Charcloth is a cotton material that is turned into a charcoal like substance by heating it past the point of combustion in an airless environment. When this is done all the volatile gasses leave the material and leave behind carbon. This material is lighter than wood charcoal and takes a spark much easier and will transfer it to tinder much easier.
One of the easiest ways to start a fire besides a lighter or a match is the flint and steel. The flint and steel method is a time proven method and small cottage industries were built around making steels and charcloth or char materials. In today’s world making charcloth is easy and cheap. Cotton cloth or cotton balls can be had anywhere, and pretty inexpensive.
Charcloth like charcoal is made by burning it in an airless environment until all the smoke is gone. My favorite method involves using Altoids tins and old blue jeans. Once your jeans are worn out to the point that they are no longer acceptable for wear in a decent society, I cut mine into strips the thickness of the Altoids tin. Once long strips are cut I then roll them up and pack them into the Altoids tin. I usually fill several tins with the denim rolls, and then they go on a fire, or a hot plate outside. The tins are burned until the smoke stops coming out of the tin. After the smoke stops carefully remove the tin from the heat and set it aside to cool. When the tin is cool check the denim to see if it is blackened all of the way through, it should be black like charcoal and somewhat fragile. It will still have the pattern of the weave and texture in the roll of what was once denim.
If you want squares of charcloth cut them to the size you want and layer them in the tin to about half full on the Altoids tin. This method also works in a soup can but you need a plate or a piece of nonflammable material that will seal the top of the can. The material to be charred is put in the bottom to the can and it is placed in a fire until it stops smoking, then it is removed from the heat and the cover placed on the can so the air cannot get to the charred material. If the air is allowed to the charred material it will burn to ash. Once it is cooled then it can be put in whatever container you carry it in. Your charred material should be kept in a waterproof material as getting it wet will pretty much ruin it.
The charcloth is then used by removing a piece and either striking a spark to fall into the charcloth thus setting the ember, or folding it with the ragged edges out and placing it on top of the flint in your flint and steel. It is best put right along the edge that you will be striking with the steel to make the spark. With just a bit of practice an ember can be ignited easily almost every time. A dead lighter can even be used to ignite charcloth, you just need to remove the metal guard, and make sure the edge of the char cloth is fluffed abit. This allows the smaller spark a better chance to do what it was created to do.
With the ease we have of making charcloth in today’s world there really isn’t any excuse not to have a container of it in your fire-making kits. Be ready and stay alive.