Homemade Waterproof Matches: Strike Anywhere vs. Strike on Box Matches

Most people know if you dip a match head in either fingernail polish or candle wax the coating provides a certain degree of waterproofing for the match. This has been well known across the camping, hiking, backpacking, wilderness survival communities for decades. This article sets out to answer a basic question, should you use strike on box or strike anywhere matches? First observation says it should not really matter what type of match you use, but tests showed otherwise.

We started out with a handful of strike on box matches and a handful of strike anywhere matches. Both boxes had been opened for some time, and both boxes were several years old, maybe even a decade old. It would be safe to say both types of matches are “around” the same age. The strike anywhere and strike on box matches are both Diamond brand name.

The fingernail polish for this experiment was Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Hardener. The bottle was picked at random from a local retail outlet store. One of the reasons why this bottle was picked is because the fingernail polish is clear. I wanted to be able to see the type of match – strike on box or strike anywhere – so the polish I bought was clear.

The matches were dipped one time into the polish, excess was allowed to drip off for a few seconds, then the match was rolled and turned up and down. This allowed the fingernail polish to spread along the match stick around the match head evenly.

Striking surface was a box of Diamond strike on box kitchen matches, the same box the matches used in the experiment came from.

Waterproof Matches Test Criteria:

  • Dip the match head in the water for around 5 seconds.
  • Remove match from water, then shake match to get any water drops off it.

The final result, which was surprising, all five of the strike on box matches lit, while all five of the strike anywhere matches failed to light.

Over the years I have noticed a trend where strike anywhere matches tend to fail more often than strike on box kitchen matches. In all honesty, I do not remember having that problem back in the 1980s and 1990s. There was once a time when I could light strike anywhere matches off the zipper of your pants. Today, using a pants zipper to light strike anywhere matches seems to result in the match head falling apart.

In the mid-1980s my buddies and I made waterproof matches using candle wax. I just so happen to have some of the matches in the hollow handle of a Rambo survival knife. I wonder how those matches would do all these years later? Sounds like an idea for another article.

For the next article I would like to compare candle wax, fingernail polish and a freshly opened box of both strike anywhere and strike on box matches. Rather than using the same box for both types of matches, the plan is to use the striker on the box the matches came our of.