Awesome Cotton Cheesecloth: Everything You Need to Know

by | Apr 30, 2024

Cheesecloth has become a kitchen essential nowadays. 8 out of 10 people, who work in the kitchen, are using cheesecloth, knowingly or unknowingly. You might be also one of them. 

Due to its immense popularity, Team Muslin Dhaka was so hooked on researching this simple yet very handy kitchen essential. 

Today’s article will try to cover the properties, benefits, and probable uses of cheesecloth based on our research and tests. 

What is a Cheesecloth

Cheesecloth isn’t a type of cotton fabric that you use to make clothes or accessories. It was mainly created this way to easily strain curds and make different types of cheese. For example: Ricotta, Fresco, Paneer, etc. 

Loose plain weave is the base of the cheesecloth construction. Loose weaving is the reason why you can drain liquids from any mixture. 

The construction always comes with 100% cotton fibers. The color of cheesecloth is faded or bright white when new. Mostly, cheesecloth fabrics are produced without any special finishing or treatment. 

Industrial NameCheese Cloth
OriginBangladesh. The actual Dhakai Muslin of Bengal region was transformed into cheesecloth in European dairy regions. Few credit goes to Marco polo.
Other NamesButter Muslin, Cheesecloth, Muslin, and Kitchen gauze.
ConstructionPure cotton yarns are woven loose in single or double ply keeping large air pockets; no dyeing, finishing, or softening
Weight40-120GSM
ColorBleached white or raw cotton color (yellowish faded white), no dye or print
AirflowFully breathable
Moisture Absorbance1.25 times faster than any thin cotton shirting fabrics
WeavingLoose open weave (plain).
StretchVery low
Heat InsulationZero
Shrinkage RatioLess than 10%
UsageCheese making, straining, spice mixing, food covering, and other kitchen applications

 

Readymade cheesecloth

A Brief History of Cheesecloth

Dhakai muslin fabric was the main inspiration for modern-day cheesecloth fabrics. 

Muslin (and other fabrics similar to muslin like mull, nainsook, etc.) had plain or open weave constructions. These weaves can create thousands of air pockets in a single yard. That’s why those fabrics were so breathable and moisture-absorbing. 

Besides, those pockets were also good for filtering hard particles from any liquid. 

So, cheese factories thought of using breathable plain cotton fabrics to strain cheese curds (during or after the 15th century). However, if you look at the history of cheese, the popularity of cheese also became global during this century.

The straining and storage process underwent several changes based on the regions and cultures by that time. The use of muslin-like breathable plain fabrics also became a part of the cheesemaking process permanently. 

But fine cotton fabrics weren’t cheap at all. Cheese factories had to wait till the late 18th century when industrialization gifted us machinery to produce textiles efficiently. All types of cotton fabrics had become cheap suddenly! 

Nowadays, kitchen experts have discovered several uses of cheesecloth. The name itself has become a brand. That’s why any other similar fabrics are also called cheesecloths. 

How are Cheesecloth Fabrics Made

There is no special process to make cheesecloth fabrics. You have to follow the basics and ignore heavy chemical usage during the process. 

Spinning

Factories use ginned cotton fibers that have zero foreign matter. The fibers are spun loose or lightly to make a special type of yarn for making cheesecloth. Some cheesecloth yarns can intentionally remain a bit coarse for added features. 

cheesecloth weaving

Weaving

Primarily, cheesecloth comes with a simple plain weave construction. But for reusability or strength, the fabric can have a basketweave (also a type of plain weave) or multiple plies. 

Bleaching

Bleaching isn’t a mandatory step to make cheesecloth. Unbleached cotton cheese cloth can do the job. But to make the product more catchy, some factories might bleach or dye the fabric. 

Cheesecloth Grades: Types of Cheese Cloth

Cheesecloth fabrics have grades, not types. Depending on the thread count and weaving density, the grading of cheesecloth is done between 10 and 100. There are total 6 major grades of cheesecloths:

  1. Grade 10
  2. Grade 50
  3. Grade 60
  4. Grade 80
  5. Grade 90
  6. Grade 100

Grade 10-40

This range has the largest weave holes. The thread count is also comparatively low. The yarns can be a bit thicker in this range. 

You can use this range for:

  • Cleaning kitchen
  • Decorating dishes
  • Aging cheese

Grade 50-80

This range is the most common. With decent gaps between the yarns, grade 50 or above can strain cheese curds properly. 

The best use of this range is: 

  • Straining
  • Making Cheese
  • Making sauce
  • Cooking

Grade 80-100

Grades 80,90, and 100 help to bring out the best type of cheese with less moisture. Also, there are several famous recipes. The dense and fine weaving makes the cheesecloth reusable several times. You can even use higher grades to separate mother content from Apple cider vinegar

cheesecloth grade 90

The most common uses are: 

  • Straining 
  • Making cheese
  • Straining curds
  • Making jams or ketchup
  • Baking in microwave
  • Cooking
  • Covering dishes

Organic Cheese Cloth Characteristics

Our team tested a few sheets of grade 80 and 90 cheese cloths. We used them for different tasks like cooking, straining, baking, cleaning, etc. Finally, we were able to make a clear attributes list. 

Here it is in detail :

Construction

The cheesecloth we tested had a basketweave construction. The construction had most probably 40*30 or 40*32 thread count per inch. 

cheesecloth threads & Construction

As basketweave was the core, we saw two yarns twisted into one in both warp and weft. The milky white color could’ve got some amount of bleaching. 

Finishing

The sheets are very smooth. There is a little bit of fuzz, but not like cotton flannel. The yarns won’t lint or bobble so easily. So, it’s safe to use in cooking.

We slowly rubbed the fabric in our hands to feel the texture. Our fingers notice the presence of each yarn line separately. 

Another thing we discovered is that grade 40 or lower sheets feel slightly uneven. 

cheesecloth texture & finishing

Softness

Cheesecloth is comparatively softer than many clothing fabrics like chiffon, oxford, poplin, georgette, etc. 

The fun fact is, yarn in this textile gets softer by each wash. Because, the bonds in the fibers become loose day by day. Which might be a matter of concern in durability. 

Breathability

This fabric is obviously breathable due to the open-weave construction. Air can pass through the fabric as if there’s nothing in between. That’s why some food items are covered with this fabric. 

Stretch

We’ve said earlier that cheesecloth yarns can be spun slightly loose. That’s why this textile has a small amount of stretch. You can see cheesecloth stretch a bit while you are straining off liquids from a heavy and thick mixture.

cheesecloth thickness and stretch

But you can never expect it to be stretchy like clothing fabrics. Stretching too much might tear this fabric. 

Moisture Absorbance

Cotton cheese cloth take only a moment to absorb water. If you sprinkle water over the fabric surface, you’ll see the fibers are instantly getting wet. This is a key feature required in the kitchen. 

Yarn Density

The yarns in the fabric aren’t thick. They are thin and spun well to last some time. Lower grade cheesecloths can have large air pockets but the number is less. On the other hand, higher grades provide higher yarn density with tons of small pockets. 

Thickness

Cheesecloth is thinner than shirting poplin fabric. But thicker than a paper sheet. 

It is tough to determine the exact thickness of cheesecloth with bare eyes. You need some tools and a magnifier to know the thickness precisely. 

Transparency

The open weave is again responsible for making this textile transparent or sheer. More than 90% sunlight can pass through a grade 60 or 80 cheesecloth quite easily. 

Heat regulation

No matter how good your purchase is, a cheesecloth can never insulate heat. But a wet cheesecloth can keep cheese or flour dough cool through the evaporation method. 

Also, cheesecloth can make any food item cool even when working as a shade or cover. 

Shrinkage

There are two main reasons why cheesecloth can shrink. Firstly, it’s made of only pure cotton. And second, the plain open weave is loose. So, the yarns can shrink significantly by coming in contact with excessive heat. 

But some cheesecloth (grade 90-100) can be oven-safe. They shrink less because the weaving is dense, almost like sheer voile fabric

Durability

Already you can understand that no cheesecloth is durable like other densely woven fabrics. You can easily tear and make pieces of cheesecloth fabrics with your bare hands. 

This type of cotton fabric can also have issues like shrinking, wearing off, etc. Fibers can also pile up after several washes and uses. 

That’s why we recommend using grade 60 or over. Although higher grades can also tear or pile. But not easily like lower grades. 

Food Safety

The cheesecloth we have is safe for cooking, covering food. But not all cheesecloth are food grade. The ones you can use for cooking rather than straining come with safety tags and labels. 

Maintenance

Cleaning cheesecloth is a no big deal. Take care of it like you do with any other cotton or blend fabric. A little rub in the lukewarm water and detergent, and the fabric is good to go. 

What are Cheese Cloths Used for

Now, this is the most important question. We’ve already said it multiple times that cheesecloth is a versatile fabric. But what are the exact uses rather than straining cheese? Let’s find out. 

Cheesemaking

This is the reason why cheesecloth was invented. You can make homemade cheese or paneer using cheesecloth. You should use grade 50 or higher cheesecloth to strain out cheese curd and give the remaining a shape. 

Cleaning Ingredients

You need to remove dust from rice, pulse, beans, etc before cooking. The easy way is to put the ingredients on a cheesecloth sheet (the better option is grade 80). Then, pour some water to get the dust strain along with water from the bottom. 

straining liquids cheesecloth grade 80

Straining Liquids

This fabric comes in handy in making ketchup, yogurt, broth, soup, etc. You can separate vegetable skins, bones, beans, and spice particles using a grade 60 or 80 cheesecloth. 

Flour Shaking

To purify the flour, you can put a cheesecloth on top of the jar. Then, pour the flour and shake the jar. Proper shaking will keep the dirt or grains on top of the cloth and leave pure flour below. 

Spice Bundle

Don’t want the spice to float in your soup or curry? In that case, bundle the spice in a small piece of cloth and make something like a tea bag. You need to dip the bag inside the curry while cooking. Then, you can remove it when the dish is ready. 

Food Storage

You can always cover fruits and vegetables with cheesecloth and store them. Some even cover up dishes with cheesecloth instead of net lids. 

Basting

Cheesecloth soaks wine, vinegar, and oil pretty well. You should soak the cheesecloth with wine and oil and cover the meat during baking. During slow cooking, that process provides added flavor and juiciness to the meat. 

Dusting

To give your baked food some pro touch, you can dust coconut powder, cocoa, or sugar using this fabric. It works better than sprinkling randomly. 

Protective Cover

40 or higher grades can work as breathable lids. This fabric is also capable of stopping bugs and flies to impure the dish. 

Kitchen Cleaning

Using metal scrubbers puts permanent marks and stains on your sink, home appliances,  and crockery. Better if you use cheesecloth folded into several layers to make a soft scrubber. The fibers can work with the soap formula to eliminate hard stains from surfaces. 

Table Decoration

Last but not least, cheesecloth is also an ideal table runner. Using the fabric like this also saves you some bucks. If you want, you can purchase some cheesecloth for window treatment too. 

Other Uses

Some other uses of cheesecloths are:

  • Brewing coffee
  • Wedding decorations
  • Baby items
  • Processing ghee/ clarified butter
  • Staining or painting

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cheesecloth Fabric

The key advantages you get from butter muslin or cheesecloth are:

Advantages

  • Versatile uses in cooking or food processing
  • Safe to use for storing or covering anything edible
  • Doesn’t lint and impure cooking
  • Better filtering material than mesh bags, sieves, and plastic nets. 
  • Very reasonable price
  • Helps to make home cooking more like a restaurant 
  • Different grades for different uses
  • Easy to care

Apart from those solid benefits, we also found some drawbacks of this fabric. Which are:

cheesecloth easy burn

Disadvantages

  • Easily catches fire; the user must be careful while keeping cheesecloth near the stove
  • Not very durable
  • Tough to sew

What to Use Instead of Cheesecloth? 

When you run out of clean cheesecloth, you can try these alternatives. 

  • Muslin fabric:  The best alternative to cheesecloth is muslin. You can find cheap muslin fabrics by the yard on several online stores. But remember, the thread count of the cotton muslin fabric should be less than any clothing fabric for proper straining. 
  • Gauze fabric: Medical gauze looks almost similar. But gauze fabrics are more delicate and loosely woven. It’s another efficient cheesecloth substitute. Still, multiple layers of gauze can do the job. 
  • Coffee filters: Coffee filters will strain thinner liquids. But the process can be a bit slow.
  • Soft sieve sheets: Synthetic sieve sheets is another easy-to-find alternative. But they can be more expensive than cheesecloth. 
  • Clean socks: If you’re not making cheese at a large quantity, you can use adult-size cotton socks. 
  • Sheer fabrics: Sheer fabrics that don’t fray or release lint can also work as straining fabrics. Better if you can find cotton sheer fabrics. 
  • Paper towels: The last resort for you is to use wet paper towels. But paper sheets aren’t durable when wet. 

Can You Reuse Cheesecloth

When the cheesecloth grade is over 50, you can clean and reuse it several times. 

40 or lower grades are also reusable. However, they won’t last even 3-4 washes. The higher the grade is, the more times you can reuse it. 

Remember,  if you can do cheese cloth cleaning with proper care, you’re able to use a sheet of cheesecloth for months!

How to Clean Cheesecloth

Kitchen muslin or cheesecloth has fine yarns with a very delicate yarn binding. Washing this fabric by hand is more preferable than machine washing. 

You should clean your cheesecloth right after using it. If not, the food residues or bacteria can get stuck with the fibers for good. It can make the fabric smell odd.

  • Take a small pan saucepan and boil the fabric for 3-5 minutes. 
  • After that, take another bowl. Create a lukewarm soapy water. Soak the sheet in this mixture. 
  • Rinse and rub the fabric inside the soap mixture until the fabric becomes clean. Then again, soak the sheet in cold water to remove any remaining soap or detergent. 
  • Finally, squeeze out the water properly. And let the fabric dry under a shade. 

You can also iron your cheesecloth if needed. 

To remove stains from the fabric, you can make a mixture of baking soda and cold water. After that, leave the kitchen fabric soaked inside the soda water for half an hour. Then, use only cold water for a final soak.

cheesecloth bleached

Cotton Cheesecloth By the Yard

Cheesecloth price depends on two factors; seller reputation and fabric grade. 

Grade 60 cheesecloth costs 4-5$ for every yard. But grade 40 or lower costs 2-3.5$. 

However, when we bought cheesecloths, grade 80 cost us 4.85-5 dollars for each yard. Grade 90 and 100 have almost the same price by the yard, 5.5$ on average. 

Let us remind you that these are the price ranges when you buy a few yards only. But if you order more than 10 yards of a single grade, you get significant discounts from the seller. 

Where to buy Cheesecloth?

We’ve found several stores on Amazon that sell cheese cloth at a very reasonable price range. Our picks are eFond, Arkwright, and Dritz. Some of their products are certified organic and safe. 

Apart from Amazon, Etsy is another choice for better deals. 

FAQ

How to use cheesecloth for straining?

First, put the mixture in the middle of the cheese cloth sheet. Then, bring all the edges together and make a dumpling shape. After that, keep squeezing the dumpling to strain the liquid gradually. 

Is a cheesecloth oven safe?

Some cheesecloth with grade 90 or 100 can be oven-safe. But don’t use excessive heat on cheesecloth. 

How to make a cheesecloth?

Take any soft and open weave fabric that’s not heavily printed. Then, make a square shape and sew the borders. The new cheesecloth is now ready. 

How to strain butter without a cheesecloth?

Sheer cotton fabrics or paper towels can help you strain butter in absence of cheesecloth. But we suggest to use sheer cotton sheets in such cases. 

What can I use instead of cheesecloth for spices?

There are small filters or kitchen towels in the market. Use them rather than any other fabrics to filter spices. 

Can I use cheesecloth to cover my sourdough starter?

Grade 80 or 90 cheesecloth can be an ideal cover for sourdough. Baby muslin is also a choice here for covering. 

Summary

That’s all we had to say about cheesecloth. We hope we were able to answer all the questions in your mind regarding this versatile fabric. The whole discussion was based on our practical research and expert opinions. 

So, you can take it as a guide and use cheesecloth accordingly. However, if you wish to learn more about straining cloths, read the article on best muslin fabric

Shariful Alam

Shariful Alam

Shariful Alam Pavel, A fashion lover, passionate marketer. Love to share wisdom based on real life experience to enrich knowledge.
Founder of Muslin Dhaka, a brand, speaks the truth about royal muslin and fashion. Explore the digital fashion universe with organic cotton muslin and much more!

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