I have been wanting to make beeswax wraps for a while now. It has been a little inspiring just how much the Germans recycle here. My jumbo roll I got years ago in Sydney for a move (yes to wrap my couch) was still getting used up. So much plastic already ends up in landfill, our oceans and kills poor helpless animals. Thankfully my industrial roll of cling wrap is coming to the end of its use in our house.
I wanted to make a healthy change to reduce plastic in this world. I have already started by not bagging fruits and vegetables and shopping at markets with my own bags for cheeses and such. Reusable beeswax wraps were the next step I wanted to take.
Beeswax is naturally anti-allergenic and is antimicrobial. Because the wraps are semi permeable, they are actually great to keep foods fresh without encouraging condensation and allowing it to breathe which can cause things like salad leaves to wilt.
Beeswax wraps could be used on cut fruit and vegetables, hard cheeses, covering bowls, biscuits and much more. Basically most of the reasons I use cling wrap really and no reason I could think of not to make the change.
Looking online I found how expensive buying them was! They started at around $8 (AUD) for small ones and went up to $35 for one that would cover a small loaf of bread. What were they made of to be that expensive!? I understand making a boutique product that isn’t well-known yet is surely a time and resource consuming adventure. But $35!?
I started to look into beeswax wraps. It turned out that they were simple enough. 100% organic cotton and some beeswax along with a couple of other ingredients. A lot of the commercial ones using organic jojoba or coconut oil along with tree resins used for its anti-fungal properties.
Sounds good on paper and makes you, the consumer feel better about the price. On doing a little research about tree resins and oils. Firstly, they are expensive. Secondly I found they did little to extend the life of the wrap comparison to home-made beeswax wraps. They do, however, help to keep fungus at bay (so less chance of mould on your food). These ingredients are no doubt the reason they are so expensive.
Given we are now a one family income household I was on a mission to make a cheaper product with a similar usage span. No frills with my beeswax wraps. You won’t see me melting wax over open fires in front of sunsets and brushing it onto my cotton wearing gypsy like dresses. I just cut it up, cover it in wax and chuck it in the oven. Not so sexy… but they are effective and financially efficient.
What they do lack is the tackiness that the commercially produced wraps have. This means they don’t magically stick to themselves quite as easily. But, do not let this deter you. Simply warm with your hands for a second or two and the wrap does in fact seal nicely to itself.
For my beeswax wraps I kept it simple. I used 100% cotton fabric – an off cut in your preferred style is fine and budget friendly. Just note that natural beeswax is yellow and will dis-colour the material slightly. If you prefer to avoid this take into account shades that will suit/tolerate the colour changes.
Along with the cotton the only other ingredient you need is natural beeswax pellets. I say natural as there are fake products on the market to mass produce candles. Natural beeswax will note 100% natural on the packet and will have a lovely beeswax smell to them.
There are differences in beeswax grades but it has more to do with the size and refinement of the product. Medical grade (well filtered and finely shaven) is not needed here so save your cash. Just buy the normal candle making variety that comes in pellets like you see in my pictures. You can get them at most art stores and failing that, ebay or amazon have a lot.
For cutting the cotton, use pinking shears if you have them. Pinking shears are scissors made for cutting cloth with teeth along the cutting edge. It causes the edge of the material to have a zig zag pattern which helps stop fraying. Unfinished edges cut with traditional scissors may fray over time. This will not affect the quality of your product but it could reduce its usage life and probably annoy you leaving cotton thread here and there.
A couple of tips when making yours:
- My tray was lined with aluminium foil. It is recyclable here and though I know it seems hypocritical when I want to start making my own reusable products but I had some at hand and kept it on my tray once finished to use the next time I want to refresh my beeswax wraps;
- If you do use aluminium foil and want to keep your tray clean and need more than once piece to cover it, ensure you make a sealed joint or else you will end up with wax on your tray.
- Using an unlined pan I recommend you use an old pan specifically for this purpose or you can reheat the pan on its own and wipe with the off-cuts of material or an old shirt. You may need to heat up the pan and wipe one or two more times to clean the wax off fully;
- I like to use bamboo skewers to move any excess wax off the wraps or to ensure the wax is moved to spots without coverage. Some others like to use a paintbrush, paddle pop sticks or a pallete knife. I found the paintbrush was useless after the first batch and will need to be thrown away. Bamboo skewers were a fantastic alternative. You can pull off any excess wax that has firmed and use it for your next batch. Keep the skewers for next time.
- When cutting your material, remember that you need a similar shape that is larger than the plate or bowl you want to cover. E.g: I used a small bowl, medium bowl and a large plate for mine. The large plate fits the medium bowl, the medium bowl wrap fits the small bowl and the small bowl wrap covers my small dip bowls and ends of fruits and vegetables.
I found my recipe is a mix of sources, but my main inspiration was from Claire at A Wild Green Life at http://awildgreenlife.com/diy-cotton-beeswax-food-wraps/
Some uses for your beeswax wraps
- sandwiches for school;
- cut vegetables or snacks for the kids;
- bowls or plates with salads or left over dishes;
- open cans;
- cakes or cookies; or
- Use to keep crusty breads fresher for longer.
How to use your beeswax wraps
Place your wrap over the top of the container you wish to cover. Using the heat of your hands, fold the wrap around the containers edge, smoothing as you go. If you find the seal isn’t perfect, use the palm of your hands for added heat. You will find this is the case for newer wraps or those with a little excess wax on them. Alternatively place the food item you wish to seal into the wrap and fold the wrap over using the warmth of your hands to seal.
How to care for your beeswax wraps
Remember that the heat of your hands is enough to seal the beeswax wraps over the top of your plate or bowl. Because of this they are not suitable for hot soapy washes. Cold cloth wipes with limited detergent is all you need. Simply wipe with a cool soapy dishcloth and hang to dry before next use.
Don’t use your wraps on soft cheeses, or raw meats. You can’t wash the wraps with hot soapy water, which you need to when dealing with raw meets and soft cheeses. I do NOT recommended you use your beeswax wraps to cover these kinds of products.
Don’t use your wraps to cover liquid products. Given the material is still semi permeable (which is good in most cases for your food storage, allowing food to breathe while keeping nasties out) in this case, liquids will spill if the container is tipped over.
Given you care for them well the wraps should last from a few months to at least a year depending on usage and care. Once you find the seal is not as good as it once was, simply pop back into the oven with more wax as required.
Don’t use them in the microwave – the heat of the microwave will melt the wax which will drip into your food. Bad idea!
Home made beeswax wraps. Throw out that nasty old cling film and use this reusable, environmentally friendly alternative.
- 1 meter 100% organic cotton
- Bag of natural beeswax pellets
- Step 1 Use a pencil to trace the outline of different sized plates and bowls onto your fabric. Remember that tracing that large dinner place will only lead to a cover that will fit the next size plate or bowl down from this one.
- Step 2 Cut out wraps using pinking shears (if you have them) or general house scissors.
- Step 3 Preheat oven to 150°C.
- Step 4 Put cut pieces of cotton onto a baking tray.
- Step 5 Cover the cotton pieces with a few grams of beeswax each. You are looking for around 35-40% coverage. Don’t worry too much about it. Reuse any excess melted wax. If there isn’t enough you can always put more on.
- Step 6 Heat in oven until wax melts for 3-4 minutes depending on your oven.
- Step 7 Remove from the oven and using a bamboo skewer, quickly disperse any spots of wax that have pooled, onto areas that have less or no wax cover.
- Step 8 Pick up individual pieces, shake once or twice and place down onto your prepared surface to dry (cardboard or a cool tray).
- Step 9 If you find they are too thick, return to oven and again upon removing drag the bamboo skewer across the entire surface to remove as much excess wax as possible.