If you are trying to cut down on the use of plastics in your home, plastic food wrap (aka saran wrap or cling-film) can be one of the most difficult things to give up – or at least, it was for me. I use glass jars to store dried food, but I hate washing deep jars by hand so don’t want to use them for everything. I often cover leftovers in a bowl with a plate, but that doesn’t work for large rectangular oven dishes or jars without lids. I also like to wrap sandwiches and snacks to take out in the garden, but in a plain paper bag they dry out and unwrapped in a lunchbox they roll around and squish into other foods. When I first came across cotton in a store I thought they were the perfect solution to my food storage problems.  A real alternative to plastic wrap that is environmentally friendly, convenient, reusable, and made from natural materials. They are also safer to handle than glass for small children, or the chronically clumsy like me. I was so excited I almost filled my shopping basket with them…until I realised that even the small ones were $8 each!!! Given that they are just a piece of cotton cloth with a coating I was pretty sure they would be easy to make at home…and they are, cheap too! No cost at all if you keep bees and have some cotton fabric remnants on hand.

How do they work?

The beauty of plastic wrap is that it doesn’t need to be tied or fastened to cover a container, making it very convenient. It’s also waterproof and airtight so maintains the moisture content of food. Untreated cotton does not have these qualities, but once covered in a layer of beeswax, it becomes a suitable alternative.  Whilst not completely waterproof, beeswax coated cloth is water-repellent. The addition of wax also greatly reduces breathability, which helps prevent the food from drying out. Finally, as wax softens with heat, the wax allows the cotton to be moulded with warm hands to fit containers and stay in place without the need for ties and fasteners. Over time the wraps gradually become less waterproof and more breathable. Once this happens, it’s simply a matter of reapplying the wax and reusing (mine last about 6 months before needing a recoat). When you are finished with them, they can simply be composted.

Uses for Cotton Beeswax Food Wraps

  • Folded into snack bags
  • Wrapping sandwiches
  • Covering leftovers to place in fridge
  • Fly cover
  • Covering casseroles and baked goods
  • An attractive wrapping for food gifts that the recipient can then re-use
  • Can be used with vegetables, fruit, nuts, bread, cheese, cookies, cakes and many other foods

When not to use Cotton Beeswax Food Wraps

  • As they are not 100% waterproof, don’t use to wrap wet items as they can leak
  • Do not use with meat as they cannot be washed in hot water
  • Don’t use in microwave or to wrap hot foods as this will melt the beeswax

 

How to Make Cotton Beeswax Food Wraps 

Equipment

  • Pinking shears (to prevent cloth edges fraying)
  • Pure beeswax grated (food grade, not the wax used for making candles).  I generally use 10-30g per sheet depending on size.
  • 100% cotton fabric – choose a light cotton, I use pillowcases, sheets or buy remnant cotton fat quarters
  • Old Baking tray
  • Paintbrush
  • Cheese grater
  • Coat hangers and laundry pegs
  • Oven

 

Note: Beeswax sticks to the grater, baking sheet and paintbrush and can be hard to clean so it is advisable to use old equipment that is reserved for this purpose. If you use new equipment melting and blotting with a cloth will eventually remove it.

 

Methods

Step 1. Cut the cloth to the appropriate size for your containers. Using pinking shears on all edges to prevent fraying

Step 2. Place the cotton onto the baking sheet. Grate the beeswax onto one side of the cotton (it doesn’t matter which side as the wax soaks through coating both sides).

Step 3.  Place the baking sheet in the oven. Beeswax has a relatively low melting point of 62-64° C. Do not take it over 71° C for an extended period of time or it can burn. I place it in my oven as its heating up and keep a close eye on it, with the door open. Generally, within a few minutes the wax is melted.

Step 4. Once the wax has melted into the cotton, remove from the oven and spread the liquid beeswax with a paintbrush. If it cools before you have finished place the sheet back into the oven to soften, then try again.

Step 5. Remove from the heat and check that the wrap is fully covered in wax, if not reapply where needed and place back into the oven. If you have the opposite problem and the wax is too thick in places, place a second wrap below, place in the oven and the new cloth will soak up the excess. If it’s fully covered, hang the cloth on a coat hanger to dry or just hold in a draft for a minute…they dry very fast!

Step 7. Once dry, the food wrap should be a little stiff but malleable. To use, simply cover container or wrap around the food then warm with your hands and mould into shape. If it doesn’t stick well, you may need to add more wax and return the sheet to the oven.  If you want to be particularly fancy, you can add ties and fasteners or sew the cloth to make a more permanent bag shape.

For a tighter fit, cut to shape. Circular wraps are particularly good for covering round bowls.

Tips:

Cleaning – Avoid using hot water as it can melt the wax and make the wraps breathable.  Never place in the washing machine or dishwasher. Hand rinse with cool or warm water, and if necessary, use a little natural soap (e.g. Castille).

Worried about fabric dye touching the food? – Newer patterned cloth can leach dye so it’s best to wash it a few times first. If you are still worried about the dye near food, just use plain cloth for directly wrapping food

Alternative ways to heat the wax – if you don’t want to use the oven to melt the wax, you can achieve the same effect by ironing the cloth with greaseproof paper and a tea towel between the iron and the wax, placing the baking sheet on a rack over the hob or a wood burner or by using a double burner to melt the wax then painting on with a paintbrush

Do you need to add oils and resins? – Some of the commercial beeswax cotton wraps include jojoba oil and tree resin, but I have read that these can leave a flavour on the food and I am happy with the performance of the wraps without so prefer to keep mine simple. If you do experiment adding other products to your wraps I would love to hear from you.

5.0 from 1 reviews
DIY Beeswax Cotton Food Wraps
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Household Items
Serves: 1 sheet
Ingredients
  • Pure beeswax grated (or pellets) (food grade, not the stuff used for making candles). I generally use 10-30g per sheet depending on size.
  • 100% cotton fabric - choose a light cotton, I use pillowcases, sheets or buy remnant cotton fat quarters
  • Equipment
  • Pinking shears (to prevent cloth edges fraying)
  • Old Baking tray
  • Paintbrush
  • Cheese grater
  • Coat hangers and laundry pegs
  • Oven
Instructions
  1. Cut the cloth to the appropriate size for your containers. Using pinking shears on all edges to prevent fraying
  2. Place the cotton onto the baking sheet. Grate the beeswax onto one side of the cotton (it doesn't matter which side as the wax soaks through coating both sides).
  3. Place the baking sheet in the oven. Beeswax has a relatively low melting point of 62-64 degrees centigrade. Do not take it over 71 degrees for an extended period of time or it can burn. I place it in my oven as its heating up and keep a close eye on it, with the door open. Generally, within a few minutes the wax is melted.
  4. Once the wax has melted into the cotton, remove from the oven and spread the liquid beeswax with a paintbrush. If it cools before you have finished place the sheet back into the oven to soften, then try again.
  5. Remove from the heat and check that the wrap is fully covered in wax, if not reapply where needed and place back into the oven. If you have the opposite problem and the wax is too thick in places, place a second wrap below, place in the oven and the new cloth will soak up the excess. If it's fully covered, hang the cloth on a coat hanger to dry or just hold in a draft for a minute...they dry very fast!
  6. Once dry, the food wrap should be a little stiff but malleable. To use, simply cover container or wrap around the food then warm with your hands and mould into shape. If it doesn't stick well, you may need to add more wax and return the sheet to the oven. If you want to be particularly fancy, you can add ties and fasteners or sew the cloth to make a more permanent bag shape.

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8 Comments

  1. Hi I would like to point out that there is only one type of beeswax, being an apiarist is great as we can utilize the honey, wax and the pollination powers of the bees, but everything we here have learnt and have been taught is there is only one type of beeswax, All of it is food grade, the only exception is if your buying fake beeswax. We use beeswax for our candles, soaps and projects like this one. great article and was a good read keep it up, we live off grid too but in Northern Tasmania’s bushland.

    1. Hi Damien, thanks for the comment, nice to hear from you. Glad you liked the article. if you are buying it from stores you can actually buy different grades, the food grade and cosmetic grade are basically finely filtered, often three times to remove any contaminants, whereas you can buy roughly filtered for crafts and blacksmithing etc. that has some debris in it or industrial unfiltered that sometimes even has bits of dead bee in it. There is also stuff that has been industrially bleached. None of this is a consideration if you have your own hives (as I hope we have one day!) and know the cleanliness of the wax etc. but for people buying from stores online it is good to make sure they get the clean finely filtered stuff if it is going near food.

  2. Thanks for the instructions! I just made one wrap for my Parmesan (I hate storing cheese in plastic) and it turned out well so I’ll make up a few more! I used a light cotton dress I picked up from the op shop for a dollar, and the beeswax wasn’t much, so I’ll be able to make loads of wraps for less than I’d have paid for one! Totally worth the teeny effort it takes to make them.

    1. Hi I only uset new fabrics if you go to spot Lights you can pick up wery cheap of cuts and I I’m used calicol fabric as well🤗

    1. Health food stores have the beeswax but I found that there are plenty of stores online that you can get the same product just less expensive.

  3. I made some and they don’t seem to have cling to them. I could wrap a sandwich in one, but would probably need twine to keep it together. I used triple filtered cosmetic grade, raw and un-processed. Is this why?

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