Wax Removal

Heat Removal of Wax


Wax was traditionally removed from pysanky using heat, but not in the manner illustrated above.  Candles, in the old days, were a fairly expensive luxury item; oil lamps were used for light, and pysanky were heated to remove the wax in two ways: by placing them in the oven (піч), or by dipping them into boiling water.

While the first method is still in use today, the second seems absolutely counter-intuitive.  After all, getting even a drop of water onto the surface of a pysanka can ruin its finish.  But it was not always so.  Prior to the 20th century, natural (generally botanical) dyes were used, and these are quite water fast. Removing the wax by heating up the egg briefly in a hot water bath would be a reasonable way to remove the wax.

Chemically speaking, heat removal is quite simple–we raise the temperature of a compound, in this case beeswax, high enough  (melting point) to transform it form the solid state to the liquid state. Melting happens when the Gibbs free energy of the liquid becomes lower than the solid for that material.........but you don’t really need to worry about that.  Suffice it to say that the beeswax melts, becoming a liquid, and then we wipe it away.

On the following pages, various modern techniques are discussed. I’ve tried many of them, but seem to always go back to my old favorites: using a beeswax candle.

Methods of Heat Removal



        Oil Lamp

        Alcohol Lamp

        Halogen Lamp

        Microwave Oven

        Toaster Oven

        Heat Gun

        Hair Dryer

        Hot Oil

Adjuncts to Heat Removal

        Olive Oil

Full vs. Emptied Eggs

It is worth trying out various techniques to see which work best for you; keep in mind, though, that some of these techniques (e.g. microwave) only work with eggs that have been emptied.  Using them on full egg might result in inauspicious consequences.  With the newer techniques, make sure you follow the directions carefully and pay attention to the caveats.

Also bear in mind that working with emptied eggs means not only that the wax will melt off more quickly, but that the shell heats up more quickly and you can burn your hand.  When heating a full egg, some of the heat is absorbed by the white and yolk, which act as a heat sink, so the egg heats up more slowly, and more locally. 

When heating an emptied egg, the air in the center heats up quite quickly, as does the entire eggshell. I find that, if using a candle or an oil lamp, I often have to stop half way through to let the egg cool down a bit before proceeding further.  

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Removing the Wax with HEAT