Sunday, 21 February 2016

Plastic-wrap free food - DIY beeswax cloths

(for the latest version of this post, and a link to my 5 minute film showing how to make these, please visit  Five Easy Steps to Make Cheap Beeswax Wraps & Reduce Cling Wrap Use. Film #10 with Morag Gamble (5 mins)

Original post:

Our household is determined to find ways to reduce plastic. You could say we are on a plastic wrapping diet - a diet to reduce the volume of non-biodegradable waste that ends up in our bins each week, and thereby help to reduce the garbage burden on our planetary system.

I wrote recently in plastic-free food wrapping, about testing out some beeswax cloths as a plastic wrap alternative. I love them.  They are great at keeping fruit and veg fresh. Some of the ways I have used them are:
  • sealing opened pumpkins 
  • wrapping around a half-used eggplants
  • keeping bowls of leftovers fresh
  • wrapping the kid's lunchbox items
Over the past week I have been experimenting with making my own and think I have come up with a really nice mix.

I found this old off-cut of fabric in my sewing box. It is lightweight cotton with a tight weave. 

My first attempt turned out like stiff parchment.  I used a light calico and beeswax.  It works OK, but does not have the texture of the ones you buy. It doesn't mould as well so the effectiveness of it would not be so great. 

Attempt 1: stiff parchment. I think my fabric was too thick and porous and I didn't use enough beeswax.

A better result using the thinner and more dense fabric and my new mix. The fabric seemed to be more supple and pliable and able to better withstand being folded.
I am really happy with the the beeswax cloths I made yesterday. They feel like the ones I bought for $30 for 3.  The difference - I used a thinner material with a denser weave and a small teaspoon of coconut oil drizzled across the tray. The cloths end up being far more flexible and don't seem to crack when bent. They also seem to create a far better seal.


In my later attempts at finding a good mix, I used more beeswax and a drizzle of coconut oil and put the tray in the oven for just 5 minutes at 60 degrees celcius. I used a paintbrush (one that I didn't want to use for anything else later) to help spread the beeswax to the edges.

Once out of the oven, I hung the cloth to dry immediately. It only takes a minute.


From cotton fabric to beeswax infused cloth in under 10  minutes

In terms of cost, it does work out much better to make these yourself.  I went out and bought some new pinking shears to do the edges - to help prevent fraying. I decided to buy high quality ones which cost $31. The beeswax cost $7.50 for the tub. I only used a negligible amount of coconut oil and the fabric were off-cuts. This initially is more expensive than the $30 for 3 cloths, but I plan to make many cloths -  the beeswax tub will last for at least 25 more and I'm sure I will get lots and lots of use out of the pinking shears.

Afterword:

Another method is using a flatbed toasted sandwich press to melt the beeswax and oil onto the cloth. It only takes a few seconds. You can even fold up quite a large piece of fabric (to wrap bread etc) and press this - just add proportionately more beeswax and oil.

44 comments:

  1. How have you found storing these? Do you keep the, somewhere separate so they don't transfer oil/beeswax residue onto anything else or does that not happen? I am also wanting to reduce waste am no where near as close as you but these seem like a good place to start getting rid of the dreaded cling wrap

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    1. Once it dries, it is quite stable. The trick is to not use too much coconut oil - a teaspoon or less. On really hot days (Queensland summer) I keep them folded in the fridge. Best wishes with your attempts to reduce waste too!

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  2. Is there any chance of you giving a few more details. The size of the cloth and how much bees wax and coconut oil to the cloth. I would really like to try this.

    Sally

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    1. The size of the batik cloths is around 20x20cm. It's good to have a range of sizes for various uses. I shaved thin slices off the beeswax block with a knife and spread them around the cloth evenly as shown in the picture (I'll weigh the wax next time I make some) and drizzled about a teaspoon of coconut oil over this. It's difficult to give you a precise recipe because it depends really on the fabric thickness and density. What I observed as I was experimenting with the amount of wax for each cloth - if it is too much, it'll end up too thick and you'll know because when it dries it will crack, and if it's too little wax you'll know because there'll still be dry patches. I'm sorry not to be more specific.

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    2. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. You have given me enough information to get started on my own trials, as soon as I buy coconut oil again.

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    3. Your welcome Jess. I think it would be OK with another oil. I haven't tried, but you could give it a go rather than buying a big container of coconut oil just for a few teaspoons.

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    4. Another recipe says to use jojoba oil -also pine resin.

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    5. jojoba oil and another recipe uses pine resin

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  3. I found the oven task of these kept my home very warm so opted to put parchment/baking paper over the top and then used the iron to melt the wax/oil solution - so much better -done in seconds and dries easily ready for use. Don't use very hot water to wash them or you will have to start all over again......Jacqueline

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    1. Thanks for sharing. I'm glad to hear the iron method worked for you. I had been wondering if it would ooze onto my ironing surface. I'd like to give it a go too, but will have to get some baking paper.I usually just bake on these metal trays.

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    2. Couldn't you put it between two pieces of tin foil & use your iron just as well, instead of buying the baking paper? That is, of course, if you already have a supply of tin foil on hand. :)

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  4. We have beeswax cloths here and they are great! I haven't made my own yet but would like to...We also have food covers that can be stretched over bowls etc. instead of plastic wrap.

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  5. Thanks for this great post, Morag...I've shared it at the Down to Earth forums for our members too xx

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  6. I too am looking to reduce waste, I use pyrex glass containers with lids to store food and these are a huge help with not needling gladwrap to cover left overs. The bonus is the container can be put straight in the oven too.

    but I have wondered about these beeswax cloths, I would like to make some as I have all I need on hand. My question is only about washing - how do they wash up? Do you simply wipe them over or can you thrown them in the machine on a cold wash? How often do they need re-coating?

    xx

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    1. Hi Emma,
      The glass storage containers are so useful aren't they. I like them a lot.
      The beeswax cloths can be rinsed of in warm soapy water (not hot). They need recoating every 6 months or so, when they start to lose their sticking power - depends on how much you use them and wash them. If you simply wipe them or brush them off, they seem to last a little longer.
      Morag

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    2. Thanks Morag, that's very useful to know. Once I get my kitchen back in order after the reno's I'll certainly be giving these a go.

      A great tutorial. :)

      Xx

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  7. You can now buy small jars of coconut oil from Aldi supermarkets at a very reasonable price. Something like $3.99 or $4.99?

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  8. I want to try this but am going to have to look into using another oil if possible. Family member here is allergic to coconut so I cant use these as of yet but this is a great tutorial!

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    1. Many people use jojoba oil in place of coconut oil.

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  9. These are great, I think the coconut oil is key. I made some a couple of years ago and they were too brittle. I am happy to say I haven't purchased or used cling wrap in 4 or 5 years. It was challenging at first and there are definitely times when I miss it, but I use recycled aluminum foil when absolutely necessary and life is moving along just fine. :)

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    1. I dont know if you got around to making your wraps, but another site mentioned using Almond oil

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  10. From making many products with beeswax and coconut oil, the pine resin mentioned by commenters does play an important role to add the ‘tackiness’ we welcome in plastic wraps.
    Virgin coconut oil is by itself antimicrobial and has a shelf life of 2-4 years depending on how carefully it was made and by which process.
    So clearly a good choice of oil, It’s purpose in the formula was mentioned although not explicitly enough for some, it adds pliability to the finished product.
    Go ahead and make lots of these everyone and i applaud you for rethinking the whole plastic paradox we were born into!

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  11. Hi and thanks for all the great info! I am planning on making these and have done tons of searching up different recipes etc. Most that I have come across use jojoba oil. We don't get it here so I would have to import. I live in the tropics so coconut oil would be great. Why do they all specifically use jojoba as opposed to coconut? Is coconut greasy? Is the addition of oil only for pliability? I might add the resin to mine. Thanks for all the help!

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  12. Hi - Thanks for the info here. I have an abundance of olive oil - has anyone experimented with a little of this with the beeswax? I'm about to melt down some wax from the hives then use it on some cotton cloths ...

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    1. Hi jaza
      I think olive oil would oxidise and get smelly. Jojoba isn't really an oil as such. It is a liquid wax ester. It has anti-microbial properties etc etc.
      cheers Cass from Taz

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  13. I've just made a whole bunch of these but have noticed they leave a waxy residue on what ever I've wrapped. Does anyone know what I've done wrong and how to fix it?

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  14. I've made some, too, and think I've just got too much of the mixture in or on the fabric. It's definitely pliable, but it does leave a residue on your hands. I'm going to reheat the fabric again, and try and remove some of the melted wax mixture using kitchen roll. I'd be happy to hear of others experiences.
    I used beeswax, resin and jojoba oil for my recipe.

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    1. Hey Fiona I've been having trouble incorporating the resin/rosin - it doesn't want to dissolve into the mix. Can you share your formula please? Thanks :)

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  15. im having an issue with residue being left behind. have i used too much beeswax? mine was a mix of beeswax and jojoba oil

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    1. I have used coconut oil and beeswax, rather than jojoba - the amounts are on my more recent post http://our-permaculture-life.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/five-easy-steps-to-make-cheap-beeswax_29.html There is a slight residue that comes off initially, just rub it into your hands (I do my knees/elbows/heels too) - a good rich moisturiser!

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  16. Hi Fiona,
    Are you in Australia, If so where did you buy your resin and jojoba oil?

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    1. Hi Ellie. Try www.goldleaf.com.au. They sell both.

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  17. Hi, i tried to make it but it's not successful.. What kind of cotton fabric did you use? Drill, Lawn or Duck?

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  18. hi all, I have made a few with and without oil (I used almond oil)

    mine pure wax without oil were 'okay" but brittle and not very sticky.
    but too much oil, as expected were oily and slippery not sticky.

    and finally got the mix right with a few of them.

    really keen to try resin for suppleness, or coconut oil or jojoba- esp as I don't want the oils to go rancid and jojoba isn't really an oil.

    any luck sourcing jojoba and pine resin in Australia?
    keen to hear..

    great that everyone here is saving plastics!!

    Julz

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    1. Hi Julz. Just ordered jojoba and pine resin from www.goldleaf.com.au. A 125 ml bottle of jojoba is $18.70 and the pine resin is $11.55.

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    2. How did you go? I was very close to ordering but realised they are not food grade from that supplier so trying to get food grade ones. Soooo hard here.

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    3. Hi Shae. I've just been on the site and I cannot find pine resin. I looked under the gums, resins and varnish category. Would you be able to point me in the right direction please?

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    4. Hi Shae. I've just been on the goldleaf site and I couldn't find pine resin. would you be able to point me in the right direction please?

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    5. And does it make a noticeable difference to the wrap?

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  19. I have just bought wax to make some - I used to own a quilting shop so I have a ready supply of fabric, I also use them to wrap sandwiches in and freeze...then I just grab them for my lunch and toast them at work. Saves me $8 per sandwich.
    Do you grate the wax?

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    1. Hi Kylie, I usually grate the wax. I bought one of those graters with the collector bowl underneath to use just for beeswax grating. Also, if it's relatively warm and the wax is softer, I sometimes just use a knife to finely shave bits off. Best regards, Morag

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  20. Can some tell me how to make using bees wax & tree resin? Do I melt tree resin with bees wax?

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  21. I used beeswax rosin and jojoba. I think I put too much on. I used a 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp of wax, 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp rosin and 1 tsp jojoba. for a 10 by 10 square. I think it is too much. They are quite sticky and it leaves a residue on my hands. I will try ironing some of it off. Has anyone else had this issue?

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  22. I just made 6 of these in various sizes. I used the 1 cup beeswax, 1/4 c. Pine rosin & 2 Tablespoons jojoba oil recipe posted online. I melted these together in a mason jar in the microwave 2-3 min, stirring every minute & then put in a hot water bath to finish & keep it liquid while I brushed it onto the fabric. The fabric is on top of wax paper. Then I put the pieces in a 200 degree oven for a couple of minutes to let it remelt & even out. They stick nicely & do leave a little residue on the glass & my hands. Hopefully this will decrease w/washing & use. I just rub the oils into my hands or on a dish cloth.

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