Cleaning beekeeping equipment

Cleaned and ready for use

Cleaning a Snelgrove board

Cleaning a super

These notes refer to routine cleaning only.
Contact your seasonal bee inspector for advice on equipment clean-up after AFB.
Our notes mention washing soda. This is not the same as caustic soda.  See Dry Pak washing soda.   We suggest a regular strength of half a cup (100g) to one pint or 500ml of warm water.
Work safely! Wear rubber gloves and eye protection when scrubbing with washing soda. Dispose of any waste responsibly.  Beehive scrapings are great for lighting a wood burning stove.

Wooden brood boxes and supers  Scrape off beeswax and propolis. I use a carbide paint scraper. Save any clean wax. Burn any old wax/propolis mixture. It’s ideal for lighting a fire. Scorch the timber all over with a blowlamp.  I use a good value Marksman blowlamp,  also useful for lighting the smoker.
Consider replacing the frame runners.

Frames See our page on Cleaning beehive frames.

Smoker Remove any loose debris. Warm the inside with a blowlamp for 30 seconds, just enough to soften caked-on debris. Wearing work gloves, scrape the inside clean. Scrape inside the lid. Allow to cool. Make sure the lid opens and closes easily. Burn the scrapings.

Hive tools Scrub clean in washing soda solution. Many beekeepers store their hive tools in a plastic tub of washing soda solution, with a snap on lid.   I sharpen my hive tools every year.

Plastic feeders Remove from the hive promptly, or they will go mouldy.  Clean in a dishwasher.

Wooden feeders Ashforth/Miller. Scrape off any dry sugar. Scrub clean with warm water. If in any doubt, check they don’t leak before using again (Fill with cold water).

Bee suit  Wash your bee suit regularly.  Seasonal bee inspectors wash their bee suits every day.  Follow the maker’s instructions. Bee suits can harbour stings. The alarm pheremones make the bees angry. I zip up my Sherriff bee suit with the veil tucked inside, and wash at 60 deg C maximum. Hang up to dry thoroughly before storing, or they may go mouldy. If your suit becomes mouldy, try soaking it in bio washing powder solution overnight, and washing in bio powder.

Gloves See our page on Beekeeping Gloves.  Leather gloves are unwieldy to use, difficult to clean and they attract stings. Follow the maker’s washing instructions. I wash leather gloves at 30 deg C maximum. Any hotter and they will probably shrink.

Honey extractor  Remove the cage and wipe clean. Rinse out the drum with warm water. Dry thoroughly and reassemble. Check cage spins freely.
Never leave the extractor in the garden for the bees to clean. The bees will go crazy, and they will start robbing.

Honey jars I wash 50 x 454g jars at a time in the dishwasher on a quick cycle. Allow to dry. I use a wooden crown board as a tray, holding 25 x 454g jars; or a blue mushroom box, holding 15 jars.

Honey jar lids I use gold plastic lids straight from the bag.

Timber framed wire queen excluders I sometimes use a Thorne’s 10-slot wire excluder cleaner.  Or, just scrape the grid clean.  Wire brushing after scraping will remove most of the beeswax.

Zinc excluders Scrape clean on a flat work bench. Do not use a blowlamp. The zinc might melt!

Glass quilts Scrape the wooden frame clean. Scrub glass clean with washing soda solution and rinse.

Correx varroa trays Scrape off debris. Scrub clean with washing soda solution and rinse.

Crown boards Scrape clean, scorch with a blowlamp.

Mesh floors Scrape woodwork clean. Do not blowlamp galvanized mesh. Zinc fumes are toxic. Scrub mesh clean with washing soda solution.

Metal and plastic frame ends  I freeze margarine boxes full of frame ends overnight, then empty them into a 15lb honey bucket or similar, kept for the purpose. Fit the lid and shake vigorously for 3o seconds. 

Porter bee escapes Working outdoors and wearing gloves, I clean two escapes at a time, holding back to back with a pair of pincers. Pour a kettle full of hot water into the spring mechanism. Be careful!

Compiled by Peter McFadden
Any suggestions or comments, please email

Updated November 2023.