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Cleaning the Flow frames

Longer term flow frame users I talk to who face the problem of needing to remove wax, propolis, etc use warm water through a pressure cleaner. They place the flow frame against a solid back and then use the pressure cleaner. They report very good success with this method. I’ve not had to do this after 4 or so years but will if I have to.

Also heed @busso warning and don’t place them in a warm dishwasher to clean…


Hi to everyone who has contributed to this thread. I have a simple question - here is maybe not the right thread but going to ask anyway - my bees swarmed and I decided there was too much space, so have drained all the honey from my flow frames with the intent to remove it until their numbers are stronger - how long does it take the bees to clean up the super before I can take it off? A few hours? A day? 3? It was pretty full of honey (I guess minus what the swarm took :roll_eyes:).

To avoid suiting up etc. multiple times, I want to make sure they’ve taken all/most of the honey before I attempt to take it off, but not leave it so long they might start putting honey in it again.


A normal colony will take approx 24-48 hours to clean up a conventional extracted frame when returned as a ‘sticky’… ready to be used again…

Great, thanks @fffffred :slight_smile:

Propolis is a problem when the bees trap a hive beetle in the flow frames and “glue” them in. :smiley:

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I was given a flow hive that had been left standing for a couple of years. As a result the hive tool couldn’t move the seized sections up or down. due to propolis gumming up the works. I tried freezing and washing in hot water which removed most of the old wax and honey but still left the propolis in situ. I stripped the frames to their component parts and immersed them in a weak solution of caustic soda overnight then washed and brushed them to remove the softened gunge. After a thorough rinsing to remove any caustic soda residue I blew dry the parts and reassembled them. Very fiddly and tedious as I had all the frames to clean. End result was the mechanism worked perfectly, looking like new. All propolis removed and a very smooth action.


Thanks, Frank! For those of us not familiar with caustic soda, can you give an idea of what a weak solution is? I’m sure @Jeffm would be keen to read about your success with cleaning the frames.

Plus @Bianca and @Freebee2! :wink:

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Thanks for sharing this with us @FrankFitzgerald41

Did you happen to take any before and after photos? We’d love to see them.


Cheers Frank,
Did it pass the big test? Are the bees back in the frames and filling up the cells?
The one I cleaned is being ignored by the bees but must admit I have not yet put any comb or straight wax on it yet

Caustic soda (Sodium Hydroxide) Is a potent drain cleaner here in the UK as it dissolves fats. I use it at two ounces to the gallon (Imperial) and wear gloves an a pair of eye protection (Just in case). I leave to soak over night and rinse under a warm tap and use a nailbrush to remove the most stubborn residue. Just be careful when using it (I have to say this as a disclaimer) Common sense should prevail. So far I haven’t had any issues with this method. but it’s up to you if you want to try it.

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As I only got the hive In February I haven’t yet put them back into the hive. It’s now April and the start of bee foraging here in the UK I’m expecting to be able to use it with the next swarm rehousing. As I was careful enough to thoroughly rinse and blow dry all residue off the cells I don’t envisage any problems doing as you say “The big test” I’ll keep you posted with my results.

Sorry Blanca, I didn’t think to take any before and after photos but I can say with conviction the frames are looking like new.

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The two photos show the two replacement frames put in the super today alongside the 4 x 4.5 year old frames and the removed frame( I will wait for the bees to clean out the honey before I steam clean) I will show photo of frame after I clean it


Two ounces (weight?) or liquid at what concentration?

Granular Lye

I looked it up. Sheesh it’s confusing with non-metric. I think Frank means Imperial gallons rather than US gallons and ounces rather than fluid ounces. For the sake of simplicity and consistency, I’m running with 2 tbs or 57 grams per 4.5 litres. If you do a search on ‘caustic soda and bees’ you get all sorts of ratios but most are in the range of 2-5% solution and refer to cleaning the hive. There are also concerns mentioned about using caustic soda because of disposal issues. Does anyone know or is it ok because of the weaker solution? Where’s a chemist when you need one? :thinking:

Bog standard Caustic soda POWDER (from hardware store) Used as a drain cleaner, I’m unaware of anyplace you can obtain it in a liquid form. I’m not a chemist so I’m unable to give you an accurate scientific reply. I put in two ounces to a gallon using a set of bog standard kitchen scales, allow to soak overnight. Place in sink and used a nail brush to remove all traces of gunge . Rinse off in hot water (Temperature check using elbow in water) and blow dry using air compressor (60 psi) in garage removing all traces of water and any propolis residue that might have remained on the frame section. Note all actions to be undertaken using appropriate ppe, Goggles, (Safety) Marigolds (Swiped from wifes stock) and a Neuclear/Chemical hazaed protective suit with an independent air supply


I can tell that you are a northerner!!! My hubby is a Yorkshireman. Same sense of humour… :rofl:

Sorry but I find it difficult to answer questions that I would have thought were obvious. My reply was tounge in cheek and not intended to upset him ( I hope he didn’t take offense) yes I’m another northerner but from over the border on Lancashire xx

A weak solution is one that removes the propolis and doesn’t melt the marigold gloves. For crying out loud. Use your head. Caustic soda sold over the counter has instructions printed in English on the box. At least that’s how it is in the UK