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DIY Pill Bottle Firestarters

One of the best things that you can do for your kids is to teach them to be more self-reliant and knowledgeable about their own survival at an early age. Make it a part of everything that you do and it won’t seem like such a weird concept.

Each week, we tackle one skill, one activity, and one refresher to do during our home school time (hey, might as well take advantage of the credits, huh?) that helps us learn more.

In doing that, I am very Pro-Kid-Led activity, so I tasked my kids to come up with a way to use some old leftover pill bottles we had and create something for our bug-out bags. They each did a little research and this is what they decided to share.

So, that is why we have an article on how you make your own DIY firestarters.


How to Make Emergency Pill Bottle Firestarters

Here is the instruction on how to make your own emergency bottle firestarters.

Step 1

Remove the labels from the pill bottles and soak bottles in a little soapy water for a few hours. If needed, use a scrubby pad to take off as much of the paper & adhesive as possible. Then use a little goo-fighting liquid to remove the last of the adhesive.

Let air-dry. Once dry, use a marker and write firestarter on the outside.

Step 1 - firestarters

Step 2

Get all the items you need together which include:

  • 100% cotton balls
  • Sandwich bag
  • Empty bottles
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Chopsticks or tweezers
  • Spoon
Step 2 firestarters

Step 3

Tear the cotton balls up into small pieces.

This is a good time to teach your kids about tensile strength in cotton balls. We prefer smaller pieces to allow us to maneuver into our rocket stove and use them for small fires, but using the cotton balls full size is just fine.

Step 3 - firestarters

Step 4

Scoop out some petroleum jelly and place it into your sandwich bag.

We typically use two spoonfuls. Once the spoon is in the bag, use the bag to help scrape off the excess from the spoon to keep your hands clean.

Step 4 - firestarters

Step 5

Fill the baggie with cotton ball bits from step 3. Seal off the bag and knead the bag for a short time. You want to be sure you are getting the jelly goo all over everything!

Step 5 - firestarters

Step 6

Use chopsticks, bamboo skewers, or tweezers to transfer the goopy cotton ball bits to the pill bottle. Pack in the cotton as tightly as you can.

Step 6 - firestarters

Step 7

Put on the cap and now you have your finished pill bottle firestarter!

Step 7 - firestarters

How It Works

You now have some firestarters and can be prepared for any emergency.

You’ve basically created the beginnings of a candle. Once a flame has been introduced to the cotton, the cotton ball (which acts as a wick) is the fire carrier and the wax (petroleum jelly) is the burn agent.

Important: The cotton should not be burned in the plastic container! You should be removing the cotton and placing it on a safe burning area. If you are camping, you can use sticks and leaves for example.

And like a candle, as long as there is an agent, the wick doesn’t just burn away. So you have a long-lasting fire starter that starts in an instant with a few sparks from fire steel or a lighter or another spark-generator.

What really makes this a great fire-starting tinder is that it is essentially waterproof, unlike matches. As long as your whole cotton ball is covered in goo, you can even start it in the rain!

Because it burns so easily, yet slowly, you can even start it in wind. A hurricane-force wind just might cause a problem, but mild breezes that might make starting a fire a problem will not be a problem for this tinder.

This is exceptionally great to use with a Rocket Stove. Place it inside the stove, light it, and begin feeding the stove with sticks.

Other PREParedness Uses for Empty Pill Bottles

1. Emergency Fishing Kit – includes fishing line, hooks, weights, lures

2. Emergency Fire Starting Kit – include matches and tinder. Glue sandpaper to the bottle’s top or bottom. This isn’t waterproof, but water resistant.

3. Emergency Sewing Kit – fill with a bobbin of thread, some needles, safety pins, straight pins, etc.

4. Emergency Cash Stash – fill with quarters and have emergency money on hand.

5. Emergency Mini-First Aid Kit – sample-sized antibiotics, bandaids, and gauze pads.

6. Emergency Water Filtration System (start at around 1:38)

7. Emergency Ammo storage- you can fit quite a few .22 shells even in the smallest of pill bottles.

8. Spices, powders, and other condiments- use for a bug-out bag or hiking bag. While not waterproof, they are water resistant, so you might find this a great way to tuck in broth for water, tea, spices, etc.

Your Thoughts: What other emergency uses can you think of for reusing pill bottles?

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Katy Willis is a writer, lifelong homesteader, and master herbalist, master gardener, and canine nutritionist. Katy is a preparedness expert and modern homesteader practicing everyday preparedness, sustainability, and a holistic lifestyle.

She knows how important it is to be prepared for whatever life throws at you, because you just never know what's coming. And preparedness helps you give your family the best chance to thrive in any situation.

Katy is passionate about living naturally, growing food, keeping livestock, foraging, and making and using herbal remedies. Katy is an experienced herbalist and a member of the CMA (Complementary Medical Association).

Her preparedness skills go beyond just being "ready", she's ready to survive the initial disaster, and thrive afterward, too. She grows 100% organic food on roughly 15 acres and raises goats, chickens, and ducks. She also lovingly tends her orchard, where she grows many different fruit trees. And, because she likes to know exactly what she's feeding her family, she's a seasoned from-scratch cook and gluten-free baker.

Katy teaches foraging and environmental education classes, too, including self-sufficient living, modern homesteading, seed saving, and organic vegetable gardening.

Katy helps others learn forgotten skills, including basic survival skills and self-reliance.

She's been published on sites such as MSN, Angi, Home Advisor, Family Handyman, Wealth of Geeks, Readers Digest, and more.

4 thoughts on “DIY Pill Bottle Firestarters”

    • Absolutely not! The cotton will be removed from the bottle and then can be used as needed! Updated the article to clarify that.

  1. I did this but I took it a step farther on recycling and used dryer lint. I take an old paper towel holder and put over my dryer and as I empty the dryer vent, I stuff the lint into the paper towel roll. Then when I have enough lint and pill bottles, I make my fire starter kit! Thank you for sharing! Great job getting your kiddos involved in prepping!

  2. Don’t use TOO much Vaseline. Experiment to see which mixture lights easiest. Not which burns longer. May try Vaseline in the bottom of the bottle, separated by aluminum foil, with dry cotton on top. Mix as needed per type of spark.


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