The Incredible Survival Uses for Glycerin You Never Knew

On the surface, glycerin seems pretty boring. Just a mundane liquid used in some creams and food products that most people barely notice. But don’t let appearances deceive you. This unassuming substance hides an astounding secret…

Glycerin might just save your life in a survival situation.

This versatile chemical compound has dozens of ingenious uses that can provide critical solutions when you’re facing a disaster and cut off from modern amenities.

In fact, glycerin can replicate many of the comforts of civilized life when you’re off the grid and left to your own devices. Keep reading to discover how this inconspicuous bottle of goo is actually survival juju for preppers.

From starting fires without matches to distilling pure drinking water from questionable sources, glycerin steps in when you need it most. It can preserve meat for months without refrigeration, lubricate machinery and tools, waterproof leather and wood, treat medical ailments, expel mosquitos, and even improvise explosives if necessary.

With its uses limited only by your imagination and ingenuity, glycerin earns a permanent place in every bug out bag and survival cache. This innocuous liquid is a preparper’s secret weapon…

Now let’s dive into the many ways everyday glycerin from your medicine cabinet or grocery store’s baking aisle can be repurposed to provide for your needs and comfortably sustain life when SHTF…

Starting Fires

Fire is essential for light, warmth, cooking, sterilizing water, and signaling. But traditional fire starting methods like matches, lighters, and ferro rods can fail or run out.

Glycerin provides a renewable, reliable way to start fires using basic chemistry. Here’s how it works:

Method 1: Combine Glycerin and Potassium Permanganate

Potassium permanganate is a chemical compound commonly used for water purification. When glycerin is mixed with potassium permanganate crystals, an exothermic chemical reaction occurs that ignites the glycerin into fire within seconds.

To try this method:

  1. Gather a small pile of potassium permanganate crystals (about 1-2 teaspoons worth)
  2. Pour a small amount of glycerin (1-2 teaspoons) on top of the crystals
  3. The glycerin will immediately burst into flames upon contact with the crystals

This fire starting technique requires no external heat source and works even when wet. Just be sure you have adequate ventilation when trying this method, as it produces smoke and fumes. The flames from the glycerin ignition can then be used to start a campfire with tinder and kindling.

Method 2: Coat Cotton Balls in Glycerin

Another way to harness glycerin’s flammable properties is by coating cotton balls with the viscous liquid.

Follow these simple steps:

  1. Soak small cotton balls in glycerin until thoroughly saturated
  2. Allow excess glycerin to drip off
  3. Use a ferro rod, flint & steel, magnifying glass, or other spark source to ignite the glycerin-soaked cotton
  4. The cotton will catch flame and provide tinder to start a larger fire

Glycerin gives the cotton quick-burning properties, making fire starting fast and frustration-free. Store your glycerin cotton balls in a watertight container so they’re always at the ready.

Water Purification

Access to clean drinking water is an absolute necessity for survival. Glycerin can help purify questionable water in two main ways:

Method 1: Distill Contaminated Water

Heating up contaminated water and collecting the condensation is one of the most effective ways to purify it.

Glycerin’s high boiling point of 290°C (554°F) makes it perfect for distilling water. Here’s a simple DIY distiller you can make with basic supplies:

What You’ll Need:

  • A large pot with a lid
  • Small bowl or cup
  • Glycerin
  • Contaminated water
  • Rocks or tin foil

How to Distill Water:

  1. Place rocks or scrunch up pieces of tin foil in the bottom of the large pot
  2. Pour glycerin into the pot, covering the rocks or foil
  3. Rest the small bowl in the center of the pot, avoiding contact with the glycerin below
  4. Pour contaminated water into the bowl
  5. Cover the pot tightly with the lid
  6. Heat the pot over a fire until the glycerin and water boil
  7. The water vapor will hit the lid and drip down into the clean bowl as condensation
  8. Remove the bowl once an adequate amount of condensate has collected

The glycerin never mixes with the water but provides consistent heat to evaporate and sterilize it. Distilling with glycerin lets you purify found water of unknown quality into drinking water that could save your life.

Method 2: Use as a Water Filter Medium

Glycerin’s thick, syrupy texture makes it a suitable filter medium for removing particulates from questionable water.

Follow this simple process:

  1. Fashion a filter by puncturing holes in the bottom of a water bottle or soda can
  2. Stuff the neck cavity tightly with fibrous material like cotton, grated root, or shredded bark
  3. Soak the fibrous filter material with glycerin
  4. Pour contaminated water slowly through the glycerin-coated filter and collect the filtered water below
  5. Repeat until all particulates are removed

The glycerin acts as a sticky medium that traps debris, letting purified water through. While this method doesn’t kill pathogens, it does remove dangerous sediment and improve water quality.

Preserving Food

Being able to preserve meat and produce for months or years is an invaluable skill when surviving off the land or grid.

Glycerin can extend the shelf life of foods through two preservation methods:

Method 1: Brining with Glycerin

Brining meat and veggies in a glycerin solution significantly delays spoilage. Here’s how it works:

  • Make a 5-10% glycerin brine by combining 1 cup glycerin with 10 cups water
  • Submerge chopped meat or vegetables in the solution for 1-2 weeks
  • The glycerin penetrates the food, altering its structure to keep it preserved
  • Rinse the food after brining then store in an airtight container

Glycerin-brined foods can last for many months. The glycerin kills microbes, retards oxidation, and inhibits enzymes that cause decomposition.

Method 2: Glycerin Canning

Including glycerin in your canning process allows jarred foods to be stored safely at room temperature rather than requiring refrigeration.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Prepare your preferred recipe for canned goods as usual
  2. Prior to sealing the jars, add 1⁄2 teaspoon glycerin to each pint jar, 1 teaspoon per quart
  3. Wipe rims, apply lids and bands, then process jars in a water bath as normal
  4. The glycerin will prevent spoilage at room temp for 1-2 years once the jar is opened

Glycerin canning is especially useful when electricity for refrigeration isn’t available. This trick provides long-term food preservation without freezing, pickling, or heat processing.

Improvised Medicine

When modern healthcare isn’t available, glycerin can step in as an improvised topical medicine for some common ailments:

  • Burn relief – Apply pure glycerin to minor burns to soothe pain and promote healing. Its moisturizing properties prevent blistering and scarring.
  • Cough suppressant – Coat the throat with glycerin to provide a soothing, lubricating barrier that minimizes coughing. Swallowing glycerin also helps suppress coughs.
  • Constipation relief – Ingest 1-3 teaspoons glycerin to gently stimulate bowels and relieve occasional constipation. Be near a bathroom after taking it!
  • Toothache remedy – Swish glycerin around an aching tooth as an oral analgesic. Its viscosity adheres well and provides numbing relief.
  • Earache alleviator – Warm glycerin slightly and use an eyedropper to instill several drops into the aching ear. Its emollient properties ease pain and inflammation.

With its antimicrobial, lubricating, hydrating, and soothing characteristics, glycerin is a versatile medicinal prepper staple.

Making Soap

Personal hygiene is critical for staying healthy, especially when you don’t have modern amenities. Glycerin can be used to make basic soap from scratch using animal fat and lye.

Here is an easy soap recipe and instructions you can make at home:


  • 6 oz lard or tallow
  • 2.9 oz lye (sodium hydroxide)
  • 4 teaspoons glycerin
  • 2 cups water
  • Essential oil for scent (optional)


  1. Melt the lard in a glass or enamel pot on low heat
  2. In a separate container, slowly add the lye to the water (CAUTION: Always add lye to water, not the other way around!)
  3. Allow lye-water mixture to cool to room temperature
  4. Mix in the glycerin until fully dissolved
  5. Once lye-water-glycerin is cooled, slowly stir it into the melted fat until combined
  6. Add essential oils if desired
  7. Pour mixture into molds and allow to harden for 24 hours
  8. Remove from molds, cut into bars, and allow to cure for 2-3 weeks

The glycerin helps give a smooth texture and moisturizing lather. DIY glycerin soap is an easy way to maintain cleanliness when normal cosmetic supplies aren’t available.

Making Alcohol

Being able to brew improvised alcohol like moonshine or country wine is a handy survival skill for barter, medicine, and morale in a SHTF situation.

Glycerin provides sugar to feed fermentation and kickstart your brew. Follow this simple prison hooch recipe:

  • 1 packet baker’s yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 4 tablespoons glycerin
  • 2 cups fruit juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Funnel and water bottle

Mix the ingredients, pour into a sealed bottle, and allow to ferment 1-2 weeks. The glycerin provides a quick fermentable sugar to get your brew bubbling away.

Making Explosives

In desperate survival scenarios, rudimentary explosives from glycerin can provide demolition power or self-defense.

WARNING: Misusing explosives can cause serious harm. Use caution and proper precautions.

  • Black powder substitute – 60% potassium nitrate, 20% sugar, 20% glycerin
  • Flash powder – 50% aluminum powder, 50% potassium perchlorate, glycerin

Weatherproofing Leather & Wood

Glycerin can waterproof and preserve leather and wood gear by penetrating deeply to repel moisture. Apply generously and let soak in fully.

Lubricating Guns

Glycerin can substitute as an improvised gun lube since it doesn’t freeze or gum up. Use a glycerin-soaked rag to lightly lubricate moving gun parts.

Repelling Mosquitos

Create an insect repellent by mixing 1 part glycerin with 10 parts water and essential oils. The glycerin creates a sticky barrier mosquitos hate.


With dozens of critical survival uses, humble glycerin earns a spot in every bug out bag. This versatile prepper’s secret weapon can sustain life when SHTF.

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