How to Make Beeswax Soap

Soapmaking is Just One of Many Beeswax Uses

how-to-make-beeswax-soap

Photo by Shelley DeDauw

Beeswax has more than 100 uses; knowing how to make beeswax soap harnesses natural benefits for your finished product.

Beeswax uses include candles, lotions, and lip balms. And traits depend on the application. It adds emollient properties to lip balms and lotions. Beeswax candles burn cleaner. In soapmaking, the wax hardens bars and makes them last longer.

A material secreted by bees and used to store honey or protect larvae and pupae, it becomes a byproduct of honey farming. The end caps of a honeycomb are lighter and purer than brood comb. Though it can be nearly white, it’s most often light yellow. Brood comb can be brownish, depending on the level of impurities.

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Wax is rendered before use. This separates impurities. After it melts, it’s poured through a filter which catches debris while clean wax drips through.

Though beeswax is treated as a fat in soapmaking, only a small part of it saponifies (turns into soap.) So beeswax should be considered an additive, something that enhances a recipe rather than composes part of the main body. If used in goat milk soap recipes, the goat milk provides emollient properties and beeswax will harden what might otherwise be a soft bar. The wax won’t add a luscious honey scent, so any additional fragrance must be added.

Obtaining Beeswax

If you keep bees, you already have beeswax and may be searching for ways to use it. But if you neither keep bees nor have friends who do, you will need to purchase it.

Found anywhere from corporate department stores to small homesteading shops, beeswax can be found in block form or in little pellets called pastilles. These little pellets are easier to separate, weigh, and quicker to melt. Some pastilles are bleached to be white, though the natural color is cream to ochre yellow.

Other factors, such as organic or sustainable beekeeping, may be considerations when you purchase wax.

How to Make Beeswax Soap

Can you add beeswax to easy soap recipes for beginners?

First of all, don’t add it to melt-and-pour soap. While soapmaking forums may say you can, professional soap blogs say not to. Premade soap bases contain petroleum products to allow for repetitive melting and hardening. Though the ingredients aren’t natural, this is the safest soapmaking technique and one that children can do. But, though beeswax hardens cold process soap, it actually makes melt-and-pour soap softer. If you want a honey-themed project that you can do with children, purchase honey glycerin soap base.

“Rebatching,” or hand-milling, means grinding down a bar of previously made soap, mixing in additional ingredients, pressing it into molds, and letting it cool again. Rebatching is safer than cold or hot process soapmaking because the step involving lye has already been done for you. But it is hot, so it’s not recommended for children. Melt the wax before adding the grated soap because beeswax melts at a much higher temperature. Keep the pot hot to ensure all ingredients blend before pressing the mixture into molds.

Sometimes, adding beeswax to a rebatch means it cools in little clumps within the soap. So, though it can be done, learning how to make beeswax soap using hot or cold process provides a much smoother and higher quality finished product.

how-to-make-beeswax-soap

Photo by Shelley DeDauw

Beeswax in Hot and Cold Process Soap

Always measure soap ingredients by weight, not volume. This is important for all recipes including lye. If you find a recipe which suggests adding oils by the cup or tablespoon, disregard it and keep searching for another recipe. Fragrances and colorants may be measured by volume but measuring oils that way can result in dangerously lye-heavy soap.

Beeswax should comprise no more than 2% of the overall recipe. Adding more means your soap won’t lather well. That means that if your oils, water, and lye equal 100 ounces, no more than two ounces of beeswax should be used. An online lye calculator such as Soapcalc allows you to input all ingredients into a table and figure out a good recipe before you ever start melting oils.

A sample recipe for how to make beeswax soap calls for 6 ounces palm oil, 5 ounces coconut, 4.5 ounces olive oil, and a half ounce beeswax. With the addition of 6.08 ounces water and 2.29 ounces lye and a half ounce fragrance oil, the beeswax quantity is barely 2%.

Always input values into a lye calculator prior to trying any soapmaking recipe. Typos happen. Check your numbers.

Ingredient Percentages within a Sample Beeswax Soap Recipe

Ingredient Ounces Percentage
Water 6.27 24.55%
Palm Oil 6 23.49%
Olive Oil 6 23.49%
Coconut Oil 3 11.75%
Castor Oil 1 3.91%
Lye 2.26 8.85%
Beeswax 0.5 1.96%
Fragrance 0.5 1.96%

Speaking of oils, add the beeswax with the oil. Since it melts at 145 degrees Fahrenheit and other oils are liquid at 76 or even 40 degrees, you may need to melt the wax before melting the oils. Don’t add it after mixing oil with lye or the wax may not fully blend. Remember that beeswax is very flammable. Melt it over low heat and keep it monitored.

In a separate pitcher, mix the lye and water. Always add lye to water, never water to lye. When the temperatures are right, according to your preferred technique, carefully pour the lye solution into the melted oils. Stir and agitate.

Watch for trace. This is especially important when learning how to make beeswax soap because the wax makes soap trace faster. Be aware of that point where lifting a spoon out of the soap batter leaves a trail, or “trace,” of soap on the top surface. Soap can harden, or even seize, soon after trace, especially with the addition of certain fragrance oils.

Pour soap into molds. Whether you allow it to gel, and how it gels, depends on your recipe. Follow the directions for your chosen technique.

Want a cute honeycomb look? Save some bubble wrap or purchase it where office supplies are sold. Use it to line your mold. After soap hardens and the wrap is pulled away, the surface will look like honeycomb.

Because soap made with beeswax is harder, many professional soapmakers recommend you bevel the edges of your finished bars so they aren’t quite as sharp.

Do you know how to make beeswax soap? Do you have any tips that we missed? Please let us know so we can share the information.

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