Don’t toss the honey with the wash water!

Three glasses of lemade with drinking straws. You can use wash water for cooking and baking.

Wash water is the water that’s left over after you clean beeswax. It can be used in place of regular water for cooking, baking, and preserving.

Yes, you can save your honey-laden wash water for cooking, baking, or making lemonade.

I am one of those people who cannot waste a single calorie of food. If no one in the family will eat something—if even the cats turn away—it goes to the chickens. Now, something has to be fantastically, amazingly, immorally horrible before a chicken will refuse it, but it does happen. If the item still remains unclaimed it goes into the compost pile where something eventually eats it. The compost, of course, goes into next year’s vegetables.

I blame this personality quirk on my upbringing. I spent my “formative” years in the shadow of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains where there was a brand of fiscal conservatism unlike any other on earth. I remember my grandmother bringing home a piece of meat from the butcher. She would untie the string from the package and roll it into a ball with countless other pieces of string, and then she would wipe the butcher paper clean, dry it, and fold it up for some future purpose. The fat was cut from the meat and saved for soap. Absolutely nothing was wasted.

Saving the wash water for marmalade

So last week when I saw this posting by HB at Backyard Bee Hive Blog, it immediately captured my attention. In order to conserve the little bits of honey that stick to the wax after crushing and straining the comb, HB washes the wax and reserves the wash water to make what she calls Beekeeper’s Marmalade. What a clever idea! Not only do you save the honey, but the “honey water” adds a gentle flavor of its own.

Since I read her post I’ve thought of dozens of things I could do with honey water. I could use it when canning peaches and pears and kiwis. I could put it in aronia berry jam. I could use it when making stir-fries, baked goods, or sauces. I could freeze it into cubes and drop it into iced tea.

The fact that I never crush and strain my honeycombs and have no wax to wash is completely beside the point. If I ever do, I will certainly try all these things and a few more. Many thanks to HB for a great idea!

Honey Bee Suite


  • I’m totally with you on the saving. Nothing in my house or yard will eat peppers, though, they go straight on the compost heap. 🙂

    Funny, I never thought about washing the wax. Why? I figure the bees ought to get to “lick the bowl”. When I crush and strain, I let the wax bits sit in the strainer for about 48 hours, so the only thing left on them is the barest sheen of honey. Then I pour out the wax flakes (kind of like crushed cornflakes at this point) on a cookie sheet, spread them thin and take it out to the middle of my yard, along with the utensils and the colander. The bees clean it all absolutely sparkling. Sometimes I stir or flip the chips over after a couple of hours so they can reach the bottom bits if I haven’t spread them thinly enough.

    The chips I melt down in a dedicated crock pot and pour into little molds so I can keep it, or sell it, or give it away. I got about 9 pounds of honey and a little under 1 pound of wax out of one of the Warre hive boxes last fall that way.

    • Lisa,

      I don’t crush and strain, but whenever I have a sticky mess from honey I too just put it outside for the bees to clean up. In the winter, I put containers, plates, utensils–anything with honey on it–in an empty super on top of one of the hives. It is cleaned up in no time. My husband jokes that it comes out clean enough to put back in the cupboard.

      Like everything else in beekeeping, there are a million ways to do it.

  • Call it new beekeeper paranoia. I’ve been too scared to put out anything to be cleaned for fear of attracting robbers. Especially those pesky wasps… sheesh those things are annoying, waltzing on into the hive like they own the place.

    • HB,

      That’s true, but I think wasps are more attracted to the meat (yummy bees) than the honey. Still, there is nothing wrong with being cautious. Around here, the yellow jackets that cause the problem come in the fall and I’ve never had a problem with them in spring or summer. Lisa (see above) also lives in this area. I don’t know what your wasp schedule is like–it could be totally different. I don’t put stuff outside when the wasps are around.

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