How to Remove Wax in Batik

By Irene A. Blake

Things Needed

  • Mask
  • Iron
  • Bundle of unprinted (non-inked) newsprint
  • Cotton cloths
  • Large pots
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Long-handled wooden spoon
  • Ladle or mug
  • Ceramic pie weights or other heavy object
  • Drying line

Batik—an ancient art form originating from Africa and parts of Asia—uses the wax-resist dyeing method to create colorful patterns on fabrics. After a person finishes creating Batik artwork, the wax is removed to reuse on other Batik projects and to protect the fabric from wax staining. As sticky wax clings to fabric threads, removing it requires the use of chemicals or heat. A dry cleaner can remove the wax or you can use an iron or boiling water to separate it from the fabric.

Ironing Method

Preheat your iron to its medium temperature setting. If the iron has a fabric setting, select the setting that matches your fabric type.

Prep your fabric. Lay a piece of unprinted (non-inked) newsprint paper on a flat surface. Place your Batik fabric on the paper. Lay another piece of newsprint on top of the fabric and then lay a thin—no more than half a centimeter—piece of white cotton on top of the layers.

Put on your mask and then iron once over the surface.

Check the newsprint for wax transfer. If the wax transferred to the paper, remove the newsprint, repeat Step 2 and 3 and check again. Repeat this process as needed until the wax has transferred from your Batik fabric. If the wax didn’t transfer, iron over the surface again and then remove the paper and repeat.

Boiling Method

Prep your pots. Fill one large pot with water and 1 tsp. of liquid dish soap. Fill two other pots with clean, cool water and set aside.

Bring the pot containing soapy water to a boil and then add your fabric.

Dislodge the wax from the Batik fabric. Put on your mask and then stir the fabric repeatedly or dunk it up and down in the water with a long-handled wooden spoon.

Remove the wax from the water. If you’re stirring the fabric, stir until you don’t see any new wax floating in the water. Weigh down the fabric on the bottom of the pot with ceramic pie weights or some other heavy object and then set the pot aside to cool. Once cool, pick out the hardened wax layer or pieces. If you’re dunking the fabric, skim off any wax that initially floats to the top with a ladle or mug. Dunk the fabric four or five times in the water and skim away the wax again; and then repeat this process until you don’t see any more wax.

Transfer your wet Batik fabric to one of the pots containing clean, cool water.

Rinse the fabric thoroughly. Dunk the fabric up and down in the water. If necessary, repeat in the other pot of clean water.

Squeeze all of the water gently from the fabric.

Dry your fabric by hanging it across a drying line.

Warning

Always wear a mask, as wax fumes contain hazardous chemicals.

Always swap newsprint when using the ironing method as ironing repeatedly over wax-stained newsprint can transfer wax you already removed to other areas.

Never use the boiling method on delicate fabrics such as silk or fabrics containing non-fixed dyes that can bleed or fade with hot water and/or detergent exposure.

Never use metal objects to weigh down your fabric when using the boiling method, as some metal objects have chrome plating that can peel off during the process leaving behind rust stains on your fabric.

About the Author

Based in Southern Pennsylvania, Irene A. Blake has been writing on a wide range of topics for over a decade. Her work has appeared in projects by The National Network for Artist Placement, the-phone-book Limited and GateHouse Media. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University.