Getting Your Traps Ready For the Trapping Season

There is more to successfully trapping than making lures and setting traps, hoping that an animal might walk by and step on the pan. That rarely happens. What many new trappers do not realize, and some experienced trappers ignore, is the importance of getting their traps ready.

This is something that needs to be done to catch a good number of animals. Both new and old traps need to be cleaned before using. There is a lot of time that goes into cleaning traps, but it is well worth the effort when you see the results.

New traps arrive from manufacturers with a light film of oil on them. Before anything can be done with new traps they first have to be cleaned to remove the oil. This is done by boiling water in a large kettle.

Cleaning traps

Many trappers add a caustic, such as a toilet bowl cleaner or lye, to aid in the cleaning process. Do not add caustics to boiling water, as this could cause the water to erupt and cause injury to anyone in close range. Always add the cleaning agent to cold water before it begins to boil. Avoid contact with boiling water. Wear eye-protection and protective clothing, including rubber gloves, when handling caustics. I cannot overemphasize the importance of safety when dealing with boiling water and caustics….

Once the water is boiling, rapidly immerse the traps into the water bath. After the traps have been immersed for about one hour, oil will rise to the top. Do not pull the traps back through the oil; instead, pour the oil off the top, and then remove the traps. This will prevent the traps from picking up an oil coating again. when the traps are removed from the water, place them in a cool, damp location until they’re completely covered with a light coating of rust.

Cleaning A Trap

Old traps need to be cleaned from time to time to remove mud, dirt and other contaminants such as the odor of a previously caught animal. This should be done at the end of trapping season before placing the traps in storage. Begin by removing any large pieces of debris by hand. Once that has been done follow the same process that is used for new traps.

All cleaning of traps must be done outside, over an open fire using a large kettle. Never clean traps inside a building.


After traps have been cleaned and have taken on a light coating of rust, it is time for the next step in treating your traps.


Dyes are a type of camouflage for traps. They work with the rust that is already on the traps to give them a dark color. Place the traps in a large tub, then cover with clean water. Bring the water to a boil, then add the dye solution. There are many good dyes on the commercial market, in both liquid and powder form.

TLW2 b1There are also many natural materials that work well, including sumac, maple and oak bark, and walnut or butternut hulls.

When using a natural dye, large quantities yield best results (24 bushel of dye material per 10 gallons of water). Add the bark or hulls, immerse the traps in the boiling water and leave for one hour before removing Add water as needed to keep the traps completely covered.

Commercial dips are also available to dye traps; most have to either be mixed with water or gasoline. There is no boiling involved. Simply dip the trap in the black dip for about 30 seconds. It will take on a black color. Do this early in the summer and any odor of gasoline will heave away before trapping season begins.

Do not dye new traps that have not first been cleaned or developed a light coating of rust. Dyes need to work with the rust to get a good covering.


Waxing traps is up to the individual trapper. I prefer to wax all of my traps for the added protraction and lubrication that it provides.

One of the most popular waxes used among trappers is odorless trap wax that is available from any trapping supply dealer. Waxing a trap is best done by immersing the trap in hot wax. Wax that is slowly melted to 230 degrees is best. If it starts to smoke, the wax is too hot and the heat needs to be lowered.

Melted wax is very dangerous – when it’s in a liquid form, it is just as flammable as gasoline or diesel fuel.Never use an open fire as a source of heat for melted wax. A small camp stove works well for waxing traps. All waxing should be done away from buildings and other flammables.

Avoid dripping wax on the heat source as you remove the traps from the hot wax. It is best to use a container that completely covers the heat source, such as a two-gallon metal bucket.

When the solid wax is added to the container, let the wax melt slowly at a low heat. Trappers should use a short piece of wire added to the trap’s chain to help handle the trap safely while in the hot wax.

Wax Block

Immerse the trap and chain in the wax until the trap becomes the same temperature as the wax. Remove the hot trap from the wax by lifting straight up and allowing the excess wax to chip back into the container. Hang the trap up to cool. Do not let wax come in contact with the heat source.

Always wear eye protection and protective clothing, including rubber gloves, to avoid burns. Traps need to be cleaned and dyed before they are waxed. Never put wet traps into melted wax, as this can cause a dangerous steam and even a possible explosion of the wax.

When done waxing, allow the wax that is remaining in the container to cool and harden before removing and storing. Do not allow the wax to begin smoking during the waxing process. If it begins to smoke, turn down the heat. When the traps are dry, file the wax from the top and end of the dog, along with the inside of the pan notch.

Never wax conibear traps. A waxed conibear trap is all but impossible to set.


Taking the time to get your traps ready is well worth every second. It fight feel like there is more you would be doing than spending time over hot flames, cleaning, applying a dye and waxing traps, but these little things could very well mean the difference between fair catches and very good catches.

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