DIY Homemade Cling Wrap: A Natural Plastic Wrap Alternative
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In celebration of the launch of my new book, The DIY Pantry, it's “DIY Month” here at Nourishing Joy. Today's featured DIY item is homemade cling wrap – aka the natural replacement for plastic cling wrap!
While the wax-on-cloth idea really isn't anything new (is there really anything new under the sun?), it certainly has become both chic and oh-so-moderne in the last few years.
Ever since I had seen a gorgeous commercial version that looked so fun and elegant that it made you just want to go make a snack merely so you could wrap it up, I had been wanting to try my hand at making cling wrap at home. In the commercial version, there were only three ingredients, so I figured it would be easy – little did I realize just how easy it would be.
Now, I should point out that in the commercial version I had seen, the sheets are entirely smooth and square. This homemade version creates an even finish, for sure, but it certainly isn't as crisp as the commercial version, so don't be surprised.
Also, this homemade cling wrap doesn't work for everything, which is the nature of being reusable rather than disposable.
For example, you don't want to use it for raw meats, as you won't be able to wash it well enough before reusing it again. However, in our house it has been brilliant for basic day-to-day stuff, such as covering the bread bowl as dough rises, sealing up leftovers, and wrapping sandwiches.
So, while it doesn't replace plastic wrap in every single usage, it certainly does a mighty fine job at reducing the amount of plastic wrap that gets used. (And of course, you can always use glass storage containers and fabric snack bags for an eco-friendly storage option, too!)
So, with all of that, let's make some DIY homemade cling wrap!
DIY Homemade Cling Wrap / Food Wrap / Plastic Wrap Alternative – whatever name floats your boat….
Step 1: Gather supplies
I mentioned above that the commercial version uses three ingredients (beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin), but I have found that using just plain beeswax is about the easiest for the homemade version.
To make homemade cling wrap, you'll need:
- beeswax (either in beeswax pastilles or beeswax blocks) – see where to buy beeswax
- a bread pan or other heat-proof container in which to melt the beeswax
- fabric, cut to any size – 8×8-inches and 12×12-inches are very multifunctional – this fabric looks like it would work beautifully!
- tongs or chopsticks – see where to buy tongs (I especially love the mini size!)
A note about fabric: the secret to smooth, non-flaking, long-lasting, homemade cling wrap is not in the amount or type of wax you use, but the type of fabric. I haven't tried every kind of fabric out there by any means, but one rule applies: use the thinnest, tightest-weave you can.
Here's an example: The first time I made homemade cling wrap, I used an old tea towel. I tend to like thick, hefty tea towels (such as Damask and Jacquard weaves), and this was an inexpensive one I had found at IKEA. It had a nice, tight weave, but ultimately, the thickness made it difficult to keep its seal on some bowls because it wasn't quite flexible enough to hold its shape once the wax hardened in the refrigerator.
So I tried again adding jojoba oil to the mix, thinking that perhaps the beeswax was a bit too firm once chilled. However, even in small quantities, that made the resulting cling wrap sticky when it softened.
So then, I thought perhaps I'd play around with various fabrics. Since the commercial version mentions it's made of muslin, I tried some butter muslin I had laying around. Big mistake. Muslin comes in multiple weaves and butter muslin is a very loose weave since it's designed to be able to drain the liquid off of cheese, butter, yogurt, etc. Thus, while the seal on the bowls was lovely, the cling wrap only lasted a couple of days before the wax started flaking off due to its very loose weave. Very tightly woven muslin, on the other hand, would work brilliantly.
So, in my experience, the best options for fabric are something about the thickness of a bedsheet with a very tight weave. Beyond that, the sky is the limit!
UPDATE: Some of the commercial varieties are now being made out of gorgeous fabrics (not just the original plain beige). This beautiful purple wrap and stripy teal provide some serious inspiration – I sense some lovely thrift store treasure hunts coming on!
Step 2: Melt the beeswax and cover the fabric
Place enough grated beeswax or beeswax pastilles in the bread pan (or other container) so that, once melted, there will be about 1/2-inch of melted wax in the pan.
Place the pan over very low heat on the stovetop to let it melt slowly.
When the wax is completely melted, place one piece of fabric in the wax (careful – it's extremely hot!), making sure every single portion of the fabric is coated with wax. Lift it out and let the liquid wax drip off until the wax has cooled – usually 1-2 minutes at the most.
I rigged up a system where I used clothespins with magnets on the backside to hang the dripping cling wrap from the hood on my stovetop (see an example). This worked fairly well, but honestly, the beeswax hardens quickly enough that it's almost just easier to hold it while it drips.
One the wax has hardened, set aside to cool completely, then redip the edges or any spots that were missed, if necessary. Scrape off any wax bumps, if it matters to you.
UPDATE: Since publishing this article, I've realized some of my lovely colleagues have come up with other ingenious ways to get the wax onto the fabric. Betsy over at DIY Natural uses an iron to melt the beeswax on (see it here) and Heather over at Mommypotamus pops hers in the oven – and adds cute little buttons to make tidy snack bags (see it here). Brilliant!
Step 3: Use and store your homemade cling wrap!
To use your homemade cling wrap, just wrap or cover the item, then use the warmth of your hands to slightly soften the beeswax, then press and seal the cling wrap into place.
To wash it, just rinse it with cold water (yes, cold – hot water will melt the wax, remember?) and use a tiny amount of dish detergent if absolutely necessary. Let dry.
To store homemade cling wrap, you can either roll it up as in the photo below or fold it up so that it fits neatly on a shelf or in a drawer.
I’ve seen this but couldn’t afford to buy them- now I can make my own! Thank you for all the incredible information you supply us with .
I can not wait to try this!!!
So very glad to see this post. I am always looking for ways to save the planet and my pocket book. If I can get way with it I use foil as much as possible. No petroleum and you can recycle it. Going to do this very soon!
This sounds wonderful. But being great grandmother I’d like to mention one precaution. Be sure your fabric isn’t treated with chemicals that make it wrinkle resistant, fire retardant, or any other type of chemical coating. Even after washing these can potentially leach chemicals into your stored food.
That’s an excellent reminder! Thank you so much.
Must be a type-o, as I think you meant to make sure the fabric isn’t treated with chemicals.
Thank you so much for this post! I have learned so much from you and appreciate it very much 🙂
This sounds awesome! My daughter and I are always lookung to create things like this. not to mention sounds like a great gift idea.
Great post. My elders lived through the Great Depression. They showed me another alternative to plastic wrap that they used, because plastic wrap hadnt been invented then.
Take wax paper, enough to overhang at least an inch and 1/2 what you are going to refrigerate that has been placed in a bowl, cup or on a plate. The storage container needs a smooth lip edge that you can “twist ” the wax paper against. A real lip is the easiest for a snug lid that holds tight, but it works without one.
Using a rolling motion with one hand, twist/curve the wax-paper edge to make a crisp edge and cap snugging the lip of the bowl*. The other hand can hold the paper still to keep it from sliding off the bowl. When you go all the way around the bowl, you’ll have a wax paper lid, with a little roll around it holding it against the lip of the container *(cup, glass, plate- whatever)
It isnt as resuable, at least I havent tried washing the wax-paper caps. But they work pretty well, not completely airtight, but flyproof and not plastic either. Using it to cover leftovers makes me happily think of my resourceful Grandmother and Aunt
Thanks so much for the info. I can’t wait to share this helpful post with others.
I’m so excited to try this! I’ve had some bad experience with beeswax though — I’m worried it will be impossible to remove from the container. Was it hard for you to clean the cake tin you used? Vegetable oil should work, right?
No, I’ve never had a beeswax residue of any sort of container I’ve used it on. What was the bad experience you’ve had in the past?
As for the oil, I would avoid using oil of any sort, as that won’t allow the wax to create a seal on the container, as well as you’ll be left scrubbing the oil off the cling wrap after every use, which might be frustrating.
Good luck! 🙂
Maybe I’m just a newbie to beeswax, but I had a total nightmare cleaning up. The project itself was easy enough, but if you’re a klutz like me and manage to spill beeswax all over your surface, and don’t manage to clean it up before it cools completely and hardens into, well, hard wax, that’s completely impossible to remove, then all I can say is good luck!!! My advice is to scrape off the wax when it has cooled slightly so it’s solid, but not completely hard. Then use some kind of oil to rub off the remaining residue. I ended up pouring hot oil over the stove top to melt the hardened wax, and mixing it up until I got a weird gelatinous gloop — that doesn’t harden (yay!), and cleaning it off with alot of soap and hot water. That part was NOT fun, but the cling wrap works and is real pretty! Just try not to make a mess while you’re at it 😉 Kresha, if you have any advice about how to deal with beeswax clean-up, I’d be grateful! At this point, I may never touch beeswax ever again…! Oh it seems to come off silicone surfaces real easy, so it may be an idea to melt the wax in a silicone cake-tin if you have one.
Oh, you are certainly not alone! Yes, wax of any kind can be a pain to clean up and it sounds like you found a good way to deal with it. 🙂
The key is heat and cold, basically. I’ve sometimes had success, for example, by covering a hardened spill with a bunch of paper towels, setting an old hand towel on top of them, then ironing it until the wax underneath has melted and has been soaked up by the paper towels. On the other hand, if it gets on fabric that you don’t want wax on (say, your shirt), you can toss the fabric in the freezer until it’s totally hard, then break off whatever wax you can, followed by the paper-towels-and-iron trick.
And thanks for the tip about the silicone – I hadn’t heard of that! And if you use the silicone pan, perhaps it would be even easier to melt the wax in the oven rather than on the stovetop…. ah, new ideas…. 🙂
The silicone tip I found out by accident — I spilled some wax onto my silicone pot holders, and by the time I was able to deal with them, the wax had completely hardened, even inside the little crevices. I was distraught, of course, but then realised that the hard wax just peeled right off!! Amazing, and such a relief 😀
Thanks for your paper-towels-and-iron trick! That is neat and good to know.
Hairdryer to soften spilled beeswax, to make clean up easier? Just popped in to my head.
Rewarm it with a hair dryer and wipe with paper towel. If you make campfires the wax laden paper makes a great fire starter.
Would an old sheet be thin enough with a tight enough weave?
Yes, I think it would work very well! (Provided the sheets are not flannel…. I haven’t tried these with flannel but don’t think it would work well!)
Great idea for Christmas gifts for the bakers in my family! Also, are those my grandma’s tupperware salt and pepper shakers?
Oh, that IS a great idea! And yes, yes they are. 😉
Very interesting! And it looks very easy. What I wonder is how well these hold up when not in use during the summer. How would they hold up at 80 degrees? Would you need to store them in the refrigerator when not in use?
I would say as long as they’re not in the sun on a hot summer day, they should be fine (meaning if you’re storing them in a drawer or a closet or something). If you notice any softening, you could store them in the refrigerator for a short while, but again, I wouldn’t think it’s necessarily unless there’s some serious direct heat. 🙂
I hope that helps!
It can be dangerous to heat wax unless you do it in a double boiler arrangement. If it accidentally gets too hot, it can explode with devastating results! Thank you for this information! I am very excited to try it!
These are great! I would love to try this out–I’ve got SO much fabric and plenty of beeswax!
Thanks for the idea, shared on my page today. 🙂
Hi, i’ve been using beeswax cloth for dusting for years, and was jus getting ready to make another one or two, when I saw this post. I also plan to use the rest of the beeswax i bought to make tea candles using the empty cups we’ve saved after burning the originals. while preparing to make these, we happened upon a good trick: we laid a cloth in on the baking sheet in the oven, turned the cups upside down and heated the oven to 50° (Celsius), so that the leftover bits of wax would come out before we refilled the cups. Anyway, the result was that the cloth had been “waxed”, though unintentionally. I was thrilled, since it used up wax that would otherwise have been thrown away. 🙂
Besides this, there is a much easer way to make wax cloths: just as mentioned above in one clean-up solution, one can use an iron. Simply lay the cloth on a baking sheet, add just a few wax shavings on top (as they melt and get absorbed, they’ll spread throughout the cloth), cover with wax paper and another cloth, then iron. No mess. No waste!
do you make your dusting cloths the same as the cling wrap? same type of fabric? thanks
When I melt wax of any kind I use an electric griddle/frypan and cover it completely with foil. Then on that I use a disposable foil baking tin for the wax. I never worry about washing that foil pan out as I use it over and over. And any drips are not allowed to touch the heating appliance underneath either. I can reuse the same foil over and over. melt a lot of wax and have never made a candle.
I remember my grandmother using wax cloths. She actually sewed some with elastic edges to fit over her favorite bowls.
Oh, now that’s smart (both the foil covered work surface and the elastic-edged wax bowl covers)!
Thanks for sharing those great tips.
Wow! I am so going to do this! My daughter and I have been thinking of things to make and sell at the farmer’s market up the street, and these would be perfect. Any thoughts on what she should charge for them (8×8 and 12×12)?
That totally depends on the demographics of your buyers, what other products are available at the farmer’s market (or elsewhere in your area), and what your sales goals are. 🙂 I’m sorry I’m not more help!
Good luck and have fun!
Hi, I googled them. They are selling for $15-$18. I love this.
WOW! I love this. Now to look in my fabric stash and get the beeswax out.
I manage a non-profit thrift shop and I think this is an excellent idea for using up some of our mis-matched cotton sheets:-)
Hi Kresha, great instructions, I’m going to try these with fine-weave muslin. Did you try using just a few drops of jojoba oil or more than that? A few tutorials have mentioned tree resin as well but I guess that’s not entirely necessary?
I used probably about a teaspoon? I think? The jojoba definitely softens it a bit, so yes, just a few drops would probably be just right!
And yes, tree resin is helpful but definitely not necessary for a homemade version. 🙂
What tree resin can be used? There are so many different types it’seems hard to know which one to use!
Y’know, I’m not sure! Perhaps look at some of the commercial brands to see which varieties they use (if they list them)? I haven’t tried any, so I can’t provide any insight, unfortunately.
Thanks Kresha! 🙂
Make sure you don’t get any of the wax in your drains, especially if you have your own septic system. It will “Gum” it up an and the system will not work properly creating a large problem. City sewer systems use more chemicals to break down waxes, and latex based materials that people put down household drains. So there is a trade off.
Rather than use either of these items place your leftovers in a bowel and cover with a plate.
What about a vegan alternative to beeswax?
Soy wax is often used as a vegan substitute for beeswax, so you might try that, but it’s a bit softer, so you may also need a bit of carnauba wax (but only a bit!).
Late to the party, but I tried Candelilla wax this morning and it will not work. Too stiff, even with small amounts. On the bright side, if I can get it to feel a bit less waxy, I’ve got the perfect solution for book cloth, the hardy cloth one uses to make your own books.
Wouldn’t it be easier and more sanitary to use wax paper? It is also biodegradeable more so than plastic and cheap.
Sure, sometimes, but you’d need a way to fasten it, which is why a self-adhering wrap that keeps its shape is such a desirable item. I love wax paper, but consider wax paper and plastic wrap to have two entirely different functions in my kitchen.
Has anyone ever tried using bandanas for this? I thought they would be cute to use but I’m not sure how the fabric would work out.
Ooo!! I haven’t tried them, but suspect they would work well, especially if they’ve been washed a few times to remove the manufacturing residues so they’re soft and supple (and thus easily shapeable).
If you try it, please let us know how it goes!
I am wondering if anyone has ideas on a non plastic wrap cover I can use to cover rising pizza dough already on the baking pan. It’s one of my favorite recipes. I’m not sure of the posted one will work or not. If it would, great! please know that pan is low and the wrap often falls on the dough covered in olive oil. That is my concern.
You can definitely use this for that purpose – and I can personally attest that if it falls on the dough, it’s far easier to clean off this wax cloth than trying to deal with the dough on plastic wrap! Although – for pizza dough, I find the easiest is a just-slightly-damp dish towel (cotton sack variety).
Beeswax is contaminated with Clostridium botulinum spores which cannot be fixed by heating the wax. Ergo, your cling wrap has botulism spores in it. This shouldn’t be a problem for most adults but infant botulism could be a real concern.
Also, beeswax (even organic beeswax) contains numerous pesticides and insecticides which are carcinogenic and so it somehow goes against the spirit of your green cling wraps, IMO.
Then use another wax that soothes your spirit – soy, for example, unless you want to do avoid all the pesticides that those contain as well.
At some point, you have to make a choice which you’re more willing to have and use in your kitchen. There are no choices we make that don’t have SOME sort of consequence we might find questionable. Everything is about balance. If you prefer using plastic wrap because after having weighed all the options, you consider that the best for you, then by all means do it. But keep in mind that others may choose a different option, having also given it appropriate thought.
That myth has been blown out of the water years ago! Marion Ellis, professor of Entomology and an expert on bees:
“I know of no evidence that there is any possibility of botulism spores being present on beeswax, and if present, they would be rendered inactive by the heat required to melt beeswax for incorporation in [a beeswax-based] product.”
Don’t for get that the spores are also present in soil so don’t eat any fruit or vegetables too. ????It would also be in the honey you eat since the uncapping process mixes the wax with honey while straining the caps. I would know,we have owned bees for many years! My family has ate wax comb for years including my daughter when she was a small child and never got ill from it. I would rather take my chances in a beeswax infused cloth than the chemical wraps any day!
Apparently the rosin (pine sap) helps make the wrap “tacky” to cling. I’m about to test some mixes on the weekend.
I understand the reluctance to use wraps for meat product but I will be testing it for meat for the freezer, bacon, ham etc. In my opinion the bees wax is impermiable, jojoba is antmicrobial and pine rosin is also antimicrobial so a cool soap wash should be able to wash off any residue. I will be able to smell and feel if there is a build up of bacteria.
I also plan to make dedicated wraps so cross contanination does not occur for the sake of some “rules and safety”. I will be writing on the plain fabric words such as cheese, bacon, ham, beef or lamb etc before waxing them so each cloth is labeled with its contents. Patterned fabric would be perfect but money and availability is a set back there!
Yes, you are correct about the rosin adding tackiness. Play around to see what you like! 🙂
However, there are some serious issues to be aware of using it to wrap raw meats. First of all, unless you will also be placing it inside airtight containers, your meat will get freezer burn rather quickly, as these do not create an airtight seal (nor do the store-bought ones).
And yes, while you are correct that jojoba is antimicrobial, the small amount that’s in this wrap is not nearly enough to “combat” the amount of bacteria that can grow from raw meat juices, and no, you won’t be able to feel if there are harmful bacteria lingering – by the time you can smell them or feel them, they have grown considerably and have been dangerous for awhile. This is not to say that you CAN’T use the wraps for raw meat, but please please please be aware that your wraps will need to be washed EXTREMELY well in soapy water multiple times and COMPLETELY dried in between each use.
Oh, and labeling them is a brilliant idea!!
So, there’s my two cents. I do wish you well! 🙂
Ahh yes I guess there is the freezer burn issue and true regarding the bacteria growth. As an afterthought maybe it would be best wrapping the raw meat in waxed paper then the wrap?
I’m determined to find a plastic free method! Given the waxed paper is biodegradable I’m happy to use it. I wonder if freezing the meat on a tray then wrapping it in the waxed paper and bee wrap would be feasible?
The waxed paper idea is a great idea – I applaud your diligence and creativity. 🙂 You could also use heavy kraft paper, which is often inexpensive in large rolls, but you would still want to line with a bit of waxed paper so it doesn’t stick, but the triple layer of waxed paper / kraft paper / waxed cloth would certainly be a good plastic-free solution to minimize freezer burn! That also keeps the meat juices and bacteria away from the waxed cloth, so that might be a really fantastic solution, actually.
You could also use glass or stainless steel containers, but those would get EXPENSIVE fast. :/ Mason jars aren’t as expensive, but it’s hard to store lamb chops or steaks in mason jars…….. 🙂
And the freezing the meat on a tray first would only help in terms of keeping the pieces from sticking together (which is certainly a bonus), but it wouldn’t necessary help mitigate freezer burn, so I don’t think you need to do that step, per se, unless you want to keep everything from sticking together – then it works really well!
Again, I applaud you! I hope this turns out really well!
(And this conversation makes me realize I need to put up a post on plastic-free solutions for freezing!)
I’ve seen this tutorial on the web in several place and I always wonder what happens to the cloth once the wax is worn away after a few months. Can you “redo” the waxing?
Yes, definitely! You can add a bit more wax to any patch that wears thin using the exact same method (I think the oven method is the easiest in that case, as then you don’t have it running over the thicker parts as well).
I hope that helps!
Thank you for sharing this idea! I tried it and love it! I wrote my own post about it with pictures of the ones I have made so far! http://emilyartroom.blogspot.com/search/label/Christmas%20in%20July
I am doing a linky party called Christmas in July which the post above is linked to. I am trying to collect ideas and start making thoughtful, unique, and practical handmade gifts now to help get a start on the holidays because I’m always in a rush to get them done! I hope you will link up with more of your creative ideas! Thanks for sharing! https://emilyartroom.blogspot.com/2017/07/christmas-in-july.html
This is awesome! I appreciate you mentioning the different things you tried (whether it worked or didn’t) and updates! I hadn’t seen reusable cling wrap before, but now I totally want to try making it!
How do you store these cloths in between uses?
Once they’re wiped clean and have dried, you can store them in any number of ways: roll them up, fold them, place them in a baggie or sealable container, however you so desire! Personally, I like to fold them and place them in a drawer so they’re just ready to grab easily.
The only consideration I would give is to not store them in a place that typically gets crumbs and things in it, as the slightly sticky surface will hold on to such items. 🙂
I would stick to 100% cotton. Reason being, cotton absorbs. The beeswax sits on the polyester and not absorb into it.
How long do these cloths last? I know it depends on use, but will they last a year, or longer ?
It simply depends on how well the wax clings to the cloth. If the wax adheres well, yes – they should last for a number of years.
I love how eco-friendly this is! It is a fun gift idea too!
Can they be used to cover food in a microwave?
No, unfortunately not. The beeswax will melt off. Likely not the flavor you’d be going for, unless you’re reheating Honey Cake. 😉
i just tried this! It worked well, I had some big pieces that I had to slide through the pan but that worked okay (I had a few dry spots but its going to be ok). Some clean up advice: if you get any beeswax on your counter, heat and vegetable oil seems to get it off.
You might try a fabric called PFD (prepared for dyeing) It is what fabric dyers use when they want to dye fabric. There are no chemicals and if you want to naturally dye the fabric it accepts tea dyeing and if you boil veggies like beets you can place the fabric in the leftover water and with the addition of a mordent like soda ash you can have shabby chic wrappers.
Oh, cool! I didn’t know that. Thanks for passing on the great suggestion!
Hey! Do u have a vegan version of this? With other type of wax perhaps.
I haven’t tried, but there are definitely vegan waxes with similar melting points to beeswax. I would try soy wax first, and if that’s too soft, perhaps add a tiny bit of carnauba. Again, I haven’t tried it – those ideas are just off the top of my head. 🙂
Please let us know if you try it and what worked!
Has anyone gone without using pinking shears on their edges? Did you find lots of raveling? Did you zigzag edges instead?
Thank you very much Kresha!!! I did them just know.
I’ve been looking for this information for so long! I’ve read only complicated posts before yours. I bought only the beeswax, I’m trying to reuse stuff that I don’t need anymore so is even more eco-friendly.
Beeswax alone can work beautifully! I hope it worked for you. 🙂