How to process beeswax

If you’ve never rendered your beeswax usable before then it can be a bit confusing and perhaps even overwhelming. And if you leave your wax cappings laying around without processing them, you’re inviting Wax Moth in for a feast.

Today I’m going to show you each step of how to process your beeswax for small scale beekeeping.

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beeswax being melted down and processed for use
This is my largest pot for melting wax. I like to hang it over an outside fire in the fall. This time however, I’m using a propane burner. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

The 3 Steps to processing beeswax

The 3 steps involve filtering the beeswax in several stages. This purifies the beeswax of impurities such as: propolis, larval cocoon, leaves, twigs, or any bee parts that might have gotten into the mix.

remains after melting beeswax in a solar wax melter
Here’s the ‘chaff’ that remains in the solar wax melter after having all the beeswax melted out of it. The first melting. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Before you begin take the proper safety precautions!

  • Never leave melting wax unattended on a stove top.
  • Have a fire extinguisher nearby for just-in-case.
  • Don’t let yourself become distracted.

You will need: Solar wax melter OR 4 quart cooking pot/a long bamboo stir spoon works nicely/cheesecloth/1 or 2 bread pans

Step #1- First meltdown

The first meltdown takes place with a Solar Wax Melter. If you do not have one or cannot afford that right now, then you can use a large pot; at least a 4 quart pot size. There are smaller ones, but I recommend larger based on my own experiences.

Note: Husbands…do not ever use your wife’s cookware for your wax melting pot. This equals bad. Find a pot specifically for the purpose of melting beeswax and designate it as such.

Solar was melter– place all of your wax scrapings, drone brood comb, and cappings into your solar wax melter. The bread pan below will catch all the wax as it melts from the hot sun.

pan of freshly melted beeswax in a solar wax melter
First meltdown into the bread pan inside of the solar wax melter. Photo by Jonathan Hargus

Remove pan of new wax early the next morning before the wax melter heats up again from the sun.

Cooking pot– fill the pot with a quart of water. Then place all of your scrapings, drone brood comb, and cappings into the pot. Heat the pot on low. The water will slowly heat up, eventually melting the beeswax.

Using a stir spoon that does not belong to your wife, make sure that all clumps of wax have been completely melted.

Once all the wax in the pot has melted, turn the stove off, place a lid on your pot and place somewhere out of the way.

You want to keep all debris from being able to get into your wax. Leave it alone until the next day. It needs many hours to cool completely for the next step.

Step #2- Second meltdown

Solar wax melter– Take your wax out of the bread pan. You should have a completely cooled, hard block of beeswax. You will also notice on the bottom, lots of dark colored stuff. Our goal is to get rid of that stuff.

Place in a cooking pot just as in step #1 above. Follow that step exactly.

Cooking pot– the next day you can turn your pot upside down in the sink. Dump the water out and work the beeswax out of the pot.

boiling pot of beeswax
Here is a boiling pot of beeswax and water over an outside fire. Once completely melted, I remove it from the fire and allow it to cool. The water and wax separate naturally. Photo by Jonathan Hargus

Note: it is best to use a tapered pot with the wide taper being at the lip of the pot. This will make it easier to remove your beeswax block.

You will notice some dark brown or gray matter on the bottom of your wax block. Use a hive tool or some other kind of flat scraping device to remove as much of this as possible. Throw the shavings back into your wax melter for next time.

freshly shaved block of beeswax
Freshly shaved bottom of a beeswax cake. Photo by Jonathan Hargus

Wipe the cooking pot out as clean as you can and place the block back in the pot with another quart of water.

Step #3- Final meltdown

Whether you used a solar wax melter or a cooking pot in Step #1, you should now have a block of beeswax ready to melt again.

Make sure you have your cooking pot with a quart of water and your beeswax block. It’s time to melt it down one more time on LOW. Remember not to become distracted.

Note: I have left beeswax unattended on the stove top. I simply forgot all about it and let myself start doing other things. One day I needed to make a phone call and walked outside to do so.

10 minutes later I heard my wife yelling in rage. She never yells. I came running, thinking there was an emergency; there was…I almost burned the house down. She had to turn the burner off and fortunately the flames went out immediately.

This time when the beeswax has completely melted, you will slowly but steadily pour the melted beeswax through a cheesecloth into your bread pans. Set them aside, covered and allow to cool until tomorrow.

Your beeswax is now processed and ready for use. You can either use it yourself or sell it to someone who wants it. I sell mine to a friend and she makes beeswax candles from it.

purified, processed cake of beeswax
Fresh, clean beeswax cake ready for use! Photo by Jonathan Hargus

Make sure that after reading this process that you know how you’re going to accomplish each step, especially when it comes to the cheesecloth. You will need to know how you’re going to keep it in place before pouring the hot, molten beeswax through it.

This step will be easier if you get someone’s help. Also, you do not need to rinse your cappings before melting them. In fact, I set my cappings out for my bees to lick clean, then I place them in the melter.

beeswax cappings ready to be melted down and processed
Here’s my wax cappings ready to place into the melter and my two catch pans. Photo by Jonathan Hargus

If I missed something and you still have questions then let me know in the comments below or Contact me here.

Don’t forget to check out my new book that kids are really enjoying, Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee!

Until next time remember,

~Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee!~

Jonathan Hargus/Beeswax Melter Extraordinaire

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