Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Beeswax Rendering and Lip Balm

A friend of mine recently asked me to join her in making lip balm.  I eagerly volunteered the use of the beeswax I collected from the hives last summer.  During hive inspections, I scrape off burr comb.  Burr comb is comb built where the beekeeper doesn't want it (typically between the boxes/supers).  A scrape here and there ends up to be a lot of wax over the course of a season.  I bring a lot of this wax, in addition to my bee equipment, to classrooms in the school district where I work.  The kids loving seeing, feeling, and smelling the wax.  I teach students about pollination, importance of bees, and how they can help the bees.

When capturing this beeswax, the occasional bee gets captured, along with pollen, stray eggs, larvae etc.  At times I am not so agile while working with the bees, sweating underneath my beesuit, so bits of wax fall to the ground and dirt clings to any remaining nectar or honey on the comb.  Needless to say, the wax isn't 100% clean, so one must render the wax so it is pure and usable.  I plan to make a solar wax melter this summer but I wanted to try rendering the wax using the traditional stovetop method.  Knowing what the process is really like, could impact the design of the wax melter.  With a pot and pan donation from two friends, an old laundry sack, scrap wood, scrap fabric, and screen from our old windows,  I rendered the wax.  I will give a brief overview of what I did, but if you want more details, check out this website.

This pot is filled with all of the beeswax and water.  Notice the different colors of wax.

After boiling the wax and water for 30 minutes, it is strained through a screen to catch all of the debris. 

Here is all the debris that was captured.  I spread it out on cardboard to dry.  This is good fire starter so I set it aside to use when we go camping.  The screen came from old windows that we replaced 2 years ago.  The screen is sandwiched between two boards.  If you have ever played with candles, you know how difficult wax is to remove off stuff.  Simple solution: pour boiling water on everything and swish it around.  I do all of the wax pouring and cleaning outside in the grass because I am accident-prone and don't want wax in my kitchen.  It's also important to note that I will not be using these pots for anything else.  It's nearly impossible to get rid of all the wax.  Stainless Steel is preferred.

After the wax and water is poured through the screen, I let the solution cool.  The wax will float to the top and form one huge wax pancake.  The honey/water liquid is discarded.  There are still bits of dirt and debris in the wax so we melt it again (but with no water this time) and...

pour it through an even finer filter such as cheese cloth, nylon, etc.  This is an old mesh laundry bag.  I am pouring the wax into a waxed orange juice carton because the wax won't stick to the carton---making it easier to remove. 

After removing the wax from the carton, I noticed the wax still had brown specks in it.  I decided to melt it again and strain it through a piece of scrap fabric with a higher thread count than the mesh bag.  First I chunked up the wax and melted it again on the stove. 

Then I poured it through the fabric.  Big tip here: don't use small milk cartons.  They are too small.  Because I was using a high thread count fabric, the wax took longer to strain.  I had an overflow of wax that got all over the pavement.  Thankfully I was able to scrape it off the pavement with a razor blade and set it aside for melting at a later time.
Here are the final chunks of beeswax stacked on top of each other!  They have such a beautiful color, and they smell like honey!!

Lip Balm
1 cup (225 g) shredded beeswax 
14 oz coconut oil
5 T (100 g) honey
5 T pure vanilla extract

Heat the wax in a saucepan over low heat to 150 degrees.  In a separate saucepan, heat the oil to the same temperature.  When both are heated to the proper temperature, add the coconut oil to the beeswax, remove the pan from heat, and stir steadily until well blended.  Then add the honey and the vanilla extract, and continue to stir until well blended.  Pour into tubes or tubs, allow to cool overnight, and then cap the containers and store at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.    **Fills 100, .15-ounce lip-balm tubes**
(This recipe wax taken from The Backyard Beekeeper by: Kim Flottum)

I reduced this recipe by half because we only had about 50 containers to put the lip balm in.  Our containers ranged from aluminum tins, plastic tubes, plastic containers, and reused glass makeup containers.  In the end, we made the recipe twice.  The first time the mixture was a little bit heavy on the oil and it kept separating.  We stirred before pouring, but the extract and honey mixture would still settle to the bottom.  You can see this separation in the picture.  For the first batch we measured 1/2 cup shredded beeswax, whereas the second batch we decided to weigh it in grams.  One of the measurements listed in this recipe is incorrect because 1/2 cup shredded beeswax is only about 6 grams.  Needless to say, we ended up using the rest of the beeswax for the second batch (113 grams---one gram extra).  The mixture still separated the second time.  The dark colored lip balm doesn't have as much wax, but it has a strong rum flavor.  I used my homemade vanilla extract which was made with rum rather than vodka.  This was a very interesting experiment.  I will add more comments when I begin using the lip balm.  If any of you readers are thinking of making lip balm, try a different recipe.  The beeswax measurement in this recipe is definitely wrong and I don't think the separation should happen....


Tiffani May 1, 2011 at 10:47 PM  

Hey Holly!
What do you plan on doing with the lip balm?
Love the blog posts!

Anonymous May 2, 2011 at 8:26 AM  

My plan is to give it to friends and families as gifts. I definitely need to try it first. ; ) Once the recipe is perfected, I'd like to sell it.

Phoebe May 19, 2011 at 10:39 PM  

I have made lip balm several times but I don't use a recipe. I only use bees wax and olive oil in almost equal parts - depending on how stiff you like your lip balm- and a couple drops of peppermint oil. They all get along really well so there is no separation. I usually let it take a little out of the pot and let it cool and check the firmness then I usually heat it again to add either oil or wax depending on the consistency. I just make little batches.

Christopher Beeson May 25, 2011 at 7:44 PM  

Great topic! I've been contemplating making a solar wax melter, or using an old pot on the stove technique.

Thanks for the pictures and directions!

Show Me The Honey

john erickson December 17, 2017 at 6:52 AM  

Hi! How do you shred your beeswax?

Holly December 18, 2017 at 6:10 AM  

I used an old knife and shaved off small slivers at a time. Wax is difficult to remove from utensils so therefore I didn't use a hand cheese grater.

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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