October 1, 2012

Easy Bottle Sealing Wax

I put this tutorial together for my crafty friends over at Everyday Art.  They've got some good things going on over there.

For Christmas last year, I put these vintage looking bottles of homemade soda together to give as gifts.  They don't necessarily have to have a Christmas theme to them.  This is not necessarily an original idea, either.  Homebrewers have done this for a while, but I thought my version looked pretty classy so I thought I would share.  The labels were just laser printed on normal paper, the ribbon was just basic ribbon from a craft store, and the sealing wax is actually a blend of hot glue and crayons. 

Sure, you could just buy some bottle sealing wax at a wine supply shop, but if you have kids, there seems to be an endless supply of random crayon fragments collecting in Ziploc bags somewhere.  Do you know what that means?  That means you can make sealing wax virtually any color you want! (Well, depending on what crayons you have on hand, anyway.)

So first, collect your crayons and determine what color you want.  You'll need the equivalent of about 3 full size crayons per 5 equally sized glue sticks.  A ratio of about 12:20 is a good sized batch to cover about 4 dozen bottles (a little less than a 5 gallon batch of beverage using 12 oz bottles.)  You can adjust your ratio as you go depending on how brittle or plastic you want your seal to be.  To test, your consistency, just drip some into cold water and attempt to break or crumble it.  More glue makes a more plastic final product, more crayons makes for a more brittle/crumbly final product.  This is also a great time to get rid of those pesky white crayons that rarely get used.  My 2-year old son actually brought me a white crayon saying it was "broken" because it didn't "color" on white paper.  The white crayons will add the same brittleness, without affecting the color much.  They will lighten your final color, but not nearly as much as I expected.  You can also use uncolored paraffin to equal effect, but I'd wager there's more unused crayons laying around your house than unused paraffin.

Now you'll need to prep your bottles.  The labels were applied earlier using an age-old, secret glue: milk.  It holds well and cleans up easily, and there's not enough there to stink or get nasty, it just dries out.  Rub a thin layer on with your finger, just enough to get it wet, then apply the label to the bottle and press out any bubbles with an absorbent cloth for a nice clean look.  For this reason, using a laser printer instead of an inkjet printer is highly advised so the colors don't run.  If you have any loose corners, you can reapply the milk to get it to stick down.


Now, with a heavy layer of wax, it can be tough to get a bottle opener to bite through the wax around the cap.  I used some ribbon as a pull tab to peel away the wax to get the bottle open.  It was difficult to get the ribbons to stay in place, so I put a little dab of hot glue on there to keep them in place while I dipped them.  I also put a little dab above the label to keep the ribbon in place where the seal stamp will go later. 

It's time to melt your wax.  A soup can on the stove over low heat makes a perfect melting/dipping pot.  I've seen others use a double boiler to melt their wax, but I don't want to stick my hand over boiling water if I don't have too.  If you're doing this with kids, a paper cup in the microwave can be used instead, but it will probably need reheated between bottles.  You could use an unwanted saucepan as a melting pot, but the wider your pot, the more wax you'll need to get the wax deep enough to dip into.  Whether in the microwave or on the stove, melt everything together and stir it with a craft stick to a nice even consistency.

Once melted, go right ahead and dip the tops of the bottles right into the wax.  You can either let it drip down the sides, or you could make a nice smooth edge by rolling or twisting the bottle as you bring it out.  I personally think a few drips look good, but too many look sloppy.  If you want to speed things along, have some cold water to dip into to set the wax faster.  I found a second dip covered the crimps in the cap so it looked a little cleaner.  I also found that tipping the can on it's side helps if you don't have a very deep pool of wax.  Dip the bottle in and roll it around for a bit.  You can see I was cautious and used an oven mitt, but in reality, if the can is too hot to touch, you're probably overheating your wax. I touched it afterward with my fingers and I could handle it comfortably.

For the stamp, using a craft stick, dip into the wax and drip some onto the face of the bottle.  Before it cools, press your stamp into it.  You can use anything from a real sealing wax stamp, to a coin or fancy button, to a plain rubber stamp.  I used a 1978 Aluminum Maltese Mil coin, basically worth a tenth of a cent, these went out of circulation years before I picked it up for obvious reasons.  The scalloped edge and very noble looking cross of St. John (a.k.a. Maltese Cross) gave it a nice classy flair.  Because I prefer my stamp to have a handle for ease of use, I took a gluestick, heated the end and pressed it straight onto the other face of the coin.  I sort of regret doing this, as I can't seem to get it off now.  But I have to keep asking myself what else I would use a Maltese Mil for anyway.  To ensure that your stamp doesn't get stuck into the sealing wax, keep the face of it in a shallow bowl of cold water, or the surface of an ice cube.  The cold will quickly set the wax, and the water will in a sense "lubricate" it to prevent adhesion.

And there you have it.  A sealed bottle.  This would be a great project for gifting homemade beverages, for empty decorative pieces, or even a message-in-a-bottle for a party invite or prom-posal.  If you're not sealing in a beverage, you don't necessarily have to cap it, basic corks will seal over nicely. If you're looking for a decorative piece, even a screw top bottle will work.  Decorative bottles are typically found at craft stores, sometimes restaurants will save wine bottles for you (some will not due to sanitary considerations), or you can buy new ones from homebrew or wine supply stores.


  1. Love this! Thanks so much for the photos - the colours turned out great! I'm going to have a go at this! (Also really appreciate the 'learned the hard way' lessons you shared. Will be sure to use a coin I'm willing to have permanently gluey!). :) Ashley

    1. Ahley,
      Thanks for your comments. I can't take full credit, as I got the idea for it here:

      I just embellished it a bit. There yet may be a way to unstick the mil, but we shall see.

  2. Thank you very, very much! I have been through the 'homebrewtalk' forum thread on waxing bottles (all 18 pages, whew!), but none of the comments there had the valuable information you have here: that the ratio of hot-glue to crayons determines how "crumbly" your seal will be when cooled.

    Also, and most importantly, only fumbling attempts at incorporating an easy pull-tie to get at the bottle cap are mentioned over there. Your solution of using ribbon is simply genius, and it was exactly what i have been looking for, in six hours of searching and reading on the internet machine.

    I'm making vanilla extract, plan to package it into 375 mL bottles for gifts, and waxing the bottle tops seemed like a fantastic idea. But I have been trying to figure out how to make the bottle easier to open after waxing the top, and your method of using a ribbon sounds like exactly what I was looking for.

    You have waxed the loose ends of the ribbon to the bottle with a seal, which is elegant and is exactly what I plan to do, along the lines of a Grand Marnier bottle, and thank you very much for the tip on dabbing some hot glue to keep the ends of the ribbon in place prior to waxing, that will be Very Helpful!

    But my question is how you placed the ribbon before waxing?

    Does it wrap all the way around the cap?

    Did you place the ribbon just below the cap, or overlay the cap?

    Most of all, wondering how you got the ribbon to stay in place at the top of the bottle?

    Did you tie or twist the ribbon at the top?

    With the wax over it in your pictures, it's difficult to tell how the ribbon was affixed at the top, to hold it in place before applying the wax.

    Also, thanks for the report on your experiences at a Homebrew expo this past weekend. I have only been to one of those, close to 20 years ago. Your decriptions of inebriates were frankly hilarious, and I really needed a good full-sized laugh today.

    In their defense, however, the one I attended in the 1990's included a small 2-oz tasting glass which one brings around to various booths. I do drink a bit over moderately, so have some decent tolerance to alcohol, but that little glass whalloped me. After only a handful of booths, I had to cease the tastings, to prevent falling over! So even for an "experienced" drinker, those small tastes do sneak up on you, faster than you anticipate.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed my latest post!

      As for placing the ribbon, I've done it a couple of different ways. One way that I've done it is to have a fairly short ribbon with one end getting a dab of hot glue directly in the center of the top of the cap, and then laying flat against the side down the rest of the bottle.

      The way that I did it for the pictures above was to place the center of a long ribbon flat across the bottle just between the base of the cap and the lip on the neck. Wrap it around and cross one side over the other. I didn't tie it for fear of pulling it up to the knot and then not being able to go any further. I folded at 90° angles with a dab of hot glue to keep them below the cap but above the lip and brought both ends down the side of the bottle flat against the side.

      One thing that I have noticed is that more wax will also have less tendency to stick to the bottle, so keep that in mind when placing the seal on the side. It helps if the bottles are fairly warm. Putting hot wax/glue on a cold bottle seems to make the wax come off fairly easily. I've also noticed some significant cracking around the tops if the bottles are dipped cold. I couldn't decide if it was from too much hot glue or too much crayon.

      I hope that helps, feel free to ask more questions if it doesn't. For me it was a bit of a trial and error thing.

    2. Fantastic, thanks for the further info! Now i grok your method, and it sounds solid: wrap the ribbon horizontally, to bridge the gap between the cap and the lip, then no matter which trailing end you pull up on, it will undo the seal and let you gain purchase with the bottle opener.

      Appreciate the caveat regarding the medallion seals, i think i will make them on a sheet of foil beforehand, and then attach them to the ribbon and glass using a glue gun. That way, i can make many more than i need, and only keep the best ones, and simply plop the rejects back into the wax reservoir.

      Thanks again, and wondering... i see you make sarsaparilla, which i adore. I have not read your website completely, but one soda i remember fondly from childhood was a sassafras beer, similar to root beer, made from bark of the sassafras tree, which we would buy in "living museums" in California based at old goldrush mining camps.

      Is sassafras beer the same thing as sarsaparilla?

      When hiking in the Sierras, i would habitually pick up a piece of sassafras bark whenever i saw it on the ground, and carry it around for days, sniffing at it like a fiend, haha.

    3. Glad you got the hang of it.

      On the sarsaparilla, it is not the same as sassafras beer. Both are roots and commonly used in root beer, but they have a different flavor.
      Sarsaparilla is a bit more earthy and less camphor-like than sassafras.

  3. Anyone have trouble with the seal cracking when it dries? Its happening to me every time.

    1. I had the same problem the second time that I did this. For some reason it didn't happen the first time around. I don't know if it's the crayons or the glue or both. I have a feeling that the temperature has something to do with it, but I haven't had the chance yet to test my theories.


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