Less Plastic, More Beeswax


Story by Rachel Trachten

Lily Rockholt demonstrates melting the beeswax by ironing. The cloth is ready to use after ironing and cooling.
Lily Rockholt demonstrates melting the beeswax by ironing. The cloth is ready to use after ironing and cooling.


"Use less plastic” was the rallying cry for those attending the Ecology Center’s workshop on making a beeswax-cloth food wrap. Lily Rockholt, the Ecology Center’s events coordinator, led a group through the hows and whys of making this nontoxic, reusable item that can keep foods fresh.

The wrap is a great replacement for plastic bags or plastic wrap. It works for fruit, veggies, cheese, sandwiches, and leftovers, but not raw meat. The wax makes the cloth malleable and keeps air out, making it more effective at keeping food fresh than a plain cotton cloth would be. And it can be washed with gentle soap in cold water.

Any downsides? For people who are sensitive to the smell of beeswax, Lily recommends soy or camellia wax as alternatives. For strongly scented foods, like onions, she suggests a separate cloth for these items only.

How to Make Your Own Wrap

At the class, Lily uses 100% cotton cloth cut into 12-inch squares, but any all-natural, lightweight fabrics like hemp will work just as well. The size of the cloth can vary depending on its intended use. Lily hand-grates beeswax provided by a local beekeeper, but you can purchase beeswax pellets.

Place your cloth on top of a sheet of parchment paper laid out on an ironing board. Cover your iron with aluminum foil to keep it free of wax. Sprinkle enough grated beeswax onto the cloth to create a thin covering once it melts (about 1-2 tablespoons for a 12-inch square). Place a second sheet of parchment over the cloth, and iron until the cloth is soaked through with melted wax (three to five minutes). Use the iron setting that matches the type of cloth you’ve chosen. Once the beeswax is evenly melted across the cloth, pull the cloth away from the parchment and let cool. Trim with pinking shears or scissors, then roll—rather than fold—the cloth to minimize cracks in the wax.

Revitalize, then Compost

Cloths typically last one to seven years depending on the amount of use they get. If a cloth loses its stickiness, it can be re-waxed by repeating the same process. Once you’re ready to part with a cloth, cut it into small strips and place in your compost bin or home compost pile, where it will decompose in one to three months.

Once you’ve made your own cloth, you may want to make others to give as gifts. Lily used this activity at her own birthday party, creating group fun as well as plastic-free party favors.


Photo courtesy of the Ecology Center