What is Cheese Wax?

Cheese wax is a specially formulated wax that is used to coat and preserve hard cheeses during the aging process. It creates an airtight seal around the cheese, preventing mold growth, retaining moisture, and allowing the cheese to develop its characteristic textures and flavors over time.

What is Cheese Wax

Cheese wax is made from paraffin wax that has been blended with other waxes and oils to make it flexible and durable enough to coat cheese without cracking. It comes in a variety of colors like red, yellow, black, and sometimes even festive shades for the holidays.

The wax color carries no specific meaning in terms of the type or quality of cheese. Cheesemakers select wax colors largely based on aesthetics and branding.

How Is Cheese Wax Used?

Cheese wax is manually applied onto the surfaces of an aging cheese using two main methods:

  • Brushing: The wax is melted then brushed onto the cheese. Multiple thin layers are applied until the wax fully coats the cheese's exterior.
  • Dipping: The cheese is partially or fully submerged into a pot or vat of melted wax, then turned to coat all sides. Dipping creates a thicker, more complete wax coating.

The aged cheese is then stored at the proper temperature and humidity levels. As the cheese continues to age, the wax seal retains moisture, prevents mold growth, and creates the right environment within for flavors and textures to properly develop.

At the end of the aging period, the rind and wax coating are typically removed before the cheese is cut and consumed. However, some cheese rinds like those on Parmesan and cheddar are edible. The wax itself should always be removed and not eaten.

Cheese Wax vs. Other Waxes

There are a few key differences between cheese wax and other wax products:

  • Flexibility - Cheese wax contains plasticizers and softening agents so that it remains flexible when cold instead of becoming brittle and cracking like candle wax or paraffin wax. This flexibility ensures the wax seal stays intact over months of aging.
  • Mold inhibition - Cheese wax is specially formulated to inhibit mold growth on cheese surfaces. Other waxes may allow more mold to develop.
  • Food safety - Cheese wax contains FDA-approved additives and pigments specifically for use on food products. Arts and craft waxes contain unknown ingredients and contaminants that are unsafe for cheese coating.

Pure beeswax can also be used to coat cheeses, but it becomes brittle when cold. Some cheesemakers blend beeswax with oils to improve flexibility. However, beeswax's anti-microbial properties are not as reliable as commercial cheese wax.

Why Is Cheese Waxed?

Waxing has been used since ancient times to preserve cheeses through aging. The protective wax coating serves several important purposes:

  • Moisture retention - Cheese wax creates an airtight barrier to lock in moisture and prevent the cheese from drying out. This allows aging cheeses to retain their texture instead of becoming hard and crumbly. Proper moisture levels are vital for flavor development.
  • Mold inhibition - Cheese wax significantly slows mold growth on cheese surfaces. It protects the cheese from excessive fungal growth and development of harmful molds.
  • Oxygen exclusion - With no exposure to oxygen, bacteria cannot thrive. Anaerobic environment under the wax allows beneficial bacteria within the cheese to continue slowly breaking proteins and fats down into flavor compounds.
  • Light protection - Wax blocks light from initiating damaging chemical reactions and breakdown of fats, vitamins, proteins.
  • Consistency - The wax coating helps standardize moisture loss between cheese wheels for more consistent styles, flavors and textures.

Without an effective wax seal, hard cheeses would quickly dry out, spoil from mold growth or develop off-flavors during aging. Wax coating has proven to be the most reliable seals for preserving and aging cheeses.

What Is Cheese Wax Made Of?

Commercial cheese wax consists mainly of paraffin wax, which comes from petroleum oil refining. The base paraffin wax is then blended with:

  • Microcrystalline waxes - For flexibility, adhesion, and strength
  • Mineral oil - Softens and plasticizes the wax
  • Polymer additives - Improve flexibility and film formation
  • Color pigments - FD&C approved food colors

Additional ingredients like fatty acids and esters may be included:

  • Stearic acid - Harden wax, raise melting point
  • Oleic acid - Improve flexibility
  • Glycerol monostearate - Waterproofing agent

The exact blend of waxes and oils creates the pliable, non-cracking properties needed for cheese wax. Manufacturers formulate their wax products to have optimal melt point, adhesion, moisture exclusion, and mold resistance for coating cheese.

Key Takeaway: Cheese wax contains a blend of paraffin wax, plasticizing oils, and additives that create an flexible and protective coating for cheese.

Cheese Wax Colors

While wax color has no impact on cheese composition or quality, different colors have become associated with certain styles through tradition and consumer expectations.

Some typical cheese wax color associations:

  • Red wax - Often used for softer cheeses like gouda and edam
  • Black wax - Denotes aged hard cheeses like parmesan and aged cheddar
  • Yellow wax - Common for young cheddars
  • Green/Blue - Festive seasonal cheeses
  • No color - Clear base coat helps colored wax adhere

The color associations are not strict rules. Cheesemakers ultimaltely decide what wax color fits their brand, cheese style, and consumer preferences best. They can also coordinate seasonal releases with festive wax shades.

Inside the wax, all cheeses age the same regardless of external color. Wax color is primarily an aesthetic choice by the producer.

Key Properties of Cheese Wax

To serve its purpose for sealing and aging cheeses, cheese wax must have certain physical and chemical properties:

Physical Properties

  • Flexibility - Soft and pliable at refrigeration temperatures
  • Adhesion - Binds tightly to cheese surfaces without cracking or peeling
  • Hardness - Soft enough to coat cheese properly but firm enough to be durable
  • Melt point - Low enough to apply without burning cheese (150-170°F / 65-75°C)

Chemical Properties

  • Moisture exclusion - Repels water to retain moisture inside cheese
  • Oxygen barrier - Limits oxygen permeation through the wax layer
  • Mold inhibition - Contains anti-fungal properties to retard mold growth
  • Light barrier - Creates dark environment inside cheese to slow reactions

These combined physical and chemical characteristics enable the wax coating to successfully seal, preserve, and age hard cheeses through months-long aging periods.

Making Homemade Cheese Wax

While paraffin-based cheese wax can be purchased from cheesemaking retailers, some home cheesemakers opt to make their own wax using:

  • Beeswax
  • Soy wax
  • Paraffin wax
  • Candelilla wax
  • Carnauba wax

Handcrafted wax blends use pure food-grade waxes melted together in appropriate portions. Oils (coconut, mineral) are often added for softness and plasticity. Color pigments approved for ingestion can be used safely.

To formulate an effective home cheese wax, factors like melt point, flexibility, moisture resistance, mold inhibition, and adhesion must be balanced properly through testing. Without technical understanding of wax chemistry, DIY wax may not achieve the same protection levels as commercial cheese wax.

Safety is also critical when heating and handling hot wax. Carefully research wax ingredients, use accurate thermometers when melting, apply cautiously to avoid burns or fires. Work in a well ventilated area.

With dedicated research and experimenting, it is possible to create reasonably effective homemade substitutes to commercial cheese wax.

How To Apply Cheese Wax

To ensure the wax coating protects the cheese properly during aging, cheesemakers must follow good preparation and application procedures:

Pre-Waxing Steps

  • Ensure cheese surfaces are clean, dry, and free of crumbs or debris
  • Age cheese 3-7 days until pH drops below 5.2 and curd is cohesive
  • Chill cheese overnight so wax adheres to cold surfaces

Melting Wax

  • Use double boiler or slow cooker to melt wax slowly
  • Heat to 150-170°F (65-75°C) high enough to liquefy wax fully
  • Avoid boiling so wax doesn't smoke or burn

Waxing Process

  • Work in space with good ventilation
  • Use heat-resistant gloves and equipment
  • Submerge/brush cheese 1/2 or 1/3 at a time
  • Allow layers to partially set between coats
  • Apply evenly until fully coated with 1/8 inch (3 mm) wax
  • Ensure there are no cracks or thin spots

When waxing cheeses properly, cheesemakers create an effective moisture barrier that allows the interior cheese chemistry and microbiology to slowly transform textures and flavors over months of aging.

Key Takeaway: Proper waxing technique ensures cheese wax seals cheese surfaces completely so the wax coating can reliably preserve and age the cheese.

Reusing and Recycling Cheese Wax

Once aged and ready to eat, the wax coating is removed and discarded from cheeses. However, this wax can be recovered, sterilized, and reused instead of entering landfills.

Reclaiming used cheese wax is eco-friendly and reduces costs for cheesemakers. Homemade and artisanal cheeses have more variable shapes and sizes that make it difficult to buy premade wax coatings. Reusing wax enables small producers to wax smaller batches sustainably.

To recycle cheese wax properly:

  1. Remove as much wax as possible from the rind
  2. Rinse remaining wax pieces to remove cheese residues
  3. Melt and filter the clean wax pieces to remove solids
  4. Add fresh wax if needed to compensate for losses
  5. Adjust color or scent by adding pigments/oils if desired
  6. Test hardness, flexibility, melt point before reusing wax
  7. Store cleaned reusable wax in sealed containers

With proper care and handling, cheese wax can be reused many times over. Recycling reduces waste from cheesemaking and provides high quality, food-safe wax at a lower cost.

Is Cheese Wax Safe to Eat?

Cheese wax itself should never be eaten since it is indigestible and provides no nutritional value. It is used solely as a protective coating. Only cheese rinds that are specifically deemed edible should be consumed.

However, FDA-approved cheese wax is non-toxic and safe for food contact when used properly on aged cheese. Good manufacturing practices ensure:

  • Only food-grade waxes and pigments contact cheese surfaces
  • Proper application procedures prevent contamination
  • Adequate aging then removal of wax rind before cheese consumption
  • Routine safety testing for chemical residues

As long as waxing protocols are followed appropriately under sanitary conditions, cheese wax does not pose safety risks for those eventually eating properly aged cheeses. The intact wax coating presents an impenetrable barrier between the wax ingredients and interior cheese paste.

Consumers can feel confident that wax-coated artisanal and industrial cheeses are safe to enjoy after passing through regulatory aging periods. Cheese wax enables safe preservation of delicious cheeses that would otherwise quickly spoil without protective sealing.


Is all cheese wax the same?

There can be slight differences between commercial cheese wax blends in terms of ingredients, melt point, flexibility, and other metrics. But any wax product specifically branded for cheese coating must achieve certain baseline performance requirements for proper sealing and preservation. Overall, most cheese waxes function very similarly despite minor formulation variations.

Does wax add flavor to cheese?

Since the intact wax layer does not interact with the interior cheese paste, the wax contributes no additional flavors to the aging cheese. The wax protects the cheese environment to allow its natural existing flavors to properly develop through the aging process.

Can you wax cheese without commercial wax?

Yes, waxes like beeswax or soy wax can coat cheeses instead of commercial paraffin wax. However, these alternative waxes may not share the same physical properties or anti-microbial performance as formulated cheese wax. This can lead to more variable results in aging outcomes.

Is waxing required for aging cheese?

Waxing is only required for aging hard cheeses that would otherwise dry out quickly. Softer aged cheeses can rely instead on rinds, ash, mold coatings, or cloth wraps to protect moisture and inhibit mold growth. Wax remains the most secure seal for long term aging of hard cheeses.


From its origins as a protective seal for storing provisions to its modern industrial applications, wax has proven itself as a reliable preserving agent across millennia. In the world of cheese crafting, humble cheese wax enables hobbyists and creameries alike to unleash hard cheeses' full aging potential without excessive spoilage losses.

Under its unassuming, colorful facade, cheese wax provides the ideal microclimate for enzymatic reactions and microbial populations within cheese to slowly develop intricate flavors unachievable immediately after cheesemaking. It offers a durable shield against excessive drying, hoards of hungry mold species, and damaging light exposure over months-long affinage.

Cheese wax's sensitivity to temperatures, its flexibility when cold, and its breathability when warm all contribute to its astounding knack for keeping cheeses safe but active. By witnessing first-hand the transformation encased cheeses can undergo, both veteran and novice cheese enthusiasts quickly learn to appreciate the deceptively simple genius of cheese wax.

AGAH Productions
AGAH Productions