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EVERYTHING you need to know about: BEESWAX WRAPS

Beeswax wraps are the ultimate replacement for pesky Gladwrap (cling film) which is a single-use plastic nightmare (especially in Northland where access to soft-plastic recycling is extremely limited), therefore they can be one of the easiest first steps towards waste reduction in the home. They are easy to use and easy to care for, once you know how! In this post I will try to cover the many questions I get asked about beeswax wraps, as well as a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along my own journey.

Wax wraps are simply clean cotton fabric that has been coated with food-grade wax to create a water resistant cloth that is malleable enough to wrap and cover around food. Only non-toxic, food-safe ingredients are used to make them, and they are naturally biodegradable/compostable at end of life (unlike cling film!). They can be re-used over and over and over again, making them far superior to single-use plastics. Let's get into it!

What’s in them?

The main ingredient is the food grade wax - beeswax is most popular as it is fairly easily accessible and contains anti-bacterial properties in the wax (bees are amazing!), or you can try candelilla wax for a vegan option. Because beeswax is solid at room temperature, this can mean that, especially in cooler weather, your wrap may be stiff and hard to mould around food, and also more prone to cracking & wear. To help combat this, a small amount of two other ingredients are often added - roisin and oil.

Rosin - this is essentially hard sap from a tree (plant resin), pine rosin is commonly available and also safe to use around food.

Oil - again must be food grade to be safe, so sunflower, olive and jojoba are popular choices.

How to use?

So many ways, essentially can be used to cover, protect and store almost any type of food (although raw meat and liquids are not recommended), simply place over the food/container and use the warmth of your hands to bend and mould until you get a nice seal with no gaps. The wrap should stick to itself as well as the item being wrapped so it doesn’t fall off. Below are some of my favourite ways of using wax wraps::

10+ ways to use beeswax wraps (instead of cling film)

  • Wrap opened cheese in a wrap and store in fridge to help stop it from drying out

  • Wrap a handful of nuts or dried fruit (or even dog treats) and pop in a pocket while out on a walk

  • Cover a plate or bowl of leftovers (mould around the edge of the bowl to seal)

  • Cover bowl of bread dough as it’s rising

  • Wrap around cut fruit eg half avocado, lemon, even watermelon! To stop browning and drying out

  • Use on top of a jug of water (or better yet - sangria) when dining outdoors to stop bugs flying into your drinks

  • Cover open cans of baby food or keep rusks fresh and clean ready to eat

  • Seal open jar, cans and containers of food in the fridge such as dips, hummus, baked beans

  • Keep bugs out of jars of fermented food (eg sourdough starter, kefir, sauerkraut) by covering while they’re out on the bench (will allow gases to escape so won’t burst your jar!)

  • Replace Gladwrap and use to wrap sandwiches & wraps in your lunchbox

  • Wrap around loaves of bread from the bakery (you can even freeze wax wraps, though they may need warming up to refresh them afterwards)

  • Use to wrap up the stems of a bunch of flowers, keeps moisture in and looks even more beautiful than coloured plastic gift wrap

  • You can even wrap non-food items! Try them around soaps and shampoo bars in your travel bag or to give as a gift

How to clean?

With care, your beeswax wraps can last for months without needing to be ‘re-freshed’ (more on that below)

Depending on your level of soiling, cleaning can be as easy as:

1 Just brush off crumbs

2 Wipe with damp cloth

3 Use your fingernail to pick off food pieces before wiping with a soapy cloth

4 Submerge in COLD soapy water & scrub gently with your kitchen brush

5 When it’s time to bring out the Big Guns:

Heaven forbid (but also don’t worry as it happens to the best of us.. More often than I’d care to admit) your used wrap has been forgotten at the bottom of a school bag, under the front seat of the car, or at the back of the fridge for some indeterminate amount of time and is now MOULDY.

Firstly, don’t panic. If the contents of the wrap are indeed so horrific that you don’t even want to open it, then don’t feel too badly if you decide to chuck the whole thing in the compost bin (or bokashi, buried, or even fireplace). Both the food and the wrap are fully compostable and while not recommended for worm bins, if you have a well functioning compost bin it won’t be upset too much by this addition - that’s the beauty of using these natural wraps.

If you do want to rescue your wrap (because Murphy’s Law is that it will happen to your one of your favourite patterns), you can follow these steps below:

  1. Dispose of the offending food

  2. Wipe with a damp soapy cloth

  3. Submerge in COLD soapy water & scrub gently with your kitchen brush

  4. Inspect your wrap now and see how bad the damage is - was it surface mould or has it penetrated under the wax to the fabric? If it has got through to the fabric or is still stubborn at this point you’ll need to pick off as much of the mouldy wax as possible and do a ‘re-fresh’ of the wrap to heat-kill the mould (details below).

How to ‘re-fresh’

(ie what to do when they get old and cake-y looking!)

This can be done just with an oven tray if you don’t need to add wax. Whether or not you need extra wax depends on how worn your wrap is - if it’s just a little dusty, or lightly cracked, try without adding wax.

If your wrap is cracked and peeling, very soft or you’ve just done mould removal, you’ll need a bit of extra wax, around 1-2tsp depending on size of wrap.

You can source wax from your local beekeeper, honey shop, or grab one of our DIY refresh bars so you can make new wraps at the same time!

Oven method:

I find this to be the easiest method to both make and re-fresh wraps by far, but you will need a couple pieces of equipment:

  • Oven tray with flat bottom and sides (doesn’t have to be deep but it does make it a LOT easier if your wrap fits on the bottom, if not you can always fold it to fit)

  • Grater to grate the wax

  • Brush to spread wax (I use a dedicated natural bristle chip brush which you should be able to find at a hardware store)

  • Tongs to handle the hot wrap

Warm the oven up to 100℃ or it’s lowest setting (beeswax has a melting point of 65℃, and a low smoke point so I don’t recommend going any hotter)

Lay your wrap in the bottom of your oven tray, as flat as possible. If you have to you can fold your wrap to fit (less folds, the better)

Use the grater to grate a sprinkling of wax evenly over the wrap (but if you’ve had to fold, be sure to add extra to any areas that are more than one-layer thick)

Place the tray in the oven, close the door and wait and watch! The wax will melt quickly, so the wrap only needs to be in for a minute or so - don't walk away!

Once melted, take the tray out of the oven and quickly use your brush to spread the melted wax evenly across the wrap (sometimes it leaks out to the sides, scoop it back towards the middle of the wrap if you can)

If you’ve been quick and the wax has not yet started to solidify (becomes matte/opaque) you can now use your tongs to lift the wrap off the tray. CAUTION - THE WRAP WILL STILL BE HOT!

If the wax has started to solidify (or if you lift it and it appears uneven), pop the tray back in the oven for another 30 seconds or so before attempting to lift your wrap off the tray, being careful of any drips of wax.

Hold the wrap in the air for 10-30 seconds (often depends on room temperature) for the wrap to cool back down from ‘hot’ to ‘warm’ before setting it down on a clean non-porous surface (draped over a clothes horses a great option).

TA-DAAA!! One cooled, your wrap will be like-new!

TIP: If you can, use equipment that does NOT contain any plastic parts - (eg, wooden/natural bristle brush, metal grater) that way you can simply re-heat those items in the oven after your waxing session to clean the wax off again. Method - place all equipment on the tray used and pop back in oven until wax is melted off. Use a small amount of paper (eg newspaper, toilet tissue, old mushroom bag) or old rag to wipe the equipment including the tray and absorb any wax residue while it’s still warm and liquid.

If you don’t need to add extra wax or don’t have an oven I have also had success using a hairdryer on hot and also the dashboard of my car in summer to re-fresh wraps! You can get creative, you just need even, not-too-hot heat.

How to store?

Always make sure your wraps are clean and dry before putting them away.

Otherwise it’s your choice, you can have them rolled up in a jar on the kitchen bench for a colourful display, or kept handy in a kitchen drawer or in the pantry. As long as they are kept out of direct sunlight, and ideally away from heat, they’ll be just fine.

TIP - rolling your wraps to store is better than folding them to avoid cracks which create weak points in the wax

Have I missed anything?

Whew, that’s a lot of info! It has taken me years of trial and error to learn the best ways with wax wraps, hopefully you’ve learnt something new, and if I’ve missed anything that you’d like to know please tell me about it in the comments below!

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