Useful Tools

Waterproof Matches: How to Make Them Yourself And Where to Buy

Waterproof Matches

Waterproof matches are an invention that actually revolutionized the world of camping and outdoor adventures. The match itself is a very clever invention that allowed us to ignite fires wherever we wanted using just a simple stick with one end covered with a special solution and a striking surface.

Even if matches seem an invention as old as time, things are not quite so simple. The first mention of a stick covered with sulfur used to light a fire appears in early China and before that, people used the power of the sun to light fires. They would use a piece of glass to focus a beam of light on tinder and this is how they got a fire. If you’ve ever tried to make fire this way you know that it takes way longer than lighting a match.

It’s enough history for now, so let’s talk about our main topic today: waterproof matches. These are matches covered with a special chemical compound to make them waterproof. The waterproof coating usually makes the matches harder to light but they will be useable even if they were submerged under water.

Waterproof matches are more expensive than regular matches but you shouldn’t go camping or on an outdoor adventure without them. Regular matches are very susceptible to humidity and even if they don’t get to be soaked in water, humidity can make them unusable.  Just imagine that you are in a life and death situation where your plane crashes and you’re the only survivor in the middle of the Amazonian jungle.

The environment is pretty humid there and during the night it can get cold; plus there are all sorts of predators that can attack you. You start gathering some dried wood and look for a place to make a shelter. After everything is done you reach to get the only matchbox you have to light the fire but you realize that the humidity has made your matches unusable. The night is coming fast and there is no way you can light the fire now. Scary right?

Chemistry matches infographic

Another scenario where matches and humidity can ruin your day is when you go camping. If there’s a lot of humidity in the air your matches won’t be so efficient even though you kept them in the car, in a safe place. Waterproof matches usually come in a waterproof container, especially for this kind of situation. The container can be later reused for matches that you make on your own.

One way to make sure you’ll always have a reliable box of matches is to buy them in bulk and use them as it goes. You should also have a backup and for this, we recommend a waterproof lighter. We have reviewed some of the best products and you can read our reviews on the best waterproof lighter for more information before the purchase.

If you consider that buying waterproof matches is not an investment you are willing to make then you should learn how to make waterproof matches in your own home. Regardless of the fact that you decide to buy them or make them, make sure that you have some in your survival kit. When the fury strikes (natural or not) you will need fire and without these small sticks it’s quite difficult to obtain it.

How to waterproof matches by yourself

Making waterproof matches can be a fun DIY project but make sure to take all precautions before you start. There are some methods that involve a certain risk factor and you don’t want to play with fire and flammable substances without taking all your safety measures.

Waterproof Matches

There are a few methods you can make your own waterproof matches and we’re going to talk about the most popular ones.

How to waterproof matches with wax

Wax is a very good waterproof coating for many things so you can also use it for matches. When dried, the wax forms a protective exterior that doesn’t allow water or any other elements to get through. Waterproofing matches with wax is actually very easy and it doesn’t require any investments. You can do this project with what you have around the house.

You will need the following items:

  • one candle or candle wax;
  • matches;
  • a disposable container to melt the wax in;
  • a heat source where you can melt the wax (a fire or a stove);
  • a newspaper or a big piece of paper you want to throw away to protect the surface you’re working on;
  • a hair dryer or anything that blows warm to cold air.

First, you need to melt the wax. If you’re using a candle, let it burn for a while until you see a pool of melted wax around the wick.  You can use that wax to make your waterproof matches.

If you’re using pieces from old candles or paraffin wax you will need a small container that resists heat. Make sure you’re not using anything you would like to keep. The wax doesn’t wash off easily (or nicely) from containers and you will be forced to throw away the container (or re-use it when you make other matches). Put the pieces of wax in the container and put the container on the heat source. Wait for the wax to melt (make sure that it doesn’t start to boil).

When the wax is liquid deep the match’s head in it to cover the phosphorous-covered tip and about half an inch more. Pull them out and dry the wax by blowing cold air using the hair dryer. You need to make sure the wax doesn’t soak into the match’s tip so you can actually use them. Also, don’t overdo it; if there’s too much wax you will have difficulties in lighting the matches, and the striking surface will wear off very fast.

How To Waterproof Matches

When you want to use these waterproof matches you need to scrape off the wax and then use them. It is highly recommended that before actually using these matches in the wilderness test them at home. With homemade waterproof matches, there is always a risk that some of them won’t work.

How to waterproof matches with fingernail polish

Another great method of waterproofing your matches is to use fingernail polish. Actually, this method is more popular than wax coating. Let’s see what it takes to make your matches pretty and waterproof.

You will need the following items:

  • fingernail polish – you can use both clear and colored varieties;
  • matches;
  • a newspaper or a big piece of paper you want to throw away to protect the surface you’re working on;
  • a hair dryer or anything that blows warm to cold air.

There are two ways to do this: you can either paint the polish on the tip of the match and a little bit on the wooden part or you can simply dip the tip in the polish bottle. Make sure you don’t put too much so you can still light them when you need to. Make sure the layer is even and that there are no gaps.

Matches with nail polish

After the polish is applied, dry it with the hair drier and put the matches in the box. This time you don’t need to scrape off the polish (it would be pretty hard to do it anyway), you can simply use the matches like you normally do. The fingernail polish actually helps the flame to burn and the striking surface doesn’t tear apart.

These are two of the most popular and easy methods of making your matches waterproof. It should be better if you had a waterproof container to keep them in but if not, a regular matchbox should suffice.

How to waterproof matches with turpentine

This method is as simple as the last two but because it involves turpentine, many people choose to go with the wax or the nail polish. Turpentine is not always around the house and if you need some waterproof matches fast, you go with what you have.


You will need the following items:

  • turpentine;
  • a glass jar or a cup;
  • matches;
  • a hair drier;
  • a newspaper.

Put the turpentine in the glass container (half full) and make sure to put the newspaper underneath. Turpentine can destroy forever wood surfaces.

The process is simple: you deep the matches in turpentine, it is recommended that you actually leave them in turpentine for about 5 minutes. After you get them out, you can either blow dry them for about 5 minutes or you can put them on the newspaper and wait to dry naturally.  If you choose the second drying method you should leave them for about 20 minutes. This way any excess turpentine will evaporate.

Matches that are waterproofed this way will resist for several months.

Tips on how to safely use waterproofing methods

Even though you use only items you can find around your household, there are still a few precautions you need to take:

  • If you use the wax waterproofing method with the wax directly from the candle, make sure that the candle is not lit when you deep the matches in. The flame might burn your fingers;
  • Make sure the wax is not too hot after you’ve melted it. Hot wax burns your skin;
  • Make sure the container with melted wax sits on a straight surface and that there is no chance to tilt it;
  • Don’t put turpentine in a plastic cup because the chemical will melt it;
  • Turpentine has the property of removing any moisture content from wood which is why waterproofing with turpentine is a highly effective method;
  • You can cover matches entirely with wax, to make sure that moisture doesn’t go up through the stick;
  • Turpentine is poisonous if swallowed or inhaled for a longer period of time so make sure to reduce your exposure time;

The main idea when waterproofing your matches is to handle things with extra care. Also, make sure that there are no small children or pets around when you do it. You need to be in a place where things stay put so nothing bad can happen.

A good piece of advice is to always have a striking surface with you. If your matchbox already has one you will have one for backup.

How to buy waterproof matches

If you’re not into playing with wax or turpentine and your nail polish is almost over you can simply buy waterproof matches. You can find them in any specialized store but there are several products that deserve your entire attention.

Coghlan’s waterproof matches 10 pack

This is a pack that any survivalist would love to have in his or her survival kit. There are approximately 40 sticks on each box and the pack contains 10 boxes. It also includes a striker and waterproof heads. Users are extremely happy with the Coghlans waterproof matches and they have been tested heavily. According to the tests users have done, these matches are lit without problems after two minutes under water. Also if the box is soaked in water, the matches will light on the first try.

The only problem is with the box and the striker which, if it gets wet, is unusable. It is highly recommended to have a backup striking surface with you so, that if the box falls apart, you can still use the matches. Another solution is to buy strike-anywhere matches.

If you like this product you can find and check its price here.

Fantastic wind & waterproof survival matches

If you want to buy waterproof matches you should consider buying some that come in a waterproof container. It makes it easier to keep your matches together and you know the box won’t disintegrate at the first soak.

This pack is perfect for hiking trips, camping, and emergencies. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to light the fire on a humid day when you’re all wet and cold. You need that fire to be up and burning fast so these matches are the best choice.

Even better, the Fantastic Wind & waterproof survival matches burn in the strongest winds and heavy rain situations. They are coated with a layer of wax for extra waterproofing and they are packed in waterproof containers. They are colored in bright orange so you find them easily in your backpack or survival kit. The striking surface is built-in so you don’t get yourself in a difficult position if you forget the backup one.

Fantastic Wind & Waterproof Survival Matches

Users tested these fantastic waterproof matches and the results are highly positive. The burning time is 6 seconds for the phosphorous-covered part and 2 seconds for the wooden part so the total time is about 8 seconds. Also, you need to be prepared to light the match and put it on the fire, and wait for it to burn. It’s not easy to put them out once they are lit.

Because they have that layer of wax for extra protection you need to scrape off the tip so the phosphorus part is exposed. If you use them as they come, you will ruin the striking surface and your matches won’t light.

Users have confirmed that these are the best matches to have when trying to light a fire under storm and rainy conditions. They resist wind and rain allowing you to make that fire. Make sure to include them in your survival pack and never leave home without them when you go camping or on an outdoor adventure.

If you like this product you can find and purchase it on Amazon.

UCO Stormproof match kit with waterproof case

This package is formed out of one waterproof container with 25 matches and an integrated striker. The burning time for these matches is 15 seconds and they burn in both wind and rain. The package comes with two additional strikers and you can re-use the container to fit up to 40 matches. The container has some bumps on the external side so you can get a good grip even if your hands are numbed cold and wet. Also, the container is waterproof. Users made tests where they submerged the container in water for a full hour and the matches remained dry inside.

The amazing fact about the UCO Stormproof match kit is that they will burn underwater (not that you would want to light a fire underwater). Well, we’d say these are actually the real waterproof matches kit every survivalist must have!

UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case

They are not recommended to use inside the house as once they are lit they won’t go out until they burn completely. They are your best friend when you try to make a fire after an entire day of walking in the cold, heavy rain. We all know the rain has its special way of penetrating your equipment and your backpack so the waterproof container is very useful in such a situation.

It is recommended to use these matches with cotton balls deepened in Vaseline. This way, even in bad weather with not-so-dry woods you can still manage to light the fire.

If you like this product you can find and buy it on Amazon.

In the end, after all this talk about homemade waterproof matches and ones you can buy, a question arises: which ones are better? Well, there is no right answer for this; for example, if you go camping and you take the car with you, homemade waterproof matches are a good choice. They are cheap and easy to make. Also, your life doesn’t depend on making that fire if there’s bad weather.

It also helps to know how to make a fire so, if you’re new to all these, take a look at our tutorial on wilderness survival methods.

If you go on an outdoor adventure we recommend buying waterproof matches. Buy a few different products and test them to make sure that when your life depends on it, they will be up for the task.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you click on one of these links and make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Also, as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If the information in this post has been helpful, please consider purchasing through one of the links in this article. Thank you.

About the author

Ellie Thomas

Survival-Mastery reflects my love of the outdoors and having the skills to take care of myself in the wilderness and in worst-case scenarios. I grew up in the southeast backpacking, camping, and fishing, and I have hiked and backpacked over 30,000 miles in the US. My background and career for the past 30 years has been in operations and construction and I enjoy learning and DIY projects.


  • That is one remarkable way of starting a fire, on the off chance that I can’t start a fire with one of those bad boys I’ll be stuck in an unfortunate situation. Be that as it may, UCO is made so incredible that you can use it anywhere.

  • Can surely rely on this during backpacking adventure! Best brand for this is the Coleman Water Proof mathes. Not only are the matches waterproof but the entire matchbox itself. durable and reliable!

  • Can I reliably switch out a lighter with waterproof matches? I like to have multiple options available, but never really relied on matches a lot because they just seem so fragile.

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