Carnauba

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Carnauba

Pronunciation (kär -nu-ba)


[:Composition - contains mainly esters of fatty acids (80-85%), fatty alcohols (10-15%), acids (3-6%) and hydrocarbons(1-3%). Specific for carnauba wax is the content of esterified fatty diols (about 20%), hydroxylated fatty acids (about 6%) and cinnamic acid (about 10%). Cinnamic acid, an antioxidant, may be hydroxylated or methoxylated ]


The purpose of applying a renewable protective coating to automotive paint is to act as a sacrificial barrier against air borne contaminants; this renewable barrier is less than 0.000001" thick, and can be reapplied when the wax has eroded.

Carnauba wax

Carnauba wax is a vegetable wax (fat) obtained from the leaves of the Carnauba Palm, that has an affinity to water, the ability to retain oil and has excellent gloss properties making it applicable in a vast variety of industries. Carnauba is the hardest natural wax and has lustrous composition making it the leading choice for food coatings, pharmaceutical coatings and polishes. This (Copernicia prunifera) Arecaceae palm grows in the northern and north-eastern parts of Brazil along the riverbanks, valleys, and lagoons where the soil is dark and fertile. The tree needs very little water to grow, is very prolific and attains a height 40-50 feet after fifty years.


The natives in the surrounding area use the various products of the tree for many necessities in their lives; hence the name "Tree of Life." Of interest is the fact that only in northern Brazil does the Carnauba Palm produce wax.

Number one grade Carnauba

Number one grade Carnauba varies from a very pale yellow (so called ‘white’), through a greenish brown (yellow). It is the world’s purest, hardest and most transparent natural wax repellent derived from the Brazilian palm Copernia Cerefera. This wax coats the leaves and is hydrophobic; it forms a barrier that is a natural deterrent from acid rain, airborne pollutants and acidic bird excrement.


Its color is determined by the ages of the leaves when harvested, and ranges from pale yellow (new, unopened leaves) to a greenish brown (older leaves exposed to sun and weather).


There are various grades available (#1 Yellow and Yellow) the pale yellow wax (sometimes termed Ivory) has the highest clarity (very transparent) and is the highest grade of carnauba available, much sought after by concourse d’élégance entrants (See also Zymol website) A natural White Carnauba wax does not exist; this is just a marketing play on words to denote ‘purity’. In addition to colour, the wax is also graded according to area of origin—Parnahyba, Piaui, Ceara, and Bahai.


Carnauba in it's natural state is unusable as a car wax, it is sold as a hard solid block (or flakes) so the oils /solvent / beeswax or polymers that are formulated with it play a large role in the usability, performance and durability of the wax.


Carnauba wax when applied to a surface will not adhere properly on its own, nor does it form a molecular bond (only polymers do) solvents and miscible oils are added to enable it to spread evenly to the surface. Natural waxes initially adhere by surface tension; the balance of the adherence process is that it works its way via the carrier system (solvent and / or oils) into the microscopic gaps and valleys of the paint film surface thereby creating a mechanical anchor.


Wax can be thought of as semi-solid until the solvent carrier components outgas (evaporate) these wax molecules form an egg-grate type mesh over the smaller paint molecules of the paint film surface, which gives it an optical depth. Due to this shape the reflected light becomes somewhat distorted, this produces jetting sometimes described as jetting (the so-called wet-look) It is a property that creates a super rich shine with incredible depth and the illusion of wetness on the surface, the better the quality and volume of refined wax the more pronounced the effect of jetting. Carnauba wax is inherently hydroscopic when exposed to water; wax swells and closes its pores, which along with surface tension, causes `water beading'.(See also Wax, Durability, and Melting Point)


Color, Depth and Clarity

(Refractive index 1.4540) the three factors concourse judges look for when scrutinizing paint film surfaces. Of the three, optical clarity is of primary importance, this is also of paramount importance in whatever wax you use, being able to see the paint film’s true colour by having a really clean surface and an optically clear wax, will enable depth of shine etc to be seen (Zymol’s Vintage is the most optically clear Carnauba wax I’ve used, applied with bare hands, its got to be seen to be believed)

Gloss

Gloss is an aspect of the visual perception of objects, it's the attribute of surfaces that causes them to have shiny or lustrous, metallic or mat appearances. The more direct light is reflected, the more obvious will be the impression of gloss.Smooth and highly polished surfaces reflect images distinctly. The incident light is directly reflected on the surface, i.e. only in the main direction of reflection. The angle of incidence (60 °) is equal to the angle of reflection. Gloss can be measured with a gloss meter


Carnauba wax will bond to a cross-linked polymer; conversely if a polymer is applied on top of Carnauba wax the cross-linking / bonding may be compromised (there is an exception to this rule; Zaino Clear Seal (Z-CS) will bond to a wax / glaze and ‘seal’ it) Carnauba wax dries to a deep, natural shine, in contrast, bees wax, paraffin and many synthetic waxes, which tend to occlude (cloud or yellowing).


  • Carnauba wax over a Polymer sealant: some detailers find that a polymer sealant tends have a flat, silvered mirror look. Adding a Carnauba wax to the surface provides depth of shine, gloss, jetting (the so called ‘wet look’) and a warmth to the paint surfaces overall look. Bear in mind that how a paint surface ‘looks’ is very subjective


Carnauba wax- when applied to a surface will not adhere properly on its own, solvents and miscible oils are added to enable it to spread evenly to the surface. Natural and synthetic waxes initially adhere by surface tension; the balance of the adherence process is that it works its way via the carrier system (solvent and / or oils) into the microscopic gaps and valleys of the paint film surface thereby creating a mechanical anchor, a wax does not form a covalent (molecular) bond to the surface.


Polymer sealant - need a porous surface to bond to, they initially adhere by surface tension and then after a period in which the solvents /oils in the carrier system vaporize (outgas) the polymers cross-link to form a covalent (molecular) bond to the surface. This process usually requires 12-24 hours, which are time and temperature and / or humidity dependent. As can be seen from the above a polymer must form a molecular bond with the paint surface before the application of a Carnauba wax, otherwise the solvents that are formulated in the wax may compromise the bonding and durability of the polymer sealant


  • A wax or sealant can only reflect what is underneath it, so a clean, level well-prepared surface is the most important consideration (85% of a surfaces reflectivity is its preparation) along with applied product clarity.


If you apply a product over a surface that is dirty or one that has surface imperfections a wax or sealant will not disguise it, only highlight them (providing the applied product is optically clear).


Ultra Violet Radiation (UVR) - is a paint film surface's greatest enemy (besides acid rain, bird / bug excrement) causing more damage than any other airborne contaminant and affecting the interior and exterior of a vehicle, the light in this spectral range is responsible for photo degradation.


Photo degradation results in discoloration, fading, embitterment, cracking, chalking and/or loss of mechanical properties. Chalking gel coat fibreglass, yellowing plastics, fading and weakening fabrics and sunburned skin are all familiar problems caused by UV light. Infrared radiation (IR) is a light source that transmits heat that when combined with a UV source will cause oxidation by drying out of an automobiles paint finish.


  • Most natural Carnauba waxes are optically clear (or as near as possible), which will allow ultra violet (UV) radiation to pass through the applied protection. Carnauba wax doesn’t have a natural UV protection, to provide UV protection requires a reflective shield, that blocks sunlight, and then you lose clarity, which we were striving for by using a clear paint surface protection in the first place. To provide UV protection there are a few choices, use a UVR protectorate (303™ Space Protectant) on top of the wax, parking the vehicle in the shade away from the sunlight or use a car cover


  • There is no standard answer to how long a car wax will last. There are many variables that influence the durability of wax such as: type and colour of paint, condition of paint, environmental conditions, and hours kept outdoors, quality of wax used, and how often the car is washed. Through dissipation Carnauba wax are limited in their protecting capabilities. More specifically, these wax compounds have a melting point of 183 degrees F when the temperature of the painted surface exceeds the melting point of the compound applied thereon; the waxes will melt from a hard wax to oil. When this occurs, the waxes are easily washed off and, more importantly, will pick up dust particles and other air pollutants. In actual practice, the temperature frequently leads to melting of the wax compounds (which also contains solvents and sometime Beeswax (130oF low melting points).


For example, painted surfaces exposed to ambient temperatures of 80 oF in direct sunlight, will rise up to a temperature of 185degree F or more. Consequently, the extremely fine film of wax covering the peaks of the painted surface is very quickly dissipated, leaving them exposed to the elements to become oxidized. If the paint finishes contain silver or aluminium metallic particles, then the wax coatings would provide little or no protection, since the metallic particles retain more heat and, therefore, rapidly destroy the protection of the waxes.


Protection from airbourne contaminants

A Carnauba wax provides better protection from airburme contaminents than a polymer sealant; as wax forms a layer on top of the paint surface, whereas a polymer becomes a 'part' of it by bonding with the paint molecules. When the wax is attacked it acts as a shield that must be compromised before the aggressor can reach the paint surface. A polymer’s molecules are cross-linked with the paint so there is only a micro barrier between its outer surface and the paint.


Fracture/evaporation temperatures

Polymers (including Acrylic polymers) 350 oF, Silicone oil 350 oF, Mineral oils 200oF, Synthetic blends (Carnauba wax / polymers) 200 oF, Carnauba wax 183 oF, and Bee’s wax 130oF in actual practice the high temperatures frequently encountered by vehicles from the radiation causes wax compounds to melt, for example, a painted surfaces exposed to ambient temperatures of 85 oF in direct sunlight, will obtain a temperature of 195 oF or more. It should be noted that there is a range of temperatures at which melting begins and that the 'melting point' is the end point of that range


The most important thing to be aware of when preparing to wax your car is the temperature of the actual surface area being waxed. This is even more important than the ambient temperature, which should be between 50° and 80°F (10° - 26.7°C). Higher temperatures will cause the solvents to flash leaving a ‘hard’ wax on the paint surface that is very difficult to remove. If the car has been in the sun for any time, it should be brought into the shade and allowed to cool off before applying any wax or glaze. (See also Temperatures)


Wax Application

Like most car care products Carnauba wax is designed to provide maximum results with minimum product application, most Carnauba waxes work well using the WOWO (wipe on wipe off) method while still slightly damp but not completely dry, generally apply a very thin layer, preferably with a distilled water primed foam applicator; allowing it to haze, then wiping off. I would suggest you do a swipe-test (swipe the surface with your finger, if the wax is still liquid wait for a while and repeat)


Carrier system

The solvents and oils that are formulated in an emulsion type carrier system soften the wax, without which it would remain rock hard; solvents along with oils also allow the wax to spread evenly on the paint surface. The solvent permeates the micro-fissures of the paint surface providing an anchor, as a wax doesn’t form a monocular bond with paint like a polymer, it initially adheres to the paint via surface friction. Once the solvents have evaporated the wax sets-up (hardens) to provide a shell like protection Allowing a Carnauba wax or Glaze to set-up for 45-60 minutes (see manufacturers instructions on specific products) is usually more than sufficient, this will allow the solvents to outgas, which will be dependant upon ambient temperature / humidity

Curing

As a wax ‘sets-up’, it goes through a number of stages.

  • The first stage is the application of the liquid product; friction will cleanse the dirt, oxidization, old waxes etc. In effect you are lifting the dirt away from the paintwork and into the liquid wax and then into the applicator.


  • The next stage is that you leave the wax to haze. This is where the solvents and oils out gas (evaporate) and leave the resin and fillers behind to dry and set-up on the paint.


  • Next you remove the excess. Anything that is now not bonded to the paint will be wiped away with the buffing towel and as you wipe away you will end up giving the resin a slight buff to bring out its gloss


A good technique is to buff the wax with a 100% cotton micro fiber cloth and then spritz the paintwork with cold distilled water and wipe down, this helps to set the wax and will add that little extra gloss. Allow the solvents to vaporize (outgas) in the suns heat ad then buff to a gloss. Carnauba wax provides better protection from bird / insect excrement than a polymer.


  • Humidity affects the application because Carnauba is inherently hygroscopic (absorbs moisture) if you notice dark streaks during the application of Carnauba waxes, it tells you that the humidity is high. This will also retard the set-up time, usually, if the car is left in the sun for a few minutes after the wax has been applied the streaks will disappear. Windy conditions affect the curing of the wax because winds move more oxygen across the waxed surface, curing it faster. If you must wax your car on a windy humid day, wax smaller sections at a time (one foot by one foot, 1ft = 12").


Hazing (Wax / Polymer Sealant)

Smearing or a dull look to the paint film surface after removing residue usually occurs when there is an excess of product applied in high humidity conditions and moisture is trapped between the fast drying top layer and the lower layer of the hydroscopic wax. Before removing product residue perform a ‘swipe test’ by swiping your finger across the paint surface, if it’s dry and the product doesn’t smear, remove residue by buffing with a clean dry micro fibre towel. The paint films surface temperature being cooler than the outside air accelerates this process by allowing the top layer of wax to harden before the lower level. To avoid this allow more time for the wax to completely set-up (dry) before removal. Alternatively lightly spray the surface with distilled water, the excess wax will adhere to the water droplets and can then be wiped away with 100% cotton micro fibre towel


  • Surface Temperature (Actual surface temperature of the vehicle) between 50oF (10oC) and 80oF (26oC) products will work well within a much broader temperature range, i.e. 45° to 90° F (4.5-32oC) but at 45 degrees it will take much longer to dry, perhaps as much as two to three hours) but the best results will be achieved in the 60° to 70° F (15-21oC) range surrounding air temp (ambient or room)


  • Carnauba wax (liquid or paste) once set-up will adhere to a polymer provided the polymer has cross-linked (12-24 hours); conversely if a polymer is applied on top of a Carnauba wax it is unable to form a molecular bond due to the waxes oil content (the exception to this rule is Zaino Clear Seal (Z-CS) a polymer that does form a strong bond to wax/oil


Storage

A refrigerator will provide a cooler temperatures and more constant humidity that will slow the evaporation of solvents from the wax, thus keeping the wax softer and easier to use over a longer period of time. Do not allow to freeze and avoid temperature swings


Storage Temperature

Car care products should not be stored at temperatures below 35 - 40oF, if they freeze they will become unstable and therefore unusable, ideal storage temperature range- 50- 75oF with an average humidity range. Most car care products have a ‘useful life’ of approximately 2-3 years provided they are stored as above.


Do not store at temperature extremes (i.e. very hot or cold) and avoid extreme temperature swings as the chemicals will become unstable. Most car care products (inc Polymers) will separate and are no longer usable after being subjected to freezing temperatures


Shelf-Life

a) Polymers have a shelf life of approx 3-5 years if kept in their original containers and stored at temperatures as above


b) Waxes will last almost indefinitely, provided that they are stored an sealed in their original containers and in the refrigerator once opened. The liquids should last 18 months stored at normal room temperature.


Percentage of wax content- most carnaubas advertised with 50% or more Carnauba wax content is truly advertising a weight, not a volume. 30% by volume is about 50% by weight is about the maximum content (approx 35% Carnauba by volume makes it almost impossible to add/remove) that’s why you never can truly assess the amount of Carnauba in a manufactured wax unless the manufacturer specifically lists its content percentage by weight or volume. When making a comparison ensure you compare like with like i.e. % volume or % weight

Other Uses

Carnauba Wax is a preferential ingredient in the following;

  • Polishes – Shoe, furniture, leather
  • Automobile, floor, fruit, candies
  • Finishes – Leather
  • Cosmetics – Creams, Lipsticks
  • Casting – Precision, Investment
  • Lubricants – Greases, Mold Releases, Phonograph Records
  • Buffing – Wooden ware
  • Inks – Carbon Paper
  • Protective Coatings – Varnishes, lacquers, enamels
  • Candles
  • Medicinal – Salves, Ointments

Carnauba wax is FDA approved under regulation; 21 CFR 184.1978- 21 CFR 175.320 C.T.F.A. listed - C.A.S. #8015-86.9


White Carnauba Wax

Number one grade Carnauba varies from a very pale yellow (so called ‘white’), through a greenish brown (yellow). It is the world’s purest, hardest and most transparent natural wax repellent derived from the Brazilian palm Copernia Cerefera. This wax coats the leaves and is hydrophobic; it forms a barrier that is a natural deterrent from acid rain, airborne pollutants and acidic bird excrement.


Its color is determined by the ages of the leaves when harvested, and ranges from pale yellow (new, unopened leaves) to a greenish brown (older leaves exposed to sun and weather).


There are various grades available (#1 Yellow and Yellow) the pale yellow wax (sometimes termed Ivory) has the highest clarity (very transparent) and is the highest grade of carnauba available, much sought after by concourse d’élégance entrants (See also Zymol website) A natural White Carnauba wax does not exist; this is just a marketing play on words to denote ‘purity’. In addition to colour, the wax is also graded according to area of origin—Parnahyba, Piaui, Ceara, and Bahai.


Bleached Carnauba wax

It is practically impossible to bleach carnauba wax white without altering its composition. There is a demand for white carnauba wax for use in cosmetics, or other purposes where whiteness is a prime need. White carnauba wax may be prepared by several methods.


(a) The carnauba is mixed with paraffin, the temperature raised to about 220 degrees C, and activated carbon, or "Tonsil" clay is added.


(b) Carnauba is fractionally crystallized from its benzene solution at 16 deg. C, when crystals (melt. 80.8 deg. C) of pure white colour are collected, together with a by-product wax (melt. 60 deg. C).


(c) Crude carnauba wax is dissolved in boiling butanol and treated with metallic sodium, the effect of which is to bleach the wax. The solution is then filtered and the solvent recovered.


(d) The carnauba wax is mixed with paraffin, and then saponified with alkali. The saphonified mixture is then boiled with water, and the white wax separated as a layer from the aqueous soapy solution.


The last described method, which is of German and Austrian origin, permits the utilization of the cheap lower grades of natural wax. The white wax is non-saponifiable, or nearly so, and has a very low viscosity when melted.


My best advise; research other options and products, test them and then make an objective decision based upon factual information not hype or brand loyalty. After all, how can you fully understand and properly use any product unless you have all the facts? I would also strongly suggest that you verify any information that I or anyone else shares with you.


Spit Shining

* Not as lurid as it sounds -


I learned how to spit shine boots in the Royal Air Force (RAF), but for those of you who’ve never done it I’ll briefly describe how to spit shine boots to a mirror finish. You’ll need a can of Kiwi shoe wax, a bag of cotton balls, and some cold water. Wet the cotton ball and squeeze out most of the water. Get a very small amount of wax on the cotton ball and wipe it onto the boot - continue wiping until there is no more smudging. Add a little more wax an repeat. Remoisten the cotton ball as needed so that it leaves tiny beads of water on the boots. When the cotton ball retains too much wax, then use a new cotton ball. It takes several layers (maybe 6 to 10 or more) to achieve that mirror shine. It’s obvious that the wax builds layers because enough flexing of the leather will cause the wax to flake.


There is a lot of discussion about whether or not it is possible to layer carnauba on a car, it works on leather boots and in my experience it also works on a cars paint service.


Spit shining is used for ‘layering’ Carnauba wax to produce a ‘depth of shine’ providing you take the necessary precautions to prevent the solvents both re-liquefying and removing the previous wax layers. Usually a spit shined surface is slicker, smoother, and has different beading characteristics; with even smaller tighter water beads. The durability is about the same (or slightly better) and although spit shining is very time consuming, the improved depth of shine and glossy appearance is worth it


Usually, a wax with a high solvent content will remove the previous layer, so use a Carnauba that is not formulated with a high solvent content (Pinnacle Souverän) Using a damp applicator and cold (almost ice) distilled water in a fine mist spray bottle neutralizes any solvents in the newly applied layer; the water should be cold, using ice cold water after applying a wax will harden the wax quicker making the shine deeper and help the new wax adhere to the finish, working until the water/ wax solution disappears.


The reason for using a damp applicator is to neutralize the solvents as much as possible, and to avoid the thin coats of wax sticking to the applicator, this enables the wax to build thin, fine coats. Spray a fine mist of cold (almost ice) distilled water to a single panel and then apply a light Carnauba wax to the paint surface, Always apply extremely thin layers using a very light pressure when spit shining, Wipe it onto a small work area and continue wiping until most of the wax disappears. Mist lightly as needed, keeping a few water droplets on the surface. Move to the next work area and repeat. After you do the final area you’ll have a surface with many spots of hazed wax. Lightly mist an area with the very cold distilled water - 1/2 hood or door - and lightly buff with a MF towel. Turn the towel frequently, when the towel becomes too damp switch to a new towel.


When you spray very cold water on a Carnauba wax layer that has been allowed to outgas (i.e. the solvents that make up its carrier system have evaporated) it reduces the wax surface temperature to the point that the next applied waxes carrier solvents do not dilute the previously applied wax and it forms a semi-hard coat. Allow each subsequent Carnauba waxes solvents to outgas before applying more layers. Spit shining allows definitive layers, as opposed to a thick coat of wax that would result if the solvents dissolve the wax layer that they are applied to.


After 24 hours you can repeat the procedure, using cold (almost ice) distilled water and Pinnacle Crystal Mist (a low solvent quick detail (QD) each coat applied will increase the surface depth of shine with five or six coats being optimal (See also Layering)


Zymol Carnauba Waxes and Glazes (hand application):

Zymol and Swissvax do not endorse the use of an applicator for use with their Estate waxes and glazes for optimum results. They use natural Môn tan oils as opposed to solvent oils, applying them with a foam applicator would absorb some of this oil perhaps having a detrimental effect on its aesthetics. One of the main reasons given for using a foam applicator is to avoid waiting the required three hours in a warm climate / environment to buff the surface a second time to remove any excess oil


Hand application is an essential step that should be utilized in order to soften the compound and also to spread the wax without excessive waste. Estate waxes and glazes in their latent state are enzymes and when used the heat transfer from the warmth of the hands acts as a catalyst to turn the product into a wax ready for application. You need patience for this process; it is time consuming to apply wax with bare hands (don’t forget to remove rings) but the results are worth it. Use soft latex gloves; they are effective because latex will not scratch, and will prevent wax from soaking into your hands, it also helps prevent accidental marring from rough palms and from finger nails.


Put a very small amount of the glaze to the palm of your hand. Use the warmth of your hands to melt and activate the Carnauba wax, as in its latent state its an enzyme and when used the heat transfer from the warmth of the hands acts as a catalyst to turn the product into a wax ready for application. With your hand, gently apply the glaze in a light, even singular direction pattern over no more than three or four-square feet of painted surface. Let stand for 30 to 60 seconds. Using moderate to heavy pressure, wipe very slowly with a 100% Cotton Micro-fibre Alpine DF-Towel™ (folded once) to a brilliant lustre before wax is totally dry. Wait three to four hours, to ensure all the solvents have outgassed and then lightly buff the paint again to perfect the shine.


  • Enzymes (proteins) are a catalyst that increase the rate of a chemical reaction. Propolis is an enzyme found in beeswax ( a secondary component found in most car waxes). Collected by Bee's it comprises approximately 55% resinous compounds and balms, 30% beeswax, 10% aromatic essential oils, and 5% bee pollen and is used as a binding agent. (see Zymol estate glazes)When used in a car wax enzymes, when heated cause the wax to set-up.


Alternative products

Information resources

  • Why apply wax with bare hands? By David Wyllie
  • Zymol and Swissvax Internet websites


Carnauba Wax Information resource

  • Relevant Material Data Sheet (MSDS) – http://www.sciencelab.com/xMSDS-Carnauba_wax-9923319
  • Zymol- (http://www.zymol.com/carnauba.htm)
  • Swissvax - SWISSVAX - the ultimate car care products hand-made in Switzerland
  • Wikipedia - Carnauba wax - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • Strahl & Pitsch - Carnauba Wax
  • Abstracts from articles related to Auto Appearance Chemicals – Dow Corning
  • The Chemistry and Technology of Waxes, by Albin H. Warth; Second Edition 1956
  • Yagudin, Alexei and LaRocco, Mike, “Propolis-Research Review”, Vespa 2001
  • Automotive Detailing Inside & Out, A Knowledge Base for the Perfectionist"– by Jon Miller
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