How to make char cloth

I was recently introduced to char cloth with a brief demonstration. I was impressed with how well it worked and how simple it sounded to make it. I decided to make my own and documented the results.

What is char cloth?

Char cloth is a form of natural material which is “cooked” to remove all moisture making it extremely dry and susceptible to ignition. This makes char cloth an excellent fire starting material. Char cloth is often made from scraps of 100% cotton – such as from a t-shirt. Any natural fiber – such as a twine – can also work from what I have been told.


My first try at making char cloth:

To make  the char material is placed in a metal container and super heater over a fire (but not exposed to flame) to dry it. I went out in the garage and found a small metal box with a lid that fit tightly. I poked a hole in the top of it with a knife as to provide a vent. Next I found a 100% cotton t-shirt that we were getting ready to throw away and cut a place section out of.


I lit my grill and folding the material up and placed it in the box. Next I placed the box out in the grill and checked on it once in a while. From my research I was not surprised to see smoke coming out the hole on the top of the metal box. My understanding was that I should continue to “cook” the char cloth until the smoke stopped coming out.

Once the smoke stopped (took about 8 minutes) I shut off the grill and allowed the box to cool. Upon opening the box I found the cotton material to be black, and rather fragile. 


Trying out the char cloth I grabbed one of my fire starting tools – a Blast Match.  Using the Blast Match  I showered the char cloth with sparks as I pushed down on it. The char cloth started burning immediately and blowing on it lightly increase the size of the embers. Success!

Hard to see – char cloth ignited.

I definitely need to practice more with different materials. I can see the value of char cloth as part of a fire starting kit – as well as it being an excellent skill being able t make more in the field. 

Take care all – 





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6 thoughts on “How to make char cloth”

  1. When you have it as a large piece like that, how will you plan to store it?

    My thinking is that I will cut material into sizes that stack neatly into a container so that I can take as much as I can with me.

    Or, do you think it may be better to have a few pieces, some more material to make some from, then make more as you have time?

    This is definitely something I have to do.

    Also, I have to find a somewhat watertight container to keep it in. I suspect it may be like charcoal and absorb moisture out of the air. I will have to try it – set some out for a couple of weeks, then see how well it takes a spark then.

    Thank you.

  2. Rourke,

    I have been making char cloth for a few years. This is one of the methods that I use with my flint and steel to start my camp fires.

    This is a skill I think every serious prepper should learn how to do.

    I make my char cloth using an “Altoids” can with a small hole in the top. I find if you try to make to big of pieces of char cloth it is just to unmanageable.

    I use old blue jeans or old web belts to make my char cloth. You may want to try these two materials and cut them the size of the “Altoids” can.

    Good Luck!

    The Coach

  3. Coach is right, the Altiods can is a good size to make and carry the char cloth in. If kept in a waterproof container it should last quite q while as I recently found that was made 4 or 5 years ago and still worked well.

  4. Saw this on another site this week using an Altoids tin. Also saw that it can be done with those round cotton make-up application/removal pads. This seems to easy not to try. Thanks for sharing!


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