Wax, a substance similar to a fat or oil, but usually harder and with a higher melting point. Wax will not dissolve in water but is soluble in alcohol and other organic solvents. Waxes can be of animal, plant, or mineral origin, or may be produced synthetically. Beeswax is an example of an animal wax. From plants come carnauba wax (from the carnauba palm), candelilla wax (from the candelilla shrub), and bayberry wax. Among mineral-based waxes are paraffin, obtained from petroleum; montan wax, from lignite (brown coal); and ozokerite, a naturally occurring wax. Synthetically produced waxes vary widely in composition, depending on the intended use. Many contain polyethylenes, naphthalenes, or acrylic resins.
Waxes are used extensively in the making of waterproofing, rustproofing, and electrical insulating materials, as well as in candles, ointments, cosmetics, crayons, and printing inks. Wax is essential in polishes for floors, automobiles, leather, and furniture. Other uses are in the making of waxwork figures and artificial flowers and as a protective coating on fruit to retard shriveling.