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How to Make Char Cloth for Tinder [Step-by-Step Guide]

In this step-by-step guide, you will learn how to make char cloth, which is perfect as tinder for your campfire.

from Martin Gebhardt | Survival | no comment yet | reading time 4 Min
Updated on 31 May 2023 39.913 views 98% found this guide helpful
How to Make Char Cloth for Tinder [Step-by-Step Guide]

Martin Gebhardt

From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.


👉 The key facts from this guide

  • What is charred cotton?: Charred cotton is an effective tinder that is easily ignitable and can be used as a reliable fuel for fire.
  • Manufacturing charred cotton: Charred cotton is made by placing cotton material such as cotton wool or fabric in a container and heating it until it is charred.
  • Using charred cotton: Charred cotton is used to catch sparks or a flame and ignite a fire. It can also be used as a tinder for other tinder materials.
  • Advantages of charred cotton: Charred cotton glows slowly and evenly, has good combustibility in various weather conditions and can be easily manufactured and transported.
  • Storage of charred cotton: Charred cotton should be stored in an airtight and waterproof packaging to prevent moisture and humidity from entering.
  • Alternative tinder materials: In addition to charred cotton, there are other natural and commercial tinder materials that can be used to ignite fire.

All day on your feet in a remote area. It's getting dark.

You need a campfire quickly.

Fortunately, you have your charred cotton as tinder.

You gather wood and in a minute your fire is burning. The night can come.

Today, you will learn how to make wonderful tinder from old fabric scraps.

This charred cotton is perfect as a fire starter for your next fire.

You can do it in 5 steps.

The Ingredients

You only need four ingredients:

  • some cotton
  • an old metal can
  • a knife
  • a fire

The metal can must be well-sealed. It can be an old cookie or candy tin, for example.

You have to light the first fire without using your charred cotton. But imagine you're out in the wilderness. Then you make new tinder with your last fire, as shown below: using old cotton.

Oh, and charred cotton is also called "char cloth", "charred cloth", and "charpaper". The method of making fire has been used for centuries.

Step 1: Drill a Small Hole in the Can

The can must have a small hole so that the vapors can escape during carbonization.

So, poke or drill a small hole in the lid.

Poke or drill a small hole in your metal can
Poke or drill a small hole in your metal can

Step 2: Cut the Cotton into Pieces

You need cotton as the starting material.

You can get this from old clothes. Furthermore, you probably have an old t-shirt lying around somewhere (jeans or linen works just as well).

If you don't have any cotton, you can surely find some from friends or your parents. Please don't buy a new t-shirt, that would not be sustainable.

Now cut the cotton into small pieces. 5 x 5 cm pieces are a good choice. Put the cotton in the metal can.

Put cotton in the can
Put cotton in the can

Step 3: Ignite a Fire and Put the Can in It

Now you put the can with the cotton directly into the fire. Everything has to get really hot.

Don't worry about the metal of the can, it can withstand the heat.

Put the can in the fire
Put the can in the fire

Then you light the fire.

Feuer anzünden und Dose dort drin lassen
Feuer anzünden und Dose dort drin lassen

Step 4: Wait until no more smoke comes out of the can

This step is important because it is the correct way to make charred cotton.

The can with the cotton must now remain in the fire until NO white smoke escapes from the hole.

Only then is the cotton charred.

In the picture here, you can see that white smoke is still escaping.

This can must remain in the fire.

weißer Rauch entweicht aus der Dose
weißer Rauch entweicht aus der Dose

Pro Tip 1: You have a round can? Great, then listen up: Don't drill the hole in the top of the lid, but in the side. However, this only makes sense if the metal of the lid and the can overlap when screwed on. Now you can make two settings for the can: once with a hole for charring (both holes are in the same position). And once without a hole for transport. To close the hole, turn the lid until the outer hole no longer overlaps with the inner hole.

Pro Tip 2: Seal the hole with candle wax. This will make your can airtight and waterproof for transport. As soon as you put the can back in the fire to char punk wood or cotton, the candle wax will melt.

Step 5: Let the can cool down

If you open the can immediately, it is very likely that the cotton will ignite.

So let the can cool down for about 20 to 30 minutes.

It's best to cover the small hole for now (with a stone, aluminum foil, soil, etc.) so that no air can get to the cotton. This improves the quality of the cotton.

Then open the can and you will see the charred cotton.

Dose mit verkohlter Baumwolle
Dose mit verkohlter Baumwolle

As you can see, the can should have remained in the fire longer.

There is still cotton present that is not completely charred.

The result: a great tinder

As a result, you have created a great tinder.

Verkohlte Baumwolle ist der perfekte Zunder für das Schlageisen, den Feuerstahl oder eine Lupe
Verkohlte Baumwolle ist der perfekte Zunder für das Schlageisen, den Feuerstahl oder eine Lupe

It only takes a few sparks to touch it, and the charred cotton starts to glow.

Then pack the glowing cotton into a tinder nest and your fire can be ignited.

Bonus Tip: Try using cotton pads, they also glow great.

Wattepads lassen sich genauso verkohlen und glühen langsam und heiß
Wattepads lassen sich genauso verkohlen und glühen langsam und heiß

Are you interested in more types of tinder and ways to ignite a fire? Then read my article "Making fire without a lighter or matches (18 ways)".


How do you like the instructions? Or would you do something different?

Write your impressions in the comments.

Take care, Martin
Martin Gebhardt

Author of the guide


Martin Gebhardt

Hey, I'm Martin. On my blog, you will learn the basics and numerous details about living in the wild. I think survival, bushcraft and the good life in nature are the keys to happiness. Find me here on Instagram or on YouTube. You can find more about my mission on the About Me page.

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Free 35 Survival Hacks you'll love!

You will get 35 easy-to-implement survival hacks so that you don't have to stand aimlessly in the forest from tomorrow when things get tough. Take your skills to the next level!

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