There are so many benefits of beeswax wraps that I don’t even know where to start. They reduce waste, are non-toxic (no plastics or metals leeching into your food), and they actually keep food fresher than plastic wrap or tin foil. If you’re a fan of guacamole, this project is for you. They’re also incredibly easy to make and maintain. By creating a demand for beeswax, they even help struggling bee populations. You can make them in adorable patterns, or unbleached cotton for an even lower environmental impact. What’s not to love about them, right? Let’s get started.
When I first heard about beeswax food wraps I did a bunch of research into what they are made of. The commercially-available beeswax wraps are generally made with beeswax, resin, and oils. What resins? Which oils? Since I couldn’t find a manufacturer that would divulge exactly which ingredients they use, or where they were sourced, I thought I’d see if I could make my own. It seems simple enough, right? It absolutely is!! All you need is cotton and/or linen cloth and beeswax.
The resins and oils increase the flexibility of the wraps. They also seem to make them stickier and more difficult to replenish. With wraps that are just beeswax, replenishing them is really easy, although you will have to do it a bit more often.
What you will need:
- Beeswax, about 1″ cube per wrap
- 100% cotton and/or linen fabric
- Grater or plane
- Baking tray
- Scissors or pinking shears
- Ruler and pencil or fabric marker
Here’s how to make beeswax wraps:
Before you begin, wash your fabric to remove the chemicals from the manufacturing process. Do not use any fabric softeners or dryer sheets since they leave residue you don’t want in your food. If you are using fabric scraps (yay for stash-busting!), and worry about fraying in the washing machine, hand washing with dish soap works well.
You will also need to iron the fabric after washing since any wrinkles will be preserved in the beeswax. I was really surprised by this when I made my first wrap, but more than a year later, that wrap is still wrinkly.
Once the fabric is ready, preheat your oven to 180-200 degrees Fahrenheit. At 205 degrees Fahrenheit beeswax will start to discolor, so start with the lower temperature and see how it goes with your oven. My oven always runs cold, so 200 F (on the dial) works well for me.
Beeswax has a flash point of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. That means it will burst into flames at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Please do not ever heat your beeswax wraps in a hot oven, or while your oven is preheating, just in case.
While your oven is preheating, measure the baking tray to determine how big you can make your wraps:
The sort of light gray texture you can see is beeswax from previous wraps. I use the same tray every time, and let the remaining beeswax re-melt onto the wrap I am making or replenishing.
Next, measure and cut the cloth:
Whether you use pinking shears or regular scissors to cut the fabric is up to you. The beeswax will keep the fabric from fraying. Sometimes I like the decorative edge the pinking shears make, and sometimes I’m annoyed by using them, so I have some wraps with each type of edge.
Adding the beeswax
Put the fabric for your first beeswax wrap onto the baking tray. Then grate a little bit of beeswax (about a 1/2″ cube) over the fabric:
Tip: If the beeswax becomes too sticky from the heat of your hands and friction with the grater, just pop it in the freezer for a few minutes, then resume grating.
Spread it out as evenly as you can, so it looks something like this:
Melting the beeswax:
Put the baking tray with the beeswax-covered cloth into the oven for 2-3 minutes. Watch it carefully and when it is fully melted and looks wet, like this:
remove it from the oven. Immediately (while it’s still hot) lift it from the baking tray with tongs, tweezers, chopsticks, or anything else besides your fingers. Flip it over so the beeswax side is now down.
If this is your first beeswax wrap, you will need to add about another 1/2″ cube of grated beeswax to the back (now facing up). If there is already beeswax residue on the baking tray, or you are replenishing a wrap, there will probably be enough beeswax on that side when you turn it over.
Next, put it back into the oven for another 2-3 minutes until the beeswax is fully melted. You can flip it and bake it 1-2 more times until the wrap is completely covered in beeswax.
When you take the wrap from the oven for the last time, lift it off the baking tray as if you were going to flip it over, and hold it for a few seconds until it starts to cool. If you wave it around a bit, it will cool faster. After a few seconds of waving, set your wrap down on a flat surface to cool completely.
You know it is ready when:
- The wrap is stiff at room temperature
- The fibers in the cloth look coated and are no longer ‘fuzzy’
- It looks a little shiny, like this:
In the photo above, the edges are not quite as shiny as the middle. That’s ok. The wrap will still work, and the more times it is replenished, the shinier, and more saturated with beeswax, it will become.
I actually don’t clean the wax from the baking tray or grater because I use them to replenish the wraps as necessary (more on that later). If you do want to clean the beeswax off, it is easiest to do when the wax is cold. Stick the tray and the grater in the freezer for a few minutes, then remove and chip the wax off. Beeswax is harmless and safe to eat, so if there is still a little residue (it’s quite sticky) on the tray or grater, there is no health hazard from cooking with them.
Alternately, you could use parchment paper to line the baking tray, but re-using an old baking tray is a great waste-free option.
How to use beeswax wraps:
Use the heat from your hands to bend the wraps around whatever you are trying to cover. Fold the edges as necessary to make a nice seal:
Beeswax is naturally antimicrobial so it is safe for direct contact with cooked foods, dry goods, fruits, and vegetables:
NEVER use beeswax wraps to cover raw meat of any kind, raw seafood, or raw eggs.
For extra security, like in a lunchbox or backpack where the folds could come undone, use a piece of jute twine (or any kind of ribbon or string) to wrap it securely:
To clean your beeswax wraps, simply wash by hand with dish soap and warm water. You can scrub them with something soft like a kitchen sponge or dishcloth, but not with a brush or scrubber. Flatten them while they are still warm from washing, and store them when dry.
Beeswax wraps are especially good for:
and things that oxidize quickly, like avocados, guacamole, and sliced apples.
How to maintain beeswax wraps:
It’s easy to maintain your handmade beeswax wraps. Instead of cleaning the beeswax off of the baking tray, keep it handy for replenishing. When a wrap no longer holds its shape well and starts to look like this:
put it back on the baking tray, in an oven at 180-200 degrees Fahrenheit. Follow the directions for ‘melting the beeswax’ above.
Tips and tricks:
- Every once in a while you may need to add more beeswax. Just grate a little over the areas that look like they need wax, and re-heat until melted.
- You can make beeswax wraps in a variety of sizes and shapes for whatever you need to cover:
- Both handmade and commercially-available beeswax wraps will become stained from contact with some foods. Using fabric with patterns can help make this less obvious. If you really want to avoid staining, use the wraps to cover bowls or dishes, but not in direct contact with oily or wet foods. I have one wrap that I designated for oily things, like avocados. It’s pretty green and ugly at this point, but it works really well for preserving avocados and guacamole, so that’s ok with me. The pretty ones get to leave the house, and they cover less oily things like carrot sticks and sandwiches.
- Although I’m sure my great-grandmothers all used beeswax wraps, they’re new to modern kitchens and can be tricky to figure out how to store. I found that mine got bunched-up in the drawer with the tin foil and other rolled wrap products. Keeping them upright at the side of the cabinet with the reusable containers and jars, though, works well for me. I’ve also seen them rolled-up for storage and will probably try that at some point.
I hope you enjoy making these simple and useful eco-friendly food wraps. Reducing kitchen waste, saving money, and using scrap fabric all in one project feels like a hat trick to me!
For another eco-friendly food storage project, check out how to make a reusable casserole dish carrier here. It’s adjustable to fit a variety of dishes, with handles for easy transport.
As always, feel free to ask questions or leave comments. Don’t forget to subscribe to Creatorvox to get new posts right in your email. You can also follow Creatorvox on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more tips and tricks between posts. Thanks for reading, and happy making!