Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Waxy Buildup
Waxy Buildup: the bane of menorah operators everywhere.

Whether you are a Jew or a Christian, one thing is certain: You will have some cleaning up to do, either in December or in early January.

For us Jews, the issue is dealing with nasty Wax Buildup. Eight days of Chanukah equates to forty-four candles, and inevitably, over the course of the holiday, there will be considerable drippage of molten paraffin. Paraffin, alas, is a notorious pain in the tuchus to clean up, given that it is insoluble in water, alcohol, and acetone. Xylene, an aromatic hydrocarbon closely related to benzene, will dissolve paraffin wax, but you really don’t want to be dealing with xylene in the household environment - it’s kinda sorta toxic. You could also use warm hexane or heptane, which will not only clean up your paraffin drippings, but quite possibly will help you to burn down your house.

No, I will probably just use a sink full of steaming hot water. It won’t dissolve the wax, but it will soften it enough so I can scrape it off... and leave a waxy mess pretty much everywhere. Feh.

There is an alternative to paraffin candles. In prior years, we have been very fond of Ner Lights, glass ampoules that contain a wick and a supply of olive oil. You just snap off the top of each ampoule, stick it in your chanukiah, and fire it up. No wax drippings; no oily residue. Ner Lights are considerably pricier than plain old candles, however, and they’re a little harder to find... so this year, I’ll be dealing with the wax.

Oh, well. At least it beats having to dispose of a dead tree.


Rahel Jaskow said...

My menorah (here, we call it a hanukkiyyah) is a simple one with glass cups that I fill about 50-50 with olive oil and water. There are small metal stands that hold the wick in place. Light it up and it burns cleanly and gives off a lovely light.

I buy special olive oil for lighting, making sure that it's from a reputable company, since there are a lot of fly-by-night operations that sell adulterated olive oil.

Elisson said...

We call it a chanukiyah here, too (see last paragraph).

"Menorah" properly refers to the seven-branched candelabrum specified in the Torah for use in the Mishkan, the portable tabernacle that the Israelites schlepped around the desert with them.

The nine-branched version used during Chanukah is, of course, correctly referred to as a chanukiah (alternatively, chanukiyyah, hanukkiyya, et alia.)

Olive oil is a little trickier to light, but much easier to clean up afterwards.

Rahel Jaskow said...

They sell wicks here coated with what looks like red wax. Makes them easy to light until the oil makes it up the wick.

Anonymous said...

For a metal chanukiah like the one in your picture, use a propane torch to melt off the wax, getting the metal hot to the touch. Then wipe off as much wax as possible with paper towels or a sheet or two of newspaper. To finish, wipe the rest off with a cloth wet with petroleum naptha, AKA Coleman Fuel after the metal cools to the touch. Or just leave the remaining thin coat of wax, as it looks pretty nice that way.

Gerry N.

mostly cajun said...

The dead trees end up in wetlands conservation efforts here in Louisiana, plus the tree is a source of amusement for the cats.

I don't think they or I would have as much fun with candles.

But Happy Hanukkah anyway, friends!


og said...

You don't spray the menorah with Pam first? or is that not allowed?

Pam will keep the wax from sticking to the metal. Maybe you could use olive oil if that's more kosher.

Happy holidays, in any event, to the whole family!

Elisson said...

Og, the Pam trick is reasonably effective... and I can't see a problem using Pam, especially the olive oil variety, provided you don't mind having a greasy chanukiah.

I'll just deal with it the old-fashioned way: boiling hot water. Tradition!