How hygienic are beeswax wraps?

Make a clean break from cling film.

Girl wrapping food in beeswax wrap.

Beeswax wraps are marketed as a greener alternative to single-use cling film.

The wax-infused cloths are reusable and mouldable, so even odd-shaped foods can be wrapped. And, if cared for properly, they can last for months, which helps justify the $12 outlay (the average cost for a medium-sized wrap).

As the wraps are used to cover food, it’s fair enough to assume they’re hygienic. However, they can’t be washed vigorously or in hot water, so there’s a risk they could become contaminated with pathogens.

What we did

Wrapping leftover cake in beeswax wrap.

We sent two wraps to a laboratory to be tested for mould and bacteria. One wrap had been used once to wrap a tuna sandwich; the other had been used for about six months. Even though we’d followed the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter, our tests showed both wraps harboured potential nasties.

Our tests didn’t measure the amount of bacteria (the higher the count, the higher your chances of getting ill), but they did indicate the well-used wrap had much greater microbial populations than the wrap that had been used just once.

Our advice

There are simple alternatives to beeswax wraps if you want to ditch cling film. Consider repurposing a cloth serviette or other piece of fabric that can be washed at high temperatures.

If you’re using a beeswax wrap, wash it in cold, soapy water or wipe it down with a damp cloth. Allow it to air dry, then store it in a cool, dry place.

Don’t use the wraps to cover raw meat, food for infants or food for the immunocompromised.

Member comments

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Llyvonne B.
02 Nov 2019
Other fabric uses

I buy alot of meat in bulk for my dog. Not wanting to use plastic I use a stretch cotton fabric to wrap each portion. I then pack those into freezer safe glass containers to prevent freezer burn. The fabric means I can easily separate each portion. It works well for me and the fabric is washed in the machine ready for the next time.

Nigel P.
27 Oct 2019
Another alternative to cling film

I found a fantastic product made from food grade silicon. Comes in two sizes, the larger one covers a dinner plate, and the smaller one a side plate. These are stretchy and cling to glass/ceramic just like cling film. Easy to wash in hot soapy water. I store mine flat in a tea towel/layer of cloth.
They can also be used in the oven as a baking sheet.

Hannah H.
29 Sep 2019
Use plates

I have used wraps but it is much simpler to turn a plate upside down over another plate with food on it and put in the fridge or put a plate over the top of a bowl with food in it and put it in the fridge. We all have plates!

Michele M.
30 Sep 2019
Plates for food covers

I agree with you re using plates in the fridge but they're of limited value when for taking food elsewhere. Not everything fits nicely into a bowl or container either. Any suggestions please?

Consumer staff
30 Sep 2019
Re: Plates for food covers

Hi Michele,

If hygiene and waste reduction are highest on your list of priorities when it comes to storing food, we’d recommend good-quality, reusable containers. We include some suggestions in our article “what are the best ways to cut packaging waste”: https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/packaging-waste

You could also try wide-mouthed glass jars or compostable waxed paper. Or, as the article says, use a piece of fabric that can be washed at high temperatures.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Robina T.
18 Nov 2019
Wax Paper

It would be nice if you could still buy wax paper but alas it is no more. I have never been a great lover of plastic cling film and have used waxed paper for over 50 years, I used my last piece a month ago. Now Countdown no longer stock it as they say there is no demand. I can not believe that everyone is now using Bees wax wraps which I have used and find them a reasonable replacement for waxed paper.

Maybe it just shows just how committed we are to end our love affair with plastic when there has always been an alternative.

Sue H.
28 Sep 2019
Beeswax wraps hygiene

Air drying is important before storing. Bacteria need warmth and water for survival.
Also refresh them on tinfoil in the oven. This will kill mould too

Ed & Jen B.
29 Sep 2019
Refresh

I have been told to refresh the wax every now and again by placing the wrap between baking paper and ironing. The heat from the iron may or may not kill some bacteria. Iron longer for a higher kill rate, it seems it is a target rich environment.

Mike C.
28 Sep 2019
Beeswax Wraps

We've also been using beeswax wraps for a couple of years. All four of our kids use them daily for school, plus we wrap veges and cheese with them, and they're great for covering bowls. Just give them a good wipe down or cold water wash, and they're all good! Plus, when they've finally lost their 'cling' after a year or so, they make great fire starters!! Anything can be unhygienic if not used and cleaned properly.

Renate S.
28 Sep 2019
Food wraps

I still believe that after cling film, which we strive to replace, the next best thing are glass bowls (or porcelain, or ceramic) upside down over a plate. It works fine. Bowls come in all sizes, some are oven proof and some come with a glass or a plastic lid. If you don't want to use those plastic lids, just put a small plate on top, or use them upside down on a plate. A stack of different sizes of bowls and plates made of glass or ceramic or whatever glazed material is more hygienic and a cheap, environmentally acceptable solution for food storage in the fridge. They can be popped into the dishwasher and come out sparkling clean. THAT IS RECYCLING! I would NEVER ever re_use cling wrap let alone waxed covers, hand washed or not. In my view, reusing waxed covers or cling film is unhygienic, disgusting and a source of allergies and serious health risks.

Sharman R.
28 Sep 2019
Wax wraps

I have similarly been using mine for some time with no adverse effects and find them an excellent alternative to single use plastic film. I wash and dry after each use. And I agree they are excellent for vegetable storage, and much easier to close around a container than traditional cling film.

Noeleen S.
28 Sep 2019
Wax wraps

I have been using mine for over a year now with no adverse affects. I use a little dishwash liquid and a brush with cold water than dry on the oven door handle (not when the oven is hot). They are excellent for vegetable storage. A cut cauliflower lasted for two weeks and was like fresh.

Rosalie A.
28 Sep 2019
Wax wraps

Yes I made my own wraps and have also bought wraps. I wipe mine down with warm soapy water and dry them in the sun. No problems. I havnt used glad wrap for over 18 months now. No one has been sick at all.