How to Clean Beeswax

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A favorite of many crafters, you need to learn how to clean beeswax before using it . This may sound difficult-but it really is not. There are several popular methods used to clean raw beeswax. In this guide, I will share my favorite ways to get raw beeswax ready to use.

Pan of beeswax capping in a filter basket ready to clean .

Beeswax is dirty? Well, perhaps not necessarily dirt in the way we imagine – but it can have dirt. Beekeepers often “clean or render beeswax” to remove debris and impurities. Once clean and ready, the ways to use beeswax are endless.

Cleaning Beeswax Safely

Unless you purchase beeswax bars or pellets that are clean and ready to use, you need to go through the cleaning process.

To clean your beeswax it must be melted, this is easy to do because this beeswax has a melting point of about 147°F. However, it is flammable and will ignite if over heated.

Regardless of the method you use, you must be vigilant to avoid fire or burns. Be careful. Protect surfaces with newspaper or plastic drop cloths. Never leave melting wax unattended.

People can and do use a microwave to melt beeswax but I do not recommend it. The opportunity for overheating, fire or a very big mess is too great.

Likewise, it is safer to use a heat source without an open flame. An electric burner is a bit safer than a gas stove with open flames.

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Raw Beeswax Rendering (for Beekeepers)

Rendering wax is just another term for cleaning. It means the same thing and is an older beekeeping term that has been around a long time.

The process removes some of the honey, wood splinters, propolis, pollen, or bee cocoons left behind. These impurities make the wax unsuitable for some projects.

  1. collect excess beeswax – (cappings or crushed comb)
  2. drain any good honey from the wax – cappings hold a lot
  3. rinse beeswax in cool clean water – not your kitchen sink!
  4. melt the wax – I use water to clean
  5. pour hot wax through a filter bag (such as nylon curtain pieces or cheesecloth or sweatshirt material
  6. leave your clean wax to cool in some type of flexible container

Remove Cappings

Beekeepers often use an electric hot knife (or a cold knife warmed in hot water) to slice the wax cap off the frame of honey. If you only have a couple of boxes to harvest, it’s fun. Once you have 10 or more boxes, it’s work!

Beekeeper removing beeswax cappings from honey frame image.

Separating Beeswax from Honey

Fresh cappings are sticky. The amount of honey in the cappings can be quite significant and worth saving. There are 2 common methods of separating the wax and honey.

  • uncapping tank or double bucket system
  • use a honey filter bag

Double Bucket System

I often use a 2 bucket process to separate my beeswax from honey. You can purchase a commercial uncapping tank that does the same thing or make your own.

A tall 5 gallon bucket is the base. A slightly shorter bucket close to the same diameter is placed inside the large bucket.

Because of the top rims of both buckets, this usually results in a space of several inches being open in the bottom of the larger bucket. This is the collection space for honey.

The smaller bucket has many holes drilled in the bottom. Cut cappings (or crushed comb) are collected and placed in top bucket with holes. Any remaining honey drips down into a clean chamber.

Left to drain overnight – most of the honey drips through into the bottom container. Of course, this is done inside my honey house where no bees can get in.

A mass of clean beeswax cappings in a bucket image.

Use a Filter Bag

If you don’t have 2 buckets of the proper size, you can use a filter bag (or strainer bag) to hold the wet cappings.

When using a strainer bag, place the cappings in the bag. You can buy honey strainer bags, use paint bags or make your own with cheese cloth.

Suspend it over a clean bucket that will catch the residual honey. This clean honey can be used as long as you practice good hygiene .

Nylon bag with crushed beeswax cappings and honey hanging above bucket for cleaning image.

Warning – the bag will be heavy! Tie the bag to something sturdy enough to handle the weight. This must be done in a warm, bee tight location.

With either method, most of the honey will be drained out by the next day. The time needed will depend on the amount of honey remaining in your wax and the temperature of the room.

Wash the Cappings

After most of the residual honey has dripped out, the cappings are still sticky. As part of my cleanup regime, I like to rinse the stickiness out of the cappings wax.

Large strainer bags with a coarse mesh are very useful for washing cappings as it holds them together.

Only use cool clear water. It is as simple as placing your cappings in a bucket and adding water ( similar to washing green beans). 🙂

Place a clean strainer bag in a 5 gallon pail – then add wax. Fill 3/4 of the bucket with cool water and hand wash the wax .

When you think you have most of the honey out, grab the top of the filter bag and lift – allowing the water to drain out of the clean wax cappings.

And for heavens sake don’t wash them in your kitchen sink! How do you spell clogged drain?  One way is B-E-E-S-W-A-X.

Letting Your Bees Clean Your Wax

The practice of letting the bees clean the cappings in the open is practiced by some beekeepers. They spread the cappings out on a flat surface outside and let the bees find and clean them.

The value of this method is that the bees are making use of every bit of honey. Also, it is frightening and fascinating to watch. However, this plan is not without serious risks to your bees.

There is a danger of this activity causing honey bee robbing attacks back at the hive – even if the cleaning takes place a far distance away.

I never put out wet cappings for cleaning. If you choose to do so, be sure to place the wet cappings as far away from your bee yard as possible.

free option for a crafting with beeswax book

Methods for Cleaning Beeswax (for Crafters)

Perhaps the wax you have looks clean and it may be ready to use. However, there are several easy methods for cleaning beeswax that can ensure it is ready to use for any project.

One of the most popular ways to use beeswax involves making candles. Candles require clean beeswax. Even the simplest DIY beeswax candle will not burn well if the wax contains impurities.

Water Bath Method

The water bath method is one of the simplest ways to clean beeswax. It helps remove impurities such as honey trapped in the wax.

This method involves melting beeswax directly in water. It allows impurities to separate from the wax and sink to the bottom.

Equipment Needed

  • uncleaned beeswax
  • large pot (dedicated for wax)
  • water
  • heat source

Step by Step Instructions

In a large pot (dedicated to be your wax melting pot), add a few cups of water. Place beeswax cappings or small pieces of wax directly into the water.

Turn the heat source on low to low-medium heat. Maintain a steady controlled temperature – the water should not boil.

As the wax slowly melts, occasionally stir with a wooden skewer, etc. When the wax is completely melted, remove the pot from heat source and allow to cool.

Once cool, you should have a cleaner block of wax. You can discard the dirty water.

Filtering & Straining Double Boiler Method

This is a versatile method of processing beeswax that is often used to remove debris. It involves using a strainer (cheesecloth) to separate clean molten beeswax from any unwanted particles.

A double boiler is the safest method for melting beeswax. One pot sitting on the stove container water. A smaller pot sits inside and holds your wax.

This allows the heat to be transferred from the water to spread uniformly around the pot holding your wax. You have less chance of over heating the wax or causing a fire!

If you don’t have a double boiler, one of these inserts can help you create one. I have several of these- they are awesome for projects.

Equipment Needed

  • unclean beeswax
  • double boiler or similar
  • strainer or cheesecloth
  • heat source
  • flexible heat resistant container

Step by Step Instructions

Set up your double boiler. Fill the larger pot with water and place the smaller pot inside. Add raw beeswax to the smaller melting pot.

Gradually heat the water which will melt the beeswax. It should melt slowly, avoid high temperatures. Gently stir the wax as it melts to promote even heating.

Once the wax is liquid, carefully pour it through a straining material. Use cheese cloth, nylons, paint strainers or old sweatshirt material for straining.

If you quickly wipe out the warming pot with paper towels – it will remove most of the wax. But, you need to have dedicated utensils, dishes or pots for wax work.

Using a Crockpot

Using a crockpot to render raw beeswax is a convenient and (mostly) hands-off method. It allows you to slowly melt the wax at a steady and controlled temperature. This method works well when you have a larger quantity of wax to process.

Equipment Needed

  • uncleaned wax
  • crockpot (slow-cooker) with adjustable temperature
  • strainer or cheesecloth
  • flexible container for collecting clean wax

Place the crockpot on a flat, heat-resistant surface. Sometimes you can find a used one at a thrift store that can be dedicated to wax cleaning. Another option, use disposable crockpot liners to make cleanup after a breeze.

Set the temperature setting on the crockpot to “warm” or the lowest temperature setting. This provides slow even heating and protects the natural properties of your beeswax.

Place the lid on the crockpot and allow several hours for the wax to melt. The time required depends on room temperature, crockpot setting and the amount of wax in the pot.

Occasionally, stir the melting wax to release impurities and promote even heating.

Once all of the beeswax is melted, turn off the crockpot. Place a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth over a clean contain. Carefully, pour the molten wax through it. Be careful – hot wax can burn you.

Let the hot wax cool and solidify in the clean container. Once cool and solid, it is ready to use for your favorite projects.

Large blocks of beeswax from solar melter.

How to Clean Wax in a Solar Melter

Melting beeswax in a solar melter is another option (especially for beekeepers with a lot of raw wax).

My larger solar wax melter is made from an old steel box with a heavy piece of glass on top. It is really ugly and looks gross but it does the job well.

Fresh wax cappings are placed into a pan inside the box, a tray with a small amount of water collects the dripping wax. Over a couple of days the heat of the sun will melt all the cappings. 

As temperatures drop, the wax will cool into solid form in the tray. Once cooled, I can remove the solid chunk and discard any water.

The water will be dirty and have honey residue – do NOT feed it to your bees. It may make them sick.

If you only have a small amount of cappings, you may choose to use a home-made melter. You can make your own solar melter using an inexpensive Styrofoam cooler and a sheet of glass.

The melter is set in a sunny location. At the end of the day, you will have rendered clean beeswax. If you want to a larger solar melter, you can find many plans and instructions to build one.

Chunks of raw beeswax ready to melt and clean with water image.

Expert Tips

Raw beeswax is often sold in larger cakes or a wax disc, luckily wax is brittle when cold – you should be able to hit it with a hammer and break off chunks.

It is important to remember that you do not want to overheat your beeswax. Too much heat will reduce the nice aroma and darken the color.

Beeswax is flammable. At a temperature of about 400° F, it will flare and burn. **Be careful – always take proper precautions to prevent burns and fire**

You can pour your liquid wax into any type of mold. I like to use recycled takeout cups because when the wax cools and shrinks, it pops out easily.

Cooled wax will NOT easily come out of any type of container use something that is flexible. Leave your wax to cool and harden over night.

There is no need to bring it to a boil. The wax has a low melting point that is well below 200°F.

Cooling cups of hot cleaned beeswax.

Storing Beeswax & Endless Possibilities

Beeswax does not require any special storage procedure. It keeps virtually forever. Place it in a box to protect it from dust and it will be ready for any special projects when you need it.

What will you do with it? There are so many options, create unique and beautiful beeswax candles with dried flowers.

Once the wax is clean, it is good for making beeswax candles, creating a special batch of homemade beeswax lip balm, beeswax furniture polish and many other crafts.

Need to freshen up a room with a natural air freshener? Try making your own bees wax melts. You can customize their scent with different fragrances.

You can even make your own beeswax crayons – a great non toxic item for the kids.

So where does this beeswax come from – do bees gather it? No, this natural wax is made by honey bees using special glands on the underside of their abdomen.

Beekeepers harvest wax that is left over from honey extraction, scrapings from boxes, and colonies that die. If a lot of wax is taken from the hives, the result is less honey production for the year.

Therefore, it is a valuable honey bee product and sells for more per pound than honey. Raw wax should never be wasted.

FAQs

Is beeswax flammable?

Yes, beeswax will cause fire if overheated. The flashpoint of beeswax is about 400°F.

How to you clean and purify beeswax effectively?

The simplest, fastest way to clean beeswax is to just add water to the wax. Heat the water to melt the wax, then allow to cool. Most impurities will sink to the bottom or dissolve into the water.

Why do I need to clean beeswax before using it for candles or crafting?

Cleaning beeswax is essential to remove impurities. Raw wax can contain pollen, debris, honey or dirt. The appearance and safety of your final products depends on clean wax.

Can I use beeswax straight from the hive without cleaning it?

Yes, it depends on the project you are making. Homemade beeswax firestarters do not require clean wax. However, dirty wax can clog the wick of beeswax candles.

Is there a best method of cleaning beeswax?

No, there is no perfect method to clean raw beeswax. It depends on your preferences and the resources that you have available.

Can you melt beeswax in the oven?

Yes, but the risk of a big mess and overheating could be an issue. The heat should be at the lowest possible setting and constant surveillance is needed.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning raw beeswax is not difficult, it only requires a bit of patience. Explore different melting methods to find the one that works best for your needs and available equipment. And the best thing is that your beeswax will never spoil so you don’t have to be in a hurry. Now that you have a chunk of nice beeswax – anything is possible.