Paraffin wax is a white or colorless soft solid derivable from petroleum, coal, or oil shale. The wax is solid at room temperature and begins to melt at around 99 °F (37° C). Its boiling point is plus or minus 698 °F.
The wax was first created in the 1850’s and it wasn’t long after that it began to replace tallow candles and whale oil as lighting for homes. People found that paraffin candles burned much more cleanly than tallow ones, and the wax was readily available and easy to work with. The most common applications for paraffin wax include lubrication, electrical insulation, and candle making.
One of the properties of paraffin wax is its ability to absorb heat and then release that heat. Wax can be modified for use in building materials such as drywall. The drywall is infused with wax and during the heat of the day the wax absorbs the heat and expands, (wax expands as it is heated) and when night falls the wax cools, and then releases the stored heat.
Melted wax can be mixed with olive oil, for example, to create a soothing and healing balm for lips and hands. Use melted wax to seal cuts and to protect fingers and hands from the harsh cold. Cracks in the skin on your hands and fingers can allow in bacteria, which can create serious infections. Coat the hands or fingers with melted wax to create a barrier against contamination. Adding oil to the wax will help stop it from cracking and peeling off the skin as easily. The heat from your body will help keep the wax pliable.
Because paraffin wax is petroleum based it is flammable, so it is an ideal fire starting aid. There is any number of ways to use wax for fire starting. One method is to dip organic material such as cotton or jute twines in the wax and then store the coiled up material in a sealed container. Twisted pieces of newspaper or cotton balls can also be dipped in the wax to make fire starters.
Use on zippers, shears, and folding knife blades, and multi-tools and by routinely using the wax on all metal surfaces you can help prevent rusting. It is particularly important that carbon steel is treated to prevent oxidation.
Rub some wax on your digging tools, as well, and it works especially well on shovels used for snow removal. An entrenching tool is an important piece of survival gear and they do have moving parts that need to stay lubricated for easier opening and closing. The blade will shed snow, and soil much better if treated with wax before using.
We have talked about waterproofing matches with wax in past articles. While it does work, it is not an ideal method. The match head once dipped in hot wax must be cooled quickly to prevent the wax from absorbing into the head and ruining it. It takes practice, and to keep from ruining too many matches dip a few and then attempt to ignite after peeling away the wax coating after it has cooled to ensure your method is working. Trying to light a match without removing the wax will ruin your striker board and match.
Safety matches are made of potassium chlorate, sulfur, diatomite, silica, glue, starch, and either zinc oxide or calcium carbonate. Typically, the only surface that will create enough friction to ignite a safety match is the striker board that is attached to the matchbox or book, hence the reason they are called safety matches.
Strike anywhere matches contain powdered glass in the head, which helps create enough friction when struck against another abrasive surface, which could be a piece of sandstone rock or even a file blade found on your multi-tool. You have to be careful when using wax to waterproof matches because you may not realize they will not ignite until caught in a survival situation.
Rub paraffin wax around the stitching on boots and packs and over tent seams to seal out moisture. Rub the wax over boot/shoe laces and other cordage for protection against water. You can rub softened wax over any leather surface to help the material repel moisture.
Dip capped pill bottles (cap and threads) in melted wax to make a waterproof container for matches, tinder and so on.