How To Light a Candle Without a Lighter or Matches

By Colleen •  Updated: 03/09/24 •  11 min read

Knowing how to light a candle without a lighter or matches can be incredibly handy when you’re in the wilderness or at home during a power outage. It’s a skill that taps into our primal ability to make fire, an essential for warmth, cooking, and light. So, let’s dive into some tried-and-true methods to get that candle flame dancing without the usual tools.

Key Takeaways

Ignite the Flame: Mastering Alternative Candle Lighting Techniques

Have you ever found yourself in a pinch where you’ve got a candle but no matches or lighter in sight? Fear not because, with a little ingenuity, you can get that candle burning using items you probably have around your home. And let’s face it, being able to start a fire under any circumstance doesn’t just make you the hero of a blackout; it’s a downright essential survival skill.

Woman sitting in a chair during a blackout after discovering how to light a candle without matches

Let’s break these down and turn you into a candle-lighting maverick.

Why You Might Need Alternative Methods

Imagine you’re camping, and the night falls quicker than anticipated. You reach for your trusty lighter, only to find it’s out of fuel. Or perhaps you’re at home, and a sudden storm knocks out the power. Knowing how to light a candle without a lighter in these scenarios becomes more than just a party trick; it’s about safety, comfort, and resilience. Being prepared means knowing how to adapt, and that’s exactly what you’ll learn here.

Example: During a camping trip, my friend’s lighter ran out of fuel. Luckily, we used a piece of pasta to transfer flame from our camp stove to our candle, saving the night from complete darkness.

Common Household Items for Lighting Candles

Before we get into the specifics, let’s make sure you know what everyday items can be your best friends in these situations:

With these items at your disposal, you’re well on your way to lighting up the night. Let’s explore how to use each of them effectively.

The Power of the Sun: Harnessing Solar Energy

First up, let’s talk about the sun. It’s not just there to give us a tan; it can be a powerful ally in firemaking. With the right technique, you can focus its rays to a single point of intense heat, capable of lighting a candle. And the best part? It’s a smokeless method, which is great when you’re trying to keep things clean and fume-free.

Using a Magnifying Glass

Here’s a step-by-step guide to using a magnifying glass:

Remember, this only works when the sun is out, so it’s not your go-to for nighttime or cloudy days. But when conditions are right, it’s a surefire way to get that candle lit.

Solar Reflections with Mirrors or Aluminum Foil

No magnifying glass? No problem. You can use other reflective surfaces to achieve the same effect. Aluminum foil folded into a concave shape or a small mirror can also direct sunlight onto your candle’s wick. It’s all about focusing that light to a point of heat that can start a fire.

With these methods, you’re using what you’ve got on hand to create light and warmth. It’s empowering to know that even without modern conveniences like lighters or matches, you can still illuminate your surroundings. Stay tuned because we’ll explore even more ways to light that candle in the next segment, including some unexpected uses for household electronics.

Electric Spark: Creative Use of Household Electronics

When the sun has set, or the weather isn’t cooperating, it’s time to turn to the gadgets around us. Believe it or not, many common electronics can be transformed into candle-lighting tools. It’s all about the electric spark, a tiny bolt of electricity that can ignite a flame.

Woman lighting a candle without matches using steel wool and a battery

Igniting with Batteries and Steel Wool

Here’s a method that might remind you of science class. You’ll need a battery – AA, or AAA should do the trick – and some fine steel wool. Here’s what to do:

It’s a fascinating process to watch, but it’s also one that requires caution. Steel wool can ignite quickly, so instantly transfer that spark to your candle.

Lighting Candles with Toaster Elements

Now, look at something you might not have considered – your toaster. That’s right, the heating elements inside your toaster can light a candle just as well as they can brown your bread. Here’s how:

Just be sure to keep the candle wax away from the toaster, as you don’t want any mess or fire hazards. And, as always, safety first – never leave the toaster unattended while it’s in use.

Flame Transfer Tactics: Extending Your Reach

Sometimes, the issue isn’t starting a fire – it’s reaching the wick of a candle that’s buried deep within a jar or lantern. In these moments, you need a flame transfer tactic to bring the flame from an existing source to where you need it.

Woman lighting candle with spagetti she lit with a gas stove

Using Spaghetti Sticks

One of the simplest tools for this is something you might have in your kitchen right now: a stick of uncooked spaghetti. Here’s how to use it:

Spaghetti sticks are great because they burn slowly, giving you plenty of time to reach those tricky wicks.

The Paper Trail: Burnable Links to Your Candle

Another flame transfer method is using a piece of paper. Roll it into a tight tube, light one end, and use it to reach the wick. Just be sure to have a non-flammable surface to place the burning paper on afterward, and never leave it burning unattended.

Traditional Alternatives: When Modern Tools Aren’t an Option

In a true survival situation, you might not have access to household electronics or even a sunny day. That’s when you’ll need to rely on more traditional methods of fire-making, which have been used for centuries.

Striking Flint: The Primitive Spark

Striking a piece of flint against steel is one of the oldest methods of fire-making. It’s simple: when you strike the two together, it creates a spark. Catch that spark on something flammable like char cloth or tinder fungus, then transfer it to your candle wick. It requires some practice, but it’s incredibly rewarding to master this technique.

Ferro Rods: A Modern Twist on Flint

A Ferro rod is a modern take on flint and steel. It’s a ferrocerium rod that produces hot sparks when scraped. Here’s how to use it:

This method is favored by many survival enthusiasts for its reliability and the intensity of the sparks produced.

Preparation and Safety: Lighting Up Without Burning Down

With all these methods, preparation and safety should be your top priorities. Here’s how to ensure you light your candle without any mishaps:

Setting Up a Safe Lighting Area

Choose a clear, flat surface away from flammable materials. Have water or a fire extinguisher nearby, just in case, and never leave a flame unattended. Make sure your candle is in a sturdy holder to prevent tipping.

Ensuring Proper Ventilation when Indoors

If you’re indoors, make sure the room is well-ventilated, especially if you’re using methods that produce smoke or fumes. Open windows or use fans to keep the air fresh and prevent any buildup of harmful gases.

By following these steps, you can light a candle safely and effectively, no matter the circumstances. Whether you’re a seasoned survivalist or just looking to add another skill to your repertoire, mastering these alternative lighting methods will ensure you’re never left in the dark.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we’ve covered a variety of ways to light a candle without a lighter or matches let’s address some questions that might be on your mind. These tips will help solidify your understanding and ensure you’re fully prepared for any situation.

Can you use any battery type to light a candle?

While you can use different types of batteries, the best options for lighting a candle are AA or AAA batteries, as they are easier to handle and generate sufficient current to heat the steel wool. Larger batteries, like 9-volt batteries, can also be used, but they might be a bit more cumbersome to work with. Just remember, the key is to create a circuit that will cause the steel wool to ignite.

It’s important to note that the technique may vary slightly depending on the battery size and type. For instance, with a 9-volt battery, you can press the steel wool directly onto the terminals to create a spark.

How can I light a candle without smoke?

To light a candle without producing smoke, you’ll want to use a clean method that ignites the wick. Using a magnifying glass to focus sunlight directly onto the wick is a smokeless option, as it does not involve combustion until the wick itself catches fire. Similarly, using a heated appliance like a toaster can provide a direct heat source without the smoke that comes from burning another object, like paper or spaghetti sticks.

Regardless of the method, ensuring that the wick is trimmed to about 1/4 inch will also help reduce smoke, as a longer wick can lead to incomplete combustion and, thus, more smoke.

Is it safe to use a magnifying glass to light a candle indoors?

Using a magnifying glass to light a candle indoors can be safe, provided you have a strong source of sunlight coming through a window and take the necessary precautions. Make sure the area around the candle is clear of any flammable materials, and never leave the focused beam of light unattended. The concentrated sunlight can quickly ignite the candle wick but heat up other objects, potentially causing a fire hazard.

How long should a spaghetti stick be used as an alternative lighter?

A spaghetti stick should be long enough to comfortably reach the wick without putting your hand too close to the flame. Generally, a stick of about 10 inches long spaghetti is ideal. It provides ample distance to keep your hand safe while giving you enough time to light the candle before the stick burns down too much.

Are there any chemical methods to light a candle without fire?

While chemical reactions can create heat and potentially light a wick, these methods are generally not recommended for safety reasons. Chemical reactions can be unpredictable and dangerous, especially if you’re not familiar with the materials and proper handling procedures. It’s best to stick with the physical methods described in this article, as they are safer and more reliable for the average person.


Living in a world where uncertainties can arise, Colleen has taken it upon herself to master the art of survival in the face of natural or civil disasters. With a background in outdoor activities and a keen interest in learning essential survival skills, Colleen has dedicated time to acquiring knowledge in areas such as wilderness survival, first aid, and emergency response.

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