The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
December 19, 2013

Can Beeswax Cloth Wraps Replace Plastic Cling Wrap?

beeswax-wraps-Abeego-05A few weeks ago, blog reader Sandy Lansdale posted a question in the Discussion Forum:

I would love to hear how this beeswax wrap works if anyone has tried it.  Does it keep food well?  How long does one wrap last?  Has anyone bought from this site – http://www.beeswrap.com/pages/our-products?

Thanks,

Sandy

Well, Sandy, as it happens, I did try three different beeswax cloth wraps all the way back in January of this year and meant to write a review of them at the time.  But, to be honest, I was less than enthused, and when I’m not excited about something, it’s hard for me to write about it.  (Which is why, by the way, I haven’t written a holiday post.  Just not my thing.)  Still, lots of people have asked me this question, and I know there are quite a few people who are fans of these products, and I myself mentioned their existence in my book, Plastic-Free.  So here goes, but first:

BIG DISCLAIMER: I have a VERY Sensitive Nose

I’m going to mention the smell of these wraps and the taste that they impart to food.  But you should take my comments with a grain of salt.  Apparently, I have much more sensitive olfactory and taste perception than most people.  I polled some of the women in my green blogger group on Facebook to find out who had used beeswax wraps and whether they could detect any smell or taste from the wraps, and no one else seems to notice or mind.  So you might not either.  This is why I waited… er… procrastinated so long in writing this post.  I don’t want to turn anyone off from products that might work for them, but I also have to be honest about my personal experience.  Okay, really here goes.

My Experiments With Beeswax Cloth Wraps

Abeego and Bees Wrap were the first two companies to send me samples to try out.  I decided to test them on blocks of cheese because cheese seems to be one thing that is always wrapped in plastic cling wrap.  Before I tell you the results of the experiment, let me tell you a bit about each of these wraps:

beeswax-wraps-Abeego-01Abeego flats are made from hemp, organic cotton, beeswax, tree resin, and jojoba oil. The combination of wax, resin and oil is what makes the wrap so malleable.  I asked Abeego founder Toni Desrosiers why she chose those ingredients as opposed to plain beeswax.  Here is what she wrote me:

I have noticed other people exploring the world of beeswax cloth. I love that they are exploring an old technique. We have been waxing cloth since ancient Egypt and have been using beeswax to store food for thousands of years in all kinds of applications. My goal was to create a product that mimicked the useful qualities of plastic wrap using natural materials. In my research I realized that to accomplish this goal I would need to search a bit further than beeswax. Each ingredient we use offers it’s own properties that contribute to the overall effectiveness of Abeego. The blend of ingredients insure a long lifespan, flexibility and adhesiveness. Tree resin is anti fungal, anti bacterial and anti septic. Jojoba oil is anti fungal. Beeswax has a low melting point, it will crack when cold and will flake off in spots where repeated folding is applied.

I did notice in addition to the beeswax scent a kind of piney odor as well.  I assume it was from the tree resin.  I was curious to find out if the odor would affect the taste of my food.  Read on to find out the answer.  (By the way, ReUseIt.com now carries Abeego flats.  You can help support My Plastic-Free Life financially by purchasing via the ReUseIt link on this blog.  In fact, all of the ReUseIt links on this blog support My Plastic-Free Life.)

beeswax-wraps-Bees-Wrap-01Bee’s Wrap is made of organic cotton, beeswax, tree resin, and jojoba oil by Sarah Kaeck in Vermont.  When she contacted me last year, I asked how her product was different from Abeego, which has the same ingredients and has been around longer.  She said:

Bee’s Wrap is made with organic cotton verses hemp/cotton.  The cotton that I use is lighter and I feel easier to mold.  Otherwise they are comparable.

By easier to mold, she means to mold around a dish.  NOT to grow mold.  Even though Sarah’s cloth ostensibly contains the same ingredients as Abeego, it didn’t smell as strong to me.  I really just smelled beeswax, which made me wonder if she uses less of the other ingredients.

Abeego vs. Bee’s Wrap vs. a plain cotton wrap in an airtight container

For Experiment #1, I cut three similar-sized wedges of Bellwether Carmody cheese.  (Read more about my plastic-free cheese here.)

beeswax-wraps-Abeego-02

I wrapped two of them in beeswax wraps and the third (the control) in a plain cotton napkin inside a Lunchbots stainless steel container.  Then, I put all three in the refrigerator and left them in there for 10 days.

beeswax-wraps-Abeego-03

 

The results?  

All three cheeses were equally well-preserved.  No mold.  Not dried out.

beeswax-wraps-Abeego-04

But what about the taste?  For me, the Abeego-wrapped cheese had a strong piney sort of taste that interfered with my enjoyment of the cheese.  The Bee’s Wrap-wrapped cheese had a subtle beeswax flavor.  Less noticeable than the Abeego but still there.  The plain cotton-wrapped cheese had no extra flavor.  It’s important to note that unlike coated fabric wraps, plain cotton will not keep food from drying out if it’s not also stored in an airtight container.

After completing this little experiment, and just as I was about to post my results here, I learned about a third beeswax wrap and decided to try that one out too.

beeswax-wraps-Suzys-Bees-Wraps-01Suzy’s Bees Wraps are made with only cotton and beeswax.   They are the creation of Sue Grant, a stay at home mom in British Columbia.  I was happy to receive a sample from Sue so I could put the wraps to the same test as the others.

Suzy’s Bees Wrap vs. plain cotton wrap in an airtight container

For Experiment #2, I used two wedges of parmesan cheese because it’s what I happened to have available that day.  (I had asked the person behind the Whole Foods cheese counter to cut me a big hunk of parmesan from a wheel she had just cracked and put it in my container.)

beeswax-wraps-Suzys-Bees-Wraps-02

I wrapped one wedge in Suzy’s Bees Wrap and the other in plain cotton, this time inside one of Life Without Plastic’s airtight glass containers.

beeswax-wraps-Suzys-Bees-Wraps-03

After 10 days, I removed the cheese.  As before, both came through the process exactly the same.  (Sorry — I forgot to take a picture.)  But what about the taste?  I detected a slight beeswax taste to the beeswax-wrapped cheese as compared to the cheese wrapped in plain cotton.

What about moldability?

So, does the absence of tree resin and jojoba oil make Suzy’s wrap less pliable than the other two wraps?  Apparently not.  Here is Abeego wrapped around a bowl.

beeswax-wraps-Abeego-05

And here is Suzy’s Bees Wrap around a bowl.  Both fit about the same.

beeswax-wraps-Suzys-Bees-Wraps-05

Making Your Own Beeswax Wraps

waxed-cotton-collage-with-watermarked-and-labelled[1]As Toni Desrosiers mentioned, lots of people are experimenting with making their own beeswax-infused wraps.  Leona from My Healthy Green Family has posted a lovely tutorial on how to make your own DIY cotton and beeswax plastic wrap alternative.  She further explained in our Facebook group:

 I only use beeswax. They don’t give any flavour off and the smell is simply beeswax. They hold up for several months. The wax doesn’t peel off but after repeated folding they aren’t waterproof anymore. You can rewax them.

Whether or not they give off flavor or smell really depends on your sensitivity.  I didn’t try this myself, but the post has gotten rave reviews, so if you’re feeling crafty, go for it.

I prefer airtight containers, jars, or bowls with saucers on top

So Sandy, I can’t tell you how long these wraps last because after all that experimenting, I am back to using my airtight stainless and glass containers to keep foods fresh.   (This weekend, I’m going to post a giveaway for one of my absolute favorite containers.  Please stay tuned.)  But you know, you don’t have to spend money on containers to store food.  I love to reuse glass jars, or for food that will be eaten relatively soon, a bowl with a saucer on top.  Another reason the saucer is better than either plastic wrap or beeswax wrap?  You can stack things on top!

09-01-refrigerator-storage

22 comments
Joanna
Joanna

I cover food in a cotton cloth and then wrap in the beeswax cover. They prevent food from going bad, like cheese. I rinse in water or castile soap and water. I have never noticed a pine smell. Perhaps she changed the formula. I've had mine for years and haven't used plastic wrap for 20 years. I'll cover bowls with plates and have stainless and glass bowls with covers. All of my beans and pasta are stored in glass salsa and pickle jars in the pantry. I keep a wrapped plastic bag in my purse so I always have a bag with me, preventing me from getting one at the store when I think I've forgotten one. But we still have styofoam and plastic waste come into our lives. Our milk comes in plastic, etc. Not sure how to prevent it.

elisabethy
elisabethy

has anyone tried using these to wrap around bread and keep it fresh? that's where i most miss plastic (although I use a plastic bag around bread, not plastic wrap). thanks!

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

This comment is from Sharon Seabrook.  She had trouble posting her comment here.

"Simpler is always better if you can get similar results...  your use of containers beats out any wrap, plastic or beeswax or other. 

2) I'm not really sure that beeswax can be considered a "renewable" resource anymore....   our bees our dying nationwide and globally of bee colony collapse, and last I heard we only have about 20% of bees we used to have a few decades ago.    

3)  One cause of colony collapse is believed to be exhaustion... the bees are overworked, stressed by pesticides, as well as challenged by some kind of fungus that infects their hive. Stealing their wax they work so hard to make seems to be increasing their stress level, making their life that much harder. 

4)  So unless you are using beeswax from your own colony of bees which you know to be robustly healthy and won't mind making extra wax for your use, it seems to me that using beeswax cloths to preserve food is not a great idea."

Sheri Puckette
Sheri Puckette

Not really missing the plastic wrap any more. Seems like plates for the tops of round bowls, various jars with lids, and a couple of the silicon thingies that plop on top for the few things in square or rectangle baking pans are doing the job. These wraps look like they'd work but I like that idea that I can toss my improvised stuff into the dishwasher.

DanielleRichardet
DanielleRichardet

I have never even thought about using the beeswax wraps because like you the other methods-- plates on top of bowls, airtight containers/jars-- work so well.  I can't even think of a moment when I've missed plastic-wrap!

Jessica Silva
Jessica Silva

I've had the same ones for a year now and they are still working. These could be made with soy wax, no? I know there are tutorials for making the beeswax wraps online, maybe there are already ones that sub soy wax instead?

cocomama
cocomama

I have used Abeego wraps all year and absolutely LOVE them! For many of the same reasons Plastic Manners posted:

1. they save more space in the fridge than putting every half onion/tomato/lemon/cucumber (etc) or every bit of ftovers in its own jar.

2. super easy even for little hands to use! (kiddos handling glass jars on my ceramic tile floor cause anxiety)

3. super easy to wash and reuse. I must have giant man hands because I have too many jars I can't put my hand in to wash out.

I've wrapped some pungent foods in my abeegos and have not noticed that they contaminate other foods with any type of odor, nor do the odors permeate the fridge.

That being said, I definitely do not have the most discerning palate so if it's there, I wouldn't taste it anyway.

I've used mine pretty regularly all year, only wash them with castile type soap and warm water. As long as they're not cut or punctured, they hold up well!

natalie
natalie

I have a sensitive nose, but I do love the smell of beeswax, and pine for that matter.  I'm not sure how I'd like it with all foods though.  However, these have been on my wish list for a long time, because despite the great ideas of containers and bowls, we don't always have room in our fridge, and other people in my household use plastic wrap.  I wish I had a clean, well maintained fridge, for this and reasons of food waste as well as convenience, but I can't control what other people do with their food!

Diana Wise
Diana Wise

I like my silicone reusable lids. Stretchy ones, and ones that just fit on top and make a tight seal.

Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth
Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth

Should we be questioning what happens to colony collapse if we all were to switch to products that are reliant on bee secretions/products for production? How do we know how much is too much, when tampering with bee production for our own means?

EcoCatLady
EcoCatLady

Thanks for this review. As a fellow sensitive stiffer, I think I'll pass on the beeswax. But I totally agree about the bowl with a plate on top - works great! For the freezer I generally use either waxed paper or foil with a rubber band around the edge. Not zero-waste, but at least no plastic.

Plastic Manners
Plastic Manners

Hi Beth! Thanks for the post. Interesting. I thought they were all just beeswax. Shows I am fuzzy on details.

I love my abeegos and I am sticking to it. I too, as a result of plastic freedom, have a ridiculous sense of smell. I don't detect anything that would bother me and I use them all sorts of things.

The one thing I would add to the post is their utility for short term packaging...like e.g. a pankake for my baby when we go out. I don't always want a bulky container with me, rather a small package I can stuff in the stroller pockets and access at any time while walking. While the pankake might dry up if stores for 10 days, and maybe taste like a tree, I should probably be making fresh ones before that time.. :). In a tool kit of plastic free, I would encourage at least one wrap to give you more options. Your containers might all be full, dirty, or take up too much room at some point. The easier you can make it for yourself, the more likely you will succeed.

TheGreenCat
TheGreenCat

I'm glad to see your cotton napkins are still holding up so well!  Out of curiosity, I usually store cheese in an airtight container without wrapping it at all.  Does wrapping it in a napkin do something better?

Staci
Staci

I'm so happy you wrote this! I saw these earlier in the year and have been wanting to try them.  I appreciate your honesty and can't wait to try them to see if we get different experiences or not.  Thanks!

Martha
Martha

My question: How washable are these beeswax cloths? If you use them to wrap foods they are inevitable going to get soiled.

veracity
veracity

@BethTerry (this is directed to SSeabrook) It's actually probably due to GMO's.  Since bees are pollinators and so much that is grown is now controlled by Monsanto...it only stands to reason this bee epidemic is related to genetically modified organisms.  If exhaustion is related to the stress on their bodies due to being saturated with environmental toxins, then ok, I could agree with that possibility.  However, to claim a bee is "overworked" and dying off due to exhaustion is a ridiculous notion imo.  Pretty sure God designed a bee to be a worker, their jobs pretty much consist of collecting pollen and making honey.  I know that's putting it more simply, but really...they don't break until winter during hibernation.


Containers are not always the easiest way to go, especially when you have small children walking around on stone floors with snacks (in an effort to reduce the off-gassing from synthetic materials like vinyl) and could easily shatter.  Or sending them off to school lunches.  So, being able to make something such as a beeswax coated muslin "baggie" is a much better solution and can be an absolutely a "great idea" for someone else.


If you wanted to make a good argument for beeswax coated fabric not being a great idea, you could center it around the fact that so much of what bees are pollinating would be genetically modified plants.  That means pretty much all of the honey and wax could be potentially tainted with the same toxins from GMO's that have now been proven to cause cancerous tumors in rats (http://www.naturalnews.com/037249_gmo_study_cancer_tumors_organ_damage.html.)  So really, even if you own your own colony of bees, we know they can travel quite a distance to pollinate...or maybe your neighbor is growing some GMO veggies that your bees end up visiting.  Frustrating isn't it?  Because even when you think you've finally got it down and you've eliminated this for that...you still can't get it all. 


P.S. To Jessica Silva, I would never use soy, ever.  I have made candles for nine years, soy wax is toxic, I would break out all over just melting it down and I'm not an allergy kind of gal.  My skin would literally feel like it was unable to breath and I had a hard time getting it off of me.  That was just from melting it down in a double boiler!!  Additionally, pretty much all soy is GMO.  Soy is also a hormone mimicker and very destructive to our bodies, much like wheat.  It should not be consumed without fermentation (organic or not).  And lastly, it takes more petroleum to produce soy products (oil, wax etc) then it does to just use a straight petroleum product.  In the name of "green" it is complete hippocracy. 

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@TheGreenCat We use them ALL the time.  LOVE LOVE LOVE your cloth napkins.

As for why wrap cheese... I just have this idea that there is still some air in the container and the wrap will keep the outside of the cheese from getting dry.  But you find that the cheese is fine without any wrap on it? I haven't even tried it.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@Martha You can wash them in cool water with mild soap.  Hot water is not good for them... it will melt the wax.

jonnie
jonnie

This is exactly why I stopped using mine! Being a bit of a germaphobe, I found not being able to use hot water a real problem.

I think what you did as a test is perfect, though, as it would be acceptable to not "wash/sanitize" in between cheese uses. 

I can see the argument as well that flexible storage is a good alternative....

Bravo to all three companies for providing another alternative to plastic wrap!

veracity
veracity

@jonnie beeswax has naturally occurring antimicrobial properties.