13 Natural Fire Starting Materials

natural fire starting material

When the main source of heat for your home is a wood burning stove, you truly understand the importance of being able to start a fire quickly.  Here’s a list of natural fire starting materials which can easily be found around your home or on your property, items that you more than likely use, or ones can be found on a regular basis. 

It’s been 3 winters since we’ve utilized our Timberline cast iron wood stove, also lovingly known as The Beast, to heat our home.  Though our wood is seasoned, we use tinder to help start all fires; many items can be used to ignite a fire, but we’re going keep it simple and list items that can easily be found around the homestead.

I’m not the best fire starter, and in truth it took about 2 winters before I finally got the hang of it.  For some reason, when you’re cold it seem to take forever before a fire finally catches!  As a homesteading family our goal is to create a zero waste product, or seek items around the homestead that will do the job.  Basically, we seek free material as often as possible, this includes what we use as tinder.

natural fire starting material
A variety of pinecones can be found in our part of the Pacific Northwest, and once dried they are our choice as a natural fire starting item

There’s never a shortage of pinecones in our area, which the kids are responsible for collecting and setting out to dry.  Drying pinecones is quite easy, bake them for 30 minutes at 200 degrees or leave them in a basket next to your wood burning stove allowing the heat to naturally dry them.  Pine needles also make an excellent tinder item and can easily be collected and dried by placing them next to the stove or fireplace.

Citrus peels also work wonderfully.  The oils found in the peels help to fuel the fire, not to mention the peels smell quite good as they  burn.  Citrus peels should be dried prior to using them ~  dry them next to the wood burning stove or place into the oven and dry for 30 minutes at 200 degrees.

natural fire starting material
Citrus peels are saved and dried by the wood burning stove

Toilet paper rolls filled with dryer lint will catch on fire immediately.  We save toilet paper rolls throughout the year and fill them when we empty the lint trap of the dryer.

13 narueal fire starting materials

Nutshells are also excellent for starting fires.  Okay, I’m sure many of you are chuckling at this, but this is excellent for those of you who have nut trees on the homestead.  Yes, I know this isn’t for everyone, but I thought I’d throw it out there!

natural fire starting material

This next item may be difficult for a few of you to find, but for us in the Pacific Northwest there’s no shortage of moss to be found!  If you’re able to harvest moss drying it is quite easy ~ begin with removing the moisture by pressing it with a towel, then lay it out in the sun to dry for roughly 1 week.

natural fire starting material
We are able to harvest and dry moss year round

Wood kindling is made when we split our firewood each fall, generally with Cottonwood or Alder.  Cattail also makes for an excellent tinder and we are lucky to be able to harvest quite a bit of it yearly.

A Few Not So Natural Tinder Items

We do burn cardboard, though not on a regular basis.  The cardboard needs to be clean of tape and should not have a glossy sheen to it.  Many individuals will not burn cardboard for fear of chimney fires ~ a chimney with to much creosote can catch on fire easily by the flakes of the cardboard entering the chimney and igniting the creosote.

The market and shops in our area provide brown paper bags if you have forgotten your reusable bag, which my darling husband does quite often.  If the brown bags don’t get reused they also become tinder for a fire.

Let’s not forget the amount of paper brought home from school or junk mail, nothing goes to waste around here.  However, we do not burn any paper product with a glossy finish or envelopes with a plastic windows.  Why create chemical toxins when you don’t need to?

natural fire starting material

 Stay warm friends, hopefully these tips will help you get there faster!


natural fire starting material


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  1. My brother-in-law says he uses Dorito chips to start a campfire when the boy scouts go on their overnight. The oil in the chips burns hot & quickly.

  2. This is an awesome list! This would be great when we vacation at a cabin (which used to be annually until part of Gatlinburg caught fire :/ now it’s too expensive). We can also use for starting our fires in our firepit. Can’t wait to start creating our kindling stash!!

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