Hydrolysis of wax esters on thin-layer chromatographic plates by porcine pancreatic lipase is described. The alcohols and free fatty acids produced were separated on the same plate, recovered and then analysed by gas-liquid chromatography for their compositions. Synthetic wax containing saturated fatty acids of various chain lengths and unsaturated fatty acids with varying numbers of methylene-interrupted cis double bonds, along with beeswax and Avicennia officinalis leaf wax were lipolysed. The results of on-plate lipolysis for 96 min compared well with those obtained by chemical hydrolysis in tubes. © 1983.