How To Melt Beeswax In A Microwave (Spoiler: Do Not Ever Do This)

How to melt beeswax in a microwave – you just don’t. I know a lot about beeswax – I have analyzed it for thousands of hours. When I was a student I also blew up my Mothers microwave oven – twice – doing this. I burnt the skin off my left hand so badly I had to go to the hospital. There are safe ways to melt wax – the microwave is not one of those. Let me explain to you why you never melt wax in a microwave and also explain a few safe ways to melt the beeswax. I have a lot of experience in how all these things can go wrong and will share these experiences with you so that you can make other mistakes of your own and hopefully not burn your house down/face-off or kill somebody. Beeswax, when hot is just an evil substance. Please read this article – you will laugh and cry, and learn big lessons.

I am sure there is some kind person out there on the internet who has a lengthy guide on “how to melt beeswax in a microwave”. They are probably well-meaning. Learning and experience are gained by doing stupid things, learning the consequences, and then not doing these things again. How to melt beeswax in a microwave is a topic that nobody should ever write a guide on.

Let me first explain a bit about beeswax and fire. Beeswax is an incredibly flammable material. This is why it makes good candles. Beeswax is a mix of biological wax esters – a long-chain fatty acid linked to long-chain fatty alcohol. It also contains sterols, biologically synthesized hydrocarbons, and a range of other chemicals. All of these are highly flammable – and they burn very very hot. Something like gasoline burns at a lower temperature – beeswax burns 30-40% hotter than gasoline.

Beeswax, in addition to being very flammable, is very complex in its flow characteristics – it sticks to things. This means that if it does catch alight and explode, it coats whatever it hits in a very hot, angry, flammable sticky mixture – this is a bit like Napalm. It is just not good for you in any way to have burning beeswax on your body. In about 3 seconds burning beeswax will burn so hot that it will kill your skin – permanently. In 5 seconds, burning beeswax will cause tissue damage to the muscles under the skin. In 10 seconds, burning beeswax will cause injuries so severe you will die.

What Can Occur If You Melt Wax In The Microwave?

My journey in learning how to melt beeswax in a microwave led me to learn this. The big problem with a microwave is that it can heat water to the point of being superheated. What this means is that you can heat water above its boiling point. At this point, any small disturbance – a bump, a phone ringing, etc, will cause the water to turn from gas to liquid – instantly. To see a video of how this blows the door of a microwave, check this out.

Often when we process beeswax, water can become trapped in the wax. A small drop of water will explode if it is at the base of the melted wax. Beeswax melts slowly in a microwave, and when it does, it heats unevenly. This means that you can have patches of wax that are sitting at extremely high temperatures. Flammable liquids have a temperature called a flashpoint – this is the point at which something will catch alight without you having to use a flame.

The flashpoint of beeswax is 400 °F  (204°C).

I have personally heated beeswax to this temperature in a microwave – and the bulk of the wax was not melted yet. There was a bit of water in the bottom of the container, and this bumped and blew all the wax into the air, at which point the wax flashed, the door of the microwave left this Earth at great speed – a flame blew out of the microwave door and the ceiling of the kitchen had flames packed up against it. Luckily the flames burnt out before the house caught alight. The room was filled with smoke and my hand had burning wax on it. Luckily I had a bucket of water close by and stuck my hand in the water. When this happens, there is not much oxygen left in the air, and you can pass out. This makes saving your life or putting out the fire difficult. To see a few examples of wax/water explosions, you can always rely on youtube to have a person who puts their life at risk for clicks – like this guy.

My hand after the beeswax burn event. This caused permanent damage to the muscles under the skin, and that thumb is not the same as it used to be. I cannot move it as well, and it has no sense of pain on the back of the thumb. The nerves are gone.

What Is The Melting Point Of Beeswax?

`I had a summer job as a student measuring this for different wax samples from different races of bees. The actual official figure is therefore something that I was part of measuring!! Beeswax melts at about 144 to 147 °F. There are some chemicals in beeswax which will brown rapidly at higher temperatures, hence it is best to melt the wax at as close to this temperature as possible. The higher the temperature you heat it at, the greater the damage to the wax chemistry and wax color.

 

A group of Kingswood College students made dipped wax candles during a lecture I gave on honey product value addition. Note the beeswax double boiler system. I just use two pots resting in each other and this works perfectly well.

What Is A Safe Way To Melt Beeswax Rapidly?

There are only three ways I would recommend melting beeswax. The first is in a double boiler, where you have warm water to transfer heat to another pot containing the wax. The second is a crockpot set to the “warm” setting. This will slowly melt the wax – if the thermostat fails it can be catastrophic, however, so if you do this, put it outdoors somewhere where it cannot burn your house down. The third option is a solar wax melter – these use the Sun’s heat to melt the wax and it drips out into a collection vessel.


How Quickly Does Beeswax Melt?

Now that we have reviewed how to melt beeswax in a microwave – you don’t – and the other safe methods, it is clear that wax is a complex issue. The faster you melt it the more heat you are transferring. This can result in some wax getting burnt – my general advice is if you want to have nice healthy wax, melt the wax slowly.

It helps to break the wax into small pieces. Freeze it, place it in an old pillowcase and drop it on the ground – this will normally cause it to shatter. Freezing makes wax brittle and easy to break. You can hit the bag with a plank a few times and this will further shatter the wax. Let the wax return to room temperature and then you can melt it.

For a pound of wax in a double boiler, I would estimate you are looking at about half an hour to melt the wax, if not less.

I hope that this has helped you really really clearly see that the only answer to “How to melt beeswax in a microwave” is a very firm NO. But there are safe ways to do this, and, I have learned these the hard way and shared them. Please share, and save your friends the hardship of burning their house down using a microwave to melt the beeswax.

Read more about: How To Collect Beeswax?

FAQs

How to melt beeswax in a microwave?

What happens if you melt wax in the microwave? It either melts or explodes. The chances are about 50/50. I have blown up a microwave and nearly burnt my house down with beeswax. Just don't melt it in a microwave. Use a double boiler.

What is the fastest way to melt beeswax?

In a double boiler. Never use a microwave or melt wax with direct heat - always use indirect heat, and heat wax slowly. Wax explodes if you heat it too fast and it reaches its flash point. Burning beeswax is just a nasty nasty thing.

How long does it take to melt beeswax?

This will depend on how finely broken up the wax is. If it is in small pieces it melts faster. Work on half and hour to safely and gently melt a pound of wax chips in a double boiler. You can melt it faster but run the risk of burning the wax and making it darker.

What temperature does beeswax melt at?

145° F approximately. This varies from race of bee to race of bee. But that is a good average.

What happens if you melt wax in the microwave?

There are two things that could happen. You may be successful and melt the wax. Or you may make a mistake and get a fuel air explosion that will destroy your microwave, set your house alight and burn your skin/kill you/somebody else. Wax and microwaves are a bad combination.