Sustainability: Beeswax cloths: The clever alternative to aluminum foil etc.

Packaging waste and supposedly practical disposable plastic gadgets are undoubtedly among the biggest environmental evils of our time.

Sustainability: Beeswax cloths: The clever alternative to aluminum foil etc.

Packaging waste and supposedly practical disposable plastic gadgets are undoubtedly among the biggest 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 storage box. Everything the rolls produce is cut, wrapped and packed. Half onions or lemons, the leftovers from the Sunday roast or the sandwiches for the junior. There is practically nothing that cannot be wrapped or at least covered in aluminum or cling film. But what is the alternative? Beeswax wraps have been trying to at least curb the film craze for several years. But what is actually behind the colorful crinkled cloths? The five most important questions and answers about beeswax cloths.

The base for beeswax wraps is usually a regular 100 percent cotton fabric. “Poplin”, “Cretonne” or “Cambric” are suitable fabrics. The cotton cloth is then coated on both sides with a mixture of beeswax and tree resin. Some products also contain a little jojoba or coconut oil. For vegan oilcloths, the wax from the candelila bush, which is native to Mexico, is often used instead of beeswax.

Depending on the size of the cut, beeswax wraps are primarily used to cover open or cut foods or wrap them 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, allowing the wax cloths to easily conform to any shape. Once wrapped or covered, the beeswax wraps stiffen again and securely seal the food. Fresh fish and raw meat should not be wrapped in beeswax wraps for hygienic reasons.

In contrast to aluminum or cling film, beeswax wraps are reusable. On the one hand, they should be antibacterial and therefore unattractive to bacteria and other harmful germs. Wax also has a dirt and water-repellent effect. Once used, a jet of lukewarm water is sufficient to use the oilcloths again. However, they should be dry. If food remains stick to the cloths, they can also be cleaned with a little mild detergent. Over time the coating becomes 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 be evenly distributed again after a few minutes and the beeswax cloth will shine as smoothly as before. Of course, the sustainable packaging alternative doesn't have eternal life either. But if you care for the cloths regularly, you can wrap or cover food for several months or even years for the sake of the environment.

If you don't like the patterns and designs on offer and you like crafting 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 (for example pine resin). Also an old pot, a brush and a kitchen scale to weigh the resin and wax pills.

As a rule, it is sufficient to rinse used beeswax cloths under a little lukewarm water and pat dry with a tea towel. They are then immediately ready for use again. A little detergent 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. When it comes to fish and meat, lukewarm water is not enough to completely remove bacteria or fungi from the cloth.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is skeptical about the trend towards beeswax wraps, especially for this reason. Over time, bacteria could settle on the cloths, which lukewarm water and detergent cannot reliably remove, according to the BfR. The institute also strongly advises against impregnating beeswax cloths with jojoba oil. Fatty foods could absorb a lot of it. This is particularly critical if the oil, wax or resin is contaminated with pollutants, according to the BfR. Therefore, choose ready-made cloths, as well as the ingredients for making yourself, particularly carefully.

Tip: Beeswax wraps are disposed of in the compost or in organic waste.

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