Purifying the beeswax

Beeswax cappings

The most obvious advantage of maintaining bees is to have honey.  A secondary advantage is to have the beeswax.  It’s an amazing product with so many practical applications.  Last year we harvested our first honey.  This year we want to find uses for the wax.  The first step is to get the wax from the lovely honeycomb dripping with sweetness into a usable form.  For that we have to purify it.

Beeswax ready to be purified

When we harvested the honey, we let the cappings drip through the sieve to catch as much honey as we could.  Then John rinsed it and let it dry in the sieve.  It gets broken up and crumbly.  We store it in a plastic container.  (Gotta keep those ants off it!)  Last years cappings we stored in a ziplock bag in the freezer.

Beeswax in cheesecloth in pot

To obtain clean beeswax for candles or lip balm or whatever, it needs to be separated from impurities like little bee parts.  To do this, we wrapped the beeswax in cheesecloth, secured it closed with a rubber band (or string), put it in a pot, covered it with water and boiled it for about half an hour.

Boiling the beeswax

As  the boiling water melts the beeswax, the wax seeps through the cheesecloth into the water.  The impurities remain behind in the cheesecloth.  We boiled the wax (gently to avoid splatters and the risk of fire) until it appeared there was no more wax in the cheesecloth.  This took about half an hour.  As “clean” as the wax cappings look in the top picture, there was an amazing amount of dark gunk left after boiling.  After squeezing the cloth gently with tongs to coax out all the wax, the cheesecloth was then discarded and the pot of waxy water left to cool for awhile.

Removing the beeswax from the pot

As the water cools, the wax rises to the top and solidifies.  (Not unlike the fat on a chicken soup.)  Once the wax is cool and solid, it is simple to remove it.   Just press down on one side and lift it out.

Beeswax cooled and ready to be used

This batch of beeswax yielded 4 oz. of purified wax.  The 4 oz. was stored in a ziplock bag and then used to make two batches of lip balm.

This batch of wax came out very clean.  A second batch had a lot of “stuff” still in it.  I think it was not wrapped in as many layers of cheesecloth.  The remedy–break it up into chunks, wrap it better this time, and boil it again.  Pantyhose is recommended as a fine strainer, but I can’t remember the last time I wore pantyhose and didn’t feel like running to the store for that. I’ll be sure to stock up for future beeswax projects.

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About maywoodliving

French teacher by profession, beach girl by birth, and "pioneer wife" by, well, marriage, Kathy Harp lives with her husband John in a log home in the "Hereford Zone" of Baltimore County,Maryland. When not zipping along the highways and byways to work, they tend bees, harvest herbs, mill lumber, and (usually) enjoy country living.
This entry was posted in beeswax, honeybees, how to, random musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Purifying the beeswax

  1. Jennine says:

    thanks for that great info. I have jusy bought some wax from an apiarist and I need to clean it up to use in an encaustic painting class at uni

    tks
    Jennine in Brisbane

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  2. Vanessa says:

    How much water should I use? Thank you for this info! A friend just gave me some but i didn’t know about purifying it!!

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    • It’s not an exact recipe. Just fill a pot with water and add the wrapped beewax. It will melt into the water and then, when the water cools, it will harden on top. I used a soup pot.

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  3. Pingback: Up to our ears in wax | Maywood Living Blog

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