The original purpose of cheesecloth was, as you may have guessed from the name, cheese making. It was used to separate liquids and solids in the cheesemaking process. Its flexibility and fine weave allowed for the liquid to be pressed from the solids, and it could then be washed and reused, making it a valuable resource. It was also used to wrap cheeses as they cured, to allow them to stay clean but still be able to breathe.
If you’ve never had cause to use cheesecloth you may be asking yourself, “What exactly is it?” That’s simple. It’s a loosely woven cotton cloth that’s very lightweight and versatile. It comes in different grades with varying tightness of weave. You can often find it at grocery stores, craft stores, or specialty stores. I’ve even found it at the feed store plenty of times.
There are far more uses for cheese cloth that we’ve all but forgotten in this world of throw-away everything, though. Here are several different ways you can use this versatile fabric.
Obviously you can still use cheesecloth for cheesemaking. This may seem like a huge stretch, that you could make cheese in your own home, but there are several types of cheese that are truly not all that difficult to make yourself without special equipment or hard to find ingredients. You can check out some great easy cheeses here.
2. Signal Flags
Whether you’re marking off a construction site, flagging a long item hanging over the end of your pickup bed, or trying to gain attention in a survival situation, cheesecloth makes a great signal flag. Its white color and its ability to blow easily in the wind make it perfect for the job.
3. Dust Mask
While I certainly don’t recommend cheesecloth for more serious dusty jobs, like drywall work, it’ll do the trick if you’re in a pinch – say, if you got caught outside on a windy day in a dry area. Fold it over until dust in the air mostly stays out but you can still breathe easily through it for the best results.
4. Keep Bugs Off Your Food
Ever had a picnic where you just can’t keep the bugs off your meal? Or maybe you can’t keep the bees out of your sugary drink. Just toss some cheesecloth over the table and the bugs can’t get to your goodies. It can be used for covering foods that are air drying for preservation, as well, like jerky or seeds.
Cheesecloth makes a great breathable bandage to help keep wounds covered and clean. It can also be boiled to help kill any germs it may be harboring, making it reusable if you don’t have unlimited access to more modern sterile bandages.
6. Window Coverings
You can use cheesecloth like a window screen to keep bugs and debris out of your living space, or as a gauzy window dressing. Used as sheer curtains, it can provide a lovely primitive vibe to any space.
7. Paper Reinforcement
You may have seen this before in old books and not even realized what it really was. Cheesecloth, dipped in a mixture of flour and water, is applied to reinforce broken or weakening book spines or other defects in the paper.
8. Fishing Net
Whether you’re looking for a bait net or a net for scooping up your catch, cheesecloth can do it. Water can run freely through it, allowing fish to stay alive but still trapped. Because it’s so versatile, it’s a perfect survival fishing net option.
9. Crafty Décor
There are countless crafty uses for cheesecloth. You can create spooky Halloween ghosts, countless scary mummy crafts, wintry snowmen, or perfectly primitive tea-dyed placemats or napkins with it.
During the 1960s and 70s cheesecloth was a popular material for making trendy clothes. Tops, skirts, pants, and even shoes were made from this humble fabric. Its gauzy nature and natural fiber makes it a fashion-forward and comfy material. It also takes dye easily, since it’s made from cotton.
11. Water Filter
So long as you use a very fine grade of cheesecloth with very small holes, you can use it as a water filter. Simply lay cheesecloth over the top of the container you wish to catch water in, hold it in place with whatever is handy (even your hand will do, usually), then pour the water through it to remove large particles. Keep in mind that this method does not create water that is safe to drink if it wasn’t before this. It certainly needs to be boiled if there’s any risk of bacteria being in it.
12. Mosquito Netting
We know that mosquito netting can literally save lives when used properly by preventing mosquito born illness and infection, and cheesecloth can be used as a makeshift mosquito net. Depending on how much you have, you can use it to cover your face and neck, apply it kind of like a shroud, or create a bed covering from it. And this is a mosquito trap that really works.
13. Homemade Duck Blind Cover
With either natural materials like moss and mud, or camo-colored spray paints, you can turn regular cheesecloth into a lightweight, see-through camo fabric for covering duck or deer blinds. You can also use this colored cheese cloth to add dimension to a ghillie suit, or sew it up into a breathable camo face mask.
Make up a cheesecloth bag full of small gravel or sand to create an abrasive material that you can use for heavy duty cleaning projects, removing rust from surfaces, or shining up any metal surface. Add a little wood ash and water to a cheese cloth bag for another variety of cheese cloth cleaner.
15. Spice or Tea Bags
Infuse whole spices to soup or cider by putting them in a cheesecloth bag and adding the whole thing to the mix. You can also make up bags of tea, herbs, flowers, and other plant matter to create your own delicious tea, free from the grit that comes from loose leaf tea. It’s perfect for homemade medicinal teas.
16. Strainer for Jelly or Syrup Making
When you need to get the flavor of a fruit but none of the fibrous material, you can place it in a bag made of cheesecloth to keep the skins and other fruit solids out of your jellies or syrups without sacrificing any of the flavor. Here’s how to make survival dandelion jelly with 2 years shelf life.
17. Infant Swaddle Blanket
Pretty muslin swaddles are all the rage in the baby world, but they can be expensive! You can make your own for significantly less with some fine grade cheesecloth, a baby-safe dye (if you wish), and either a needle and thread or a sewing machine to finish the edges.
Cheesecloth is the answer to lots of problems, in and out of the kitchen. Because it’s so versatile, it’s a great item to keep around just in case. It’s packable and lightweight, making it a great addition to your survival gear.
You may also like: