Navigate / search

Rendering beeswax in the microwave

At the end of the season, I have buckets of wax comb waiting for me in the shed. I always think I will make holiday candles, but I find rendering beeswax really intimidating. Even before I begin, I’m convinced I will set the house on fire, or at least ruin everything I touch.

My beeswax is pretty much sorted by color—light, medium, and dark. Nevertheless some is a bit sticky, some looks pretty nice, and some is atrocious. Elsewhere on this site, a number of people have shared their take on this process, and I’ve tried some of them.

A new idea for rendering beeswax

Earlier this week, I got a recommendation from Reece Buhler, who uses a “microwaveable pressure cooker.” I’ve never heard of such a thing, so I searched Amazon and discovered these are plastic devices with a lid that go in the microwave. Unlike regular pressure cookers, they elevate the temperature only slightly because the pressure build-up is minimal.

But Reese says they work:

Rendering beeswax can be a very messy chore.
Rendering beeswax can be a very messy chore. Pixabay photo.

I have a fantastic, fast, simple, and low-mess way to melt beeswax for processing. It works best for relatively small batches and cleaner wax such as cappings. While looking through Value Village for expendable pots for double-boiling wax, I stumbled across a microwaveable pressure cooker. I can fill it with crushed comb or cappings, throw it in the microwave, and have melted wax in 10-15 minutes. Then I pour it off through a fine stainless steel sieve to filter, if necessary. Otherwise I pour it straight into a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup, and then into waxed paper cups (8 oz capacity). After the wax is cool, just peel off the paper, drain off the honey, and trim off the scum at the bottom, then refine as you wish.

In addition to melting the wax quickly, it eliminates the fire hazard, allowing you to go off and do other things while you are melting your wax. You can find the pressure cookers on Amazon, and I’m sure in department stores, in various sizes and prices.

Another tip: Someone has probably suggested this, but when using the bag-and-boil method of extracting wax from brood comb, stick the comb into a disposable paint filter, inexpensive and available from the hardware store in two sizes, and tie it off with a thick elastic band. I’ve found this much more effective than pantyhose as it doesn’t split or tear, and the filter bags can be reused.

That’s my two cents. Hopefully someone will find it useful.

Safety first

When I read this, I was still worried about fire. But as I think about it, there probably isn’t much oxygen inside the cooker, and you are not dealing with an open flame. Still, I’m a bit leery.

Before I get into my buckets of wax scraps, I would like to know if anyone else has tried something similar to Reece’s method. How did it work?

Also, if you have a preferred method, I would love to hear about it. It seems like many things have improved in the beekeeping world, but rendering beeswax always defaults back to messy and dangerous. What do you think?

Rusty
Honey Bee Suite

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Comments

Seattle Mike
Reply

I just cut the whole frame out and heat it in a double boiler. Wax goes to the surface and hardens. Honey in the bottom.

Eddy Radar
Reply

I do a good bit of wax casting and use a deep fat fryer (in my studio) to melt it. Used comb is left out for the bees to clean the honey out (a good distance from the hives!), then I melt what remains in the fryer in water. Once cooled, the wax sits on top and can be easily removed.

I am a bit mystified by the pouring through a strainer part, because wax cools quickly and tends to solidify in the strainer. At least it does with the wax I use — maybe the beeswax behaves differently.

I may have to do a test melt and strain experiment — in the studio though, never in my house!

Granny Roberta in nw CT USA
Reply

So does this mean my hopeful awaiting of a post on the perfect wax rendering system is going to involve a very l-o-n-g wait?

My preferred method would involve throwing out all the messy equipment and starting with new each time, but I don’t actually try that. Also, probably would involve my domestic partner going away for the week, so I have plenty of time to return the kitchen to some semblance of order before he sees it. I did get to try that once, but he still somehow managed to find wax spots everywhere.

Darlene
Reply

Great timing
I’m looking forward to reading the ideas
Thanks

Jeffrey Stachnik
Reply

Rusty,

That sounds interesting, but I’m not convinced it’s safe. I use a old stainless steel stock pot, and put about a half gallon to 1 gallon of water into it, depending on how much wax I’m adding. Then bring it to a boil on a-gas fired burner unit, outside the house. The unit has a flame guard on it. After the water comes to a boil I start to add my wax scrapings, crushed comb, or cappings. Once it has melted I shut it off and let it cool overnight. The next day I have a solid block of wax floating on top. I pour off the water through a filter and use it to make syrup, as it has diluted honey in it already. Most of the junk has settled to the bottom of the water so the wax is relatively clean except for the underside of the wax block, which can be scraped off. That’s about it. If you want the wax cleaner you can re-boil and filter it to make candles. Waste not want not.

Eric Bailey
Reply

cruisinhome@gmail.com

I use an old crockpot. New ones these days are pretty cheap. Load and forget.
Come back later and pour through filter.
Simple easy.

Andrew Hogg
Reply

We’ve settled on using an old slow cooker. We put the wax is a nylon stocking. Then put the stocking full of wax and “slum gum” etc in the slow cooker and cover the stocking in water. The slow cooker slowly heats the wax which floats to the top. Once melted we turn it off and let the wax congeal overnight. The water is often gross and the stocking full of dead bees and nasties goes into the garbage. The wax comes off the top clean and pure. It works really well.

Kate
Reply

I melt my wax/cappings etc in water and pour into 5 gallon plastic buckets filtering through old T-shirt’s (my husbands old tighty whities work great too. Yes they are clean). I do this outside using a propane turkey/fish fryer set up. Sometimes the bees visit me but not in large amounts. Final melting for pouring candles is done in smaller batches in a dedicated crockpot and filtered through pantyhose.

Craig
Reply

A “Presto Pot” works well for small batches. I used one as a wax meler when I was making candles. There are even plans online for adding a spigot to the bottom to drain it. They’re very popular among chandlers.

Vance Gilbraith
Reply

I have a fine very old Kelly wax melter that gives me fairly clean capping wax but lots of cocoon and other crud needs to be filtered out. My beeswax microwave cost $ 7.99. I have purchases several four cup pyrex measuring cups at the restaurant supply and render in one never punching more than eight minutes into the microwave. I bought a couple yards of nylon tricot on line from Joann’s and dollar store colanders to set on the clean measuring cup and pour the clean wax in those red plastic beer cups made famous by kegs and Mr Kieth. If poured brim full they hold a pound of clean wax. Add a little after wax cools for honest pound for sale. When your dirty measuring cup gets too foul, I wipe it out with a blue shop towel.

Another good way of cleaning cappings is to wash them with hot water. I then measure the honey water with a hydometer and make the mead the specific gravity suggests. Waste not want not.

Tom Roth
Reply

I made a solar wax melter for my initial melting out of an old window. Build an 8 inch deep box to fit the window. Put cappings in a full size cake pan then let the sun do the work. Let cool then remelt separated wax and strain with used strainer sock and colander—won’t melt, wash sock with dish soap when done.

Chris Harris
Reply

I use an old rice cooker. Easy to handle and safe if you forget. Old fashioned stoves with a side oven are good too.

I would be unhappy about using a microwave. True, new ones are supposed to contain any flames, but they have no temperature control and I’ve seen fires where the user accidentally set the time too long and then was called away. One destroyed the entire wing of a hospital when the nurse tried to warm Christmas cake but was called away.

Steven Robey
Reply

Hi Rusty

I have a stainless 6 quart stock pot with a lid.
I put as much cappings in it with out stuffing them and put lid on.
Set oven on Bake at 180-190 deg.
Put the pot on rack spaced in the middle of oven.
This is going to take somewhere around 8 hours.
When everything is melted, let it cool down over night.
Remove wax ring and take outside and hose it to get honey off.
Run honey from pot through strainer (I use it in my coffee and give away for baking sinse it has been heated).

If you reheat the honey and pour it through a strainer with cheese cloth it comes out nice.
It’s not fast but it is simple and I don’t have to stand and watch it, but I only do this when I am home.

Nancy Ogg
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I too use a dedicated crockpot, but I set a metal coffee can inside it and put the wax in that, so the crockpot stays clean.The can of wax tends to rise in the water, so I set the lid on it and a heavy glass jar, inverted, on that. This conserves heat for a faster melt.

I can lift the whole can to pour the melted wax thru a small strainer into containers. Wax does harden on the strainer, but dipping quickly into the hot water in the crockpot cleans it. The small amounts of wax left on the water are easily lifted off when cool.

Thanks to you and your readers for all the great ideas, especially waxed-paper cups!

Nan
Shady Grove Farm
Corinth, Kentucky

harold matthews
Reply

This is a different line, foulbrood. I once found a brand new set of bee boxes, so I put a swarm of bees in them only to find out they had foulbrood, Some how it was found out and I was turned in to the state bee board. I took a old cookstove and placed the bee boxes and frames in the oven (put a catch tray to catch drippings underneath).

The heat killed all the foulbrood and I was able to put new bees in the boxes. I got a clean bill of health the oven also melted the propolis.

Harold

By the way have you tried cotton honey? If you live by a cotton patch you will find it different. I gave some to a friend who is now a regular customer.

Tracy Klein
Reply

I use an old nonstick pot with a lid. I put all my wax into a 1gal paint strainer, rubber band the top closed, fill the pot about 1/2 full of water, put the lid on and heat outside on the BBQ burner. I also found that if I melt the wax, remove the bag, let cool and repeat the process that there’s nearly no slubgum left in the water/on the bottom of the wax.

Renaldo
Reply

Used to use slow cookers (crock pots). Buy em at yard sale for 2 or 3 dollars. Fill up a sock, put a brick on it, fill up with water, turn on low.

Latest system is to go to the dollar store, buy two aluminum containers/trays or whatever you call them. One larger, one that sits on top but not to the bottom. Poke a bunch of holes on the top one, line it with paper towels, load it with wax residue, set in on top of the larger one, put them in the oven on top of a sheet of aluminum foil. Set the oven at low (175 on ours), run the oven for an hour or so. The nasty stuff stays on top, the wax and honey filters through the paper towels. Turn off the oven, wait a couple hours. The bottom tray has wax over honey The top pan has a bunch of nasty stuff. Done and it cost $2.00.

Dale Goodwin
Reply

I am a newbee only doing this for a year. I melt wax in a solar wax melter that I built from plans that I read about on the Michigan beekeepers assoc workshop website. Being in Central Florida along the east coast we have lots of sun and I figured if it works in Michigan it would work better here. It is insulated with styrofoam and has a clear plastic top that is slanted and facing the sun. Inside is a large metal tray on a elevated rack with some #8 hardware cloth in it to filter the wax before it runs down into a pan on the bottom.

I throw all my burr comb and wax cutting in there and let the sun do the rest without worrying about fire or explosions or such.

With a couple of wheels I can move it anywhere around the yard as the sun changes by seasons.

Dale

PS: Thank you Rusty for your website. It has been invaluable to me! Keep up the good work and know that you are really appreciated by me.

Rusty
Reply

Thank you, Dale!

Christine
Reply

I’m a small scale hobbyist and I like two methods: for old nasty combs I really like the pantyhose thing: stuff the wax in pantyhose, immerse in water and boil it. Pull out the pantyhose and discard and you get a disk of clean wax on the water when it cools.
Second is to place cappings a in a colander lined with paper towel over a big pot of water in the oven on lowest setting and wait a few hours. Again you get a nice disk of wax. Get the bees to clean off the honey first. I tried omitting this step and it makes the job messy and less pleasant.

jean
Reply

Hi Rusty

So many great ideas for rendering bee’s wax. My way is, I bought an open top BBQ, where you feed in the fuel from the side ie; I use wood, it gives off a really hot heat. My large saucepans also smaller ones, sit nicely on the top. I love sitting outside on a cold winter evening, rendering the wax. No problem, just time.

Hope this idea is useful.

Jean

Rusty
Reply

Jean,

Hmm. I like the idea of sitting outside on a cold evening watching the wax melt. Sounds like fun.

Douglas
Reply

Go to goodwill. Purchase a used crockpot type device. Set to low, Melt wax, while keeping an eye on it so as not to overheat. Can get some crockpots cheap at W-mart, etc.
OK

Leave a comment

name*

email* (not published)

website

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.