You might not have these materials lying around the house, and you sure won’t find them growing in the woods, but steel wool combined with a small voltage electrical source, can be incredibly effective at starting a fire when conventional fire-starting methods aren’t an option.

First things first, you’ll need to hit the hardware store to scoop up some fine steel wool. There need to be some zeros on the package. The more zeros on the package, the finer the steel filaments are. The finer the steel is, the better it will burn. Four zeros on the label is typically the finest grade you can get. You’ll also need a battery to get this method of fire building to work.

The battery power for fire needs be 3 volts or higher, with the positive and negative terminals must be close together. A 9-volt battery is perfect, but a 6-volt lantern battery (as seen in the picture) will work well, too. A 3-volt Surefire battery or a 3.7-volt cell phone battery can also do the trick. You can even use two batteries that are 1.5 volts each. Just align them side by side, with the positive and negative terminals head-to-tail. For this last configuration, you’ll need to place a ball of steel wool at both ends of the battery stack to create the closed circuit that ignites the steel.

You can quickly produce a burning ball of steel fibers by touching a tuft of the steel wool to the positive and negative battery posts at the same time. This burning steel can then be placed into tinder to kindle a fire.

As with any survival skill, a few problems can arise from time to time. The steel wool won’t work if it has rusted, or if it is wet. A dead battery won’t work either (duh). And don’t ever store them near each other, like in the same pocket of your backpack, as they could light up in transit. One final problem can be availability. Fine-grade steel wool is hard to find outside of a hardware store.

Ever experimented with this fire starter? Tell us how it went in the comments.