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Everything to Know about Making Aromatic Homemade Fire Starters

Are you in need of a sustainable crafting activity? Are you looking for adorable DIY gift ideas? Scroll down for everything you need to know about how to use expired spices to create gorgeous homemade fire starters!

Sustainable Crafting: Gorgeous, Aromatic Homemade Fire Starter Gifts

Two of the great joys of my life are cooking and relaxing by a fire. However, in our quest to reduce our environmental impact via limiting our food waste, we now have a dark corner of our kitchen devoted to questionable, expired ingredients we should probably compost or throw out. 

This weekend, I found dusty jars of cardamom pods and whole allspice that pre-date meeting my husband. Our second wedding anniversary is in September.

But, oh, the guilt. Am I right? 

Sustainable Crafting: Gorgeous, Aromatic Homemade Fire Starter Gifts

Throwing away unused food is a waste. While composting alleviates some of that environmental impact, it’s worth noting the cringe-worthy USDA statistic that 30-40% of the food supply is actually rendered unusable food waste in the United States. When you factor in the costs of deforestation, the impact of fertilizers, agricultural runoff, and the energy costs of harvesting, packaging, and delivering food, this is a big deal. Additionally, and more specifically, the modern spice industry has a particularly dark history.

I wanted to find a use for expired spices that was enjoyable, beautiful, and sophisticated enough to give my newest creations as gifts. Thus, my next sustainable crafting project was born: Aromatic Homemade Fire Starter Gifts.

I did a post-holiday take on these fire starters after accidentally calling into question my outdoorsy husband’s fire lighting abilities (OMG the bruised ego!), and they’re now a peace-keeping staple in our happy home!

Sustainable Crafting: Gorgeous, Aromatic Homemade Fire Starter Gifts

What to Do with Expired Spices: Aromatic DIY Fire Starter Gifts

Safety Information for Homemade Fire Starters

Let’s start with the basics here: not everything is safe to set on fire. As I mentioned in my Christmas tree fire starter post, you’ll see a lot of posts on the internet that suggest dryer lint as a highly flammable material for homemade fire starters. Just a reminder, most dryer lint is heavily comprised of synthetic fabric fibers, aka plastic, or natural fibers that have been treated with toxic dyes and chemical agents. These elements will release harmful chemicals and potential carcinogens when ignited. This is NOT what you want to burn in your home. 

Additionally, you should not use plastics, painted wood, treated wood shavings, or household chemical agents. Also to be avoided? Toxic or poisonous plants. Skip the nightshade, don’t mess with oleander, remember hemlock is a no-go, and for heaven’s sake, put down the poison ivy. When in doubt, look up your ingredients before adding them to your fire starters to ensure they’re safe to burn in an enclosed space.

These homemade fire starters are intended for traditional fireplaces and fire pits only. Do not use them with gas or propane devices.

Also, these DIY fire starters are delightfully potent. They will send up an impressive flame, and you’ll enjoy a 10-15 minute burn time, depending on what aromatics are in your fire starters. 

Finally, and I’d hope this goes without saying (but you never know), it’s never a good idea to intentionally breathe smoke, even if you’re burning safe ingredients. Enjoy the scent of these fire starters from afar; don’t shove your head in the fireplace, people.

Best Aromatic Ingredients for DIY Fire Starters

  • Cinnamon Bark: This highly flammable spice creates a rich smoke and sometimes tiny sparks, which are beautiful.
  • Dried Sage: A popular material for smudge sticks, sage produces a rich, savory smoke. It tends to smolder for a while before catching.
  • Lemon or Orange Peel: Citrus peels produce a light smoke that carries a pleasant citrus scent. They have a slower burn rate but will burn faster if you’ve juiced the orange before dehydrating it.
  • Pistachio Shells: Use unflavored pistachio shells for clean wood smoke and a medium burn speed.
  • Evergreen: A familiar pine woodsmoke pairs with a quick, showy flashpoint and large flame.
  • Dried Roses: Dried rose petals light quickly and yield a sweeter, light smoke.
  • Coffee Grounds: Look for a rich, almost oily smoke with a slow burn speed.
  • Bay Leaf: This spice releases a pleasant, sweet smell and burns slower than you’d expect.
  • Cardamom Pods: Like pistachio shells, you’ll get a warm woodsmoke and medium burn rate.
  • Dried Rosemary: Rosemary renders herbaceous smoke and ignites very quickly.
  • Other ingredients to try: (but that I did not use): You can also use whole cloves, star anise, juniper berries, walnut shells, cedar shavings, whole nutmeg, and lavender. (However, who in their right mind is going to buy $15 of lavender and then set it on fire?)

How to Make Gorgeous Aromatic Fire Starters

Now that you’re ready to make your house smell lovely, let’s dive into the details about how to make these low waste aromatic fire starters with materials you likely already have at home.

Materials:

  • Block of beeswax or soy wax
  • Aromatics
  • Empty cardboard egg carton, top removed and discarded
  • Crafting pot for melting wax (I used a $0.99 loaf pan from Goodwill)
  • Dehydrator (if your citrus peels, rose petals, or herbs are fresh)
  • A protective piece of cardboard so you don’t have to spend an hour scraping up dried drops of wax

Note: You do not need wicks unless you enjoy spending more money.

Sustainable Crafting: Gorgeous, Aromatic Homemade Fire Starter Gifts

Directions:

Note: You’ll find more in-depth step-by-step instructions in my Christmas tree DIY fire starters post. I also want to mention that the wax does, in fact, burn off, so you won’t be left with a goopy fireplace to clean up.

  1. With the exception of evergreen material, you need to use dried ingredients for your fire starters. Dry any flowers, fresh herbs, or green material in a dehydrator until crunchy before them adding to your fire starters to ensure a successful burn and eliminate any potential sources of mold.
  2. Melt your beeswax or soy wax, keeping in mind the flashpoint of your given wax. Low and slow is the best practice! I set my oven to 220 for my beeswax. Do not leave your wax unattended on the stove.
  3. Pack the wells in your egg cartons with your aromatics, breaking them into smaller pieces if needed. Have fun mixing and matching various ingredients for burn time and scent profiles, as listed above. You’ll want the wells to be tightly packed – unless you’re using coffee grounds, which you’ll want to sprinkle in among other ingredients as they get too tightly packed to burn well.
  4. Spread out your cardboard over your table or floor, wherever you’ll be pouring your wax, and set your filled egg carton on top.
  5. Carefully pour the melted wax into the packed wells of your egg cartons. If looks are important, you may want to fill each well from one specific spot so that the “pretty” items on top don’t get obscured by a coating of dried wax. Fill each well high enough to “set” the components of your fire starters, but try not to let it overflow between compartments.
  6. Optional: Working quickly while your wax is still liquid, top your homemade fire starters with dried flowers and herbs to add some color and create a whimsical aesthetic.
  7. Let your wax harden completely, then cut each fire starter free.
  8. Light from the cardboard edges, and enjoy a relaxing evening by the fire! As mentioned, these fire starters yield a 10-15 minute burn time and fierce flame, so you’ll have plenty of time to ignite your logs for the evening ahead.

If you’re like me and you’ve already made 3 dozen fire starters so far, the word on Pinterest is that you can also repurpose some of your expired herbs and spices as homemade incense. I haven’t tried it yet, but maybe I’ll give it a go during my next kitchen purge. 

All photos via Reese Moore Photography

If you liked Everything to Know about Making Aromatic Homemade Fire Starters, You May Enjoy:

15 Creative Ways to Use Food Scraps

5 Quick Mending Tricks for Kids’ Clothes

How To Build A Wooden Pallet Compost Bin.

About the Author

Reese Moore

Reese Moore is a photographer, content creator, and pickle connoisseur who divides time between Charleston and Lake Lure. When she’s not behind the lens shooting stunning images for Reese Moore Photography, Reese loves to spend her time wandering the woods with her dog Gatsby or adventuring with her husband Logan in their Airstream Basecamp.

How to Make Gorgeous Aromatic Fire Starters

How to Make Gorgeous Aromatic Fire Starters

Yield: 12

Love low waste DIY crafts and hate food waste? Check out this tutorial about how to use expired spices to create gorgeous homemade fire starters!

Materials

  • Block of beeswax or soy wax
  • Aromatics
  • Empty cardboard egg carton, top removed and discarded

Tools

  • Crafting pot for melting wax (I used a $0.99 loaf pan from Goodwill)
  • Dehydrator (if your citrus peels, rose petals, or herbs are fresh)
  • A protective piece of cardboard so you don't have to spend an hour scraping up dried drops of wax

Instructions

  1. With the exception of evergreen material, you need to use dried ingredients for your fire starters. Dry any flowers, fresh herbs, or green material in a dehydrator until crunchy before them adding to your fire starters to ensure a successful burn and eliminate any potential sources of mold.
  2. Melt your beeswax or soy wax, keeping in mind the flashpoint of your given wax. Low and slow is the best practice! I set my oven to 220 degrees Fahrenheit (104 degrees Celsius) for my beeswax. Do not leave your wax unattended on the stove.
  3. Pack the wells in your egg cartons with your aromatics, breaking them into smaller pieces if needed. Have fun mixing and matching various ingredients for burn time and scent profiles, as listed above. You’ll want the wells to be tightly packed - unless you’re using coffee grounds, which you’ll want to sprinkle in among other ingredients as they get too tightly packed to burn well.
  4. Spread out your cardboard over your table or floor, wherever you’ll be pouring your wax, and set your filled egg carton on top.
  5. Carefully pour the melted wax into the packed wells of your egg cartons. If looks are important, you may want to fill each well from one specific spot so that the “pretty” items on top don’t get obscured by a coating of dried wax. Fill each well high enough to “set” the components of your fire starters, but try not to let it overflow between compartments.
  6. Optional: Working quickly while your wax is still liquid, top your homemade fire starters with dried flowers and herbs to add some color and create a whimsical aesthetic.
  7. Let your wax harden completely, then cut each fire starter free.
  8. Light from the cardboard edges, and enjoy a relaxing evening by the fire! As mentioned, these fire starters yield a 10-15 minute burn time and fierce flame, so you’ll have plenty of time to ignite your logs for the evening ahead.

Notes

Some ideas for aromatics to include.

  • Cinnamon Bark: This highly flammable spice creates a rich smoke and sometimes tiny sparks, which are beautiful.
  • Dried Sage: A popular material for smudge sticks, sage produces a rich, savory smoke. It tends to smolder for a while before catching.
  • Lemon or Orange Peel: Citrus peels produce a light smoke that carries a pleasant citrus scent. They have a slower burn rate but will burn faster if you've juiced the orange before dehydrating it.
  • Pistachio Shells: Use unflavored pistachio shells for clean wood smoke and a medium burn speed.
  • Evergreen: A familiar pine woodsmoke pairs with a quick, showy flashpoint and large flame.
  • Dried Roses: Dried rose petals light quickly and yield a sweeter, light smoke.
  • Coffee Grounds: Look for a rich, almost oily smoke with a slow burn speed.
  • Bay Leaf: This spice releases a pleasant, sweet smell and burns slower than you’d expect.
  • Cardamom Pods: Like pistachio shells, you’ll get a warm woodsmoke and medium burn rate.
  • Dried Rosemary: Rosemary renders herbaceous smoke and ignites very quickly.
  • Other ingredients to try: (but that I did not use): You can also use whole cloves, star anise, juniper berries, walnut shells, cedar shavings, whole nutmeg, and lavender. (However, who in their right mind is going to buy $15 of lavender and then set it on fire?)
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