I’d kept hearing about these things called beeswax wraps for a while, but I didn’t really think I needed to include them in my life as I’d eliminated plastic cling wrap years prior and used containers for all my needs. In fact, I’d been given some that were sitting in my kitchen drawer unused.
Then, in June 2018, I was asked to do some waste and recycling education at a number of small country towns. Let’s get real, how many people are going to show up on their own accord to hear about what happens after they put items in their kerbside bins… I needed a sweetener, a bribe to get people through the door… enter DIY beeswax wraps.
I’d seen them around for sale and thought they were a bit expensive. I knew they’d be easy to make – homemade is always easy – it’s finding good recipes and methodologies that takes the time. So I got researching. I read a heap of blogs, watched a heap of YouTube videos and then I hit the op shops to get some equipment together to start making.
I’d previously been given a massive block of beeswax (think 5kgs worth), had scraps of fabric stashed away and some oil I could use.
So I got making…. And it took me aaaagggggeeeesssss to figure out what produced the best results (and it certainly wasn’t from the blog recipes I followed!). In fact, since those early days, I’ve done over 50 experiments using different ingredients, materials, methodologies, and techniques.
I now know what you pay for – a good wrap is worth the money – the creator’s recipes are like the protected ‘secret sauce’ that goes with them to their grave because of the time and effort it took to develop it. It’s rare for someone to give away their gold, but that’s what I’m going to do for you.
I’m on a mission – to eliminate (what I affectionately call) ‘crap wraps’ – wraps that are currently doing the rounds that don’t work well and have the potential to give people the wrong impression.
I’m now a MEGA Beeswax Wrap fan, they have so many uses and I firmly believe they should be an addition to all households and handbags.
[Please note: this blog supports my in-person presentations where I give a live demonstation of wrap making. If you’re more of a visual learner, I shall be creating an online version soon. In the meantime, please ask any questions in the comments section at the end of this post.]
WHAT ARE BEESWAX WRAPS?
Essentially, Beeswax Wraps are fabric covered in a beeswax coating which can be reused numerous times. They’re a sustainable alternative to plastic cling wrap that have many uses. They are as varied as people depending on size, shape, fabric, ingredients, methodology used etc.
HOW DO YOU USE BEESWAX WRAPS?
Beeswax wraps can be moulded into many shapes and sealed via the warmth of your hands.
WHAT CAN BEESWAX WRAPS BE USED FOR?
So.many.uses. They are great for:
- Covering and sealing food (or liquid) in a bowl, plate, cup or tin.
- Covering cut fruit and veg, or wrapping whole fruit and veg, to keep it fresh.
- Wrapping cheese in the fridge (no more shriveled up cheese ends!).
- Creating a pouch which can be used to carry food (especially good for taking home leftover chippies when eating out IF there are leftovers – VERY rare for me!) or I make a pouch to give the dogs a drink of water when we’re out trekking.
- Rolling into a cone to make a funnel or carrying cut flowers.
- Wrapping sandwiches, kebabs or baked goods. Particularly good for school lunches AND goods can be frozen in beeswax wraps ahead of time – just allow it to defrost a little before opening.
- Wrapping a loaf of bread to keep on the counter.
- Using as a grip for opening stubborn jar tops.
- Putting on the bench to stabilise bowls whilst mixing things.
- Wrapping small gifts – an instant double gift!
- Covering toothbrush ends whilst traveling.
- Using as a makeshift plate at bakeries or other takeaway eateries.
- Line fridge shelves or containers for easy cleaning.
- Wrapping up dirty cutlery, plates or cups from your zero waste kit whilst out and about.
I think this list gives you the gist of what’s possible… honestly, there are many more uses… Let your imagination go wild!
WHAT SHOULDN’T BEESWAX WRAPS BE USED FOR
Beeswax has a melting point of approximately 62C, so you don’t want to subject them to any heat source greater than that = no hot water, dishwashers or microwaves.
For this reason, you also don’t want to use them for meat (or anything juicy), which requires hot water for sanitation. You don’t want to use them for anything that could infuse into your wrap that could then become a breeding ground for contaminants – like meat juice.
HOW DO YOU CLEAN BEESWAX WRAPS?
I clean mine similar to what I would a bench – I wipe them down with a cloth from my sink dishwashing water. On occasion, I have dunked them in the dishwashing water or rinsed them under running tap water, but it’s very rare I’d need to do that as they’re generally not dirty.
HOW LONG DO BEESWAX WRAPS LAST?
Shelf life really depends on the ingredients used. Beeswax and resin don’t have a used by date, but oil does as it will eventually go rancid. Rancid oil smells a bit like crayons.
With use, wraps will eventually lose some of their coating and stick, they can also crack depending on the recipe/methodology used.
If there’s still enough coating on the fabric you can pop your wrap into an oven at 100C on a baking sheet to remelt – they come out like new. But if there’s not enough coating you’ll need to add more.
How to dispose of Wraps
Finished wraps make fabulous firelighters, or they can be fed to your worm farm or compost.
HOW TO STORE BEESWAX WRAPS
Wraps can either be stored folded or rolled. I personally have my wraps rolled in a container on my benchtop. This allows me to instantly identify size and keeps them front of mind to use.
WHAT MAKES FOR A GOOD BEESWAX WRAP?
When I first started making wraps I much preferred the feel of thin wraps, but I soon found out they don’t work well. Beware of thin wraps made with just beeswax, ideally, they need resin added to give them some stick – but if too much resin is used it gives wraps a smell which can be off putting if transferred to food (eg I’ve heard of kids complaining that their school sandwiches taste funny and refuse to eat anything from a beeswax wrap).
I’ve personally found thick wraps to work the best as they have more sticking power, even if straight beeswax is used. My favourite recipe and methodology (shared below) produces thick wraps, however I am keen to start experimenting and develop a thin wrap recipe… Stay tuned for that one.
WHY MAKE YOUR OWN BEESWAX WRAPS?
I’m all for supporting artisan businesses, but there are a number of desirable reasons for making your own:
- To get the right shape/size for your requirements. Wraps can be made square, round, oblong… Whatever works best for the desired use.
- To get the look you want ie fabric pattern or written on/branded wraps.
- To save money
- For excellent homemade gifts
- To upcycle fabric
- To spread inspiration for low waste living and ditching plastic wrap
HOW DO YOU MAKE BEESWAX WRAPS?
There are a number of different ingredients and methodologies that can be used to make wraps. It may take some time and energy to find out what works best for you.
This is the main ingredient. Wraps can be made with 100% beeswax or with a mixture of beeswax + oil, or beeswax + oil + resin.
I’ve personally found thicker wraps are much more effective if beeswax only is used. However, thicker, beeswax only, wraps can also be prone to cracking when cold (nothing major, it’s just noticeable to the eye).
Results of wraps can vary depending on beeswax used. I refine my own beeswax and have found different batches can have slightly different results. Saying that, they’ve all been perfectly fine, it’s just something you should be aware of if you notice slightly different results after changing wax.
Oil is what gives wraps pliability and reduces cracking as mentioned above. When I first started experimenting with recipes I used a large quantity of oil (20%) and the wraps felt awful in my hands (good for moisturising the skin tho!). I reduced the amount of oil to 10% (still awful) and then 5% (still not great) and ended up landing on 1%.
Via my various experiments I’ve found 1% oil is sufficient to give wraps some pliability without them feeling sticky to touch.
I personally use jojoba oil (technically a liquid wax) as it’s shelf-stable (lasts a long time) and because it’s an oil I use in my DIY skin and hair care products.
Other oils such as coconut and olive can also be used, although I’ve not personally tried them. However, I have had feedback from people who’ve attended my workshops who’ve said their results using these oils were great.
Resin, also known as pine resin or gum rosin, is used for stick. Wraps can certainly be made without resin but I think my wraps work better with it included. I’ve found too much resin gives wraps a smell (a pleasant smell, but not one I necessarily want to transfer to food). Via my experiments I’ve settled on using 5% resin, which I’ve found produces a perfect result.
There are some blog posts on the web that warn against using resin due to it being dangerous for health. Here’s my thoughts… After finishing my university degree I worked in the oil and gas industry as a health specialist (aka Industrial Hygienist) and part of my job was to assess any chemicals used on our 2 offshore and 1 onshore sites – even liquid paper (no joke). I have literally looked at hundreds of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and done risk assessments for the chemicals wanting to be used.
I did some research, and upon assessing the MSDS for the resin I use in my wraps, I am not at all concerned about any adverse health affects – both whilst making and using. BUT you’ll need to do your own research and tune into your own intuition to find out what’s right for you. Just keep in mind, MSDS’s are very relevant if you’re working in a factory processing the product, but may not be as relevant if you’re using small quantities for home use.
I’ve found that 100g of beeswax/mixture is enough to cover approximately ½ meter of material (1120mm long). This can vary depending on the fabric used and how much it adsorbs.
My preference is to use 100% cotton (or other natural fibers) so I can return them to the Earth at the end of their life. You ideally want a thinnish fabric that has no stretch (like quilters cotton). You will get different results depending on how thick or thin the fabric you use is.
When buying new, I’ve used Cloud 9 organic cotton sold in Spotlight, but you can use any natural fiber fabrics you like the look of.
Secondhand fabric can also be used to make wraps. I keep an eye out in op shops for 100% cotton sheets with nice patterns. It was this exercise that alerted me to how much plastic is in our clothing/bedding – I’ve surprisingly found it hard to find 100% natural fiber fabrics.
Be sure to wash any fabrics before use. I use my own homemade laundry detergent (blog coming soon).
I’ve found ironing the fabric before creating wraps produces a thinner result when using the dip technique. I purposefully hang fabric straight after washing to avoid the need to iron.
It’s worth noting the potential for fabric to colour bleed when dipped into hot wax. If you’re using a large batch of wax, do a sample dip separate to test fabric colours don’t run. I learned this the hard way with secondhand material I found in an op shop – but I’ve never had a problem using Cloud 9 fabric.
I personally cut material to shape using pinking shears (to help stop edges fraying), but I don’t believe this is necessary given the wax will seal the edges anyway.
As a side note, I have a girlfriend who started making wraps, after attending one of my workshops, who is also a keen op shopper. She doesn’t worry about using 100% natural fiber fabric, but instead just looks for fabrics she loves the look of. She’s always achieved great results with mixed fiber fabrics.
Basically you need a heat source to melt the wax/mixture and transfer it to the fabric. Beeswax has a melting point of approximately 62-64C and gum rosin 70-80C. Please beware that melted beeswax attracts bees – make sure to keep windows and doors shut.
I’ve identified 6 different ways to do this. Each method will produce different results and it may take some time to find out what works best for you. Another factor would be what tools you have access to straight away. I’ve personally got all my wrap making equipment from secondhand shops OR you could ask on your local buy nothing groups (or similar).
Below is a list of methods that can be used for making wraps with a brief description. I’ll share in more detail further down about my preferred method.
- Iron – produces thin wraps – fabric + wax/mixture is placed between parchment paper and ironed.
- Oven – fabric + wax/mixture is placed on an oven tray and heated at 100C.
- Electric Fry Pan (my preferred method) – wax/mixture is melted in pan and fabric is dipped into it.
- Stovetop – melt wax/mixture in a pot/pan/double boiler and paint melted wax/mixture onto material OR dip fabric into melted wax/mixture. Beware: wax is flammable and should not be melted via a gas flame.
- Microwave – (I’ve personally not tried this method as I don’t own a microwave) place fabric + wax/mixture onto a microwave safe plate and melt at 100C (I’m not sure how long for?)
- Sandwich Press – wrap the wax/mixture in the fabric and press to melt.
Beeswax dries surprisingly fast, so once it’s melted you’ll need to work quite quickly to lift the fabric by the corners (using fingers or tongs, but being careful not to burn yourself) and straighten fabric to dry.
There are a couple of different techniques that can be used to transfer wax onto fabric if you’re not using a dip technique. You can grate wax, use beeswax beads and sprinkle on fabric, or melt wax and paint (or pour) on fabric.
If you’re using oil and resin, the easiest method is to melt all the ingredients together and either: 1) set mixture in silicone moulds and then grate onto fabric, or 2) paint melted mixture onto fabric (you can pour any excess mixture into a jar and remelt when needed via a double boiler).
Any spilled wax can be removed by remelting via boiling water, a hairdryer, or placing equipment in the oven. Simply melt the wax and remove melted wax with rags (I use fabric offcuts) or paper towels. These can then be used as firelighters or composted.
Excess resin can be removed from your hands by using oil.
RECIPE AND METHODOLOGY I USE
My preference for making wraps is to use the dip technique with an electric cooker. This method is low waste, quick and effective.
- Electric cooker/fry pan
- Tongs or a wooden utensil (or something that won’t scratch the pan)
- Newspaper for catching drips
- Drying rack (I use a clothes horse)
Ingredients and Recipe
I weigh my ingredients via a digital scale. 100 grams worth should coat approximately 1/2 meter of fabric.
5g Gum rosin
1g Jojoba oil
Weigh ingredients and add them to the electric cooker turned to low heat to melt together (you may have to adjust the heat depending on your cooker).
Once melted and combined (I pick up my electric pan and tilt from one side to the other to mix and combine), place your precut fabric into the mixture – you’ll know if your temperature is too hot as it will sizzle when the fabric hits it – turn the temperature down if this is the case.
Make sure fabric is fully coated and then use an implement to push the material up the side of the pan until an end is hanging over. You can then use your fingers at each corner (be careful it’s not too hot) to pull the rest of the fabric slowly out of mixture, using the heat from the side to allow excess mixture on the material to drain off. Holdover the pan to allow for any excess drips while the mixture sets on the fabric (it only takes a minute or 2 to set).
Alternatively, you can use tongs to lift the fabric directly out of the mixture and let it drip dry above the pan.
I then lay my wraps on a clothes horse overnight before using.
That’s it! Easy, huh?!
- Larger wraps are harder to make as they often require the material to be folded to fit – it can be done, you just need to unfold the material and hang to dry quickly. If I had a need to make large wraps regularly, I would buy a caterers size baking pan to fit the fabric and use the oven method (probably in a borrowed oven as mine is small).
- You can make Vegan wraps by using candelilla or soy wax instead of beeswax (however I’ve never tried either of these replacements and have only experimented with using beeswax).
REFERENCES AND RESOURCES
Where I buy my ingredients
I get my beeswax from local aparists and refine it myself. The oil and resin I get from Range Products in Welshpool, Western Australia – they sell beeswax blocks too.