Waterproofing Matches


It’s always a good idea to have 2-3 methods of lighting a fire readily available and stocked in a survival kit/s at all times. The rationale behind this is that if 1 method fails, you’ll have at least 1, if not multiple, other chances of lighting a fire. If you’re inexperienced with the skill of firecraft, it can be difficult enough starting a fire even under the best of conditions, let alone, cold, hungry, and wet in a survival situation.

There are many different tools and devices than can be used to spark a fire ranging from lighters, matches, firesteels, etc. Today’s post will deal with matches, and how to enhance them by making them water resistant. The obvious benefit of water resistant matches is even if you and your gear gets wet (falling in water, rain, snow, etc.), you still have the ability to quickly gather fuel, and light a fire to keep you warm, dry off, and possibly save your life.

Using Wax

You can waterproof your matches quickly and cheaply by using wax – either paraffin or soy. The wax coats the match, forming a water resistant layer around it. When the match is needed, the action of striking the match will peel away the thin coating of wax and allow the match to ignite.

For optimal results, always use a strong, wooden match either the regular or strike anywhere variety. Although the strike anywhere variety are generally a bit more expensive, they carry the extra benefit of not needing to store a striker to ignite them. Begin by melting the wax in a double boiler. If a double boiler isn’t available, simply boil water in a large pot and place the wax in a smaller pot inside the larger pot, the boiling water will melt the wax. Once the wax has melted in the double boiler/pans, simply drop the matches in. You’ll want to use a tool such as pliers, a knife, etc., to stir the the matches around. Ensure that the matches are thoroughly coated in wax and remove them after a minute or so. Place the matches on a newspaper or some other covered surface and allow the wax to harden until completely cooled. Make sure the matches aren’t touching each other while cooling. That’s it, the matches are now water resistant and it’s time for a quick quality test. You can test to see if it works by submerging a match in water or spraying 1 with a mist bottle and then striking it. If it still ignites, you know you’ve made a good batch.

Using Clear Nail polish

This method uses nail polish to act as the waterproofing agent for the matches. Obtain some clear nail polish, the brand doesn’t matter so just use what you have or buy the cheapest kind you can find. Next, simply paint the tip of the match, along with approximately 1/8th inch beneath the tip with the nail polish. Another method if you plan on waterproofing a large amount of matches is to pour enough nail polish in a shallow container and dip the match tip + 1/8th inch in the container. The most important step of this method is to ensure the coated part of the match doesn’t touch anything while drying. There’s a number of ways you can accomplish this step and we’ll leave it up to you to determine the best way of doing this. After 2-3 hours, apply one more coat to the treated matches and allow them to dry overnight. The next day, test them to ensure they still ignite.

You can also take it one step further and expose them to water and then try to ignite them.


Turpentine (also known as spirit of turpentine, oil of turpentine, or wood turpentine) can also be used to make matches water resistant. This method is the easiest and quickest method of waterproofing matches.

All you need to do is simply pour a few tablespoons into a small glass or beaker and simply place the matches, tip down, into the glass. The turpentine will soak through into the head and permeate the stem of the match.

Leave the matches in the glass for approximately 5 minutes, then remove, and place them on a covered surface to dry. As with the other methods, make sure the matches aren’t touching while drying. You should allow a minimum of 20 minutes for the matches to dry.

Like the other methods, perform a quality test to ensure the matches can ignite.


Regardless of which method you use to waterproof your matches, you’ll want to store them as quickly as possible in a waterproof or airtight container. Matches do have a shelf life that varies depending on type (regular or strike anywhere) and moisture.

Moisture will reduce the shelf life of the matches so take care when choosing your storage container. You can also place silica in the container if you wish to absorb any possible moisture and thus extend the shelf life of your matches. It’s also highly prudent to test 2-3 matches every 3 months to ensure they’re still functioning.

Even if you chose strike anywhere matches, it’s also good to be as prepared as possible by storing the striking strip you can find on regular match boxes. Just be careful and store them separate (you can spread out a few strips in your survival kit, just be sure the containers are also airtight/watertight).


Waterproofing matches can be accomplished with minimal time, energy, and resources.

They enhance an already valuable item to have in any survival kit or to take with you during any outdoor activity such as hiking, camping, hunting, etc. Remember the important of testing a few matches out of every batch you make to ensure quality. Also, test your matches at minimum, every 3 months to ensure they still function properly.

By having another water resistant fire starter readily available in a survival situation, you can start a fire when needed quicker and easier, possibly saving your life in a disaster scenario.

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