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Alternative Fire Starting Without Matches

By The ITS Crew

Whether you’re lost in the woods, bugging out, or simply need to get a fire going, these alternative fire starting techniques could come in handy in the event you don’t have matches.

Even if you have matches, it’s likely that they may not even do the job. Windy or damp weather, depending on the type of matches you have, could mean they’re a no-go.

These techniques we’ll show today are not all encompassing, as there are plenty of resourceful ways of starting a fire, but here are a few alternative methods.

Steel Wool and a 9v Battery

Alternative Fire Starting Without Matches

While it’s not likely you’ll have Steel Wool and a 9v Battery with you while you’re lost in the woods, you could very well have these items lying around in your house.

Steel Wool is an excellent conductor, which means it allows the passage of electrons through it, or in this case the spark from the 9v.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Steel Wool – The finer the better and get the stuff without the soap.
  2. 9v Battery – A brand new battery is preferred
  3. Tinder – Dryer Lint makes for excellent tinder and it’s another common household item.

Start by stretching the Steel Wool out. A bunched up piece of Steel Wool will not allow the spark to be carried as quickly throughout.

Take the 9v Battery and scrape it across the Steel Wool, the conductor will carry the current through the Steel Wool and produce a spark. This will then be spread throughout the Steel Wool.

This happens quickly so it’s important to transfer this to your tinder pile as soon as you see the spark. You’ll also need to gently blow on the Steel Wool to aid in producing a flame (see video below).

Steel Wool and a Cell Phone Battery

Alternative Fire Starting Without Matches

In a true survival situation all you may have is your iPhone from AT&T that drops calls all the time and be unable to get a hold of anyone to come rescue you.

If this is the case and you’d rather have a fire than dealing with the iPhone issues, simply break it apart and grab the battery.

Although, if you happen to have another brand of phone that actually lets you replace the battery, just take it out and grab your Steel Wool.

Much like the above method, a cell phone battery can do the same thing as the 9v battery from the technique above.

This is definitely more plausible for most people, as it’s more likely you’d have the forethought to carry some steel wool than a 9v battery. And who doesn’t have a cell phone on them these days.

Even if by some remote chance you forgot your steel wool, there are other common conductors such as wire that can be used to create a spark.

Hand Sanitizer

Some of you may not know this, but hand sanitizer is flammable. It typically contains gel made of Isopropanol or Ethyl Alcohol, both of which are flammable.

It’s not going to ignite your hands if you go for a smoke break after using it, as this email would have you believe.

You will typically need an open flame though in order to get sanitizer lit. We’ve achieved getting it going with a spark, but those results are not typical.

It also doesn’t produce as much heat as a fire would and isn’t very windproof. It is, however, a good alternative fuel you can use in a pinch.

The flame on sanitizer is also very hard to see in daylight, much like an alcohol stove is. In the video below we get it ignited and hold a piece of wood up to it to prove that it’s lit.


As we stated, these are just a few alternative techniques we know of to start a fire without matches and are not all encompassing.

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