Did you know that every year in the U.S. we throw out enough plastic wrap to cover the entire state of Texas? Yuck. The silly thing is, plastic wrap is totally avoidable and easy to replace! There are so many ways to avoid keeping plastic wrap in your kitchen without leaving your leftovers open in the fridge. My favorite option? Beeswax wraps. Designed to imitate plastic wrap, beeswax wraps are 100% natural, 100% plastic free, and 100% compostable at the end of their lives. Made from simply beeswax, pine resin, and jojoba oil, they can be made at home in an afternoon and then used for months to come.
Do I really need pine resin?
This is the most frequently asked question when making reusable beeswax wraps. If you do a quick search online, you will find a ton of people posting recipes that don't use any pine resin and simply use beeswax. I found though that if I make a wrap with just beeswax, it simply doesn't stick. It will be somewhat pliable and sort of hold a shape, but it tends to be way too hard and crack really quickly. So, yes, if you want to make wraps that will actually stick to your jars, create a seal, and don't break in half, I would argue that you need pine resin. That being said, if you make it just with beeswax and love it? Hey! The less ingredients the better!
What's the jojoba oil for?
Because beeswax hardens so much, it tends to crack when put on something that is bent around like a cotton cloth. By adding a tiny bit of oil to the mixture, it helps keep the beeswax from cracking and peeling off the cloth. Jojoba oil is quite expensive though and some people have reported that coconut oil used instead has worked as well. I have yet to test this but it is worth giving it a shot!
I'm ready! I think...
Before you start actually mixing and melting, make sure you read over the entire recipe to make sure you have all the ingredients you need and have properly set up your space. Pine resin can be rough to get off counter tops so proceed carefully and with a plan for clean up.
How to Make Beeswax Wraps
60 grams beeswax pellets (6 Tbsp)
25 grams powdered pine resin (4 Tbsp)
10 grams jojoba oil (8 tsp)
100% cotton fabric
Step 1: Get the Ingredients
Pine resin can be a hard ingredient to come by. I haven't found a place here locally in Portland that sells it so I have purchased it off of Etsy from Creekwood Naturals. I recommend you get the powdered form because it will melt much more easily and incorporate into the mixture a lot better. Beeswax and jojoba oil can both be purchased in bulk in Portland at Frigg's Mercantile. Check locally for options near you.
For things like pinking shears, cotton fabric, and paint brushes, consider posting a request on your local Buy Nothing Group! I didn't have to purchase a single scrap of fabric when I made over 50 wraps because of generous gifts from my group members. When it comes to the fabric, just make sure you are using 100% cotton fabric. If you use a plastic fabric like nylon, it will burn when heated and put off quite a stench.
Step 2: Prepare Fabric
Cut the cotton fabric into the desired size with pinking shears. Using pinking shears instead of scissors keeps the edge of the fabric from fraying with use. I recommend starting with a selection of sizes 11” by 11”, 8” by 8”, and 6” by 6”. You can make them though as large or as small as you like!
Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Place one piece of fabric on top of the parchment paper, making sure none of the fabric is off the paper. If the fabric is too large, fold it in half over itself. The parchment paper is key in order to keep your pans from being covered in pine resin forever. You can compost in your backyard when you are done with the project!
Step 3: Prepare Mixture
Set the oven to the lowest temperature you have (100-200 degrees). You don't want it too hot as it will start to burn the oil and make the pine resin stink up your kitchen.
Weigh out the beeswax, pine resin and jojoba oil in a bowl. Put the mixture in a double broiler and heat it until completely melted. Given that you will need access to this mixture throughout the process and it must stay hot, a microwave with not work for melting the ingredients. The above ratio will cover approximately 10 wraps depending on the size you have selected. To make more or less, simply use the same ratio of ingredients and adjust the overall quantity.
Step 4: Apply Mixture and Melt
Once melted, use a paint brush to paint the mixture onto the fabric on the cookie sheet. Make sure to thoroughly coat the fabric until the liquid has soaked up in almost all areas. The mixture will begin to harden on contact with the fabric.
Place the cookie sheet in the oven for one to two minutes to melt the mixture again. Open the oven and quickly use your brush to even out any bumps or clumps on the fabric. If there are still dry areas on the cloth, apply more of the melted mixture from the double broiler. Let the fabric sit in the oven for another minute.
Step 5: Let Cool
Remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Quickly pull up the piece of fabric, separating it from the parchment paper before it begins to harden. We have found that pulling it up with your fingers works well and isn’t too hot. You can also use tweezers if you are particularly concerned. Simply hold the fabric in your hand for around one minute until cool.
Step 6: Clean Up
If you've been careful, you shouldn't have that much clean up to do! Make sure you have used all of the beeswax-resin mixture in your double broiler as you don't want a lot of that going down your drain. The trick to removing the pine resin from the double broiler, paint brush, and any you spilled on the pan/counter is coconut oil. Yep. Apply a little coconut oil after running the pot under hot water to loosen everything up. Then wash with soap and rinse with really hot water. You may have to do that whole thing twice, but if you actually use coconut oil, then it'll all come off. Compost your parchment paper in your backyard. Clean up your supplies. And done!
Caring for your wraps
When your wraps get a little dirty, simply rinse them off in lukewarm or cold water and scrub gently with a cloth. Don't wash them in hot water as the heat will begin to melt the beeswax off. In addition, your wraps should never be placed in the microwave, oven, or over a steaming hot dish. You'll find a mess to clean up and some very warped cloth!
After rinsing them off, hang them up to dry on your drying wrack or over a hook. You can store them in your cupboard or drawer just like you would plastic wrap!
When your wraps start to degrade...
Depending on how often you use your wraps, you'll notice they will start to lose some beeswax after anywhere from three months to two years of use. If the cotton fabric has started to tare or fray, you can compost the fabric in your backyard simply by cutting it up into tiny pieces and adding it to your compost pile. Everything in it is 100% organic and biodegradable! You can also reuse the same fabric by repeating the steps above, as if you were making brand new wraps. By reapplying more of the beeswax mixture, your wraps should return to being as good as new!