Steel wool might not be the first thing that comes to mind as a survival tool. But trust me: This humble material has some pretty impressive uses up its steel sleeve.
Here are 14 ways you can use steel wool in a survival situation:
- Start a fire
- Control rodents
- Sharpen scissors
- Clean brass
- Cold blue firearms
- Clean cookware
- Quiet a motorcycle
- Clean your windshield
- Clean rusty tools
- Tighten screws
- Untrace your steps
- Remove scuffs from shoes
- Clean your grill grates
- Clean tires
This article goes into more detail on each of these uses and how you can incorporate steel wool into your survival gear.
1. Start a Fire
One essential survival skill is being able to start a fire. If you can’t build a fire, you’ll have a hard time staying warm, cooking food, or signaling for help. There are many ways to start a fire, but the easiest is to use steel wool and a 9-volt battery.
Simply pull the steel wool into small pieces and touch it to the ends of the battery, making sure that it’s not grounded through another object. The electric current will heat the steel wool, causing it to smolder. Then, you can blow on the steel wool until a flame appears.
If you don’t have a battery, you can still use steel wool to start a fire with flint and steel. To do this, take the following steps:
- Get your tinder bundle ready.
- Once you have a small nest of fine, dry steel wool, hold the steel knife in one hand and the flint in the other.
- Strike the blade against the flint, causing sparks to fly. These sparks will land on the steel wool and start a fire.
Of course, you should always be careful when you start a fire. Make sure you’re in a place where you won’t be easily found if you’re escaping from a horde of enemies. Last but not the least, don’t forget to put out the fire once you’re done with it; otherwise, you’ll have a different (and more serious) problem on your hands.
2. Control Rodents
In a survival situation, you’re likely to run into some unwanted critters looking for food – with rodents at the top of that list. While there are many methods for rodent control, using steel wool is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get rid of pesky mice.
Simply stuff some steel wool into any hole you see in your walls or foundation where rodents can enter. At first, they might be tempted to chew on it, but it will only hurt their little mouths.
The best part? Steel wool can bend into any shape and still form a solid barrier. This makes it an excellent material for blocking off holes to keep rodents out, preventing them from nesting in your home or shelter.
3. Sharpen Scissors
You may not have the luxury of getting a new pair of scissors in a survival situation. This is where steel wool comes in. To sharpen your scissors, all you need to do is cut through a piece of steel wool a few times. The abrasive nature of the steel will quickly sharpen your blades without damaging them.
The good thing about this method is that it works on all types of scissors — whether you’re using fabric scissors, paper scissors, or garden shears. After you’re done sharpening, the remaining steel wool can still be used to start a fire or for rodent control.
The only caveat is to have enough steel wool to work with, especially when sharpening a big tool like a pair of shears. If you only have a small piece, you might want to skip sharpening and save it for more important things, like cleaning your cooking pots.
4. Clean Brass
Cleaning brass is a delicate task. In a survival situation, you won’t always have the right chemicals on hand to do the job correctly. Fortunately, steel wool can be used as a gentle abrasive to clean brass without damaging it.
To clean brass with steel wool, simply rub the object with a piece of 0000 steel wool soaked in vinegar. The vinegar will help break down any tarnish or dirt on the brass, and the steel wool will scrub it away.
If you have some spare bullets lying around, you can use steel wool to keep them in good shape.
But steel wool cleaning isn’t limited to bullets. You can also use steel wool to polish brass hangers, jewelry, pipes, and pendants.
However, be careful not to use steel wool on lacquered brass as it’ll damage the finish. If you’re not sure if your brass is lacquered, err on the side of caution and avoid using steel wool altogether.
5. Cold Blue Firearms
If you have a firearm, you may want to cold-blue it to protect it from rust. This is a method used to give guns or other metal weapons a dark finish without heat. To cold-blue your gun, use 0000 steel wool to remove the excess bluing solution on your weapon’s metal surface.
Any imperfections will disappear almost immediately as you rub them with steel wool. Within minutes, you’ll have a gun that looks practically new again.
I have used this method to restore an old revolver that has seen better days. Not only did it look like new, but the process was simple and didn’t require any special equipment.
6. Clean Cookware
If you’ve ever cooked over a wood fire, you know where I’m headed with this. Yellow flames leave a black residue you’ll need to clean off your cookware. Luckily, steel wool is abrasive enough to remove this coating and restore the shine on your pots, pans, and other cookware.
Simply use 0000 steel wool soaked in water or vinegar to scrub away the black film left behind after cooking over a wood fire. I have found that this method works best if you let the cookware soak in water for a few minutes before scrubbing. This will help loosen the black residue, making it easier to remove.
7. Quiet a Motorcycle
Noise can be a real problem in a survival situation. If you’re using a motorcycle or any other noisy vehicle, it can make it easy to be followed or found by others. To help reduce the noise from your motorcycle, you can use steel wool to plug up the exhaust pipe. This will muffle the engine’s sound and make it harder for people to hear you coming.
However, not all of the sound will be completely blocked. The steel wool can only do so much to reduce the noise, and it may not be enough to hide your location completely. But it’s better than nothing and can help to give you a little bit of an advantage.
Remember, a motorcycle uses less fuel when compared to a car. It can also maneuver into places a car cannot. So, if you are trying to be stealthy and save gas in a survival situation, this is a method worth considering.
8. Clean Your Windshield
If you’re in a survival situation, there’s a good chance your windshield will accumulate dirt and grime. To clean your windshield using steel wool, simply wipe it down with 0000 steel wool. This should remove most of the dirt and grime. You can then use a small amount of water to help further clean the windshield and keep it looking good.
I have tried this method before and found that it works well, especially if you’re out in the wilderness where there’s not much water. So, next time your windshield needs a little bit of TLC, don’t reach for the glass cleaner. Instead, grab some steel wool and give it a try.
9. Clean Rusty Tools
If you have tools that are starting to rust, you’ll need to clean them as soon as possible. Left unchecked, rust has the potential to render your tools useless. Luckily, steel wool is the perfect tool for removing rust. Simply rub it on the affected area to leave your tools looking new.
I have used this method to clean off knives, axes, and even my firearm. It works great on all metal surfaces and can help extend your tools’ life.
Just remember to dry off your tools after you’re done cleaning them. Otherwise, the moisture will cause the rust to come back with a vengeance.
You also don’t want to throw away the used steel wool. Leave it in the sun to dry first so you can use it again later on.
10. Tighten Screws
If you have a screw that is loose and won’t stay tight, you can use steel wool to help secure it in place. Just take a small piece of steel wool and wrap it on the screw. This will act as a wedge and help to keep the screw tight. You can also use a wood chip or matchstick to do the same thing.
However, steel wool is much easier to use and less likely to break. So, it’s an excellent option to consider when you need to tighten up some loose screws. This method can be used on other types of fasteners, including nails and bolts.
11. Untrace Your Steps
This might be far-fetched, but you may wander into people’s homes during an apocalypse. And like any good citizen would know, that’s a risky thing to pull off. That’s why you need to go in prepared. Luckily, all you need is — you guessed it — steel wool.
Specifically, steel wool and a little bit of water will remove marks on vinyl floors, which are commonly found in American homes. If you need to leave a house without being detected, steel wool is an effective method for covering your tracks.
However, make sure not to use this method unless necessary. Remember that you should never steal supplies while inside someone else’s home. If they catch you red-handed, you’d be in a load of trouble (to say the least).
12. Remove Scuffs From Shoes
Looking clean might not be a priority in a survival situation. But if you need to make a good impression for any reason, you’ll want to remove any scuffs or dirt from your shoes. And steel wool can help with that. Take a small piece of steel wool and water, then rub the affected area. This will remove any scuffs or dirt and leave your shoes looking new.
Of course, this method will only work on certain types of materials. So, if you’re not sure if steel wool will damage your shoes, it’s always best to test it on a small area first.
But overall, this is a great way to keep your shoes clean in a survival situation. And who knows, maybe you’ll impress someone with your sparkling footwear.
13. Clean Your Grill Grates
If you have a grill, you know how important it is to clean the grates. If they’re not clean, your food might not taste as well, and no one wants that. However, cleaning your grill grates isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t have access to lots of hot water.
To get around that problem, use 0000 steel wool and some water to remove any stuck gunk. This will help to make your grill look brand new.
Steel wool is safe to use on most grill grates, whether they’re stainless steel, cast iron, and even porcelain. So, there’s no need to worry about damaging your grill.
Just be careful not to use the steel wool on a hot grill, as the heat can affect the metal and damage it.
14. Clean Tires
If you get unwanted stains (like blood) on your tires, steel wool can help remove them. Just use some water to scrub the stain until it is gone. Of course, stains that won’t come off easily can sometimes require a little bit of elbow grease.
However, steel wool will still get the job done quicker than most other methods. And it doesn’t leave behind any residue either, so you don’t have to worry about your tires having messy stains from your hunting sprees.