Natural fabric coated with beeswax can replace cling-film, protecting food while letting it breathe. It’s flexible and slightly adhesive so it can easily be shaped around food and bowls or folded into packages to store food at room temperature, in the fridge or the freezer. For a vegan alternative, you could try soy, johoba or another plant-based wax.
Waxed cloth food wraps are a great alternative to cling-film if you are worried about potential health hazards of plastic leaching into your food. It can take years, or even decades for plastic wrap takes to biodegrade into smaller chunks of plastic and then microplastics, which end up in rivers, seas and even our food chain.
You could buy them ready-made (eg I found this website www.beeswaxwraps.co.uk, or search online) or make your own.
Alternatively, in the interests of saving money (we are in Yorkshire!) and as an idea for easy to make and useful presents, read on for our recipe for reusable food wraps…
Natural fabrics are biodegradable textile and can take less than 6 months to compost. NB polycotton is cotton and plastic! You might want to think about the chemical dyes in the fabric before you decide to compost it at home at the end of its life though…!
You will need:
- Fabric squares or rectangles. Choose lightweight fabric, like sheeting. Cotton, linen and viscose are probably the easiest suitable fabrics made from plant sources. Wash the fabric on a hot wash first to make it easier for the wax to impregnate and to (hopefully) eliminate any toxic coatings.
- Natural beeswax pellets, or grated beeswax. Organic costs more, I found this site www.cherirnatura.co.uk selling organic pellets at £6.99 for 100g, or 100g for £2.99 including postage from craft site www.livemoor.co.uk which also sells soy wax. And cosmetic ingredient supplier https://naturallybalmy.co.uk has organic and other waxes in lots of different quantities. You will need a heaped dessertspoon for each 12 inch/30cm square so 100g should cover more than one square metre of fabric (9-12 wraps?), depending on how thick and absorbent your fabric is.
- A baking tray – you can wash it afterwards, and beeswax is edible!
- A stiff brush – you probably won’t be able to use it for anything else afterwards.
- An oven, warm place or hairdryer. Use the oven after/with cooking something else to save energy!
Prepare the beeswax – if you don’t buy pellets, you could use a block and grate it but pellets are the easiest way.
Prepare the (clean!) fabric – cut the size you want and put on the baking tray. There is no need to hem or pink the edges, the wax will seal it all. If it is too big for the tray just fold it over to start with.
It doesn’t matter which way up the fabric goes onto the tray because you are going to turn it over.
Sprinkle the wax over the fabric – you’ll need about a heaped dessert spoon per 12 inch square of fabric. Try to get the pellets evenly over the surface of the material, you can always add more
Put the tray, with fabric and sprinkled wax in a medium to low oven (in a medium oven the wax was melted in just under a minute).
Lift it up by one corner and turn the fabric onto the other side, you can mop up any melted wax at the same time. Check the fabric is evenly coated with wax – if there are patches of fabric that don’t look waxed, add a few more sprinkles and put back into the oven for another minute until they melt.
Use the brush to squash the wax into the fabric if it looks like it needs it then lift the waxed fabric out of the tray.
It will be dry and useable very soon so you can either just hold it for a bit or drape it over something cold.
When ready, use it to wrap cheese, fruit or vegetables. You can only wipe it clean with a warm sponge so don’t use it to store meat or fish. To mould it around anything just hold it in place with your hands for a few seconds to make it more pliable.
For those who like to be organised, why not find fabric with pictures of veg or fruit on so you can tell what is in the wrapper in the fridge!
Caring for your waxed fabric
- Keep it folded lightly until you need it.
- Store in a cool place.
- Wipe clean with a warm damp soft sponge
- Don’t put it in the microwave, oven or anywhere warm unless you need to re-wax it.
- Don’t store meat or fish in the waxed fabric.
- If it gets too cracked pop it back in the oven on the baking tray again.
- When it reaches the end of its life, you can compost it (though see points about dyes etc above).
Enjoy! If you have other tips to add please let us know.