Give Plastic Wrap The Boot - DIY Beeswax Wraps

There is a move happening to reduce single use plastic in the home, and beeswax wraps are a sustainable alternative to plastic wrap and single use plastic.  Beeswax wraps help with reducing plastic pollution and food wastage, with beeswax wraps main use being food preservation. In short beeswax wraps help food stay fresh for longer.  Plastic wrap is not breathable so food can become hot inside and wilt.  Beeswax acts like a natural barrier similar to how the skin of a fruit protects the flesh inside, and allows the food to breath so it stays fresh for longer.

Before we get into the process of making our own beeswax wraps let go over some frequently asked questions.

So what are beeswax wraps?

A beeswax wrap is fabric (usually cotton)  which has been coated with beeswax (and possibly other ingredients). This makes the fabric mouldable, grippable and tacky. 

How long do beeswax wraps last?

They can last up to a year with proper care and regular usage.  The wrap will be at the end of its life when it has worn thin and has trouble sticking to itself.  You can then compost your old beeswax wrap.

How do you care for beeswax wraps?

You can wash your beeswax wrap like a plate.  But in cold water (hot water will melt the beeswax) with mild detergent and a dishcloth.  The cold water will stiffen the beeswax making it a flat surface to wash like you would normal dishes.  Then give them plenty of time to air dry before using again.  Store flat and away from heat and direct sunlight.

How do you rejuvenate beeswax wraps?

It is possible to reset and refresh beeswax wraps by placing the wrap on an oven tray on top of some baking paper.  Have the oven down low around 50-70 degrees, and heat for 2-3 minutes or until you see the wax has become liquid and is dispersing over the fabric.  You need to rejuvenate the wrap every 1-3 months.

What can beeswax wraps be used for?

You can use your beeswax wraps to wrap or cover food.  Just about anything that you would use plastic wrap for.  Examples of foods include cheese, fruit, vegetables, bread and other baked goods.  Unfortunately meat can not be kept in beeswax wrap and they can’t be washed in hot water to fully sanitize them.  They are also not leak proof so can not also hold liquid.

Now for the DIY part

There are plenty of recipes for making your own beeswax wraps and a variety of methods to distribute the wax onto the fabric.  We have chosen to go for a simple beeswax and cotton fabric only recipe, using a household iron.  The amount of beeswax you need will depend on how much fabric you need to cover, about 1 -2 tbs packed grated beeswax for 30 x 30cm.

Here are the things you will need:

Cotton fabric

Beeswax

Fabric pens or pencil 

Scissors or pinking shears

Baking paper

Old towel

Iron

Cooling rack

Here is one way you can make your own beeswax wrap.

First of all you are going to need some beeswax, you can always order some of our premium quality beeswax made by Australian bees from our store here.  It took around 100g of beeswax to cover 2 fat quarters of cotton fabric.

We thought it would be appropriate to have some bee prints on our cotton fabric so we ordered:

Bundle of love by Northcott

You can get it off eBay here

And 

Bee Quilting Fabric 

You can get it off eBay here

But any fine weave cotton fabric is fine.  You may have an old sheet or shirt with a cute print you want to reuse and give another life to.  

As you can't see through beeswax wraps you may want to use fabrics that have the food item printed on them like bread to use for your baked goods and avocados to wrap your avocados.  Another way to help identify what's inside is to use fabric pens to write on the fabric the food item it will be used for on it before the beeswax is added.  

You could also colour code your fabric for the type of food inside, like green for vegetables and orange for fruit. The beeswax will give a slightly yellow tint to the fabric, so just remember that when selecting your colours.

We then pre washed and dried our fabric before giving it an iron in preparation for use.

Then it was time to prepare the shapes.  For each fat quarter of fabric (50cm X 55cm) I cut out one large circle (35cm diameter) one smaller circle (24cm diameter) and then made two rectangles (26 x 15cm, 23 x 20cm) from the leftover fabric sides of the circles.

To cut out circle shapes simply find something large and round in your house like a pizza tray or bowl.  The mark around the item on the fabric with a fabric pen or pencil (or white chalk if your fabric is dark).  You then want to cut out the fabric inside the lines in a zig zag shape.  If you own a pair of pinking shears this will make your job easier, otherwise make small cuts alternating your angle to make little teeth.  You will need the zig zag edge to help the fabric from fraying at the edges.

To prepare the beeswax simply use a grater and grate the beeswax as you would a piece of cheese. 

Set up an old towel on your ironing board or bench top (you will want something to soak up any run away melted beeswax). And place a layer of baking paper on top of the towl.  You can then place your fabric wrong side up and sprinkle it with beeswax over the full area of the fabric.   Cover with another layer of baking paper.  Heat your iron to the cotton setting and then run over the top of your beeswax to heat the wax shards and watch it melt into the fabric.  Move your iron over the entire piece of fabric to make sure the wax gets all of the fabric.  Once all wax is melted and distributed evenly, you can peel back the top layer of baking paper and move the beeswax wrap onto a cooling rack.  Repeat the process with the remaining beeswax and fabric.  You may want to change your paper layer if they become too oily.

Move your finished beeswax wrap to a cooling rack to cool down and the wax solidify. Once cool your wraps are ready to be used. 

Her are our finished Oz Beeswax wraps.

As with any DIY you can experiment to suit your preferences.  You may want to add jojoba oil and pine resin to your recipe to get it more sticky.  You could also try making your beeswax wraps in the oven.