You'll find a list of all my blog posts in the blog archive.

Troubleshooting salves


Continued from troubleshooting herbal oils:

Things that can go wrong in your salvemaking.

  • Your salve is rather liquid: you didn't use enough beeswax.

Remelt and add more beeswax. In fact, add more than you've now recalculated that you need to add. Up here in the cold north the correct ratio of beeswax to oil is 1:8. That is, 100 g beeswax to 8 dl oil (1 dl = 100 g). Further south the ratio goes down; perhaps it's even 1:5 in hot places like Texas?

  • Your salve is so hard that you need a hammer and chisel to get anything out of that jar: you used too much beeswax.

Remelt and add more oil.

  • You let water slip into your salve while making it: condensation was dripping in someplace. There's now a danger of mold.

Wipe the undersides of your containers before you pour salve next time, and don't use overlarge lids on the waterbath - water will condense underneath, and can then drop down into the herbal oil. I don't use lids on my waterbath herbal oils at all, except for scented ones like rose and lavender.

  • You didn't strain out all the herb. There's a very small chance that largish herb bits in a salve start to grow mold.

Strain your herb through cheesecloth. Use the thicker kind that can be used for diapers. Let powders (as in, cayenne, mustard and ginger in a warming salve) drip through a large coffee filter overnight.

  • You bought your beeswax uncleaned, in great big lumps, and you didn't clean it properly. You now have insect wings and legs in the bottom of one or more jars.

People aren't going to think "bees" when they see those, they're going to think "flies". And won't be buying any more of your salves.

Put your lumps of beeswax into cheesecloth and melt them in the top bit of a waterbath. That way, wings, legs, and other impurities will be discarded with the cheesecloth, while clean melted beeswax can be poured onto waxed paper as it accumulates in the top bowl of your waterbath. An added plus is that you get easy-to-use sheets of beeswax, instead of the large impossible to use lumps you had before.

  • You were too hasty in adding labels and closing lids. You now have salve all over the insides (and outsides...) of your jars, and all over the insides of the lids.

Let things cool off and harden up before you add lids and labels to your pretty new salve jars.


For some reason, I misread the title of this as being Debugging salves, and I thought that summer had come early this year...

Snigger. TA, if bugs are that big a problem you'll have to start to strain your salves through cheesecloth before you pour them into jars.