What is Cheesecloth? - All About Cheesecloth

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Oh, cheesecloth - how do I love thee? Let me count the ways! It’s amazing how a simple piece of cleverly crafted cloth can be so versatile - from being used to make cheese, strain juices, basting poultry all the way to being used as décor for a rustic wedding!

We love well-crafted cheesecloth, and in this guide, we’ll make you fall in love with this handy household item too. 

Scroll down to learn all about the cheesecloth, its different types, various uses, and how to care for it. Here we go!

What is a Cheesecloth?

Cheesecloth is a super light, thin, gauze cloth, which is loosely woven and made of 100% cotton. 

It was traditionally used to make cheese, strain liquids, or retain solids out of food items. 

Although you would’ve seen the original usage of a cotton cheesecloth being solely related to food, nowadays you see it being used for several other purposes - for bookbinding, covering fruits from fruit flies, dusting, and more! 

Cheesecloths come in not one but a variety of forms. There are different grades of cheesecloth with respect to how many threads there are, per inch in each direction - every grade has its own unique uses. 

What are the Different Grades of Cheesecloth?

Cheesecloths come in a variety of grades - and the lower the grade is, the lighter it is and with bigger gaps. As the grade number goes higher, the cloth becomes tighter with smaller gaps. Different grades of cheesecloth are used for different purposes. 

Smaller grades (open weave) would be thinner and used for objects that require a good flow of air and water. Meanwhile, the higher grades (finer weave) would be the durable and tough ones, which would be used with things that demand more strength and rigidity. 

  1. Grade #10 

    These cheesecloths are the thinnest with 20 x 12 threads per square inch. Grade #10 cheesecloths are used with items that require good air/water flow. Believe it or not, because of its softness and airiness, you see it being used a lot as wedding decorations or as spooky Halloween decorations!

  2. Grade #40

    Grade #40 has 24 x 20 threads per square inch. It's not as airy as a Grade#10 but not as tight as a Grade#90. It's more durable than a Grade#10 It is used for cooking, straining, faux paintings, and even as medical bandages. 

  3. Grade#50 

    Grade #50 has 28 x 24 threads per square inch. As we saw above, as the grade level increases, the durability increases too! This is another medium-grade cheesecloth that is used for polishing, straining, wiping, wedding decorations, and more. 

  4. Grade #60

    Cheesecloths of Grade#60 are medium grade. It's made of 32 x 28 threads per square inch. This grade of cheesecloth is used for testing regulations for potential fire hazards. The product to be tested is wrapped tightly with the cheesecloth and then subjected to lightning surges, it is quite fascinating as the device could be destroyed but the cheesecloth should not catch on fire. If it passes the test, we would know that the device can fail safely without causing any damage to the surroundings.  

  5. Grade #90

     These are the toughest cheesecloths with the finest weave, at 44 x 36 threads per square inch. Grade #90 cheesecloths are tough and the most durable. The best part is that it’s also washable and reusable, unlike the lower grades. Apart from being used in the kitchen,  Grade #90 cheesecloths are also used for summer shirts, blouses, curtains, etc. 

Types of Cheesecloths

There are mainly two types of cheesecloths, bleached and unbleached.

  • Bleached cheesecloths are chlorine-free. They do not contain the natural cotton oil from the fibers as a result of the bleaching.
  • Unbleached cheesecloths are natural ones used with superior quality cotton and contain no toxic chemicals. In addition to this, unbleached cheesecloths are biodegradable. You can boil it or also use these in a microwave.  

What Are The Uses Of a Cheesecloth?

Even though it seems like a simple piece of cloth, there are heaps of uses with the Cheesecloth!

  1. Making cheese: The primary and the most traditional use of it, as the name says, is to make cheese. The whey is removed from the curds while the cheese is held together, resulting in the formation of cheese! If you are someone who is looking to make different types of cheese, like, mozzarella, feta cheese, paneer, etc., this cheesecloth is something you’d want to buy for sure!
  2. Making Greek Yogurt: Straining regular yogurt makes its consistency thicker, and since the liquid contains sodium and sugar, the resulting thick yogurt you get, which is the same as Greek yogurt, is gonna be less sweet and less salty. 
  3. Making paneer (cottage cheese): Cheesecloth is fantastic for making fresh cottage cheese or paneer. Simply add lime juice to milk cream as it’s being heated and stirred. And then drain the liquids by pouring it into a double-layered cheesecloth, with a bowl underneath, of course. And then the same thick layer is dipped in cold water with the cheesecloth - and voila! You have fresh cottage cheese.
  4. Making tofu (tofu pressing): Line the tofu mold with the cheesecloth and press down on the solid curds, so that the whey gets collected in a cup below. Once all the whey has been separated from the solids, cover the curds with a layer of cheesecloth and put some weight over it for about half an hour so that it completely sets.  
  5. Straining liquids: When you want a finer strain than what a regular sieve would provide, just place a cheesecloth over your regular strainer and pour through it, and that will do the trick! This can be used to strain your favorite coffee, juices, smoothies, and more. 
  6. Basting poultry: Here’s a fun idea - warm a cheesecloth in a saucepan with the wine, butter, and some oil; then wrap the chicken breast in it and bake in the oven. You will have to moisten the cheesecloth every 30 minutes or so if it requires a longer cooking time. You’ll thank me later when you have the juiciest piece of meat on your dinner plate!
  7. Proofing bread: Cheesecloth also serves as a fantastic way to proof your bread. Just lightly dust it with flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the surface. The cloth also serves to provide a shape to the bread. 
  8. Keeping food items moist: Wrapping veggies and fruits tightly in cheesecloth helps your food retain moisture without compromising the air circulation. This way, your groceries stay fresh for longer.
  9. Making bouquet garni: Pile up the herbs and cut a portion of the cheesecloth large enough to cover the herbs, tie a string tightly around it and place it into your cooking pot. Let it remain there until the cooking is done, after which it can be taken out and discarded. 
  10. Dusting sugar: You want that beautiful, powdered sugar look on your cakes and cookies? Wrap a cheesecloth tight over a canning jar and tighten it using a band. Dust away my friend, and they’re ready to be photographed!
  11. As a protective cover: Want to keep the pesky bugs away? Just cover using a cheesecloth! Covering fruits and vegetables with this cloth makes sure that fruit flies do not sit on them.

6 Alternate uses of Cheesecloth outside the kitchen

That's right, Cheesecloths are not only used in the kitchen, but also for another multitude of purposes. Here are some of them:

  1. Spooky Halloween decorations: Generally Grade#10 Cheesecloths are ideal to be draped and cut to make some super creepy-looking Halloween decorations!  
  2. Straining paint: Grade #60 cheesecloths are usually seen in straining paints since it is more durable and has a tighter weave for finer straining. 
  3. Table runner: The finer the weave, the better for your table runner. You generally see Grade #90 cheesecloths used in table runners, giving it that nice, warm look.
  4. Wedding decorations: Most of the rustic vibes that you notice with wedding decorations are mostly thanks to the humble Cheesecloth! They can be used as table décor, for flower decorations, chair tie-backs, and more. 
  5. Cleaning and drying silverware: Cheesecloths absorb dust, and also absorb moisture super quickly. It's my go-to for looking after my silverware. 
  6. Staining Furniture: Grade #60 cheesecloths are commonly used to stain furniture.

What are Cheesecloth Substitutions or Alternatives? 

While a cheesecloth has so many versatile uses, there are a couple of substitutes for it as well - in case you don’t have one at hand:

  1. Muslin napkins: Muslin is the most popular substitute for cheesecloth. It has features that are very similar to cotton gauze.  
  2. Cheesecloth bags: These are great when you want to pack in herbs and throw them into a pot to discard later while cooking, or basically to just make the obvious- cheese! 
  3. Wire sieve: This would help in situations like juicing fruits that do not have very small seeds. 
  4. Coffee filter: If you’re looking at straining liquids, then coffee filters could be a stop-gap solution. It's tricky since it's made of paper, but using several coffee filters piled over one another may be worth a shot.
  5. Medical gauze: Pretty much everyone has a first aid kit at home, and this is a sure thing in there. Since this has an open grade, you may need to use several pieces stacked together to make it work.

In fact, if you look around your home, I'm sure you would be able to find at least one item that you can use as a substitute for cheesecloth. You can also use easy materials like a clean pillowcase, a bit of fabric, or a cloth napkin.

Where can I buy a Cheesecloth?

Organic Cotton Mart sells unbleached organic cotton reusable cheesecloth in packs of 1, 2 and 4 making them an ideal choice for your multiple uses.

Cheesecloth is also available for purchase in many local grocery stores or retail outlets such as Target, Walmart, Stater Bros., Albertsons, or through online portals such as Amazon.com. 

You can also easily find them at local fabric stores that stock up on sewing materials like Joann Fabric and Craft Stores, or home centers such as Bed Bath, and Beyond in their cooking section.

How To Wash and Care For Your Cheesecloth

Since cheesecloth is used for making and straining foods and liquids, it is crucial for ensuring that it is thoroughly washed and cleaned afterward. There are two main methods that you can adopt to clean your cheesecloth:

Manual Washing:

Boil water and use it to rinse your cheesecloth immediately after use. If there have been any residual stains on the cheesecloth from food items, rinse it off immediately as letting it sit may end up in a permanent stain.

If it does end up with a permanent stain, one useful tip would be to submerge it in a solution of baking soda and hot water for about 30 minutes. Rinse it after the half-hour has passed.

It would be ideal to boil your cheesecloth for 5 minutes after every use to ensure no germs or bacteria remain on your cheesecloth after use.

Using a washing machine:

Of course, we might opt for the quicker and more tempting method of throwing our cheesecloth into our washing machine with a bunch of other laundries. This is an option but ensure that you first rinse the cheesecloth under warm running water and also use a delicate detergent for the wash.

Bottom-line

Cheesecloths are an essential must-have in any kitchen - and it would be safe to say that organic cotton unbleached cheesecloth is definitely the better option out there. In our experience, organic cotton cheesecloths are more high-quality, well-crafted, and durable than even grade #90 muslin, and can be easily washed and reused many times. Picking the right cheesecloth can be a blessing in any home - and we hope our blog helped you choose the one that works best for your needs! 

Written by

OCM Content Team

Our wonderful Content Team at Organic Cotton Mart