Sitting around the campfire is a favorite pastime of many nature lovers, whether it’s in the backyard on a weekend or at the campsite on a trip. And while there’s nothing wrong with staring at the mesmerizing flames for an hour or two, sometimes you just need things to be a little more interesting.
You might have seen videos of the (probably toxic) garden hose in a copper pipe trick, or maybe you’ve visited a campsite neighbor with a rainbow of colored fire. How exactly can you do that though?
How to Change the Colors of Your Campfire
To understand how to change the color of your campfire, we’ve got to understand why fire is the color that it is. The flames of a fire are a certain color because of the chemical makeup of the material being burned.
In fact, the “natural” color of fire that we’re used to seeing (oranges and yellows) is that way because of certain salts that are present. Change the chemicals that are burning, and you can change the color of the flames.
Turning your campfire into a dazzling light show isn’t as hard as you might think.
If you’re trying to manipulate the color of your campfire, here’s a list of the chemicals you’ll need and the results they will produce. You can buy most of these ingredients right from the Internet, but many ship only to the 48 contiguous US states and Canada.
If you want to skip the process of making your own color changing salts, you can buy pre-made concoctions like those found here and here.
Campfire color-change cheat sheet:
- Green: Copper sulfate
- Blue: Copper chloride
- Red: Strontium chloride
- Orange: Calcium chloride
- Purple: Potassium chloride
Soak Your Fuel Wood to Change Flame Colors
To achieve the colored effect, you’ll want to begin by soaking your fuel source (logs, woods chips, dried pine cones, or newspaper) in a solution of the desired chemical. As a general rule, The Science Company recommends mixing about a pound of chemical per gallon of water. For a smaller batch, that’s 4-5 ounces of chemical to a quart of water.
It’s best to do this in an empty plastic five gallon bucket. Don’t use a metal container, as some of these chemicals will react with metal, and could damage the container. Let the wood soak for 24 hours or more for best results.
Remember to wear gloves and safety glasses when handling these chemicals, and be sure to prepare the mixture outside or in a well ventilated area. Some of these chemicals may stain the area where you’re working or your clothes. It’s also recommended that you not mix chemicals (colors). Stick to one color at a time.
Work with one batch of chemicals at a time to achieve the brightest colors. Dull colors could result if fuel is soaked in different solutions.
Create your own aurora borealis!
How to Make Color-Changing Fire Starters
You can create special wax candles or long-burning pinecone fire starters that contain the color-changing chemicals.
Partially submerge a metal coffee can containing paraffin wax in a pot of boiling water. Once the wax is melted, add about two tablespoons of chemical to the wax (use more if you want intense color). Remove it from the heat and stir until it starts to cool. After the wax starts to cool, pour the wax into paper baking cups and let harden. Add one or more of these cakes to your campfire for long-lasting color.
You might also try dipping pinecones into the hardening wax for a more natural looking fire starter.
It’s Pretty Simple to Change a Campfire’s Flame Color
Overall, it’s actually not too hard at all to produce a dazzling show of light from your campfire. You just need to find the right compounds to add!
Wait until your fire has burned down a bit before adding the color-changers.
Depending on how hot your fire is and how much of the compound you’ve added, you may be able to have a fire that burns with these colors for up to an hour.