Beeswax wraps are the new trend in households that value sustainability. But what are the towels actually made of and how hygienic is this trend? The five most important questions and answers.

Packaging waste and supposedly practical disposable plastic gadgets are undoubtedly among the greatest environmental evils of our time. Aluminum and cling film are just two household helpers that are so inexpensive that they are used in large quantities in many kitchens. The motto: aluminum instead of a storage box. We cut, wrap and pack what the rolls have to offer. Half an onion or lemon, the leftovers from the Sunday roast or the breakfast sandwiches for the junior. There is practically nothing that cannot be wrapped in aluminum foil or cling film, or at least covered. But what is the alternative? For some years now, beeswax wraps have been trying to at least curb the film craze. But what is actually behind the colorful wrinkled towels? The five most important questions and answers about beeswax wraps.

1. What are beeswax wraps made of?

The basis for beeswax wraps is usually an ordinary fabric made from 100 percent cotton. “Popeline”, “Cretonne” or “Cambric” are suitable as fabrics. The cotton cloth is then coated on both sides with a mixture of beeswax and tree sap. Some products also contain some jojoba or coconut oil. Instead of beeswax, wax from the Candelila bush native to Mexico is often used in vegan wax cloths.

2. What do you do with beeswax wraps?

Depending on the size of the cut, beeswax wraps are mainly used to cover open or cut food or to wrap it up completely. Fruit and vegetables are popular, as are sandwiches. Casserole dishes and bowls with leftover food or opened yoghurt pots can be covered and preserved for a while. The warmth of the hands makes the wax soft and flexible, so the oilcloths easily conform to any shape. Once wrapped or covered, the beeswax wraps stiffen again and reliably seal the food. For hygienic reasons, fresh fish and raw meat should not be wrapped in beeswax wraps.

3. How long can beeswax wraps be used?

Unlike aluminum foil or cling film, beeswax wraps are reusable. On the one hand, they should be antibacterial and therefore unattractive to bacteria and other harmful germs. In addition, wax is dirt- and water-repellent. Once used, a lukewarm jet of water is enough to use the oilcloths again. However, they should be dry for this. If leftover food sticks to the cloths, they can also be cleaned with a little mild washing-up liquid. Over time, the coating will become visibly thinner. Especially at the kinks. If you place the cloths on baking paper in an oven at around 70 degrees (the melting point of beeswax is just over 60 degrees), the wax will spread evenly again after a few minutes and the beeswax cloth will shine as smoothly as before. Of course, the sustainable packaging alternative does not have eternal life either. But if you take care of the cloths regularly, you can wrap or cover food for several months or even years for the sake of the environment.

4. Can you make your own beeswax wraps?

If you don’t like the patterns and designs on offer and if you like handicrafts and ironing anyway, you can also make your own beeswax cloths at home. In addition to a little skill and time, you need a cotton cloth, beeswax pills and some tree resin (e.g. pine resin). Plus an old pot, a brush and a kitchen scale to weigh out the resin and wax pills.

5. How do you clean beeswax wraps?

As a rule, it is sufficient to rinse used beeswax towels under a little lukewarm water and dab them dry with a tea towel. After that they are immediately ready for use again. A little washing-up liquid and a brush with soft bristles won’t hurt either. But keep in mind that the wax on the cloth melts at just over 60 degrees Celsius. So hot water is not a good idea when cleaning. For this reason, fresh fish and meat should also be stored in other containers, such as lockable stainless steel bowls. With fish and meat, lukewarm water is not enough to completely remove bacteria or fungi from the cloth.

For this reason in particular, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is skeptical about the trend towards beeswax wraps. Over time, bacteria could settle on the cloths that lukewarm water and washing-up liquid cannot reliably remove, according to the BfR. In addition, the institute strongly advises against impregnating beeswax wraps with jojoba oil. Fatty foods can absorb a lot of it. According to the BfR, this is particularly critical if the oil, wax or resin is contaminated. Therefore, choose ready-made towels, but also the ingredients to make your own, very carefully.

Tip: By the way, beeswax wraps are disposed of in the compost or in organic waste.

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