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What is Carnauba Wax?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Carnauba wax is a botanical product used in a large number of industries. Sometimes called the "Queen of Wax," it has a much higher melting point than other waxes and is also extremely hard. This makes it ideal for creating extremely strong coatings for floors, automobiles, and other things that see hard wear. In addition, this wax appears in candies, polishes, varnishes, cosmetic products, and in many other places. Although carnauba wax has largely been replaced by synthetics, it is still produced and used in many parts of the world.

A Brazilian tree formally named Copernicia prunifera, and otherwise known as the fan or carnauba palm, is the source for carnauba wax. The palm has broad fan-like leaves attached to toothed stalks. In hot, dry weather, the plant secretes wax to protect the leaves from damage. People who want to collect the wax dry the leaves and then beat them to dislodge the yellowish to brown coating, which usually flakes off. The wax is refined and bleached before it is used. Carnauba palms can live in extreme environments because of their protective coating, making them an excellent choice of crop for farmers working with poor soil and weather conditions.

A temperature of 172°F (78°C) is required to melt carnauba wax. It is also not readily soluble. Water cannot break down a layer of this wax, and only certain solvents can, usually in combination with heat. This means that it is highly durable. Used plain, it can make something waterproof and wear resistant. Combined with things such as tints and dyes, it can be used to create an enduring colored polish. Eventually, hard wear will strip the wax from most surfaces, but a fresh layer can be reapplied. In older homes with hardwood floors and fixtures, carnauba wax was probably used on them as a conditioner at some point.

The substance is often used instead of, or in combination with, other waxes because of how strong it is. Many surfers, for example, use waxes for their boards that integrate carnauba. It is also used to coat paper plates, dental floss, and as a vegetarian alternative to gelatin. In the pharmaceutical industry, this wax frequently appears as a tablet coating, and it is used in a number of packaged foods. Unlike many other waxes, a carnauba finish will not flake off with time, it will merely become dull. This makes it ideal for locations where a flaking finish would look unsightly.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon1005019 — On Jun 04, 2021

The FDA must get involved in the use of carnauba wax in candies, gummies, and other foods. Do you really want to put something in your body that is not water soluble and used for things such as car wax and floor wax? We all have to complain to these companies that are using it in vitamins and supplements.

I ended up in the hospital with a blocked bowel from the use of these products with this wax in them.

A word to the wise: stop using these supplements that contain carnauba wax.

By anon294594 — On Oct 02, 2012

It is in Kellogg's Fruit snacks! And in many other food products.

By anon262404 — On Apr 19, 2012

I would like to know the solubility of carnauba wax rather than solvents for polishing of sugar coated tablets in pharmaceutical industries.

By anon157298 — On Mar 02, 2011

Can I use carnauba wax as a cleaner/sealer on pool cue shafts that are maple, ash or laminated maple.

By babar — On Feb 28, 2011

how can we turn carnauba wax water soluble? How can we make car shampoo with carnauba wax?

By anon116386 — On Oct 06, 2010

Why do they have to put it in food? Why? Why? Why?

By anon111359 — On Sep 16, 2010

Can you please elaborate on theuse of carnauba wax in the pharmaceutical industry?

By anon94015 — On Jul 06, 2010

is it used in soft drinks?

By anon91962 — On Jun 24, 2010

Why is carnauba wax used in candy? Is it harmful and can it cause constipation?

By anon82461 — On May 06, 2010

does carnuba wax contain any animal origin?

By saravanan — On Jul 09, 2009

IS Is it safe to eat wax coated apples? specify the ill effects of eating WAX coated fruits?

By anon32379 — On May 20, 2009

What is the purpose for using Carnauba wax in the making of candy?

By anon18488 — On Sep 24, 2008

I would like to know thermal properties of carnauba wax products (specific heat and thermal conductivity versus temperature), where could I get them?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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