Yes, you can live without clingfilm and plastic wrap! Make your own reusable fabric and beeswax food wrap.
Did you know that you can replace plastic wrap and clingfilm (or whatever you call it) with fabric impregnated with beeswax? It’s true.
What you’ll need:
- Natural fiber fabric of your choice. I used some 100% cotton remnants I had on hand, but there are fabrics with much less impact than cotton – If you’re buying new, please consider an alternative to cotton. Synthetic fibers don’t blend well with beeswax, nor do you want them up close and personal with your food. Fibershed is a wonderful resource if you’re interested in the relationship between textiles, the environment, and local economies.
- Beeswax. I highly recommend beeswax beads, since it’s much easier to get an even coating on the fabric when using small beads. If you can’t find them locally (try a natural foods store or candle supply shop), they’re easy to find online. You can use other forms of beeswax and grate the wax onto the fabric (use a cheese grater or vegetable peeler).
- An oven, baking tray, and parchment paper.
What to do:
- Wash and dry your fabric.
- Cut the fabric into pieces of your desired shapes and sizes. I went with rectangles averaging 9″ x 10″, just the right size to cover my favorite casserole pans or wrap a kid-sized burrito. Use pinking shears to protect the edges from fraying.
- Heat your oven to 150 F or whatever its lowest setting is.
- Coat a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Set a piece of your fabric onto the parchment paper. I don’t know if it matters which side is facing up, if you’re using printed fabric – I made my first batch by putting the wax on the printed side, but there may be advantages to using the back side.
- Sprinkle beeswax beads over the entire surface of the fabric, adjusting as necessary to get coverage that’s as even as possible. You don’t need a bead on every millimeter of fabric, but you want enough to give full coverage once the wax melts. The best way to discover this is through experimentation. Use less than you think you’ll need; it’s easy to add more (and you can even take away excess – see below).
- Set wax and fabric carefully into your pre-heated oven for about 8 minutes, or until the was has melted and soaked into the fabric. Keep an eye on things starting at 7 minutes.
- Remove tray from oven as soon as it’s ready, and inspect it to see if you achieved full wax coverage.
- Are there areas that don’t have enough wax? Simply sprinkle on a bit more where it’s needed and pop it back into the oven. Bake for a few minutes longer, until this new wax has melted into place.
- Are there areas with too much wax? Set a fresh, unwaxed piece of fabric on the baking tray below the one with too much wax. Set both sheets of fabric back into the hot oven for a few minutes, long enough to allow the excess wax to melt from the top sheet onto the bottom. Adjust the wax as needed on the bottom sheet – It may have a few bare spots that need fresh wax.
- When each sheet is fully coated with melted wax, hang the fabric to cool on a clothes hanger fitted with two clothespins. Sheets will be hot when they first come out of the oven, so handle with care!
- Once your food wrap sheets are cool, start using them. They can be wrapped around foods of all sorts; use the heat from your hands to soften the wax up if necessary. You can sew in snaps or ties as desired, or just go with the plain fabric.
I experimented with some juicy Kosher dill pickles and oranges – No juice leaked out through the fabric, and the folds I put in place held nicely.
I also use these to cover food in my fridge – The sheets bend into place to cover things like casseroles and fruit crisps, keeping the food underneath fresh and moist.
Hand wash sheets clean in cool tap water, using a mild soap (or a sprinkle of baking soda) and a soft scrubbing cloth or brush for heavily soiled areas.
Dry flat on the top of your dish rack or resting on a dish towel.
Expect some stains and creases over time. Stains are just part of the patina; think of them as proof of healthy plastic-free livin’. Creases, you can do something about: You can replenish the wax if desired after months of use, but it’s even easier to use the heat of your hands or a bit of warm (not hot) tap water to smooth creases out.
When your fabric food wrap sheets are finally worn out, set them in your compost pile or check with your municipal composting program if that’s how your neighborhood deals with food and organic waste.
Please let me know if you make up a batch of these – I’d love to know how they work for you.