Editor’s Note: The importance of candles in a survival situation is sometimes underrated. Probably because a candle is not that likely to save a life as some other survival items. But it has a lot of uses in almost all survival situations. Basically most disasters will affect our power grid: from common ones like Hurricanes to Economic Collapses, Wars or EMP’s.
Related: 10 Things to Have Ready before the Huge EMP !!!
Of course your best option is to have a generator or to know how to make one (The DIY Back-Up Generator). The next best thing is to have some stored survival candles. But if you don’t have these, here are 5 cool ways to make candles from common items when the power’s out:
By Tess Pennington
When an extended emergency occurs, using the resources you have on hand or around your property may be your only option and hope at surviving.
Emergency lighting will be an important aspect of your preparedness supplies. If you find yourself without lighting, with a little creativity you can make your own candles using bush craft techniques, or with items found around the home.
Finding a wick may be your largest challenge. You can purchase wicks in bulk to have on hand in the event that a disaster occurs, or find a suitable alternative.
- Cotton string or twine
- Paper towel
- Cotton string from a mop head (pic)
- Torn pieces of cloth
- Shoe lace (with the plastic coating cut off)
- Old cotton sock (that is clean) torn into strips
- Cotton towel torn into strips
Whichever alternative wick you choose to use, ensure the wick is a suitable size to burn the candle. Further, remember to prime the wicks by soaking them in melted wax and stirring for a minute or two and allow to dry. This makes the candle burn more efficiently. When placing the wick in the melted wax, be very careful not to burn yourself. Tying the wick to a pencil that will sit on the top of the container or mold is a good way to ensure the wick stays in place and your fingers are away from the hot wax.
Here are five easy ways to make candles if you happen to find yourself in a pinch:
The easiest way to make a new candle is to cut up older, burned down candles, melt the wax and make a new one. Old candle stubs can also be used as a base with other candle waxes poured on top.
When I was a child, my church showed me how to do this and I never forgot it. To make a crayon candle, simply remove the paper from the crayons and place them in a container to melt such as a used metal coffee can, soup can, etc. Place the container in a pot of hot water (resembling a double broiler method) and allow water to come to a boil. Melt the crayons over medium heat. Pour into the desired mold and add a wick. Be sure that the wick is fairly centered and running the entire length of the container. Allow the candle to sit until it has hardened. On a side note, one fully in tact crayon will burn on its own for 30 minutes.
Editor’s Note: Another trick is to sandwich a natural fiber wick between three crayons that have been stripped of their labels. Bind them together with two short pieces of wire. This will burn for about an hour. (Source)
Lard or vegetable oil
Used cooking oils and even oil-packed canned goods can be used to create lighting. Canned meat in oils are great for a makeshift candle.
- Simply trim your wick to about double the size of the can.
- Hammer a nail through the middle of the can and wiggle it around to make a larger hole.
- Stuff your wick inside the hole and leave about 1/2 a millimeter exposed.
- Place the can in a dish and light it up.
- The candle should burn for a few hours.
- The food content can be eaten after the oil has burned out.
This economic, multipurpose prep is another household item that can be used as a makeshift. The vaseline candle will burn on it’s own for 30 minutes. As well, this method can also be used as an easy firestarter. All you need is some used foil, a cotton ball and some vaseline. To see directions for how to make this type of emergency candle, click here.
Early colonists used these berries as a way of making candles. Note that large quantities of bayberries are needed to create one candle. In fact, four pounds of berries produce approximately one pound of wax. Bayberry wax is collected by boiling the berries. The waxy substance rises to the top of the water. This is skimmed off and made into candles. Bayberry candles give off a delicious scent that many enjoy and are virtually smokeless. The directions are below:
- Boil your bayberries in water to cover.
- Chill and remove the sheet of wax that forms on the top.
- Melt a candle stub (white) or a cake of paraffin to make a candle base.
- Add the bayberry wax and strain through cheesecloth. Keep on the back of the stove.
- Add your wick into a desired mold and then add melted wax. Allow to cool.
If you don’t want to go to all the trouble of making your own wax. you can buy pre-made bayberry wax. Bayberry wax is very brittle, therefore, keep your candles small or make tapered candle sticks to ensure the candles stay in tact.
Getting creative and thinking outside of the box could help you meet some of your basic survival needs. Using the aforementioned ideas for making candles can help keep the lights on when the lights go out. Candles do emit carbon monoxide, so please keep you and your family safe by ensuring that candles are placed in a well ventilated room and never leave a candle burning unattended.
Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint (the most comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster). Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.
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how about remelting old containers of lip balm/lipstick? if brand new/barely used, perhaps a wick can be pushed down into it. couldn’t tell you how long it would last, but it should light your way bright enough not to trip, i would think.
In view of the disasters that Japan has suffered the past few years, NHKTV which is the Japanese version of BBC is running PSA spots with various survival tips. There most recent one was on making an emergency stove. The cut an aluminum soda can to about and inch and a half in height. They discarded the top. The folded a piece of aluminum foil and pierced three spaced small holes through the foil. They then placed three pieces of kite string through the holes. They then again folded the foil so that it would stand up in the can bottom with the three pieces of kite string sticking about an inch above the edge of the can. They then cut three more aluminum cans so that they were slightly higher than the top of the wicks, about 3/4 of an inch, I would guess. They placed the cans in a triangular manner around the can with the wicks. Lighting the three wicks, they then placed a pot with soup in it on top of the three cans.
Official Japanese survival stove.
once during a power outage i made a sort of small “torch” out of a bamboo skewer,toilet paper and chap stick.
take about two squares of toilet paper and cover them with chapstick,doesnt have to be a thick layer, then put one end of the bamboo skewer on the lip balm and roll it up,the one i made took about 2 minutes to make and burned for about 10 minutes,of course you can make these bigger
I used a huge aluminum bowl, poured about a 1/4 cup of alcohol in it, lit it and it lasted for 26 minutes, I was surprised it lasted that long.
I placed an old towel under it on the floor.
If no lights?? May be nice to know??
I know it has been 2 years, and I dont know if your even still active on this account, but if you are. What i’m about the say is not to critisize you, it is to prevent you from burning your house down. Having lit alcohol in a bowl is a huge risk, if that somehow spills, it will spread like crazy, expecially if you have carpet or hardfloors or any of that. A candle would be 100x safer. Also they did not talk about it in this article, but there is a candle you can make using a form of yeast I believe, it is not scented, but it lasts a very long time and generates a decent amount of heat and light. It has been 5 years since I have made them, but the last one I made lasted over 30 days with the candle burning for 10 hours each day during the whole duration of the 30 days. It is baking yeast I believe. Just make sure you research how to do it properly. Anyways, If you have read this, please respond back to me. Thank you