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wax





A moldable, water-repellant solid of low melting point. There are several entirely different kinds of waxes.

Animal waxes were the first known: wool wax when purified yields lanolin; beeswax, from the honeycomb, is used for some candles and as a sculpture medium (by carving or casting); spermaceti wax from the sperm whale, is used in ointments and cosmetics.

Vegetable waxes, like animal waxes, are mixtures of esters of long-chain alcohols and carboxylic acids. Carnauba wax, from the leaves of a Brazilian palm tree, is hard and lustrous, and is used to make polishes; candelilla wax, from a wild Mexican rush, is similar but more resinous; Japan wax, the coating of sumac berries, is fatty and soft but tough and kneadable.

Mineral waxes include montan wax extracted from lignite (see coal), bituminous and resinous; ozokerite, an absorbent hydrocarbon wax obtained from wax shales; paraffin wax or petroleum wax, the most important wax commercially. Paraffin wax is obtained from the residues of petroleum refining by solvent extraction, and is used to make candles, to coat paper products, in the electrical industry, to waterproof leather and textiles, etc.

Various synthetic waxes are made for special uses.


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