The amount of time spent in your hive during the winter is little to none. So, it’s the perfect time to get caught up on all the other beekeeping activities neglected during the busy season – like rendering and filtering beeswax! I collect little amounts of beeswax from my hive throughout the season by cleaning my frames of any burr comb and from the wax cappings covering the honey during honey harvest. I end up with quite a bit by the end of the season. You can see that the beeswax varies in color and cleanliness. I use my beeswax in many skin care products, so it is important for it to be clean as a whistle before I use it. This requires melting and filtering.
An old crockpot (I got mine for $5 at a thrift store) serves as an easy way to render and filter beeswax during the winter months. A double boiler works well (as discussed in a previous blog), but I love the convenience of a crockpot because I can turn it on low, fill it with my collected beeswax, and forget about it while I do other chores around the house.
You’ll notice after some time (depends on how quickly your crockpot heats) that the wax will begin to melt.
You want to wait until the wax is fully melted, like the photo below. You can stir it, ever so gently, to allow for even melting, but avoid stirring it too much. This will blend the gunk you want to get out of the wax (known as slumgum) and the clean wax, making filtering a bit more difficult. Turn the crockpot off once all the wax is fully melted.
Give the wax plenty of time to cool (do more chores around the house). It’ll harden, shrink a bit, and might form cracks.
Use a utensil to break up the chunks. You’ll notice the wax cools in layers – wax on top, slumgum underneath, and possibly a layer of honey on the bottom if some of your wax came from honey frame cappings. I like to pour the honey layer into another container and filter it for use. Next, I like to use an old spoon and scrape off the slumgum and throw it in the trash. I run the larger chunks of beeswax under some warm water to clean off smaller bits of slumgum. This prevents it from clogging my filter in the next step.
Next, I return the slightly cleaner chunks of wax into my crockpot for another round of melting. You will notice the wax has fewer impurities in it, so it looks much clearer once it remelts.
Next, prepare for filtering! I like to use a cheap cup (paper or plastic works) but you could also use an older sour cream or yogurt container. Stretch a piece of pantyhose over the top. Pantyhose serves as a great and cheap filter that easily stretches over the container of your choice. I like to use the knee highs in a light or nude color. Darker colors of pantyhose can stain the wax. It can also be helpful to place some disposable paper, like a newspaper, under the cup for easy clean up if you spill a bit.
Use pot holders to steadily hold the crockpot insert at just the right angle so that your wax pours out smoothly and runs through the filter, but not so fast that it pours over the edge of your cup. The pantyhose will eventually get clogged up with slumgum. Change the filter once this happens, if you don’t fill your container first.
I like to pour my wax into little styrofoam cups on top of a digital scale so that I know when I have poured exactly 2 oz. I do this because I use many recipes for skin care products that require 2 oz. of wax, and this allows me to avoid chopping at a big block of beeswax to shave off the amount needed.
This process might appear to have lots of steps, but the amount of active hands-on time is minimal. I also like this method because it makes my house smell like a yummy beeswax candle! The uses for beeswax are endless, so check out my upcoming blogs on fun and practical uses for beeswax.
Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!