Sources of Wax
Wax is used in many different ways by many different industries, but where does it come from? Wax comes from many different sources and each type of wax is optimal for a different use. Read below to find out where wax is sourced from along with what different types are best used for
Animal waxes are natural secretions of animals and insects. There are many different types of animal waxes.
Beeswax is the most common type of animal wax. Worker bees produce it in a hive, and honeybees use it to build honeycomb cells. The wax is harvested by melting an empty honeycomb in boiling water. Beeswax is used in many products, including candles and cosmetics.
Tallow is rendered from animal fat (typically beef). It has been used in candles for centuries because it is an inexpensive wax. Candles made from tallow are slow-burning, so they are good for emergency kits. Tallow is also used as a lubricant and a leather conditioner. This wax type is also being experimented with for aviation biofuels.
Lanolin (also called wool wax or wool grease) comes from wool-bearing animals like sheep. One of its most common uses is in personal care products like creams, lotions, lip balms and lipsticks. It is also useful for rust-proof coatings. Many baseball players use this wax to soften their gloves.
Ambergris is produced in the intestines of sperm whales. The whales make this waxy substance to protect their intestines when they eat something sharp. After the ambergris has built up inside of the whale, they get rid of it. The ambergris washes up on the shore where it is harvested. This expensive wax is used in some high-end perfumes to help the scent last longer. In the past, it has also been used to enhance the flavors of food and wine.
Two common types of plant waxes are Soy Wax and Carnauba wax. Carnauba wax comes from the leaves of a carnauba palm and is sometimes referred to as palm wax. Carnauba wax has a glossy finish and is a popular wax to use in car polish, shoe polish and even floor and furniture polish. Soy wax is made from the oil of soybeans. The most popular use for soy wax is in making candles, but is used in cosmetics as well. Soy Wax is a great choice for those wanting an environmentally friendly product since it is a renewable and sustainable resource.
Both animal and plant waxes are considered by many as Natural Waxes.
Two types of petroleum waxes are Paraffin and Microcrystalline wax. While both Paraffin and Microcrystalline waxes are derived from crude oil, each product is quite different. Paraffin wax is typically white and odorless. It is used in a wide variety of products and is one of the most commonly used types of wax. Paraffin wax is used in candle making, paper coatings and crayons.
Microcrystalline waxes are typically darker, heavier and tackier than paraffin waxes. It is de-oiled during the refining process, meaning the oil is removed leaving wax behind. This type of wax is used in the tire and rubber industry. Additionally, microcrystalline waxes are also used in candle making, cosmetics and can also be used as a blending ingredient to increase flexibility, viscosity, and hardness in other products.
A less commonly known type of wax is mineral waxes. One type of mineral wax is Montan wax. Montan wax is extracted from lignite and brown coal. It is only available in a few places throughout the world (two locations are Germany and California). Montan wax is used in the paper coating industry as well as in car and shoe polishes due to its ability to provide scuff resistance, water repellency and a high gloss finish.
When thinking of Synthetic waxes, one type of wax in particular comes to mind: Fischer-Tropsch.
Fischer-Tropsch wax is produced by the polymerization of carbon monoxide under high pressure. Fischer-Tropsch waxes are one of the most commonly produced synthetic waxes. It was developed by none other than Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch in 1925. It is used in printing ink, candles, coatings and polishes among other things.
There you have it, the top 5 sources of wax. Check out our Glossary of Wax Terms for more information.
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