Wax On Apples (And Other Fruit and Vegetables): Here’s Why They Do It

Did you know that farmers and food distributors will spray wax on apples after they have been picked from the orchards? No? Well, neither did we until we started to wonder what made some apples so shiny and others not so shiny!

We did a little investigation, and we discovered that many suppliers of apples give their fruits a good wax coating in order to keep them fresh for longer. Sounds fair enough. But like us, you’re now probably wondering what happens if you eat wax and if these waxy apples are safe.

Don’t worry; apples produce wax naturally, too, and it’s all perfectly safe to consume. Let’s take a look at waxy apples in more detail, and see just why apples are waxed!

Why do they spray wax on apples? 

  • Apples are waxed so they can last longer. A waxy apple has a much longer shelf life than a non-waxy apple, as the wax forms a sort of protective outer coating that stops moisture from escaping. 
  • A wax apple is going to be much juicier than a non-wax apple, making it not only longer lasting but arguably, sweeter and tasty, as none of the goodness can escape.
  • Farmers and food distributors use artificial wax when they spray apples, but this synthetic wax is similar to the real wax that apples produce naturally. It’s this wax that gives a waxy apple its distinctive shine. 

Okay. Now you’re wondering, why are apples waxed by farmers if they already have a natural wax? Valid question!

  • This natural wax (called epicuticular wax) is actually produced by the vast majority of apples (as well as many other types of fruits and vegetables too); however, it rubs off particularly easily and is often lost by the time the apples make it to market.
  • Apples are thoroughly cleaned, too, and so there’s little chance that the natural wax is going to be there when it’s time for storage and shipping.
  • Because the natural wax acts as a protective barrier, the apple has effectively lost its natural protection and will degrade much faster.
  • Without the wax, moisture escapes from the apple while other unwanted particles might find their way inside the apple.
  • The simple solution is to spray the apples with wax. Even if some of the wax remains, farmers will want their produce to have an evenly coated layer of wax, to keep their products consistent.
  • Waxing fruits allows them to be stored safely for much longer, avoiding unnecessary waste and keeping them fresh until they make it to your local store.  

Do organic apples have wax on them?

Organic apples are free from any artificial wax products. In order to be deemed organic, they must not use any unnatural compounds. However, organic apples may well retain some of their original, natural wax. 

More often than not, though, this natural wax is going to be lost when the organic apple is picked, cleaned, then stored and transported to its sale point. For this reason, organic apples aren’t anywhere near as shiny as waxed apples. 

If you see a dull apple, chances are it’s organic!

Is this wax safe to eat? 

Both types of wax, whether natural or unnatural, are perfectly safe to eat. If it’s artificial wax, then the products used are all judged to be food-grade and so are safe for human consumption. Interestingly, our bodies can’t actually digest the wax; it simply passes through us!

Synthetic wax can be made from a number of different products, and ultimately, it has a similar chemical composition to the wax produced naturally by the fruit.

The type of synthetic wax used depends on the producer, but it can be different types of beeswax or compounds known as shellac or carnauba.

If you are worried about consuming synthetic products, then it’s best to stick to organic apples. The natural wax, however, is actually very similar to synthetic wax in terms of chemical composition!

How to remove wax from apples 

Let’s be honest, though. Talking about putting wax on apples, whether natural or artificial, isn’t the most appetising of pre-snack talks! 

We do understand if you want to know how to get wax off apples. As we already mentioned, organic apples have, in most scenarios, already lost their natural wax. It comes off easily. You can complete the job at home by simply washing the apple or using an apple peeler to remove the outer layer. 

The same holds true for non-organic apples as well. You can usually just rub off the wax under running water. If you’re super concerned, use the apple peeler to remove the entire outer layer of the apple. That way, there’s not going to be any wax left at all!

Do other fruits and vegetables have wax, too?

It’s not very well-known, but yes, a lot of other fruits and vegetables also have waxy outer coatings. If your fruit or veg is non-organic, then they’re almost certainly going to have been sprayed with artificial wax, just like apples. 

These include many citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons, as well as other fruits such as strawberries, tomatoes, or cherries (if it’s shiny, then it’s been waxed!). Vegetables such as cucumbers and bell peppers are commonly given a waxy coating, too. 

The reasoning is the same as with apples. The waxy coating is a protective layer; and like apples, it’s also food-grade wax. 

Wax on apples: the last word

Now you know that waxy apples actually grow on trees, but unless it’s an organic apple, that apple is also going to have an artificial wax coating!

Wax coatings keep apples fresh and juicy; they stop unnecessary waste and allow us to enjoy fruit all year round. Ultimately, a little bit of wax is a good thing, and it’s super-easy to get rid of it before you eat the apple, anyway!

Why not bookmark our guide to wax on apples for later?