To produce candles and polishes we need clean wax (a good
colour helps as well).
If we are making cosmetics for human use, or foundation for
our bees then sterility is also a desirable property.
There are many ways of "cleaning" beeswax... And
some of the earlier stages are dealt with on the page entitled
Melting Beeswax. The
rest of this document assumes that our starting point is beeswax
blocks with a small amount of dark inclusions on the under surface.
Beeswax is a mixture or alloy of long chain hydrocarbons
produced by the bees from carbohydrates. By the time we beekeepers
come to use it, the pollen and propolis that has come into contact
with it has stained it various shades of yellow through to orange. The
temperature at which we process it can also affect the colour.
Temperatures should be kept low, just a few degrees above
the wax melting point (63° C). say 75° C. Beeswax is
permanently damaged and turns a chocolate brown colour at about
120° C. I have tried many methods to recover the original wax
colour, however I have never managed to achieve anything, but a slight
lightening after many repeated attempts.
Bleaching and removal/degrading of chemical residues is
dealt with on the page
Steaming the wax to melt it gradually with the steam and
condensed hot water coming into contact with all the wax as the
melted surface runs off under the influence of gravity is a pretty
good method with light wax resulting. This is described in the
Syston steam melter.
I have a temperature controlled honey warming cabinet that I
use instead of an oven. I use a large metal funnel
(400 mm dia) with the stem filled with cotton wool. This is
very slow, but gives superb quality.
Dissolving... Beeswax readily dissolves in Carbon Tetrachloride (CCl4)
A honey warming cabinet can be utilised or an electric
domestic oven, providing that the thermostat can be set to about
75° C. This can be used to liquefy the wax and convenient
filters may be made using empty food cans that have had both top and
bottom removed using a tin opener, and any sharp edges have been
hammered flat. Pierce two holes at one end just inside the rim and
180 degrees apart. Pass a piece of string through the holes to form a
handle and knot the ends, These tubes of tinplate then have a filter
membrane stretched over the bottom end which can be a square of
surgical lint (fluffy side up) (lint used on wounds that are to be
bandaged), some sorts of paper towel or "Nappy Liners" are
also suitable for this process. Hold this membrane in place
temporarily with a rubber band and secure firmly with twine so that it
cannot leak. To use... fill each prepared tin can 'bucket' with chunks
of wax broken from your large blocks that have been through the first
stage of the process. Use smart blows from a hammer on a cold and
frosty day to create your fragments. Repeat this about 24 times and
hang the 'buckets' from one of the oven shelves or place the cans on a
grid shelf in the upper part of the oven or warming cabinet with a
large meat tray in the bottom portion to catch the drips of wax as it
slowly melts and filters through the cloth or nappy liner. As the wax
melts add fresh chunks to each bucket. The used filter pads make
excellent fire lighters.
The MD wax extractor
In the past dark wax has been lightened by warming the wax over water
at just below boiling and then hydrogen peroxide is added, which
boils forming millions of very small bubbles that rise through the
molten wax. This action "wets" water soluble particles that
were suspended in the wax and allows them to separate. There is also
a bleaching action as the "spare" oxygen is released.
Another method used for cleaning wax is melting and
admixture of "Bentonite" particles followed by filtration
A third method that is used is filtration through a filter
bed that is made of "diatomaceous earth".
Written... August 2001, Revised... 08 February, 10 November 2002