A: The best material for our environment, health and animals is to use natural and organic fibers (cotton, hemp, linen). If you are not yet sure and/or want more education on why your nut milk bags, cheesecloth need to be natural and organic fibers please read our article - Nut Milk Bags - Deceptive and Destructive?

Natural and organic fibers (cotton, hemp, linen) are different than plastic/synthetic (nylon, polyester) and there are special ways to care of your natural fiber.

So I have organized the following information as a reference guide to help you maintain your cotton/hemp nut milk bag or cheesecloth and prevent from bacteria, fungus, mold, smell... and milk souring:

organic nut milk bag nylon polyester threads EcoPeaceful 800

IMPORTANT: We strongly do not recommend to follow these care methods if your Nut Milk Bag is sewn with synthetic threads and/or has glue at the end of the threads. Many (my investigation - buying and testing numerous bags tells me that it is ALL) bags are sewn with synthetic threads and most have glued thread ends, despite claims of: “organic cotton stitches”, "100% cotton" "cotton/hemp blend", “no glue”... and the like. Therefore, these bags are NOT 100% natural.

Sanitizing (boiling, soaking in vinegar, sun drying...) can damage the synthetic fibers, which can lead to chemicals and synthetic particles (plastic) ending up in your food. Synthetic (polyester, nylon) thread is not solid thread, it is made from many very thin fibers that are wrapped to make a single thread. 

Brands that advertise as "100% natural" or "organic", but are sewn with synthetic threads and/or glue: Vitamix filtration bags (they are made by Vermont Fiddle Heads ), Cultures for Health, all or most Made in China nut milk bags: Marna Home Naturals, My Big Fat Organic Nut (milk) Sacks, Eco-Essence - recently changed name to LeCaze Co. and many more). NOTE: After we exposed these facts, some have changes their brand and/or seller account name. 
Our video gives FULL details along with actual Textile Burn Test of threads.

NOTE: Both mold and mildew are part of the fungi (fungus) kingdom. We use the term 'mold' mostly in this article due to the fact that it is a more frequently used term.

If you are using your Bag for making Nut Milks:

  1. Properly cleaned - Make sure your nut milk bag is properly cleaned to remove any 'food' for bacteria and/or mold
  2. Fully dried - Make sure to fully dry the bag between uses. Drying time will vary depending on the ambient humidity level (moisture in the air) which can also change daily, and even throughout the day.
  3. Adjust for climate humidity
    A) If you live in a dry climate it may be fine to simply hang dry your nut milk, making sure your bag is able to completely dry between uses.
    B) If you live in a very high-humidity climate, your natural fabric bag (as well as any synthetic product) will be more susceptible to bacteria and/or mold growth. If that is the case, then I highly recommend that you follow the "Bacteria and Mold - Prevention" tips below.
  4. Sanitize - Using one of the listed below methods, see mold and bacteria prevention #8

If you are using your Cheesecloth for Culturing Cheese or Nut milk Bag for Sprouting

Since your cheesecloth or nut milk bag is wet/moist for longer periods of time than when used for making nut milks, you may want or need to follow the "Mold and Bacteria - PREVENTION & RESOLUTIONS" tips listed below, especially if you live in a high-humidity climate.
For sprouting, we recommend using our hemp nut milk bag, that is sewn with linen(flax) threads since both of those materials are considered to be antibacterial, however, you still need to follow the care instruction and mold and bacteria prevention #8.

 

1.) Prevent Premature Nut Milk Souring   2.) Washing    3.) Drying    4.) Sterilize - Solar UVB Rays    5.) Sterilize - Boiling    6.) Sterilize - Bleaching   7.) Storage    8.) Mold and Bacteria Prevention    9.) Smell Prevention

 

1.) Prevent Premature Nut Milk Souring

Here is updated article How to Increase Shelf Life of Homemade Raw Nut Milk?
Raw nut milk can usually be stored in the fridge for an about 5-7 days in a sealed glass jar. If your nut milk prematurely sours it may be from unclean blender, nuts or nut milk bag.

Blender - Clean your blender well around and under the blade, sometimes food can remain there. I usually clean my blender by blending a mix of water with baking soda (often confused with baking powder). If you pour peroxide* into the blender or on your nut milk bag and it bubbles then this reaction can be an indication of existing microbes (bacteria, mold, fungus...)
*common store bought peroxide usually is diluted to 3% peroxide mixed with water, which should be enough but if you want higher you can find it in some health food stores, chemical supply stores or online.
Nuts - Drain the soaking water and rinse nuts very well.
Nut Milk Bag - To avoid nut milk prematurely souring sterilize nut milk bag. See below ways to sterilize/sanitize.

2.) Washing

Before first use:
1) Hand wash the bag with organic soap*. Rinse well.
2) Sanitize by boiling in water for 15 minutes.
3) Dry in a well-ventilated area.
4) Keep seams outside for easier straining, cleaning and faster drying.
          *Not laundry or dishwasher detergent

After each use:
Sanitize/Sterilize by boiling or soak in vinegar or baking soda or salt. Rinse well by hand** in filtered or distilled water and air dry (ideally in the direct sun).

*Do not use a cloths washing machine or cloths dryer machine. We recommend against these two since they are not known for being completely clean and certainly not clean enough for food safety.

**Choice of soap - I recommend organic soap and fair trade, preferably unscented and preferably not in a plastic bottle/package. The best option on a market is Dr Bronners Organic Soap Bar, (The production of Dr. Bronner’s oils also does not contribute to deforestation. The palm oil comes from about 1,000 acres of smallholdings in Ghana (where there are no orangutans) that were established decades ago.) I use this soap for multiple purposes (also as a shampoo!) and it is packaged in recycled paper!
This image and this link Dr. Bronner's Organic Soap Bar will take you to my Amazon affiliate link if you want to buy the unscented or scented versions. carecare I have tested the scented version several times and found that it does not leave a scent on my organic cotton.
If you use detergent or soap labeled as biodegradable or Eco-friendly it does not mean that it has no petrochemicals. Also, do not use Borax, even though it is a 'natural' product it is not safe to use for food. I use plain baking soda and/or salt.

 

3.) Drying

Your nut milk bag and cheesecloth can be dried inside, but ideally, it is best to dry in a well-ventilated area either near an open window or outside (balcony, backyard) where it can be in the direct sunlight, to receive free sterilizing from the sun. 

Some websites claim that nylon nut milk bags dry so much faster than cotton or hemp, so I did the test! They both dried in less than 1 hour. For those who care about the environmental and are health consciences tend do not worth about saving a few minutes.
Maybe the sellers of nylon nut milk bags are trying to apply the same type of marketing tactics that was used to convince many Americans that canned food is healthier than fresh. (True story! Look up Edward Berneys who is known as the Father of Propaganda!)

nut milk bag drying test

Nylon nut milk bag - NOT recommended to be placed in the sun. The ultraviolet rays damage the nylon - Here is a microscope photo of nylon after just three months in the summers sun "The fiber had become powder." I can make a wild guess that toxic nylon powder is not in any of your recipes!!!!

Warning: Do not dry on the tree, since birds can poo (deficate) on your nut milk bag or cheesecloth, this picture is shows bags drying on tree branches. I dried like this a few times and noticed bird deficate!

4.) Sterilize - Solar UVB Rays

The UVB rays from the sun provide natural germicidal (germ killing) irradiation. Keep in mind that the suns' UVB rays are only able to have an effect on areas that have direct sun exposure. Areas that are shaded by fabric, like some seams and overlapping layers, are not irradiated by the UVB rays. Remember to sun both side of the material as well as inside out, or just alternate each time you sun dry. Leave only in the sun for as long as is needed to dry.

drying nut milk bag and cheesecloth

5.) Sterilize - Boiling

You may want to sterilize your nut milk bag, tofu-cloth or cheesecloth on occasionally in boiling water.
Most sources recommend boiling for 15 minutes to kill germs.

Warning: Boiling nylon or polyester nut milk bags more likely will release more chemicals.

FYI: The majority of natural (organic cotton, hemp) nut milk bags sewn with synthetic (polyester or nylon) threads, so before sterilizing your nut milk bag make sure that it does not contain synthetic sewing threads. Keep in mind that there is no hemp threads available on the market, therefore hemp nut milk bags, even products labeled as 100% hemp - which Vitamix sells as well as health food and vitamin store (online included), are actually sewn with polyester threads.

6.) Sterilize - Bleaching

We recommend using Oxygen Bleach - I consider Oxygen Bleach to be an eco-friendly and non-toxic alternative to chlorine bleach. Oxygen bleach kills mold, mildew, bacteria and also removes stains. If you neglected your natural fiber cheesecloth or nut milk bag then oxygen bleach is the most economical and effective method to bring back to life a: smelly, moldy and stained, cheesecloth or nut milk bag. It can transform in just a few minutes a moldy/smelly cheesecloth or nut milk bag to a fresh, like new condition. But there is a downside for this method, oxygen is oxidative and overusing oxygen bleach will weaken the fiber and result in fabric that is less durable, so we suggest to use it only as needed, not as a regular cleaning practice, and overuse would void the product warranty that we provide.
For food safety use, I recommend avoiding any oxygen bleach product that has more than 1 or 2 ingredients (sodium percarbonate (oxygen bleach) and sodium carbonate), if you do not know that the ingredients are considered food safe or does not fully disclose all ingredients. Oxygen bleach is very strong and should be used only per instruction (use recommendation for stain removal) which should be included on your oxygen bleach package. For faster and better results use very hot or boiling water. If you do not have the instructions, here is my slightly changed instruction using oxygen bleach (from the Sprouts Farmers Market Oxygen bleach package):
1. Mix ½ tablespoon of oxygen bleach, with 2 cups (16 oz) very hot or boiling water.
2. Soak your nut milk bag and/or cheesecloth for 1 to 5 minutes - or as soon as you see the mold, and/or stains have disappeared. 
3. Remove from Oxygent bleach and rinse your nut milk bag/cheesecloth very well.
4. Fully dry your nut milk bag or cheesecloth before storage.

7.) Storage

Once your nut milk bag or cheesecloth is completely dry, we recommend storing in paper or BioBag (Biobags are breathable) or in a glass jar if you can make holes in the lids. Storage can help keep your product clean and prevent it from dust. I store mine in repurposed glass jars.

Re-purposed nut milk bags and cheesecloth are great for increasing 'shelf life' of refrigerated produce. Simply moisten the fabric, wrap around produce before wrapping in plastic bag (I use the biodegradable and compostable BioBag) or on top of produce if you have it in a bowl. It helps from drying out and/or soaking up moisture after washing.

free glass storage containers

8.) Mold and Bacteria Prevention

IMPORTANT NOTES: It is not required that you do everything listed below. You can use one method, several or rotating methods. All methods are for both your organic cotton/hemp: nut milk bag or cheesecloth. All methods are finished by rinsing well and fully drying before storing.

  • Boiling Water - Place in a pan of water and bring to boil and maintain the boil for at least 10 minutes. Add 1 minute more for each 1,000 ft above sea level.
  • Oxygen Bleach - I consider Oxygen Bleach to be an eco-friendly and non-toxic alternative to chlorine bleach. Oxygen bleach kills mold, mildew, bacteria and also removes stains. If you neglected your natural fiber cheesecloth or nut milk bag then oxygen bleach is the most economical and effective method to bring back to life a: smelly, moldy and stained, cheesecloth or nut milk bag. It can transform in just a few minutes a moldy/smelly cheesecloth or nut milk bag to a fresh, like new condition. But there is a downside for this method, oxygen is oxidative and overusing oxygen bleach will weaken the fiber and result in fabric that is less durable, so we suggest to use it only as needed, not as a regular cleaning practice, and overuse would void the product warranty that we provide.

    For food safety use, I recommend avoiding any oxygen bleach product that has more than 1 or 2 ingredients (sodium percarbonate (oxygen bleach) and sodium carbonate), if you do not know that the ingredients are considered food safe or does not fully disclose all ingredients.
    Oxygen bleach is very strong and should be used only per instruction (use recommendation for stain removal) which should be included on your oxygen bleach package. For faster and better results use very hot or boiling water. If you do not have the instructions, here is my slightly changed instruction using oxygen bleach (from the Sprouts Farmers Market Oxygen bleach package):

    1. Mix ½ tablespoon of oxygen bleach, with 2 cups (16 oz) very hot or boiling water.
    2. Soak your nut milk bag and/or cheesecloth for 1 to 5 minutes - or as soon as you see the mold, and/or stains have disappeared. 
    3. Remove from Oxygent bleach and rinse your nut milk bag/cheesecloth very well.
    4. Fully dry your nut milk bag or cheesecloth before storage.
    Any used/leftover oxygen bleach can be used for spot/stain remover from clothing, carpets... and even as a tile grout cleaner. Or just a laundry booster for whites.
    Where to buy Oxygen Bleach? - I have seen several many brands where common laundry detergent is sold, but most of them do not fully disclose all ingredients. In my city (Las Vegas, NV, USA) I have found an oxygen bleach product with only 2 ingredients in the store Sprouts. Online - Amazon has a few brands with what I consider safe ingredients. 
  • Salt - Soak in a salt solution (aka saline solution) or 1/4 cup or salt in 2 Cups of water (hot) for at least 30 minutes. Used/leftover saline solution can be reused for soaking other clothing items or shoes, to removing odors caused from bacteria.

  • Vinegar - Let soak for at least 20 minutes. Use undiluted/full strength (usually sold as 6% solution) vinegar. Vinegar is a mild acid which many resources say can kill 82% of mold species. Used/leftover vinegar can be used for any cleaning (floors, toilet). Vinegar is especially good for cleaning mineral build-ups in sinks, toilets, shower heads (remove and soak) and faucets. Vinegar is also great as a hair or fabric conditioner/softener.

  • Sun - Hang in the direct sunlight, either outdoors or indoors (glazed and tinted windows will not work). The ultraviolet radiation from the sun will reduce and/or kill most molds. Although this is free and completely eco-friendly method, you may need to expose all four sides (two outside and two inside) to be fully effective.

We DO NOT Recommend

  • Tea Tree Oil - Although it is a natural product it will leave a distinct and possibly permanent smell to your nut milk bag
  • Chlorine Bleach - Toxic for humans and the environment
  • Ammonia - Toxic for humans and the environment
  • Borax - Not suitable for food products.

9.) Smell Prevention

The best smell prevention is to use separate nut milk bag for the different food item - e.g. soy milk, nut milk, sprouting, juicing greens. For example, the raw soy milk has a very strong smell, so I keep my own soy milk bags separate from my nut milk bags. I did not notice that nut milk bag has any scent from using it for sprouting, but it can depends on type of seeds.
To reduce the fabric from having a smell I recommend soaking the nut milk bag in 1 cup hot water with about 4 Tbsp of any salt or baking soda or vinegar* for a few hours and then dry in the sun. I am currently working on a natural solution how to completely eliminate smell, when I find the solution I will update here. If you have any recommendation please notify me through our contact form or simply leave a comment bellow.

*Most distilled non-organic vinegars are made from corn. In USA, 88 percent of corm is GMO (genetically modified organism)

 

DISCLOSURE: These are suggestions only. We are not responsible for unclean: equipment, food or environments and/or spoiled food. This article contains Amazon affiliate links to our products or products that we actually use, and based on our research they are currently the safest, most eco-friendly and most economical available.

TO NUT MILK BAG SELLERS: Please STOP illegally copying our content... and YES includes your knock-off nut milk bags instruction and/or your free bonus e-books! Our content is copyrighted, it is illegal and unethical to copy other people work to profit with your fake organic nut milk bag business!

Author Info
Lena Mumma
Author: Lena MummaWebsite: http://youtube.com/user/EcoPeaceful
Co-Founder of Ecopeaceful, LLC
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About Me
I love educating about eco and peaceful ways of living, and every now and then exposing people and companies that are not acting in the best interest of the public.
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