The best way to melt beeswax is a mystery to me. It never fails to turn into a messy and arduous task, so I’m always interested in a new twist. Michelle in Tennessee recently reported that a beekeeper friend of hers uses old socks and a crockpot to get the job done easily and efficiently. His system goes like this:
- First, insert the comb into the old socks.
- Next, tie a string around the end of the socks.
- Put the socks in a crockpot.
- Pour boiling water over them.
- Melt the wax on high heat until the socks let all of the wax out, keeping the slumgum inside. You can squeeze the socks with old tongs to get out even more wax.
- Let the wax come to room temperature.
- Take out the wheel of wax the next day.
When she tried this, Michelle’s wax came out a rich cream color, as you can see in the photo below. She said it worked so well she can’t wait to try it again.
By the way, she stuffs the socks with wax and stores them in a mason jar until she has enough for a batch. The crockpot turns out to be sacrificial—reserved for wax-melting in the future—and the socks can be saved for starting fires.
I’m very tempted to try this system. I have frequently seen old crockpots at the Goodwill store, but of course, if I’m actually looking for one, I’m sure it will be a different story. Still, her wax came out so nice I’m eager to give it a try.
Crushed comb stored in old socks.
Cool idea! I will try this next time.
That is an ingenious idea. Is there any problem with loose fabric fluff contaminating the wax?
I think fabric gives off more fibers when it’s new than when it’s old . . . at least that’s my impression.
Sounds waaaaay easier than my first effort! Gonna try it!
I do something similar. I use a bag made of an old bed sheet — about 15″ square — closed with a drawstring. I put old combs in the bag along with some weight (I use 4 one-pound lead ingots — one in each corner of the bag. Then I put the bag in a 21-quart canner and add hot water. I heat it to about 160 degrees for 3-5 hours. The wax floats through the fabric to the surface. When I’m done, I let it cool and remove the disk of clean wax. I turn the bag inside out to remove the remaining contents. There is rarely more than a tablespoon or two of wax left in the bag and it’s located at what would be the highest point in the submerged bag. That small lump of dirty wax goes into the next batch I melt. The fabric barely absorbs any wax. The old cocoons are virtually wax-free and I add them to the compost pile.
Very good. It sounds very similar except on a larger scale. I like the idea of saving the semi-clean wax for the next batch.
Hmmm…a clever and attractive method for this messy, inefficient process! I think I will try this with an old cotton pillowcase, weighted (dive weights would be perfect) and knotted.
Thanks for passing on the tip Rusty!
The left over slumgum can be used as an attractant in bait hives.
I do something similar for small batches but I use crock pot liners… That way, I can use the same crock pot for also making lip balms, body butters, anything beeswax related. I also use old pantyhose instead of socks 🙂
A way I’ve learned to do a large quantity of wax is to steam it… To do this, you’ll need a steamer of some sort (I have a Shark handheld for cleaning the house so it gets used for this also), two 5-gallon or 2-gallon paint buckets, one lid, a paint strainer and some binder or alligator clips. Cut the bottom out of one bucket and and punch a hole for your steamer attachment of choice in the side other bucket, about six inches up. Nest the buckets, making sure that the bottomless bucket falls just above the hole for the steam. Line it with a paint strainer. Place your wax in the strainer, hook your steamer up to it, pop the lid on and it’ll render the wax down really quickly.
Reading that, I feel like it needs a visual… Maybe I’ll blog it.
Thanks for the great explanation, Rebecca.
I use a double layer of old nylon knee-highs. I use my crockpot and put in 2 slow cooker liners. The wax doesn’t actually touch the crock pot.
Rebecca, thanks for passing this along. I am just getting started with bees, and handling wax. What is your blog link in case you do put up an image? Thanks!
Rusty – I cleaned out a hive devastated by wax moth this summer, and froze the combs in a feed sack. Would this method allow me to reclaim the wax? My off-site intermittent beekeeper-mentor-consultant/hive-management critic said to burn it. He’s been wrong before, LOL. Thanks,
You’ve frozen the comb so all moths, larvae, and eggs are dead. Why not recover the wax? I would. This melt-in-hot-water method should be fine for that. Since the main problem will be filtering out dead moth parts, just use a tightly woven fabric to retain them.
BTW, I think Rebecca writes for the Beekeeper’s Association of Southwest Florida.
Nancy, as long as Rusty doesn’t mind me linking my personal bee blog, it’s here: deanparkbees.com. I don’t blog as much as I’d like, as I don’t have as much free time as I’d like!
I write more for DPBees than I do the association, but there is a BASF blog as well, it’s swfbees.com/blog, I think.
Have fun with the wax, I have a ton to render at the moment!
Pardon my ignorance, but in the crockpot method do you pour the boiling water over the wax and into the crockpot? Are the water and wax in there together?
Yes, water and wax (like water and oil) do not mix. So when the beeswax is immersed in boiling water, it melts and floats to the top, right through the fabric. The impurities do not melt and get trapped in the fabric. This is much safer than heating wax directly because beeswax is very flammable and can catch fire easily. Melting it in water keeps it from getting too hot.
I so appreciate this idea Rusty. I’m trying it with some old nylon pantyhose. Tie each end if the toe has a whole. To weight them down I’m using some left over stainless steel chain.
I used this method just last week with old nylons and it worked really well.
I got an old crockpot insert to use with my good crockpot heater base. It was really cheap, $2.50. I have heard people say you can’t do this because the old pots don’t touch the sides of the newer bases usually.
The fix is to wrap loosely rolled aluminum foil around the bottom of the ceramic pot and then put it into the crockpot heater base. The aluminum foil conducts the heat from the metal base to the ceramic pot just fine. It may take slightly longer to melt the wax. We use this with girl scouts so we can replace only the pot when it gets broken doing crafts.
Look in the paper goods aisle of your local grocery store (Martins, Food Lion, Walmart, etc) for CROCK-POT or DOUBLE BOILER LINERS… They are near the oven/roasting bags. For about $3 for 4 liners, you can spare the crock pot with these great, high temp resistant, plastic (bag type) disposable liners.