Uses of Beeswax

Table of Contents

Uses

Beeswax is an ingredient in surgical bone wax, which is used during surgery to control bleeding from bone surfaces; shoe polish and furniture polish can both use beeswax as a component, dissolved in turpentine or sometimes blended with linseed oil or tung oil; modeling waxes can also use beeswax as a component; pure beeswax can also be used as an organic surfboard wax.

Beeswax blended with pine rosin is used for waxing, and can serve as an adhesive to attach reed plates to the structure inside a squeezebox. It can also be used to make Cutler’s resin, an adhesive used to glue handles onto cutlery knives.

It is used in Eastern Europe in egg decoration; it is used for writing, via resist dyeing, on batik eggs (as in pysanky) and for making beaded eggs. Beeswax is used by percussionists to make a surface on tambourines for thumb rolls.

It can also be used as a metal injection moulding binder component along with other polymeric binder materials.

Beeswax was formerly used in the manufacture of phonograph cylinders. It may still be used to seal formal legal or royal decree and academic parchments such as placing an awarding stamp imprimatur of the university upon completion of postgraduate degrees.

Purified and bleached beeswax is used in the production of food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. The three main types of beeswax products are yellow, white, and beeswax absolute.

Yellow beeswax is the crude product obtained from the honeycomb, white beeswax is bleached or filtered yellow beeswax, and beeswax absolute is yellow beeswax treated with alcohol.

In food preparation, it is used as a coating for cheese; by sealing out the air, protection is given against spoilage (mold growth).

Beeswax may also be used as a food additive E901, in small quantities acting as a glazing agent, which serves to prevent water loss, or used to provide surface protection for some fruits. Soft gelatin capsules and tablet coatings may also use E901. Beeswax is also a common ingredient of natural chewing gum.

The wax monoesters in beeswax are poorly hydrolysed in the guts of humans and other mammals, so they have insignificant nutritional value.

Some birds, such as honeyguides, can digest beeswax. Beeswax is the main diet of wax moth larvae.

Use of beeswax in skin care and cosmetics has been increasing. A German study found beeswax to be superior to similar barrier creams (usually mineral oil-based creams such as petroleum jelly), when used according to its protocol. Beeswax is used in lip balm, lip gloss, hand creams, salves, and moisturizers; and in cosmetics such as eye shadow, blush, and eye liner. Beeswax is also an important ingredient in moustache wax and hair pomades, which make hair look sleek and shiny.

In oil spill control, beeswax is processed to create Petroleum Remediation Product (PRP). It is used to absorb oil or petroleum-based pollutants from water.

Historical use

Beeswax candles, Alamannic graveyard (Oberflacht, Germany), 6th/7th century AD
Beeswax as Neolithic dental filling

Beeswax was among the first plastics to be used, alongside other natural polymers such as gutta-percha, horn, tortoiseshell, and shellac.

For thousands of years, beeswax has had a wide variety of applications; it has been found in the tombs of Egypt, in wrecked Viking ships, and in Roman ruins. Beeswax never goes bad and can be heated and reused. Historically, it has been used:

  • To strengthen and to forestall splitting and cracking of wind instrument reeds
  • In the manufacture of cosmetics
  • As a modelling material in the lost-wax casting process, or cire perdue
  • As the joint filler in the slate bed of pool and billiard tables.
  • As candles – the oldest intact beeswax candles north of the Alps were found in the Alamannic graveyard of Oberflacht, Germany, dating to 6th/7th century AD
  • To stabilize the military explosive Torpex – before being replaced by a petroleum-based product
  • In encaustic paintings such as the Fayum mummy portraits
  • In bow making
  • As a component of sealing wax
  • For wax tablets used for a variety of writing purposes
  • To form the mouthpieces of a didgeridoo, and the frets on the Philippine kutiyapi – a type of boat lute
  • In producing Javanese batik
  • To strengthen and preserve sewing thread, cordage, shoe laces, etc.
  • As a sealant or lubricant for bullets in cap and ball firearms
  • As an ancient form of dental tooth filling

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