I first learned about petroleum jelly for survival when researching ways to make my ferro rod more effective for starting fires.
However, the more research I did the more uses I found for this miracle substance. Petroleum jelly is the generic term for Vaseline, a petroleum byproduct that is technically considered a lubricant.
It should be noted that Vaseline is not the only brand of petroleum jelly on the market. When addressing its uses, I will be looking specifically at Vaseline.
This product is non-carcinogenic, highly refined, and triple purified. It is actually an organic product that contains no fragrances, colors, or irritants. It hypo-allergenic and will not block your pores.
For some of the uses listed below, other brands of petroleum jelly may not work as well, however it’s worth noting that it has a really good shelf life, and it’s even good past the expiration date (though not as potent).
In this article I will cover all of the potential uses of this substance. You will find that keeping petroleum jelly in your bug out bag or hiking pack is always a good idea.
Petroleum jelly is highly flammable and a great help in starting a fire. Many survivalists and campers will dip cotton balls in petroleum jelly and keep them in a zipper bag.
These cotton balls will take a spark and stay lit for about 10 minutes even in windy or wet conditions.
In the military, gauze pads are often rubbed with petroleum jelly so they can double as a fire starter and as a treatment for wounds. In reality, Vaseline can be added to any fluffy tinder to create a fire-starter. Some people like to add it to dryer lint, and stuff it into a toilet paper roll.
I realized the importance of accelerants with a ferro rod during my very first survival challenge. I had gathered wood and a tinder bundle, but it was getting dark quickly and the tinder would not catch.
Strike after strike shot sparks into the bundle with no results. It was a bit damp and the tinder was not as fine as I would have hoped. A storm as moving in, and I knew I would not make it through the night without a fire.
I finally remembered that I had a little accelerant in my pack and added it to a piece of cloth I ripped off of my shirt sleeve.
A few minutes later I had a roaring fire and was much more confident in my chances of survival that night. Since that night, I always carry some Vaseline cotton balls in my pack if I can. A ferro rod alone is often not enough.
#2. DIY Vaseline Candles
You can also make a candle out of Vaseline. Simply spoon a big glob of jelly into a small dish or ash tray. Take a cotton ball and twist it into a wick.
Rub a little jelly on it and stick the end in the dish. Light the tip of the wick and it should stay lit until all the petroleum jelly has all burned away.
#3. Skin Protection
The second reason I learned to use petroleum jelly was to protect my skin. Specifically, I used it to protect against frostbite.
I was on a winter challenge and my face was exposed to -20 F wind chill. I smeared a moderate layer over exposed skin and had no issues with frostbite or wind burn. I have also used it for chapped lips in place of chapstick.
#4. Lubricant for Machinery
This is the advertised purpose for petroleum jelly. Vaseline works great to silence squeaky hinges on a door. It works to lubricate a bicycle chain if you have no grease.
You can lubricate any wheels that have ball bearings, and can grease keyholes so that keys continue to work smoothly.
Vaseline can be applied to light bulb sockets or to appliance racks in refrigerators or ovens to prevent sticking. It helps shower curtains and closet doors slide more easily.
Petroleum jelly keeps windows sliding smoothly. It prevents zippers on clothing from jamming up. It also prevents corrosion on batteries and rust on any metal surface.
#5. First Aid
Petroleum jelly works effectively for many first aid applications. It holds moisture into the skin while also protecting from the harsh elements that can dry out the skin. It also helps stitched wounds heal faster.
If dealing with chapped or dry hands, apply Vaseline to the affected area and then put on gloves for 20 minutes. It protects minor scrapes, burns, and cuts, but do not use it on severe burns as it can cause infection.
It can be applied to any dry skin including dry, cracked heels. If socks are worn over Vaseline you will wake up to softer feet.
Petroleum jelly is also great for skin irritation. It can be used to treat and prevent diaper rash for babies. It works well to prevent chaffing on long hikes, and can help prevent blisters on your feet.
As stated before, it can prevent irritation from wind or cold. It can be used to treat hangnails on fingers and toes. Vaseline can even be combined with Epsom salt to create a scrub for your face or feet.
#6. Insect Control
On hard surfaces, Vaseline can keep crawling insects like ants away. This is ideal to avoid insects in your pet food or food storage.
You can also apply petroleum jelly to a piece of paper for makeshift fly paper. As flies land on the paper, they will get stuck and die.
#7. Lubricate Candle Holders
As preppers and survivalists, we use candles on a regular basis. As the wax melts and runs down the sides of the candle, it cakes around the candle holder.
This makes it tough to remove the candle without breaking it and making a mess. If you first apply Vaseline to the candle holder, it will easily slide out when it is time to swap out for a new one.
#8. Restore Leather
Preppers tend to have a good amount of leather in their gear, and it is not always treated well.
There are plenty of leather protections products and conditioners that can be used, but they really are not needed. Just a dab of petroleum jelly will restore cracking, rough leather to a soft sheen.
There are two uses for Vaseline when shaving. The most common use is to apply it to the shaved area afterwards to soothe irritation and to hold in moisture.
However, you can also use it in place of shaving cream. If you have no shaving cream available, apply a small amount to the area, shave, and then wipe everything clean afterwards.
Substitutes for Petroleum Jelly
Despite being organic, Vaseline is a product derived from the fossil fuel industry. Some people have chosen to find alternatives with a more nature friendly source.
Waxelene – This product is certified organic and uses no petroleum or artificial products. It fills most of the same purposes as Vaseline. Waxelene is made of only organic soy oil, organic rosemary oil, beeswax and Vitamin E.
Alba Botanica Un-Petroleum Jelly – This product is made from botanical waxes and pure plant oils to provide a petroleum free alternative to Vaseline. It is made with entirely vegetarian ingredients, and is advertised to soothe, protect, and moisturize the skin.
Coconut Oil – This natural product has several uses and is a great way to treat skin without using petroleum product. Because it is all natural, it can also be used for cooking and other purposes.
Honey – This sugary substance is a superfood for survival, and it is always smart to have some around. While it does not work as a lubricant or accelerant, it will heal and soothe skin. It is also a great source of energy when added to other foods, and it has no shelf life.
Honey will never go bad. Ideally you want to purchase local organic honey to get the best health benefits.
Olive oil – Again, olive oil can have dual purposes. It is great for lubrication and can also be used for cooking and other purposes.
Beeswax – This natural wax is often used for lip balm and works well to protect and moisturize the skin. It can be used as an accelerant, and some of us remember making bees wax candles as children. It serves many of the same purposes as Vaseline.
When putting together any pack for survival or prepping purposes, I am always looking for items with multiple uses. This makes petroleum jelly vital for any pack.
A small container of this goo could easily save your life in the right circumstances. Just the first aid and accelerant purposes alone make it worth its weight in gold.
My suggestion is to get a small tub for each of your packs and get familiar with these uses. I think you will find yourself using it sooner than you might expect.
My name is Ryan Dotson and I am a survivalist, prepper, writer, and photographer. I grew up in the Ozark Mountains and in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains. My interest in survival started when I was in Boy Scouts and continued as my father, uncle, and grandfather taught me to hunt and fish. In the last few years I have started taking on survival challenges and have started writing about my experiences. I currently live in Mid-Missouri with my wife Lauren and three year old son Andrew.