Do Homemade Waterproof Matches Work?

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

I’ve seen instructions in various survival sites regarding waterproofing matches.  Recently, I saw a link on Survival Blog on the same topic with Jim Rawles saying if you’re going to do this, you must cover the entire match with nail polish.

Being a type personality I still had some questions in my mind:

– Does it have to be wooden matches, or can you use paper matches that you get for free in restaurants?

-Since you are using nail polish, which is a fire starter in itself, would the entire match burst into flames as you light it?

I wondered if the homemade waterproof matches would really work in an emergency if they get soaked.  I decided to try this for myself.

Here is what I did:


Waterproof Matches project1Box of wooden matches

Packet of free paper matches from a restaurant

nail polish (it doesn’t matter what color)

I covered both sets of matches, top to bottom, with nail polish, then let them dry overnight.

Waterproof Matches project2

The next day, I placed some matches in a plastic baggie and poured water into the bag, soaking both sets of matches.

Waterproof Matches project3After draining the water, I wiped the matches with a cloth to get rid of any excess moisture.

Now for the test.

1.  First, I lit one set of matches that were never covered with polish to make sure both matches work well.  They do.

2.  Next, I tested a set of matches that were covered with polish, but were not drenched in water.

Result:  The wooden match with nail polish lit immediately upon striking.  No, it did not burst into flames, only the tip burned just as a normal match would.

However, the paper match that was painted with polish DID NOT work.

3.  Finally,  I tested the wet matches.

Waterproof Matches project5

Same result as #2:  The wooden match covered with nail polish also lit immediately, no problem, but predictably, the paper match did not work.


Nail polish does work to make matches waterproof, but only if you are using wooden matches.  Covering a pack of wooden matches with nail polish to make them waterproof actually works, and is a worthwhile prepper project.


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  1. Why not just melt some candle wax in a pan and drop the whole box of wooden matches in? I have done this and find them to be completely waterproof and strike every time. Seems like a LOT of work to paint the matches one at a time vs. dumping them in a pan.

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