Wax Removal

Hot Oil Method


Using hot oil to melt off wax is an practical example of the chemistry principle that like dissolves like.  Waxes and oils are fairly similar chemically, os one (the wax) will dissolve in the other.  Of course, it is the heat that melts the wax, but once it is in a liquid form, is mixes into the oil.

In the old days, before modern aniline dyes, pysankary used to use boiling water to remove the wax.  Old fashioned vegetable dyes are water resistant, so a quick dip into some water will not remove them as it would the aniline dyes*.  Our ancestors would boil the water, dip in the eggs, and the wax on them would melt.  They would then remove the eggs from the water and wipe off the hot wax with a soft cloth.

Hot oil works similarly, with the advantage that there is much less wax to wipe off, as most of it will dissolve into the oil itself.  And this method should work for both full and emptied eggs, as the eggs are only heated very briefly.

I have not tried any hot oil methods myself, as I have an aversion to working with very hot oil. I was making popcorn once, the old-fashioned way, back in my teens, and spilled some oil onto my foot (while trying to put out an oil fire). The result was some pretty severe burns (second-degree) and a lot of pain.

Using hot oil is dangerous, and should not be done around children. The oil can easily catch on fire, and it can cause severe, painful burns.  Be very, very careful if you choose to try this method.

If you do heat oil, use a double boiler for safety!!!!!

Since I have not used hot oil myself, the instructions below are from a member of the Eggs-Pysanky Yahoo group named Krysia.

PREPARATION: Heat a cup or two of vegetable oil (cheapest possible) in a double boiler until it's hot, but not boiling. If using emptied eggs, double check to make sure that the drain hole is open, with no membranes or wax plug in the way.

(Double boilers pictured below; the oil goes into the top/inner pot, while the water goes into the lower/outer pot.)

Improvised double boiler

Professional double boiler

PROCEDURELower your eggs gently into the oil with a slotted spoon. Roll them over a few times until all the wax has melted off off, and then lift them out.  Place the eggs on a paper-towel covered tray. (Krysta suggests one of those large 2.5 dozen paper egg trays you can get from grocery stores, or if you buy eggs in bulk.)

As the eggs cool, the oil will drain off. When the eggs have cooled a bit, wipe off the remaining oil.  You will find that the wax and pencil marks come off easily this way.

It usually takes about 3 minutes per egg, and she does up to three at a time.  Krysta notes that the eggs do not seem to scratch at all with contact, and she hasn't broken or scorched one with this removal method...ever!

The used wax/oil combo usually is good for two to three dozen chicken eggs, then she discards it and start anew.

NOTE: other have suggested using lard in a similar matter.  Any type of oil, vegetable or animal, should work for this.  Remember, too, that the oil will leave a shiny residue on the eggs.  If you plan to varnish them, this needs to be cleaned off with a solvent like Goo Gone or mineral spirits.  If not, the oil leaves a nice, natural sheen.

ALTERNATIVE:  An alternative hot oil method exists. Some pysankary warm up a bit of vegetable oil on the stove, dip part of a paper towel into it, then use it to gently wipe off the wax. They say it doesn't affect the adherence of the finish at all! As always, be careful, and never leave oil heating on the stove unattended!

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Removing the Wax with Hot Oil