Beeswax is a yellow-brownish color substance that is made from the honeycomb of the honeybee and other bees.
It’s basically a secretion or a material excreted by bees just like poop.
This natural wax produced by honey bees is rich in properties and is used for a variety of different purposes including furniture and kitchen countertop treatment.
While applying beeswax to your wooden countertop isn’t very tricky, removing it will need some patience, time, and the right stuff to get the job done properly.
Below I will be detailing all the steps you will need to follow when you are trying to remove the beeswax finish from the wood surface.
How to Remove Old Beeswax Finish from Wood?
When you apply beeswax to the wood, it gets penetrated into the grains, and removing the layer is often not very easy.
Many times, people sand the surface with sandpaper but that does not work very well, and can cause problems later during the refinishing.
To successfully remove the wax finish from wood, here are a few different methods.
I recommend you go through them, pick the one and follow the method that is most suitable for you…
Method 1 – Use hair dryer
Turn on your hairdryer to medium heat and hold it over the beeswax finish, no more than 6 inches away.
As the wax gets soften, wipe the surface with a dry cloth.
Then wipe the surface with a bit of lemon oil on a sponge to remove any loose wax that has remained on the surface.
Remember that you hold the hairdryer over the wood for not more than 1-2 minutes.
As soon as you notice the wax getting loosened remove the hairdryer as it can damage the wood or underlying finish.
Method 2 – Use dry ice
If you have an old dry beeswax finish you want to remove from your oak or maple countertops, using a piece of the dry piece can also work.
While this method can work for smaller areas, it’s a bit hassle to try on larger worktops.
Carefully hold a piece of ice over the beeswax finish for about 8-10 minutes until the wax becomes hard and frozen.
Then scrape away the hardened wax with a plastic scraper or a blunt knife.
You can remove most of the wax this way but if some of the wax still remains on the surface, use a fingernail polish remover on a sponge to wipe it away.
Method 3 – Rub with mineral spirits
If the wax finish is too hard or heavy, do not use a hairdryer.
Instead, dampen a piece of rag (or a tack cloth) with mineral spirits and rub it gently over the surface.
Mineral spirits dissolve the beeswax and will work to break the wax barrier.
The rag you have used turns brown very quickly when the wax gets accumulated over it.
If you use the same piece, you will be simply transferring the wax to the surface rather than cleaning it.
So, replace the rag with a fresh one. Or if you are using a piece of cloth, turn the cloth around.
Dampen and repeat the step again, making sure that you do not scrub the surface too hard as it can harm the cured polyurethane, lacquer, or varnish that is already present on the countertop.
If you do not have mineral spirits available you can alternatively use naphtha, acetone, or denatured alcohol to dissolve the wax while protecting the finish on the wood.
Method 4 – Turpentine, boiled linseed oil and water
Using all these ingredients in a recipe, you can make a wash for quickly cleaning the beeswax from large pieces of wood surfaces very easily.
In a jar take a gallon of hot water.
Add 4 tablespoons of boiled linseed oil and 2 tablespoons of turpentine to it.
Stir the mixture well, dip a non-abrasive sponge in it and wipe the waxed polyurethane finish.
Then use the “0000” steel wool pad to rub the beeswax layer and remove the residues that are left.
If you plan to apply a fresh coat of paint, stain, or varnish, consider sanding the surface with fine-grit sandpaper after removing the wax layer.
Method 5 – Use wax stripper chemicals
If all the above methods seem to be a failure, you are left with using wax stripper chemicals that are commercially available on the market.
Trewax, Goof off and EcoClean Solution is few instant wax removers that are non-corrosive in nature and can be used.
These will work pretty well for larger areas like hardwood floors where there is a heavy wax layer you need to strip.
Depending on the variety and brand you are using, the wax removing process can be different.
So, go through the manufacturer’s guidelines thoroughly that are available on the label of the product.
The only downside of using these floor and countertop wax removers is they are a bit strong and comes with odor.
Using proper protection (like face mask and gloves) is therefore recommended.
Why You Need to Strip Beeswax Before Refinishing Countertop?
Many furniture and countertop manufacturers recommend polishing the wood surface with a paste wax on a regular basis – to add a layer of natural sheen along with protection.
However, the downside to using beeswax (or for that matter any other finishing product) on your wooden countertop in the kitchen is it collects dirt, grime, and soot over time.
Plus, in areas like the kitchen, the wooden worktops will also be exposed to black stains due to water that should be taken care of.
The fact is depending on the type of wood and finish, you already have on your countertop, the beeswax finish can turn yellowish or brownish with age.
And to restore the natural beauty of wood grains, you should periodically remove the old beeswax layer and apply a fresh coat.
To Apply Paint, Stain, or Poly
Another reason why you may need to get rid of old beeswax coating from your wood surface is you do not like the finish or the color of the beeswax.
And to get something different you need to strip the beeswax layer first and then put other finishes like polyurethane over it.
Remember, applying paint, stain, or poly over wood seasoning beeswax is not recommended as the wax layer does not take the fresh finish well.
Plus, it can turn the surface tacky. And the finish you get with it will be uneven.
So, if you plan to apply any clear varnish or polyurethane do not apply over the beeswax – strip of the wax first.
The Bottom Line
Beeswax has been in use for decades as a sealant and finish for woodworks like kitchen countertops, flooring, and furniture.
If for any reason you need to get the beeswax removed or replaced, it can be done by simply using products such as heat, mineral spirits, turpentine, or other chemical-based wax strippers.
Depending on the thickness of the layer and how stubborn it is you may however need a bit of elbow grease to get the job done.
Also, keep in mind that, it’s no guarantee that you get success with these solvents/methods as many times wood wax application simply can’t be “reversed”, especially when it gets cured and penetrated deeply into the grains of wood for long.
In that case, always consider hiring a professional who can do the task without damaging your countertop.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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