How to remove wax from plant material?
September 6, 2008 4:25 PM   Subscribe

Many questions have been asked about removing wax from carpet, but what about from...plant material. I accidentally dropped some...oregano...into the wax puddle of a burning candle. surprisinly valuable, expensive oregano. After removing the chunk of herb from the puddle, the wax hardened around it. Is there any way to dissolve/dissipate/remove the wax without harming my plant material?
posted by captain cosine to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't use oregano that this had happened to, unless I were to filter through some sort of apparatus - say, one that would allow only oregano's smoky essence to be drawn out through water. If it were a fragrance candle, I might think twice before even that, though.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:35 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

What about holding the chunk over a candle with a pair of tweezers? You might be able move it back and forth over the flame and make it hot enough to melt off the wax without cooking the oregano. I guess if it's oregano flakes this might not work though.

Maybe put it in a spoon and then heat up the spoon to melt the wax and then carefully wipe it away with a paper towel?
posted by bowmaniac at 4:35 PM on September 6, 2008

Is there a reason not to try the same technique people use for carpet — press the stuff between some layers of paper towel and apply a clothes iron, maybe with a sheet of paper to protect the iron from the wax? The wax should get wicked off of the oregano by the towel. Though, even a small amount of remaining wax might be of concern if the oregano were to, somehow, catch fire in the future. Dunno.
posted by hattifattener at 4:36 PM on September 6, 2008

Was it a scented candle? Even if you got enough wax off of your...oregano...enough, the fragrance might make it nasty and possibly irritating to consume as you usually do. I suggest making brownies with it, especially if the candle was vanilla.
posted by krix at 4:37 PM on September 6, 2008

Wet (and re-wet) the herb with water and then gently heat the wax with a match or a lighter. You may be able to get the wax off without getting any of the oregano to burn or begin to vaporize.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:38 PM on September 6, 2008

"Herbs" of many kinds have oil in their tissues, particularly if these herbs include the flowering parts of the plant. Oil and wax will combine some. When you heat the wax to get it out, you heat the oil. Sounds toxic to me. Good luck.
posted by Listener at 4:40 PM on September 6, 2008

What kind of candle was it?

Simple paraffin w/out artificial scents and colours, you can "consume" as is. Soy or beeswax, ditto.

Anything else...well, you can put paper towel in VERY hot water, then enclose your material inside and pat at it thoroughly, moving it onto cleaner parts of the towel to get all of the wax off. Don't let the plant material get saturated, though, so you're going to need to lift it up and check it out for moisture/cleanliness every few seconds.

Other than that...dang. Some would wish to have your problem ;]
posted by batmonkey at 4:56 PM on September 6, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for your help guys. I tried a fusion of your different ideas: I placed the herb on a paper towel and put it in my toaster oven at about 180 degrees. The wax completely melted off, but alas, it was a scented candle and my oregano is still tainted with mountain freshness. Not gonna risk using it.
posted by captain cosine at 4:59 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Not only that, but all the pleasant..flavors..of your oregano will be gone from being heated to that temperature. :(
posted by wierdo at 5:06 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Next time you make a bolognese sauce you should heat it over a stove rather than a household candle, it will prevent mishaps like this and will also provide a far more effective and constant heat with which to reduce the plum tomatoes to a sauce-like consistency.
posted by fire&wings at 5:39 PM on September 6, 2008 [22 favorites]

I wouldn't worry too much about using "oregano" that smells of scented wax; a friend in college accidentally put his "oregano" through the washing machine, and "cooked with it" later with no harmful effects, though it smelled sunlight fresh. It's just perfume.
posted by Koko at 5:56 PM on September 6, 2008

One thing to keep in mind is that certain essential oils in..oregano..comingle with other oils extremely well, so in heating up the wax to melt it, it will draw out some of the oils that you really want. I understand this technique is used for mixing..oregano..with butter or cheese.
posted by plinth at 5:58 PM on September 6, 2008

You're not missing much, probably; the active compound in your oregano is lipid soluble and has likely mostly gone with the wi -uh, wax.
posted by jamjam at 6:03 PM on September 6, 2008

If oregano is expensive enough where you live that losing a small chunk of it causes you grief, you should consider growing your own. One carefully tended oregano plant will easily supply the herbal needs of one person.
posted by flabdablet at 6:08 PM on September 6, 2008

Sorry, plinth; the Sarah Palin thread in a tab was making my browser so slow I didn't preview.
posted by jamjam at 6:09 PM on September 6, 2008

Well, I do wonder if all is not lost. Perhaps the potent aromas of the oregano would be realized through the burning of said candle in a small enclosed space, like a bathroom. Certainly wouldn't be the first time someone has hotboxed...oregano.
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:11 PM on September 6, 2008

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