I hate to spend time re-inventing the wheel, but that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
Whenever I take pictures for this blog, I always end up getting propolis stuck to my camera. I’ve tried wearing gloves or not, tried wrapping plastic bags around my camera, and tried cleaning my hands between shots. Nothing works. When I’m done, I can’t even let go of it. I have to pry it off my hand.
When I really examine it, I see that cameras are made of metal, plastic, and glass with a variety of finishes and textures. The non-slip grip is especially annoying because the little slip-resistant interstices become filled with propolis. Prying it out with a toothpick just isn’t my thing.
So I began searching for a non-polar solvent that would not damage metal, plastic, or glass, and that would leave the finishes intact but still remove the propolis. It should dry quickly and be readily available, not too expensive, and not dangerous to breathe. So what was it?
It’s embarrassing to say it took me a long time to come up with alcohol. As for re-inventing the wheel, those little lens cleaning wet-wipe thingys are soaked in the stuff. Duh.
So I ended up trying 91% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and, by golly, it worked. My camera looks great and—an added benefit—it still works. After such success, I went around cleaning propolis off all kinds of things that shouldn’t have it.
I would have preferred ethanol (ethyl alcohol) for this purpose because it’s not nearly so poisonous. But here in the states it’s impossible to find any that’s not mixed with something sticky, expensive, or highly taxed. So, under the pretext of protecting me from myself, the government wants me to buy ethanol made more poisonous by denaturing it, so I’ll stick with isopropyl for now and try to understand my government later.
At any rate, if you need to clean propolis off a hard surface, isopropyl alcohol will do the trick. It works on fabric as well except that stains from the plant tannins (or whatever they are) in the propolis tend to remain. I cleaned some propolis off my jeans and I can still see a faint outline of where it was—but at least the propolis itself is gone and won’t be able to transfer to something else in the dryer.