From cheesemaking to straining stocks to bundling herbs, is there anything cheesecloth cannot do? A versatile kitchen tool, cheesecloth, has been around since the time of Marco Polo. Its straining prowess is used to make a variety of healthy homemade treats, not just limited to cheese.
If you don’t own one, don’t dash to the supermarket just yet. There are plenty of fantastic cheesecloth substitutes that you can find at your house at this very moment. Today, we’ll be sharing those everyday home staples that can take on cotton cheesecloth duties amazingly well.
Related Article: What is cheesecloth? All about it.
Things to Look for in Cheesecloth Alternative
Lightweight and loosely woven, a typical cheesecloth is made from fine-quality gauze-like cotton. The holes are tiny enough to let the liquid pass through while holding on to the chunky bits.
After straining, this airy fabric is wrapped around the cheese to let it breathe as it ages. It’s not your ordinary fabric, so here are a few things to keep in mind while picking a good cheesecloth alternative.
Hypoallergic, Non-Toxic Material: It goes without saying that anything used to wrap, store, or strain food items should be chemical-free. Cheesecloth is an unbleached plain fabric for that very reason. Whatever substitute you decide to pick from the list below, make sure it is not dyed and preferably hypoallergic.
A Porous Weave: A typical cheesecloth weave is tight enough to hold on to the solids while letting the watery liquid pass through easily. Too tight, and it retains every speck while taking forever to strain. On the other hand, a very loose weave will result in the loss of even solids along with the juice.
- Washable and Durable: We always recommend reusable solutions. Most of the alternatives we’ve listed below can be washed and used many times over. In fact, a popular cheesecloth alternative, muslin, only gets softer and better after each wash.
15 Cheesecloth Substitutes Easily Available at Home
1. Muslin Yarn
One of the best alternatives to cheesecloth is unbleached muslin, and even better if it is the organic variety. Its plain weave, natural coloring, and gentle quality make muslin a popular choice for infant swaddles as well.
Although slightly finer than cheesecloth, muslin has an airy texture with just enough room for the liquid to pass through while catching on to the chunky pieces. The best part? You can wash and reuse muslin fabric over and over again, with it getting softer and smoother after each wash.
2. Coffee Filters
In our efforts to make the most of every item in the house, we found that a coffee filter, whether disposable or reusable, doubles up nicely as cheesecloth. Its weave is similar, although a tad tighter, to filter finely ground coffee.
The finer weave might take longer to strain than the usual cheesecloth, so be patient and pour your concoction slowly. Before using this filter, make sure you give it a good wash to remove any hint of coffee unless you want a coffee-flavored cheese!
3. Thick Paper Towels
Every kitchen cabinet has these, but we’re looking for a thicker, multi-ply type to make sure it doesn’t dissolve in the straining process. Unlike others on this list, a paper towel is single-use and not the best option for cheesecloth. The only part where it scores is because of being readily available in every home. These will get the job done. You’ll just need to pour carefully and not mind having these sheets absorb a bit of liquid as you strain.
Related Article: 50 Easy Tip on How to be More Sustainable
4. Medical Gauze
We mentioned earlier that cheesecloth is a loosely-woven gauze type fabric. A sterile medical gauze, in many ways, is similar, except being slightly thinner than cheesecloth. While using a medical gauze to strain ingredients, double up the layers to form a thicker sheet. Don’t forget to restock your first aid kit with fresh gauze, as the last thing you’d want is to run out of gauze in an emergency!
5. Thin Mesh Bags
What we love most about these bags is how versatile they are! From stocking produce to straining dairy, fine mesh bags are handy to have around. If you’ve been following our blogs and already own our favorite organic cotton reusable cheesecloth bags, look no further. These non-toxic, eco-friendly, unbleached bags are great cheesecloth substitutes. Just wash them before and after use
6. Cotton Hankies
Find some cotton hankies in the house, preferably undyed linen, that you’re okay with turning into cheesecloth! Cotton hankies, napkins, and fabric scraps are thinner with a tighter weave than cheesecloths, so they’re great at holding out even the tiniest particles. The best use for cotton hankies is for making softer cheese like ricotta.
7. Fine Sieve
Not just any sieve, but one with a fine wire construction can carry out the same tasks as cheesecloth. Anything with larger holes and gaps would lose the smaller particles along with the liquid. Though its straining prowess might not be the same as cheesecloth’s, a sieve is easy to wash, reuse, and eco-friendly. Use it as cheesecloth if you don’t have any other option on this list available at home.
8. Panty Hose
Before you say eww! Don’t worry, we’re talking about using a clean, thoroughly-washed pantyhose as an effective cheesecloth alternative. A pantyhose or stocking is typically made of nylon and is super flexible. To use it as a strainer, stretch it above a bowl and pour the mixture through it. If you’re looking to wrap and bundle some herbs, cut small pieces of the panty house and turn them into airy storage pouches.
9. Cotton Pillowcase
Do you have an old, worn-out pillowcase stashed in your linen cupboard? It’s time to put it to good use! Place it taut over a dish and strain your mixture through it. The fine cotton weave will hold even the tiniest of bits. So, remember to squeeze it to drain out excess liquid.
10. Flour Sack Towels
Commonly made of cotton or linen threads, a flour sack dish towel is a kitchen workhorse used for a variety of tasks, from storing grains to cleaning to keeping the bread warm and oven-fresh. These ultra-thin, highly-absorbent towels quickly soak up moisture and dry up faster than kitchen towels.
A flour sack towel is a finer weave than an average cheesecloth but not so much that you can’t see through them. While one layer is suitable for straining stocks, items like cheese and yogurt would need two or more layers.
Related Article: Our detailed guide on what are flour sack towels.
11. Flat Fold Cloth Diapers
Yes, you read it right! Unused, new cloth diapers make a great alternative to cheesecloth. Why? For starters, these reusable diapers are usually made from muslin, one of the most widely used cheesecloth substitutes. These are pretty easy to clean too. Just wash them by hand or toss them into the washer.
12. Nut Milk Bags
Like to enjoy a fresh glass of DIY almond milk? Then you might already have one of these. Nut milk bags, thicker and stronger than cheesecloth, are designed to extract milky liquid from a nut slurry. But that’s not all that a nut milk bag can do. You can use it to make a whole variety of dishes like cheese, yogurts, tofu, and custards. All you need to do is put the paste into this fine mesh bag and close it tight with drawstrings to strain.
13. Kitchen Towels
If nothing else, you’ll certainly have a spare kitchen towel lying around somewhere. If it’s made with unbleached cotton, well done, you’ve found a fantastic cheesecloth alternative. Place it firmly over a pitcher, and pour the mixture slowly through it. Like cotton handkerchiefs, these white kitchen towels might also absorb some liquid you’ll need to squeeze by hands or a big spoon to release into the bowel.
14. Straining Cloth
When your recipe requires cheesecloth, and you don’t have one around, use a straining cloth instead. A straining cloth is pretty much like cheesecloth except for its thicker texture and tighter weave. When done, rinse by hand or throw it into the washer, and it’ll look come out looking as good as new.
15. Organic Cotton Fabric
We’ve mentioned pillowcases, kitchen towels, and hankies work well as cheesecloth because they’re all made from cotton. Simply put, any cotton fabric you can get your hands on, whether scraps, bedsheets, or bandanas, can be used in place of cheesecloth.
The only thing to watch out for is that it must be free of synthetic dyes and bleaches. That’s why we recommend sticking to organic cotton. This variety of cotton is grown without chemicals or pesticides, making it safe to use around food.
Leading a sustainable life is all about making the best of what you have. Don’t have cheesecloth? Why buy it when you can fashion one out of umpteen things at your home. We’re sure that out of our 15 cheesecloth substitutes, you’ll have at least a couple of them sitting in your kitchen or house right now. Time to go looking for them!