Extractor cleaning

Spring honey crop

Spring honey crop …

A honey extractor is one of the most expensive individual pieces of equipment a beekeeper is likely buy . If you’re lucky, your association might own one or more extractors and make them available to borrow or hire. However you get hold of one, after use they need to be thoroughly cleaned before storing (or returning) them.

Don’t, whatever you do, follow the advice on some websites or beekeeping forums (fora?) and leave the extractor outside “for the bees to clean”. This is a very bad idea. The feeding frenzy that results is a perfect way to spread disease.

Patience, cold water, more patience and a hairdryer

The used extractor will have quite a bit of residual honey adhering to the sidewalls and floor. You can scrape this out using a flexible silicone spatula but it’s a messy process and almost guaranteed to cover you from wrist to oxter in honey. It’s far easier to:

  • close the honey gate securely
  • tip the extractor up at a steep angle so the honey runs towards the gate
  • turn the heating up in the room and leave it overnight

The following morning the majority of the honey will have drained down towards the honey gate, this can then be bottled for home consumption or used for mead or marmalade making. It’s not unusual to get a pound or more of honey like this … it’ll be a bit frothy and might be less well-filtered but it will still be delicious.

Testing ...

Testing …

To wash out the residual honey, wax and propolis from the extractor:

  • level the extractor
  • close the honey gate securely
  • fill it completely with cold or cool water and leave overnight
  • empty out the water, rinse well with more cool/cold water
  • mop up the dregs with clean kitchen towel
  • dry with a hairdryer set on ‘low’

Avoid using hot water as it melts any residual wax and makes it a lot harder to clean. The easiest way to complete this wash is to stand the extractor in the garden late in the evening (after the bees stop flying), fill it from the hosepipe and then empty it early the following morning. Almost all of the honey residues will have dissolved. The extractor can then be wiped out and dried with a hairdryer … I simply hang one inside the extractor for half an hour, set on the lowest heat setting and repositioning it periodically to get into all the corners. The stainless steel drum of the extractor warms very quickly, transmitting the heat throughout the extractor.

Unless you’re semi-commercial or larger in scale in which case you might have bought anything from a €1600 bottling machine to a £really?! Unimog

8 thoughts on “Extractor cleaning

  1. CambridgeMike

    I’m lucky in owning a small pressure washer which is used for cleaning the patio and driveway. I find this cleans out the extractor very well. I put the extractor – after draining out as much residual honey as possible as suggested here – on the lawn behind the garage, open up the gate and apply pressure washer to all areas, inside and out. The water and honey get forced out of all the cracks and crannies of the extractor and can drain out of the gate. The extractor is then left upside down on the utility room draining board overnight and dried out with a cloth the next morning. Job done. Takes all of 10 minutes.

  2. Brian


    Ask a beekeeper a question get !!!! answers.

    Not so sure re the real threat of disease from allowing bees to clean an extractor, absolutely if not your extractor, and your honey . but having bees clean honey produced from your own hives that are disease free ??

    All the other pathways to disease transmittance, Drones flying and entering from hive to hive unimpeded. ?
    Drifting ?
    Bees sharing comon water supply ?

    Much more ??

    Just an opinion … PS: Keep the posts coming really enjoy them ! 🙂

    Best Regards. Brian.

    1. David Post author

      Hi Brian
      Perhaps you’re right … but, like using soda, clean gloves and a separate hive tool in each apiary, where it’s possible to reduce the possibility of disease transmission it’s a good idea to do so. I would also argue that the feeding frenzy on an open honey source puts bees in much closer contact than sharing a water source.

      My bees might be disease-free, but what about the bloke down the road? His bees would join the feeding frenzy, in much greater numbers than might drift to my colonies.

  3. Emily

    I’m glad my friend Emma has a garden and a spare room where she can extract honey… with no garden, no hosepipe and a small kitchen I think I’d be better off using the crush and strain method if I had to extract myself.

  4. Pingback: Spring honey harvest - The Apiarist

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