply a small amount of lubricant to various items. Having a fire-starter and an extra source of petroleum jelly in one package is a great dual-use item.
Now that you see how easy and effective these little petro-balls are, its time for you to make your own. I suggest making a couple and trying them out first. Experiment with the amount to jelly it takes to get a great flame that lasts over 5 minutes. Then make all you need! The point of the Low Cost Prep is to be minimal effort and high impact. I think you will agree that these little balls are just that.