How to Make Matches Waterproof: 4 Methods That Work


how to waterproof matches

If you use matches outdoors, such as while camping, you’ll know the huge value of having waterproof matches. And while there are some store-bought waterproof matches out there, they’re pretty expensive and not available everywhere.

Lucky for you, there are plenty of methods to make your regular household matches waterproof by using different items that you can find in your house. 

In today’s article, I’ll show you how to waterproof matches using 4 different methods in a step-by-step guide, so you can pick the ideal one for you!

Method #1: Using Candles

Candles are made of standard wax, paraffin wax, and soy-based wax, regardless of the type of candle you use, they’re usually hydrophobic materials, which means that they’re naturally resistant to water.

candle and matches

Here’s how to use this feature to turn your regular matches into waterproof ones:

1. Prepare the Necessary Tools

Start by gathering all the necessary tools for the safety and success of this project. Here’s everything you’ll need:

  • Regular matchsticks
  • Tray for dripping
  • Any Type of Suitable Candle (you can also use tealights)

Tip: You can test out whether the candles in your possession work for this project by dripping some of the wax on a sheet of paper and let it cool. 

After that, add 1 or 2 drops of water on top of the hardened wax. If the water beads up on top of the wax or slides right off, you’re good to go!

2. Liquify the Wax

Start by lighting the candle in your possession and let the wick burn for a few minutes or long enough to start dripping candle wax. You can also hold the candle in a tilted angle to drip the wax into the tray. 

Continue dripping wax until you have a puddle large and deep enough to fit the matchsticks’ heads, which is about 1/2 an inch or 1 cm. You can make a larger puddle of wax if you’re waterproofing a large batch of lighting matches.

A good tip here is to previously warm up the dripping tray to keep the wax in a liquid state when it hits the surface. However, you can always warm up the bottom of the tray if the wax solidifies.

For very large batches, a more convenient method to melt wax is to prepare a water bath and place a few candles in a small pan (just like you do with chocolate).

3. Coat the Matchsticks

After extinguishing the candlelight, you’ll be left with a pool of wax. Hold the matchsticks from the wooden stick and dip the head end in the melted wax so that you cover the striking tip completely in addition to a quarter of an inch or 5 millimeters of the wooden stick below it.

Time is of the essence in this step because the wax will solidify if left in the open and you also don’t want the wax to soak into the matchstick head.

For that reason, you shouldn’t dip the matchstick in the candle for longer than 1 or 2 seconds.

Another DIY hack that you can apply here is to wrap a thin strand of yarn under the striking tip and coat it in wax too. This can turn the matches into waterproof fire starters!

4. Let the Wax Solidify

After taking the wax out of the matches, immediately blow cool air gently to help them partially solidify. Make sure that the matchsticks don’t stick to each other or to the surface they’re sitting on.

When the transparent wax starts to become opaque again, pinch below the tip end of the matchstick gently to seal the coating then set it aside to solidify completely and repeat for other matches. 

To use the matches, you only need to scrape off the coating layer of wax off the matches and it should be ready for lighting. 

If you use strike-anywhere matches, you might not need to scrape off the wax, as they’ll fire up directly from under the thin layer of wax.

Method #2: Using Crayons

Crayons are made of specific types of wax that are also waterproof. If you have an old set of crayons in your house, here’s how to put them to good use:

crayons and matches

1. Gather Your Tools

For starters, you’ll need any type of crayons for the job. It doesn’t matter the brand or the color of the crayons, only one will do for small to medium batches.

However, a cool tip to apply here is to use unique color if available. This will help you easily distinguish the waterproof matches from the regular ones. You’ll also use a lighter, a disposable dripping plate, a sharp knife, and of course, matchsticks.

2. Line Up the Matches

You can use the water bath method here to fully melt the crayon and dip the matches in them. However, crayons might take forever to melt, making this step quite inefficient and tedious, let alone the cleanup!

Instead, you only need to line up your matches on a disposable plate so that the striking ends are in the deeper part of the plate.

Make sure that the matches are at least 1/2 an inch away from each other so they don’t stick together.

3. Melt and Drip the Crayon

Using the lighter, start to melt the crayon on top of the matches. Make sure that you keep the flame close to the crayon to speed up the melting process but also rotate the crayons constantly, so they don’t catch on fire.

Soon enough, the crayon will start to melt and drip on top of the match heads. Ideally, you want to test the drip pace and accuracy close to the matches before starting to drip over them.

While coating the tip of the wax, make sure that you also include 1/4 of an inch of the stick below the striking head. 

Once the puddle of crayon wax is deep enough, set the crayon aside and roll the matchsticks in the melted crayon so that it’s covered from all directions. For efficiency on larger batches, you might want to ask someone to help you through that step.

Remember to remove the matchsticks as soon as they’re fully covered in crayon wax because you won’t be able to take them off if the crayon solidifies.

Method #3: Using Nail Polish

Nail polish is made of film-forming polymers and usually includes water-resisting materials to prevent water from soaking into the nail.

match and nail polish

It’s one of the easiest methods to waterproof matches:

1. Bring a Suitable Nail Polish

Bring any kind of nail polish that is plenty enough to allow you to dip the matchstick right in. I recommend that you get a transparent one here, so you’re able to see the level of depth while dipping the matchstick.

Although they’d still work, avoid glittery nail polishes because they can cause the matchsticks to crackle and spark.

2. Dip the Matches in the Nail Polish

Dip the striking end of the matchsticks into nail polish so that all the head is covered in nail polish in addition to an extra 1/4 inch of the stick below. Take the matchsticks out immediately so the nail polish doesn’t soak into the matches.

If the bottle of nail polish is not easy to dip into, you simply paint the matchsticks from all sides instead.

3. Let Them Dry

Set the matchsticks on the edge of the table and let them air dry. Although nail polish dries up quickly, you might want to add a dripping tray at the bottom of the matchsticks to avoid making a mess.

Method #4: Using Turpentine

Turpentine is paint thinner and a hydrophobic coating that can be used for waterproofing matches. 

turpentine and matches

Keep in mind that turpentine deteriorates over time, so the matches should be used within a few months of waterproofing them.

If you have some laying around in your garage, they can be the easiest of methods. Here’s how to use them:

1. Prepare the Turpentine

Turpentine is available online and you can find it in almost all hardware stores in the paints section. However, you can also use shellac as an alternative if you are using the same steps.

Add some of the turpentine in an old jar or a disposable glass cup with a wide mouth so that it’s deep enough to dip your matches. 

2. Dip the Matches and Let Them Dry

Dip the matches in turpentine and let them sit in for 5 minutes. Turpentine is flammable, so you don’t have to worry about soaking the matchstick heads.

When the time is up, take them out and spread the matchsticks onto a dry paper towel or newspaper to evaporate excess turpentine then store them in an airtight container for long-term seal.

Wrap Up

There you have it! A complete guide that shows how to waterproof matches in 4 different methods.

As you can see, there are plenty of methods to do it, and some of them are safer than others. Always keep in mind that projects that involve matches are meant for adults only, as they can involve some fire hazard.

Also, make sure that you perform these projects in a controlled, well-ventilated room and away from any flammable materials.

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