beeswax honey

What is first rinse water?

Honey and beeswax candles. Pixabay

To use beeswax, you must first remove all the honey. The rinse water, which contains lots of honey, can be used for other purposes.

When you write a post and ten people write back and say, “What the heck are you talking about?” you know you screwed up. “What the heck is first rinse water? Why keep it in the fridge? Why would you even bother?” Sorry, sorry. My bad.

I’ll start at the beginning. After beekeepers crush and strain honeycomb, they like to save the wax for other uses such as making candles, cosmetics, lotions, and soaps. But the first thing they have to do is clean the wax to remove all the honey that is stuck to it.

Honey readily dissolves in water, so you can wash the wax by pouring clean water over it and swishing it around for a while until most of the honey dissolves. Once you are done, the water you drain from the wax is strongly flavored with honey. The less water you use, the stronger the flavor.

Uses for the rinse water

Instead of pouring it down the drain, you can save this flavored water and use it in cooking. It can be used in place of plain water in things like bread, muffins, cakes, applesauce, tea, stir-fries, salad dressings, or any recipe that calls for both water and a sweetener. It gives the food the necessary sweetness and just a hint of honey flavor. Being the frugal type, I can’t bear to throw this stuff away . . . just think how many bee lives it took to produce it.

Now, to properly rinse your beeswax, you will probably change the water several times. Only the water from the first rinse will be sweet enough to notice, so it is the only water worth keeping. It is what I called “first rinse water” in yesterday’s post.

Refrigerate the rinse water

Since honey dissolved in water can grow yeast and mold, I store the rinse water in a lidded jar in the refrigerator. Properly chilled, it will easily keep for several weeks. If you want to keep it longer you could freeze it in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, move the cubes into a freezer bag.

By the way, some of these ideas came originally from HB at Backyard Bee Hive Blog. HB is a beekeeper and cooking school instructor with some yummy ideas. Her blog is loaded with beekeeping advice and recipes she developed for using her own home-grown honey. Be sure to check it out.

Update (10/19/17): Tim Norris, a beekeeper and mead maker, sent in a related tip. He says, “I rinse out my extractor with as little boiling water as possible and save the sugary liquid in the freezer until I’m ready to ferment again. It can be used as a yeast starter or added to the honey instead of plain water. I hate seeing honey go to waste!” Excellent idea, Tim! Thank you.

Honey Bee Suite


  • I did not rinse the drained cappings, I put them in an empty super, on top of the inner cover, for the bees to clean up. They did a great job, although I only had room for about 1/4 of the crushed comb to go in at a time. I still have a bucket of drained comb and cappings which will have to wait for spring to be cleaned up…I froze the bucket in the freezer for a few days to kill wax moth eggs.

  • Thanks for explaining this…I processed my own wax for the first time this year and was wondering about the rinse water. I was curious if it is safe to feed back to the bees?

  • Thank you for the shout out, Rusty. You’ve surpassed Google in site referrals!

    Janet, beekeeping is just a tad different with a top bar hive. Now that I have a Warré, I just might give future cappings to that hive to clean up instead, and hold onto the space in my freezer.

    • Sure, you could feed it to bees in place of regular water. It doesn’t have enough honey in it to be used as feed, although you could certainly mix it with sugar if you were making syrup. Basically, it’s just faintly sweetened water.

  • I found a new use for the rinse water. You can toss sliced apples or pears in it to inhibit oxidation of the fruit. I think it works even better than using lemon juice in water. It’s a handy thing to know, as we put out holiday plates with pears and goat cheese or apples and cheddar. — Holly

  • Thanks for all the above ideas!

    Never occurred to me that I should first rinse the wax/combs! I let the bees clean them. And they sure do! After the first hard frost, I place the wax comb/ extractor leftover mess etc. out in buckets near my two bee yards. The bees rapidly clean them of all honey residues, dirty spare parts etc. About a week later, I collect the remainder and process it for my uses. My best seller so far: dog paw wax!! 🙂

  • How did I miss this post ? Good idea. I feed everything back to the bees, but now I can save it in the fridge for baking, never thought of that one.

  • Dog Paw Wax is wax they make that you put on dog’s paws in winter to keep them from getting frostbite. Used a lot up North and for dogs who have lots of hair on their feet. Like lip protection for humans.

  • Thank you for the book recommendations. I just ordered the one on pollinators.

    Looking forward to a winter read and photos.

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