In the last quarter of 2009, when Ukraine was buckling with a mass flu breakout, wherein 270,000 Ukrainians were officially registered as H1N1 victims, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko used a very unconventional tool to combat and harness this problems. According to a news report by reporter Stefan Korshak, Tymoshenko actually mobilized 6 million meters of cheesecloth stored in state reserves and sent them to the 9 government factories that made uniforms for state employees. With this, the government started to produce bio-hazard masks wherein layers of cheesecloth were sewn together to make rectangular face-covering masks with 4 cloth strings. Since market available masks were all sold out, this is how the government catered to the growing need for more face covers. Tymoshenko even urged the citizens to make their own masks if they could lay their hand on some breathable gauze. He said,

"If you can sew a mask yourself, for your children, for your friends―it will be a great help to the nation."

That there is what I think is the optimal allocation and utilization of a resource. Making the most of what one has in exigencies and avoiding wastage. Cheesecloth uses are truly numerous. One has to just be a little inventive. So, let's start from the beginning and then move on to how we can use this very thin rendition of a cotton cloth.

What is Cheesecloth?
Very popularly used to make shirts during the 1960s and '70s, cheesecloth is, simply put, a very loosely woven cotton cloth that resembles a gauze very closely. It is therefore called gaze or étamine in French. It was traditionally used to make cheese and in spite of being so fine, it doesn't disintegrate when it is stretched or used to hold wet items. It acts like a sieve instead and allows the item to suspire.

Cheesecloth is made from natural cotton that has not been dyed. This is so that no color is transferred to the cheese, yogurt or any other food substance that comes in contact with the cloth. Cheesecloth is available in the following grades―#10, #40, #50, #60, and #90. The grade simply indicates the thread per inch in each direction. For example, #10, being the thinnest or rather the finest variety, has 20 vertical and 12 horizontal threads in every inch, while #40 has 24×20 threads/inch, #50 has 28×24 threads/inch, #60 has 32×28 threads/inch and #90 has 44×36 threads/inch, which is evidently the thickest variety available.

Uses of Cheesecloth
  • Both lithography, a process of planographic printing from a metal or stone surface, and intaglio printing, which is a printing process wherein an etched or engraved plate is smeared with ink and wiped clean so that the ink left in the recesses makes the print, use cheesecloth. While in the former, cheesecloth is used to wipe away gum acacia, in the latter, a stiffly starched cheesecloth, called tarlatan, is used to remove the extra ink from the printing plate.
  • Of course, cheesecloth is used for the purpose of making cheese from either sour cream or yogurt.
  • A very important use of cheesecloth is in the process of regulatory testing wherein an electrical product is wrapped in a roll of cheesecloth, before the power is switched on, while it is checked for any fire hazards at the Underwriters Laboratories. As long as nothing happens to the cheese cloth, even if the product is spifflicated, the product is marked as 'Tested OK'. But if the cloth is burnt or charred in any way, it is rejected.
  • The #90 cheesecloth is often used to manufacture summer clothing due to its light and breathing nature.
Let us now see how you can make the most of any extra cheesecloth bundle that you have at home.
  • During Halloween's, instead of going out and buying decorations you can easily cut cheesecloth asymmetrically and paint them in gray to make natural looking cobwebs or blackish red to look like a sudden patch of dry blood!
  • Cheesecloth is so festival friendly! You can use it to make mummy costumes for you child's Halloween party, and it is perfect for the fabric breaths.
  • You can place all the filling you make for stuffing a whole turkey during Thanksgiving and gather the ends to make a pouch. Secure the mouth with a piece of string and then shove it into the bird. Once the turkeys done, simply pull the pouch out of the bird. Not only will you bird get flavored with the necessary ingredients, all the tedious scooping out the uneatable dressing ingredients later on will also be curtailed!
  • Simply cut out a neat patch of cheesecloth and secure it with a rubber band over the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner hose. Now when you suck in the dust, no tiny tidbits will be gobbled up by the machine.
  • If you have like huge sheets of cheesecloth, you can just cut them into long 8" strands. Now dye each strand differently and sew all the strands vertically or horizontally together to make soft bed linen or colorful and breezy summer curtains.
  • Most superstores such as Dollar Stores, K-Mart, Safeway, and Walmart nowadays sell bags and small pouches made of cheesecloth. You can make them at home as well for either drying fresh herbs, without losing seeds or foliage, or even for making potpourri!
  • Perfect for bouquet garni, render all your condiments, soups, stews and broths flavorful delights by making cheesecloth pouches in which you can stuff all your desirable herbs and then dipping it into what you are cooking! You can also make your own teabags in the same way.
  • Cheesecloth does not streak glass and so you can use it to dry a wet glass article.
  • Take an umbrella that is no good anymore and hack its handle off with a hacksaw. Now sew cheesecloth on the wire chassis of the umbrella to make a dome shaped net cover for your food. You can keep all insects and fruit flies away from food during a wilderness picnic or at home.
  • Make light mosquito nets with cheesecloth that will not stop the wind and keep the pesky blood suckers at bay.
  • Use it as a wiper of unwanted spilt liquids in the kitchen.
  • Use it as a strainer for broths to keep the bones, fats, and unwanted solids out of the clear stews and soups!
  • Make tofu at home.
  • Whey your yogurt off by placing a cheesecloth on a colander in which to put the yogurt and then refrigerate for 8 hours. Now press it to get perfect Greek-style yogurt.
Use cheesecloth to wipe delicate artifacts as it is so soft and least likely to scratch or harm. You can also use it as an emergency gauze piece in cases of sudden cuts and bruises, but not for a long period of time as it will not obviously be sterilized. You can always reuse cheesecloth a couple of times. You can even try making colorful sarongs with it. So, be innovative and discover newer ways to utilize this natural delight.