I try my hardest to reduce my single-use waste. Some switches are easier than others: I always carry shopping totes while running errands; I have an impressive stockpile of reusable straws; and I bring a water bottle or travel cup with me whenever I can. I’m not perfect by any means, though, and when it comes to being environmentally conscious, there are a lot of areas I still need to work on.

One of these was food storage. I grew up in a household where plastic baggies and cling wrap reigned supreme. Lunchtime snacks, baked goods, and dinner leftovers all found themselves enrobed in some manner of single-use plastic, but for my family and lots of others, this was totally par for the course. In 2020, we’re more educated consumers; plus, living on my own has allowed me to adopt more thoughtful habits. While I once readily reached for a roll of plastic wrap, now I haven’t bought a new one in months.

Here’s where these DIY food wraps come in handy. Made with just two items (cotton fabric and beeswax), they’re an ingenious—not to mention, super simple—way to wrap any manner of leftovers, fresh produce, snacks, and more. The slightly sticky, bendable material forms perfectly around pretty much anything you need to store, is totally food safe, and can be washed and reused as many times as you desire.

There’s plenty of places you can buy these readymade, too, but as I discovered you can also make them yourself. Plus, it’s an excuse to color-coordinate your food wrap with your kitchen, or make use of old cotton cloth you might otherwise just throw away. Read on for how to do the same.

What You’ll Need:

  • 100% cotton fabric
  • Scissors
  • A pack of beeswax pellets
  • Parchment baking paper
  • Iron
  • Ironing board (or towel to protect your work surface)
Photo by Caroline Mullen

What You’ll Do:

  • Cut pieces of cotton fabric into various sizes. I made two different sizes—approximately 5×5” and 8×8”—for wrapping my most commonly used items. They don’t have to be perfect cut—the fabric will be much easier to trim once it’s coated in the wax.
  • Lay a towel down on your work surface (or work on an ironing board) to protect it from the heat of the iron.
  • Lay a piece of parchment paper down large enough to have about 2-3 inches of extra room around the piece of fabric, as the melted wax might overflow a bit. Then, lay your fabric on top.
  • Spread a handful of wax pellets over the piece of fabric (about 1 per 1 square inch) and cover with another piece of parchment paper.
Photo by Caroline Mullen
  • Heat the iron to medium (no steam needed) and carefully press it down onto your parchment and fabric sandwich. You’ll note the wax starting to melt pretty quickly, and you can use the iron to push the wax around on the fabric so it’s completely saturated.
  • Once the fabric is totally covered with melted wax (it will look as if it’s wet), let it cool and harden before removing the parchment paper. I found this was the best way to get a smooth, even finish.
  • Once cooled, remove the parchment and trim the sides of the fabric to remove any frayed edges. I used the same two pieces of parchment for several pieces of fabric, and it worked perfectly.

Some Notes on Usage & Cleaning

Photo by Caroline Mullen

The best way to ensure an airtight fit on a bowl or cup is to press the wrap onto the rim, and fold the overflow down, gently squeezing with your hand for a few seconds to warm the wax up. This will temporarily bond the materials, similar to plastic wrap. In the same vein, you can fold a piece of the wrap up into a small baggie for loose items, pressing and holding with your fingers for a few seconds to bond together. While you can use it for most anything you would plastic wrap, you shouldn’t reuse it after use on raw meats, due to the risk of cross-contamination.

Wash the wraps with cool water and dish soap between uses, as hot water will melt the wax. You can use them again and again for as long as they remain effective (many people quote a year as the cut-off). When they’re done, you can melt off the existing wax and recoat the fabric all over again!

Have you tried making these yourself? Tell us in the comments below!

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