If you make your own dairy products at home or other natural foods, you’ve likely had experience using cheesecloth. It’s a versatile fabric in the kitchen but since it’s used with food, it must be kept clean! Here’s a guide on how to clean cheesecloth properly.
Having our own dairy cows means lots of milk! And one of my favorite ways to use their milk is making homemade cheese.
I try to make almost all of our family’s dairy products including yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream, ricotta, cottage cheese, mozzarella, and more. I also really enjoy growing my skills in making hard cheeses, which can be quite a bit more difficult. Asiago, Gouda, Cheddar, and Butterkaeser are our favorites.
Frequent cheesemaking means I use a lot of cheesecloth! I most commonly use cheesecloth to strain curds in order to separate the whey. Then I can use the curds to make cheese and the whey for cooking, baking, and other uses.
If you’re new to cheesemaking, you can read about more of my favorite cheesemaking supplies in this post here. Or maybe you want to use cheesecloth for making homemade tea sachets, homemade nut milk, or straining fruit to make jelly.
Cheesecloth must be kept clean and cared for just like other kitchen tools, especially since it’s touching food. I have a quick and easy system for cleaning cheesecloth after I use it. There are just a few important steps to follow that will keep cheesecloth clean and sanitary without toxic chemicals so that it can be used again and again.
No matter what you’re making in the kitchen, keep your cheesecloth nice and clean using these simple steps!
What is Cheesecloth?
Cheesecloth is a piece of fabric that can be used for straining foods and liquids. It is usually made of cotton and is very thin and fine, a loose weave with tiny holes all over it. However, many fabrics can be used as cheesecloth. I like to use a thin 100% cotton muslin when using my cheese press to make hard cheeses. I save traditional cheesecloth for straining soft cheeses. Butter muslin and flour sack towels are also good options.
You can purchase cheesecloth at most health food stores or online. I suggest always making sure that any cheesecloth you purchase and use is 100% cotton and free of any dyes. Check your local fabric store as well for thin 100% cotton muslin.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on high-quality cheesecloth. Any thin, 100% cotton fabric will do the job just as well. This is a great way to be thrifty and less wasteful and use fabric that you might even already have at home in your stash!
Cheesecloth is a common kitchen tool that has many different culinary uses including:
- Cheesemaking- Of course, we most commonly associate cheesecloth with making cheese! Cheesecloth is used for straining curds to separate the whey. Cheeses such as cream cheese and ricotta need to be strained by scooping the curds into the cheesecloth and hanging it to drain. Cheesecloth can also be used to line a cheese press for making hard cheeses.
- Straining Yogurt- Homemade yogurt can be strained using cheesecloth to collect some of the whey. I use yogurt whey as a culture for making certain cheeses.
- Straining Liquids- Homemade broth, stock, and jellies can be strained using cheesecloth.
- Herb and Spice Sachets- Herbs and spices can be tied up into little sachets using cheesecloth for steeping in soups, stews, or making tea.
It’s a good idea to keep some cheesecloth in your kitchen for these uses and many more. But after each use, the cheesecloth must be thoroughly cleaned. Read on for instructions on how to clean cheesecloth and other tips.
How to Clean Cheesecloth
Here are the steps for cleaning cheesecloth simply and effectively and it doesn’t take a lot of time!
Rinse- Immediately after use, rinse cheesecloth under warm, running water. Make sure to get all of the food particles off of it. If left to dry, pieces of cheese curds will harden and take a lot more time to remove. Just take a minute to rinse all of the bits of food off right away and save yourself the hassle of having to do it later when it’s dry!
Boil- After the cheesecloth has been rinsed, place it in a large pot. Cover with hot water and place on the stove. I like to sprinkle in a few teaspoons of baking soda for extra cleaning power and to avoid smells and stains. You can also add some white vinegar or lemon juice instead. Bring the pot of water to a boil and allow to boil for several minutes, stirring the cheesecloth around with a spoon every few minutes.
Rinse- Once the cheesecloth has been in the boiling water for several minutes, turn off the heat. Carefully drain off the water and rinse the cheesecloth under cold water. Wring out excess water.
Dry- Drape the cheesecloth over a cabinet or hang it on a clothesline to air-dry. Dry completely before folding up and storing. You can dry it outside in the sun for some natural bleaching but this can also damage the fabric over time.
That’s it! Cleaning cheesecloth is as simple as rinsing it out, boiling it, rinsing it again, then hanging it to air dry.
FAQs About Cleaning Cheesecloth
- Can cheesecloth be cleaned in laundry machines? Yes, you can wash your cheesecloth in the washing machine and then dry it in the dryer. You still need to rinse it out to get all the food off. Machine washing and dryers can damage fragile cheesecloth so I prefer hand washing. If you would rather wash your cheesecloth by machine, at least make sure it’s in a mesh laundry bag, use a mild detergent and the gentle cycle, and dry on low heat.
- Can cheesecloth be bleached? I would not bleach cheesecloth since it is used with food but this is a personal preference. Cheesecloth can be bleached if you want to remove stubborn stains or smells. Just be sure to use a very small amount of bleach and rinse the cheesecloth very well. I have found boiling the cheesecloth with baking soda does just fine in removing stains and smells. You can also try boiling it with some hydrogen peroxide.
- Does new cheesecloth need to be washed? Yes, always wash cheesecloth before use after you purchase it. If you purchase fabric from the fabric store to use as cheesecloth be sure to wash that too before using it.
- How can stains be removed from cheesecloth? If you used your cheesecloth to strain fruit, tomatoes, or something else that left a stain, try soaking the cheesecloth in white vinegar and lemon juice. You can bleach cheesecloth but I prefer not to. A little staining over time won’t hurt it.
How to Store Cheesecloth
Cheesecloth should always be clean and completely dry before storing. You don’t want it to mold or have a bad odor. Especially so you don’t attract critters into your kitchen with the smell!
Fold the cheesecloth up neatly and store it in a clean, dry place. I keep a basket of cheesecloth in one of our kitchen cupboards along with my other cheesemaking supplies. You can also store it in a plastic bag or other container. It can also fit nicely in a kitchen drawer.
If you end up storing it with your other towels, be sure to let other family members know that it’s for use with food and not to be used for cleaning. That’s why I keep mine separate and in its own storage area to keep it nice and clean to use with food.
Print off a copy of the following step-by-step guide and tuck it in with your cheesecloth. Then you’ll always know how to clean cheesecloth!
If your cheesecloth eventually wears out and won’t work in the kitchen anymore, it also makes a great material for crafts. Give it to your kiddos to use for making Halloween decorations or other creative ideas. Or cut it up into smaller pieces and use them as cleaning rags.
With all of the cheesemaking that I do in our kitchen, cleaning cheesecloth has become a simple routine. I hope that this method is easy for you as well and you’re able to enjoy making homemade cheese with beautiful, clean, and fresh-smelling cheesecloth!
Cheesecloth is a versatile kitchen tool and with proper care, can last a long time. But for food safety reasons, it needs to be kept clean and in good condition. With proper cleaning and storage, your cheesecloth will always be ready for its next use in the kitchen!
How to Clean Cheesecloth
- Large pot
- Mixing spoon
- 1 tbsp Baking soda
- Rinse used cheesecloth under running water to remove all pieces of food. Do this immediately after use so the food doesn't dry.
- Put rinsed cheesecloth into the pot and cover with water. Sprinkle in baking soda and stir around.
- Bring water to a boil and boil for at least 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool. Then carefully remove the cheesecloth and rinse again under cold, running water. Wring it out gently.
- Hang wet cheesecloth over a cabinet door or on a clothesline to air dry.
- Once clean and completely dry, fold it up and store it in a clean, dry place.