If you’ve been here for any amount of time, you should know that I’m a bit of a prepper. I like to be prepared for all of life’s what-if’s. One of the things that I think everyone should have in their emergency bag is char cloth. But I’ve never made any! So, for this week’s episode of the Self Reliant Skill of the Week, I’m going to learn and teach you how to make char cloth.

But before I get down to making it, I’ll answer a few questions:

What is char cloth?

Char cloth is a piece of organic fiber (cotton, linen, or even shredded bark) that has been burned in an anaerobic environment. That means that very little oxygen is used in the charring process. The best way to do this is to place your fibers into a nearly air-tight container and set on a fire.

Char cloth lights very easily with a small spark. That makes it invaluable to start a fire in an emergency situation. You can light it with flint and steel, a ferro rod (these are my favorite), or even a magnifying glass. It won’t produce a flame, but it will smolder enough to catch some dry grass or something similar on fire.

Char cloth needs to be kept in a water-tight container. If it gets wet, it will be ruined and won’t work when you need it. It is also fairly fragile, so you should keep it cushioned just a little bit if possible. A plastic baggie with a little bit of air can work just fine.

What material can be used to make char cloth?

You can use any organic material to make char cloth. People often use 100% cotton, canvas, or linen. Make sure you don’t use anything that is, for example, a cotton/polyester blend. Polyester will melt rather than char.

Blue jeans are a good material to use, as they are thicker and sturdier. That’s what I used when I made it my first time.

Cotton balls or pads are good to use to make char cloth as well. Some people prefer to use punk wood or shredded bark fibers to make it.

There’s really no set standard of what you SHOULD use (as long as it’s organic), but if you make your own char cloth, you can determine what you like best.

How do you make your own char cloth?

Making char cloth is really easy, and doesn’t take a lot of time. Here’s the breakdown:

If using cotton or canvas fabric, cut it into squares about 2-3 inches across. You just need them big enough to fit into your tin without being stuffed in. Place into an old Altoids tin (or something similar). Poke a small hole in the top of the tin. Place it on a fire, or on top of a gas stove. Leave there to burn for about 15 minutes. Smoke and even flame will come out of the hole, this is completely normal.

Once there is no longer smoke coming out of the hole in your tin, remove it from the heat. Allow it to cool completely before opening. It may have to cool for a few hours. If you open it before it’s completely cool, it will start to smolder and burn.

You can keep your char cloth in this original tin, or put it into a new one. This will help keep the cloth from breaking into a million little pieces. It’s also a good idea to put this tin into a ziploc baggie, to make sure water doesn’t get into it. Keep this in your emergency bag so you have an easy fire starter.

Here is the video of me making it for my first time:

Are you going to try to make it?

So now that I’ve shown you how easy it is to make char cloth, are you going to try it? It really doesn’t take much time, and it’s a very valuable resource to have in your emergency supplies.

Have you made it? Share your experience in the comments. Let’s learn together!


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