Best Lighter Fluid Substitutes

6 Best Lighter Fluid Substitutes (Great Fuel Alternatives)

Lightening a charcoal grill can be a difficult task for a beginner. Especially when you’re out of lighter fluid. What should be done in this situation? That is the main question.

When you are stuck in that situation, the best option is to use lighter fluid alternatives. My recommendation is to never use lighter fluid as your main source of fuel. Because when it burns, some dangerous chemicals are released which can be harmful for you and the environment. However, it can be a great backup.

Let’s take a look at the best lighter fluid substitutes that will help you to light up your grill quickly. I’ll also provide tips on using these substitutes safely and properly. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a healthier option for yourself or the environment, I’ve you covered.

Charcoal Chimney

A charcoal chimney is one of the most popular and effective ways to light a charcoal grill. It’s safer, cleaner, and easier to use than other methods. It is a metal cylinder with a handle and is designed to quickly, evenly light charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal.

A chimney consists of a lower compartment where you place useless newspaper or other natural fuel, and an upper compartment that holds the charcoal.

If you are a total newbie and don’t know how to use it, don’t panic. Below are the simple steps, follow them:

  • Place several sheets of newspaper or other natural tinder such as dried leaves into the lower compartment.
  • Put your preferred type of charcoal in the upper compartment. Make sure it’s levelly distributed.
  • Light the paper or tinder in the lower compartment and let the flames work their way up to the charcoal. The chimney’s design allows for good airflow, which helps it burn more efficiently.

It will take about 10-15 minutes for the fire to burn completely.

Plus Point: It is a chemical-free method that adds a more authentic, naturally smoky flavor to your grilled foods.


If you don’t have a charcoal chimney, you can fire your grill with just a newspaper. It is a great alternative to lighter fluid that is easily accessible and cost-effective. Using newspaper as a fire starter isn’t only an eco-friendly choice, but it also allows you to achieve that authentic smoky flavor that every griller wants.

Let’s dive into how to use newspapers effectively and safely to light your charcoal grill.

  • Take 4-6 sheets of newspaper and crumple them into loose balls. Avoid printed pages, as colored ink may release harmful chemicals when burned.
  • Place your charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal in a pyramid or mound shape in your grill’s firebox, to increase airflow and promote even burning.
  • Place the crumpled newspaper balls among the charcoal.
  • Light the newspaper in multiple locations using a match. The burning newspaper will ignite the charcoal.
  • Allow the charcoal to burn until it’s covered with a layer of grey ash. This process usually takes around 10-20 minutes.

Pro Tip: Paper burns very quickly and sometimes it does not fire coals. To deal with this problem, you should apply vegetable oil to the paper balls and then burn them. This method will speed up the burning process.

Cardboard Egg Crates

This idea is going to be different and also interesting from other ways. Using cardboard egg crates as fire starters for your grill is a great alternative to lighter fluid. It’s also a great way to save money, and it really does work better for the environment. It’s even easier than you might think!

How to use it?

  • Take a clean, empty cardboard egg crate and fill each compartment with charcoal briquettes.
  • (Optional) If possible, you could also keep some dry leaves around to help speed up the fire-starting process.
  • Finally, light each corner of the egg crate by using a match.
  • Once the charcoal is ready, carefully place the crate along with the charcoal in your grill or smoker.

Boom! You’ll have an easy, safe, and cost-effective way to start a fire without the need for lighter fluid.

Instant Light Charcoal

Instant light charcoal is the perfect partner for barbecues, campfires, and parties. It is specially designed charcoal that helps to light very easily. Unlike traditional charcoal, which can take a long time to get started, it comes with a special fuel coating that makes it ignite much faster.

How to use it?

  • First, you need to place the desired charcoal briquettes in the grill or smoker.
  • Then put a small amount of instant light charcoal on the grilling coals, and light it with a match or lighter.
  • Finally, you’ll be able to grill your food in no time at all.

It’s more expensive than other methods because it has a fluid coating on it. But it’s worth the price because you can grill your food faster than ever before.


You can use sawdust as a fluid alternative in your charcoal grill. It contains cellulose, which is highly flammable and is much safer than lighter fluid. This method is a great way to get the coals started without having to use any additional chemicals in your food.

Here’s how you can use sawdust as an alternative for lighting your charcoal grill:

  • Collect some sawdust from untreated wood. Ensure the sawdust is free of chemicals, glues, or other harmful substances.
  • (Optional) Combine the sawdust with a binder, such as wax, or a plant-based oil like coconut oil.
  • Put the sawdust in the charcoal grill’s bottom, and arrange the briquettes or lump charcoal around it.
  • Use a match or grill lighter to ignite the sawdust.
  • Wait for the charcoal to light. This process may take around 10-15 minutes, so be patient.

Tip: Use hardwood sawdust such as oak or hickory because it burns cleaner and quicker.

Also Read: Best Woods For Smoking Turkey

Lighter Cubes

If you want to burn coal quickly and efficiently, lighter cubes are the perfect choice. They’re very cheap and easy to find at the market. One of their best qualities is that they don’t produce any smoke when burning.

They are made from a blend of paraffin wax and other materials that burn for an extended period, providing enough heat to ignite the charcoal.

How to use it?

  • Put a layer of charcoal briquettes on the grill. Create a small well or pyramid structure in the center to help the charcoal burn evenly.
  • Place one or two cubes in the center of your charcoal well or at the base of your pyramid.
  • Then, light it with a match or lighter.
  • Once the cubes are burning, carefully add more charcoal around and on top of them until the fire is spreading.

Personally, I like them because they are so convenient and easy to light.

Some FAQ

Can Sanitizer Be Used As A Lighter Fluid?

Yes, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used as a lighter fluid substitute. But it’s best to be careful with it, as it can cause unexpected flare-ups. To minimize risks, apply a small amount of sanitizer to the charcoal or wood, and allow it to soak in for a moment before igniting. Keep in mind that it is not the ideal or eco-friendly option, but it can work when all else fails.

Is An Electric Charcoal Starter A Good Substitute For Lighter Fluid?

Electric charcoal starters are a safe, clean, and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional lighter fluid. They provide a chemical-free taste to your grilled food.

Final Words

Finding the best lighter fluid substitute for your needs depends on your personal preference. We’ve explored a variety of options, and each comes with its own benefits. So don’t be afraid to experiment and find the one that works best for you.

Happy barbecuing!

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