Carnauba wax is a botanical product used in a large number of industries. Sometimes called the “Queen of Wax,” carnauba wax has a much harder melting point than other waxes, and is also extremely hard. This makes it ideal for creating extremely strong coatings for floors, automobiles, and other things which see hard wear. In addition, carnauba wax appears in candies, polishes, varnishes, cosmetic products, and in many other places. Although carnauba wax has largely been replaced by synthetics, it is still produced and used in many parts of the world.
A Brazilian tree formally named Copernicia prunifera and otherwise known as the fan or carnauba palm is the source for carnauba wax. The palm has broad fan like leaves attached to toothed stalks. In hot, dry weather, the plant secretes wax to protect the leaves from damage. People who want to collect the wax dry the leaves and then beat them to dislodge the yellowish to brown waxy coating, which usually flakes off. The wax is refined and bleached before it is used. Carnauba palms can live in extreme environments because of their protective wax coating, making them an excellent choice of crop for farmers working with poor soil and weather conditions.
A temperature of 172 degrees Fahrenheit (78 degrees Celsius) is required to melt carnauba wax. It is also not readily soluble. Water cannot break down a layer of carnauba wax, and only certain solvents can, usually in combination with heat. This means that carnauba wax is highly durable. Used plain, it can make something waterproof and wear resistant. Combined with things such as tints and dyes, carnauba wax can be used to create an enduring colored polish. Eventually, hard wear will strip carnauba wax from most surfaces, but a fresh layer can be reapplied. In older homes with hardwood floors and fixtures, carnauba wax was probably used as a conditioner at some point.
The substance is often used instead of or in combination with other waxes because of how strong it is. Many surfers, for example, use waxes for their boards which integrate carnauba. It is also used to coat paper plates, dental floss, and as a vegetarian alternative to gelatin. In the pharmaceutical industry, carnauba wax frequently appears as a tablet coating, and it appears in a number of packaged foods. Unlike many other waxes, a carnauba wax finish will not flake off with time, it will merely become dull. This makes it ideal for locations in which a flaking finish would look unsightly.