Do you really need pine rosin to make beeswax wraps?

We’re all doing beeswax wraps, but do you ever wonder if that mysterious ingredient, pine rosin, is essential? I set out to find out. 


Anatomy of a beeswax wrap

Beeswax wraps at their most basic are just beeswax infused cloth. The wax gives the fabric a water resistant coating which helps keep food fresh while still letting it breathe. Wraps can be used to store halves of fruit and veg, cover bowls, insulate rising bread dough, wrap up sandwiches, and so on. In short, anytime you might have once used plastic cling wrap or a ziploc bag.

The easiest way to make beeswax wraps is with wax only

The simplest, can’t-go-wrong recipe is beeswax grated over a cloth, melted in the oven on low heat. That’s it – you don’t need an actual recipe do you?? The wax melts and seeps into all areas of the cloth. If you see any dry patches, add a shaving or two of wax.

It will be flimsy and floppy when just out of the oven, but once it cools it will become hard yet pliable. This style of wrap will not have the tackiness of the versions you’ve probably seen at the farmers market or in shops, but it’ll be easy to clean with a texture that works perfectly for wrapping around full loaves of bread, or cookies.

An early prototype.

I had been making my wraps this way for some time, but I found they didn’t work well in all situations. They don’t self-adhere, so they don’t work as well when you want to cover the end of a half a pumpkin for example. To compensate, I’d add a rubber band around something I’d wrapped up. No biggie, but I was curious about how much better I could make these by using the same ingredients as the commercially sold varieties. The real catalyst was me promising my girlfriends I would teach them how to make their own beeswax wraps. I wanted them to be really happy with the results.

Add tackiness to your wraps with pine rosin

If you absolutely must have that more tacky feeling of store bought wraps, the ingredient you need is pine rosin, which is tree sap. It also goes by pine resin, colophony or Greek pitch. It’s not that readily available in shops, but you can find it online. I bought a large bag to share with friends.

After experimenting with pine rosin added to the formula, I can confirm that it achieves a different result than beeswax only. It makes the wraps behave more closely to plastic cling wrap, which is what most people are trying to find a replacement for.

Which formula you choose depends on how you want to use your wraps, and whether you can find some pine rosin, which can be challenging depending on where you live. Pine rosin is also used in carpentry, art, and for musical instruments, but if you’re buying from a specialty shop, be sure to inquire whether it’s food safe.

Beeswax only wraps are best for beginners who want a simple to make versatile wrap.


Make them in a large enough size to fully enclose your food. I use these to wrap entire loaves of bread and to pack snacks to take on the go.

Beeswax wraps with pine rosin are best for recovering plastic cling wrap addicts.


They can be made in relatively small dimensions and still be useful since they will adhere to themselves or the hard surface of the food you’re wrapping. Making them is a more involved process, and you will need more ingredients and equipment.

How to make beeswax wraps with pine rosin

Set up your fabric: Place your clean, dry fabric onto a baking sheet covered with a piece of non-toxic compostable parchment paper. You can reuse this same sheet each time. I don’t bother with the parchment for wax only wraps, but pine rosin is very sticky. Preheat your oven on medium low – around 150 Celsius.

Melt the mixture: Combine the beeswax, pine rosin and jojoba in a double boiler on the stovetop to melt, then stir to combine. It could take a little time depending on how large your chunks of wax and rosin are. A double boiler is simply a metal or glass bowl placed on top of a pot of hot water. I do this to avoid ruining my cooking pots, and the bowl is an op shop find I reserve for the purpose. If your rosin is a fine powder, avoid inhaling the small particles.

Infuse the fabric: Drip the mixture onto the fabric, then place in the oven for a few minutes on low heat. I experimented with dipping the cloth directly into the bowl, but the coating was too heavy, and I ended up having to do some work redistributing the wax mixture to additional pieces of fabric. Or, dip the first one, then just press another fresh sheet on top to soak up the excess once the first sheet comes out of the oven.

If your fabric is larger than your baking sheet, fold it over on itself. The mixture will permeate and distribute through the fabric when heated in the oven, so don’t worry too much about spreading this perfectly evenly. It’s a bit of an art, and it’s one reason I like to do a few at once or make an afternoon of it with some friends.

A reader tip is to use this double boiler method, but pour into moulds and let set. When cooled, these can be grated like beeswax blocks and placed in the oven. This is probably going to be easier to manage than working with the hot mixture

Hang to dry: Remove from the oven, check that the wax has saturated the fabric evenly and there are no dry patches. If there are, add more of the mixture and reheat. Remove from the oven and drape over a drying rack to let cool.

Ingredients

Here’s what I approximately use to infuse one 25cm square cloth – bit of an inexact science though! I got to this measure by making a larger batch and dividing by the overall square centimetre-age of fabric.

  • 40g beeswax
  • 40g pine rosin
  • 10g jojoba oil

This mixture is essentially a pine salve, which is a traditional antibacterial ointment (and survivalist favourite), so use any leftover on your hands and elbows.

If you don’t have rosin, it’s not the end of the world and there is another way to achieve some extra tackiness – just use oil and wax, melted to combine using the above method. Adding a touch of oil helps soften and leverage the beeswax’s subtle tackiness.

I make these for myself and friends, not commercially, so this is simply what worked for me. In future I might experiment and re-wax mine with a different formula by using more oil and less rosin, seeing as the latter seems to be a bit of a trick to track down for many people.

Tips for choosing the right fabric

  • 100% cotton fabric, preferably organic. Lightweight and tightly woven, no stretch.
  • Patterned or darker coloured fabrics help disguise any marks left by drips and drops. Whatever you do, don’t go with white!
  • Beeswax usually has a yellowish cast – this will colour your fabric, so choose one that won’t clash.

Care and use of your beeswax wraps

  • They’re not designed to be used with hot or very drippy foods.
  • The warmth of your hand on the wraps is what allows them to shape around things. It’s easiest when they’re at room temperature.
  • Wash with warm soapy water, not hot.
  • Don’t wrap raw meat.
  • Please don’t toss the cloth when the wax wears off in six months to a year. Crease and otherwise worn looking cloths can be re-waxed indefinitely at home, and reuse is the whole point, isn’t it?


40 thoughts on “Do you really need pine rosin to make beeswax wraps?

  1. Hi there,
    Thanks for your post. It’s very helpful. I was wondering (because I can’t seem to find any valuable answers) if you know whether it is actually safe to have the pine rosin come in contact with food when you wrap an apple for example. I have seen that most of the places who sell it say it’s for external use only and not food safe. So it does make me wonder…. On the other hand, if it is safe, I’d rather include it in my recipe.
    Kind regards, Astrid

    1. Hi Astrid,

      the supplier I purchased from had a specific note in the product description indicating that this pine rosin was popularly used in beeswax wraps. I have not had any acute poisonings, nor have I ever hear of this being the case with any commercially sold wraps. I have come across stories where people share that they’ve used pine rosin as part of a natural chewing gum. I would contact the supplier you’re considering buying from to ask for more detail. They may be able to tell you more about the supply chain and whether they are aware of any contaminants that make it unsuitable. I wouldn’t consider it a blanket truth about the safety of pine rosin – it’s more likely something to do with how this supplier is sourcing.

      I understand that some people may get a rash from touching pine rosin and that you definitely don’t want to inhale the dust (mine came mostly as chunks). Probably more relevant to woodworkers.

      I hope that helps : )

  2. Hi,
    Thanks for your research and recipes for waxed wraps! I have made beeswax wraps before, and yes had the same problem as you mentioned- not tacky. I am happy to use these, however would like some tacky ones too. I have been researching that pine resin/ rosin is not great against food? not food grade, and can leave the taste on porous food. Is this your experience?
    Thanks,
    Kate

    1. Hi Kate,

      If you’ve found anything to suggest pine rosin is unsafe against food I’d be as curious as you to learn more. I’ve not come across anything in my research that suggests so. I also haven’t found any additional flavouring imparted into my food. However, sensitivities differ from person to person, so if you’ve ever been accused of having a sensitive sense of smell or taste (do you taste bitterness where others don’t? you might be a supertaster), then perhaps the pine scent would be too much.

      Cheers, Liz

  3. Hi Liz,

    This process is so much better than others I’ve tried, so thank you! Did you have any issues with the pine resin not fully melting/combining? Mine formed a sticky glob that just wouldn’t melt.

    Thanks!

  4. Hi Linz,

    When I did a large batch with friends I remember lots of stirring and waiting and stirring and waiting. The rosin I had was a mix of smaller debris and big chunks. And you’re so right – if it’s not fully melted it’s not going to mix well with the wax. All I could suggest is a bit more time on the double boiler and/or increasing the heat a bit. Good luck 🙂

    Liz

  5. Hello!
    I have just made some of these wraps (without the rosin). However they crack on the folds….. What am I doing wrong? Do they need more wax? they are dripping when I get them out of the oven. Has anybody experience this? Thanks!

    1. Hi Claudia,

      Some very light creasing is normal, but it sounds like you might have used too much wax for the amount of fabric based on your description of it dripping. To much wax will lead to cracking once it’s cooled and being used (I’ve done this). Remember, you don’t need a thick coat of wax, just enough to permeate. You can probably rectify this fairly easily by reheating the wrap and placing another piece of fabric on top to absorb the excess. Try that and see how you go.

      Liz

  6. Hi Liz,

    I am from South Africa and have searched the internet for pine rosin with little success. Amazon does not ship this particular product to SA (and I think the cost would be astronomical in any case!). What type of stores would normally sell pine rosin?

    By the way, super informative post!

    Ilana

    1. Hi Ilana,

      I’m so glad you’re finding it useful. In terms of tracking down pine rosin, Some leads might be soap making shops, art stores, music and woodworking supply. Do you have pine trees in SA at all? You could try collecting sap and purifying it yourself – looks like a messy business though! Remember that it has a bunch of sneaky names, so it might be hiding as colophony or greek pitch where you are. Good luck.

      Liz

  7. Very interesting article. I’m a fan of beeswax wraps, but I didn’t know they had more than wax. It so happens that I am allergic to pine resin, so I only use mine to cover bowls, and still I do it very rarely because touching it with my hands might cause a bad reaction. Do you know if there’s another substance that could be added to do the same effect (I would like to try and make some of my own)?

    1. Hi Patricia,

      I’m not sure what else would give that tacky feeling other than simply another type of tree sap. Keep in mind, the tacky effect won’t last forever even with the resin, so I would recommend trying the beeswax only if you want to give these a whirl. They still work great : )

    2. Hi Patricia-
      I’ve read a couple articles that mention using propolis in the beeswax wraps (it’s like bee’s glue- they make it to seal up their hives) but I’m not sure if the bees make it using tree sap, sooo it might not work for you…further research perhaps?

  8. Is it better to buy the powdered rosin perhaps? I am just not sure how to melt the beeswax and the pine rosin if I get the chunks of rosin? I don’t have a double boiler …. do I mix the two with the jojoba oil and just heat at a low temperature altogether in a pot or do I boil them both or separate? Thank you.

    1. Hi Shirley,

      Any big chunks will still eventually melt, it just takes some time and stirring, but yes, if you got a powder it would probably melt much quicker. You would want to combine wax, rosin and jojoba in the same vessel. The pine rosin is super sticky so I wouldn’t put this directly in a pot. I don’t have a true double boiler either so I just put a metal bowl (a glass bowl could also work) over a pot of boiling water. I keep this bowl for crafts and got it cheap at the thrift shop – is that a possibility for you to do?

      Liz

    1. Hi Sheryl, I’ve never tried it. I suppose it’s all just tree sap, but then again, plants can be poisonous! Don’t know what to suggest :/ Also, seems like Frankincense resin might be even more obscure to track down?

      1. Thanks for you input. Frankincense is edible and is often infused in oil. I like the Frankincense because the Apothecary store where I live stocks it. Thanks

  9. I posted a question several weeks ago asking about food grade resin but I don’t see it in this feed. In the mean time I found my own answer which I’ll share here. As an artist who paints with encaustic and a beekeeper, I thought I had the two main ingredients and only had to order the jojoba oil (which I now use on my face too). Concerned about the food grade as any pot I use to make my encaustic mixture can never be used for food later, I did some research. My damar came from R&F who could not verify that it was food grade. However the other main encaustic supplier did! “The Enkaustikos Damar Resin has been FDA approved for coating fruit and vegetable crates during shipment.” So that is what I ordered and used. From painting experience allow me to share tips on melting that tough damar and then I’ll share my new first time experience of making these food wraps. First put the chunks of damar in a bag and pound it to a powder. Also when mixing it with your wax, do so under a vent and/or wear a face mask. You do not want to breathe in those fine crystals. It should melt at 200 degrees Fahrenheit which I did directly in a designated pot on my hot plate that I use for my encaustics. I have a surface thermometer to keep an eye on it. I normally melt the wax first and then add the damar powder which melts at a higher temperature (which is what gives the encaustic painting its durability but only 1/8th goes into my painting mixture). However another blog I read said to melt the damar first and then add the wax and finally the oil. I’ll try that next time. So after a half hour of vigilance and still not completely melted I increased the temp to 250F and then even to 300F not taking my eyes off of it for even a second. Note that the flash point (FIRE!!!) of wax is 400F which could be catastrophic. The 300F worked so then I quickly dipped my cloth pieces letting each drip off and quickly finished and turned off the heat. This left a coating too thick so I used an iron to transfer the excess to other undipped pieces. Done! I used cotton muslin that I tie dyed in pureed blueberry juice (we own a blueberry orchard so I had plenty in the freezer). It was interesting that some came out blue and some were shades of violet. One more tip I learned is that if your hands have a tacky feeling for handling these simply use hand lotion to relieve them. Thanks for your blog. I’m enjoying all your other tips too. Bee well!

    1. Hi Neranza,

      Thank you for posting this!

      I didn’t see your original question pop up, but I’d answered another similar. I have to say, I’m glad you did more research. Your background as an artist gives you a depth of material knowledge that I don’t have. So, ‘damar’ is a term for the large blocks of rosin?

      With regards to heating – I found that having one material already melted in the bowl of the double boiler seemed to help the other melt, because it envelopes the unmelted material and I would think heat from all sides might mean more heat energy without a higher temp? I’ll update the post with your caution not to inhale those crystals.

      Um, super jealous that you own a blueberry orchard…. : )

      Liz

  10. Hi Liz,
    We all keep learning including me. So I just looked up and found this: “Dammar, also spelled damar, or dammer, is any of a variety of hard varnish resins obtained from coniferous and hardwood trees characteristic of Southeast and East Asia.” It’s tapped from the tree kind of like maple syrup without hurting the tree. I also keep my range vent on while heating the mixture which is advised when working with encaustics as you don’t want to breath the vapors either.

    Hi Claudia,
    As far as ratio, when I was researching, I found many recipes that varied so the one I tried and seems to work well is 640 grams beeswax, 500 grams resin, and 210 grams oil. (This is close to Liz’s recipe I see.) For my first batch I cut that down to 1/4 recipe which made me about a dozen 12″ x 12″ wraps and about a dozen 6″ x 6″ wraps. This was after I ironed the excess onto others. I’m making a second batch now as I write this melting the damar first. I’m holding it at 200 for now. We’ll see how it works. I actually ordered a pack of BeesWrap to see how theirs feel and after I ironed out the excess, mine feels like theirs – thin and pliable yet firm enough to do the job. I’ve been giving these out as gifts and most have not heard of them so I’m please to spread the knowledge. They are so cool!

    1. Hi Sarah,

      The jojoba adds pliability, since it’s a liquid at room temp, and the other ingredients will harden up. This helps to avoid cracking. I’m sure another oil could work, but I haven’t tried. if you do, let us know how you go.

      One suggestion would be to try one that’s similar to jojoba in texture. For example, the texture of coconut oil changes dramatically with heat, so I wouldn’t trust it in a wrap because it would be yo-yoing from solid to liquid in the Australian heat.

      Liz

      1. Hi,
        I happen to have fractionated coconut oil in the house so I was contemplating using that in place of the jojoba, but I am researching if it would be comparable in function and purpose to jojoba since it is a liquid at room temperature and has a long shelf life. From what I have read, jojoba is actually a liquid wax. I need to research more or just give it a try, I guess.

  11. Final update follow up from my last comment. So when I tried melting only the resin first it didn’t work either. The bottom would be melted but the surface would still be smooth. I also still had to increase my heat to 300F. I see everyone using a double boiler so I’m curious what temp that produces. I’ll go back to melting the wax first and sprinkling in the resin pounded to a powder. Anyway, 1/2 recipe I posted above made me 17 large (14″ x 14″), 17 medium (10″ x 10) and 14 small (6″ x 6″). I thought I was not going to make anymore but I gave away so many, I’m going to make one more batch. This time I found online GOTS certified organic cotton muslin for about $8 a yard of 54″. Most places had it for $12 a yard. I’m also going to dye the fabric with organic yellow onion skins and just did the edges in blueberry juice. Thanks for all your helpful advice Liz!

  12. Hi Liz, on 3 October we chatted about me struggling to get hold of Pine Rosin in South Africa. I managed to get some, but the suppliers cannot confirm whether it is food grade. Do you perhaps know how this is determined and how I can check the quality?

    On another note, have you ever heard of Gum Arabic? Could this possibly be used as a replacement for Pine Rosin?

    Thank you,

    Ilana

  13. Hi Liz,
    The only resin I have found locally so far is in a dance store and is called “Rosin for Dancers”. It is in small golden chunks just like that pictured in the white bowl in your post. When I heated the rosin in a double boiler with the wax and oil, it initially melted, but even though I kept the water boiling, it soon formed dark taffy like lumps in the bottom of the pot. Seems to be the same problem that Linz had. Which supplier of resin did you use? Am I using the wrong brand of resin?

    1. Hi Jill,

      I ordered from Goldleaf here in Australia. It sounds like we’re working with the same or a very similar material. I could only guess that that the temp in some spots wasn’t hot enough to keep the pine rosin melted so it just reformed into the lump. When it cools, taffy-like is the perfect description of what happens : ) When it initially melts, did you stir to combine well with the other ingredients? That might be the trick to getting the texture right.

      Liz

  14. Do you make a large batch of wax mixture and then a bunch of fabric squares one at a time? If so, how do you know how much of the mixture to drizzle onto each square?

  15. Hi Liz,

    I tried to leave a comment before, but maybe it didn’t go through!
    I was wondering about the amount to drizzle onto the fabric squares. You have an amount (grams) listed for one sheet. Do you make one batch of mix at a time? Or do you make a large batch of the wax and then do a bunch of sheets in a row? If you do multiples, what measurement do you use when you drizzle the wax on?

    Thanks!
    Shelly

    1. Hi Shelly,

      Funny you should ask – in preparation for re-waxing my sheets (it’s coming up to that time again) I had that same thought. I think it might be a better process to make a bulk amount of the wax & rosin mixture, let it set it in moulds, and then grate and melt only as needed. In principle it seems smarter to do the double boiler step only the once! A block of pre-mix would make a great gift as well. It’s an inexact science on knowing how much to add to each square, but if I was to try this new method, I would try to distribute a light coating of shavings over the fabric. It’s best to err on the side of less and keep adding then to oversaturate the sheet. I’ll try to do an update to this post soon with a picture of how thinly to sprinkle – you can sort of get an idea from the image of the beeswax only wrap near the top of the post – but that’s not really a perfect example as in hindsight I see I took a picture of a clump :S

    1. I would think so, but would wait until you’ve worn through some of the wax coating through use. Otherwise you’ll just have too much mixture overall for the amount of fabric. Or you could plan to make another sheet at the same time to soak up some of the excess.

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