With the growing list of synthetic and knit fabrics on the market over the last few decades, you hear less and less about something most grandmas swore by – spray starch. However, natural fabrics are coming back in fashion, so if you are unfamiliar with the magic spray that makes your clothes look crisp and clean, it is time to learn.
The first thing you’ll notice when spraying is that ironing gets a lot easier. You’ll also feel more polished and neat when you wear clothes given a little starch.
What is it about starch that makes that happen? For that matter, what is spray starch exactly, and how do you use it? There is a lot to know about this powerful spray, including when you should and shouldn’t use it and what are the differences between types of starch.
What is Spray Starch?
Spray starch is a concentrated form of starch that comes in an aerosol can and is used to stiffen fabric. It is made from starches that are derived from plants, such as corn, wheat, or potatoes. When these starches are mixed with water and put under pressure, they create a fine mist that can be sprayed onto fabric. This mist will evaporate and leave behind a thin layer of starch on the fabric.
You spray it on clothes and fabrics in liquid format, and as it dries, the starch gets stiffer, holding the fabric’s fibers together in place and stiffening them.
What Are the Benefits of Using Spray Starch?
In the past, starch was a common laundry room staple, and our grandmothers swore by its ability to give clothes a fresh, crisp appearance. Today, however, starch is used less often, and as a result, many people are not familiar with the starching process.
Case in point: I recently asked my daughters what they thought spray starch was, and they had no idea. This is likely due to the fact that many modern fabrics do not require starch to maintain their shape and structure.
While starch is no longer as popular as it once was, there are still many benefits to using it.
#1. One of the primary reasons people starch clothes is to improve their appearance. Starching can give some types of fabric like cotton and linen a crisp, wrinkle-free look, which can be ideal for certain occasions. Starch is an easy way to make your clothes look their best.
It doesn’t stop there, though. Consider some other reasons people choose to use spray starch:
#2. When starch is sprayed on a shirt or other items, it makes the fabric stiffer and helps the fabric to hold its shape. This makes the shirt look nicer and more polished.
#3. Starch can also be used to help with ironing. When starch is sprayed on fabric before ironing, it makes the fabric easier to smooth out.
Have you ever tried to iron a shirt without any sort of aid? It’s not fun. The fabric tends to bunch up and you might end up with more wrinkles than when you started. But when you use spray starch, the fabric will be more pliable and less likely to bunch up. As a result, you’ll save time and energy when you’re ironing and the shirt will have fewer wrinkles.
#4. Starch might help to keep wrinkles out. You can spend 20 minutes ironing a dress shirt, and then have it wrinkle again seconds after you put it on your body. Starch often sets the fabric to prevent wrinkles from forming.
#5. Starch helps protect fabric by forming a barrier between the fabric and dirt, sweat, and other stains. When the fabric becomes stained, the dirt and other debris will adhere to the starch instead of the fabric. This makes it easier to wash away dirt and stains when you do laundry.
You may still see the stain when you wear the shirt, but it will come out more effortless in the wash.
#6. Starch helps prevent fraying. Spray starch also can extend the life of fabric because the stiffness helps prevent fraying.
✅ Related tutorial: How To Stop Fabric From Fraying | 21 Proven Ways That Work Now
On top of that, spray starch is primarily a natural product. Many commercial starches use corn as their primary ingredient, along with water.
Some Uses Of Spray Starch In Sewing And Quilting
Starch can also be a sewing room essential, especially when working with challenging fabrics like knits. It’s pretty much like a temporary liquid stabilizer that you can apply to your fabric. Knits (especially jersey knits) are notoriously difficult to cut, but starch can help to stop the fabric from curling at the edges. This makes it much easier to get a clean cut that is accurate and precise. Be sure to check out my video tutorial for step-by-step instructions on how to use spray starch for knits.
Starch can also be used to prepare fabrics for cutting and sewing. By starching the fabric beforehand, you can avoid stretching or distortion while you are working with the fabric. As a result, your finished project will have a professional look and feel. And once you’re done sewing, you can simply wash starch away with water.
Let me provide some examples for you to better understand this point.
This lilac fabric (100% cotton) is not starched and even if it’s woven fabric without any spandex it’s still a bit stretchy if I pull it crosswise.
And if I pull it on the bias it actually stretches a lot.
What I don’t like at all is that the fabric doesn’t return to its original shape and stays stretched. This is not good, especially if you make many small quilt shapes with it. You might end up with some misshapen pieces. See these ridges on the fabric?
For example, I like to use my finger presser tool when I am preparing fabric shapes for a quilt. In the image below you see a square shape made from 2 half square triangles. This diagonal seam goes along the bias line. So when I finger press it the fabric stretches and this small shape can be easily distorted. And when many of them are distorted the quilt will be hard to square up and finish.
✅ Related tutorial: 7 Easy Ways To Make Multiple Half Square Triangles
But this mint fabric is starched and doesn’t stretch out that much, only a little bit. And what is even better is that it returns to its original shape. The starch is working pretty much like lightweight interfacing.
And when I finger press the seam the starched fabric doesn’t stretch at all. Look at this shape – the lilac fabric is stretched in the seam after I finger pressed it and the mint fabric is not stretched at all.
I also like to starch hats I am making from cotton fabric. I usually spray starch onto the hat after it’s ready, and it helps to stiffen the brim. It also helps to prevent the fabric from creasing or wrinkling. The cotton fabric is quite soft even if I use fusible interfacing. If I would use heavier interfacing it would be difficult to sew the hat.
If you want to starch a hat, use something to mold the hat into the right shape, like a bath towel. But I have a mannequin head so I use that. Spray the top, the sides and the brim before letting the hat dry.
If you are interested in making this military-style hat with a brim check out this link. My tutorial will walk you through the entire process, from choosing the right fabric to creating the perfect seams. It also includes a free pattern so you can get started right away.
What Are the Disadvantages Of Using Starch
While starch can give your clothes a crisp, professional look, there are some disadvantages to using spray starch.
One of the main drawbacks is that starched clothing does not breathe well. This can be uncomfortable, especially in warm weather, and can also lead to skin irritation. So a starched dress shirt is not something you want to wear all the time. It’s best saved for special occasions.
In addition, tight-fitting shirts, underwear, and other garments are not good candidates for starching, as the stiff fabric can be uncomfortable and even constricting.
Finally, be careful when using spray starch on delicate fabrics. It’s best to test it on a small area first to make sure it doesn’t damage the fabric.
Overall, while starch can be a helpful tool for achieving a certain look, it is important to be aware of its potential drawbacks before using it.
The Top Five Spray Starches on the Market Today
As with most things, finding the right product is critical. Consider some top commercial spray starches available right now.
Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means I will receive a commission if you order a product through one of my links. I only recommend products I believe in and use myself.
The Faultless brand offers several spray starch products, so you can find one that best suits your needs. For example, the Faultless Heavy Finish Ironing Spray Starch promises dry cleaner results. The primary starch ingredient in many Faultless products comes from corn (hydroxyethyl starch).
Faultless Starch leaves clothes crisp, wrinkle-free, and smelling fresh. It’s easy to use and helps make ironing easier by providing a smooth glide for your iron. It relaxes stubborn wrinkles and gives your clothing a crisp, pressed finish.
This non-clogging aerosol starch spray leaves no residue behind.
Looking for heavy starch to give your clothes a professional finish? Look no further than Niagara Spray Starch. This 20 oz. bottle will help you achieve a crisp look on collars, cuffs, and other areas of your clothing.
Niagara is made by the same company that makes Faultless brand products – Bon Ami Company – so you know you're getting a quality product. Not surprisingly, many of the products are similar. They offer a Heavy Finish spray along with scented products, as well. Their starch also comes from corn.
Technically, Mary Ellen Product Best Press Spray Starch calls itself an alternative. It does all the good things a spray starch should do without clogging spray cans and leaving residue on fabrics.
The company doesn’t name its primary ingredient, but it isn’t a secret. A little research indicates the mystery ingredient is vodka. While that is probably not the first thing that entered your mind, vodka is made from potatoes, a starch.
The Laundress makes Stiffen Up spray starch with a fresh, classic starch scent. It offers a light to moderate starch feel with a crisp finish and comes from cornstarch.
Stiffen Up Spray Starch offers a light to moderate hold with a crisp finish. Unlike grocery store-brand starches, this fresh-scented, non-aerosol spray is formulated to avoid buildup and is perfect for giving your clothes a freshly pressed look.
Starch Spray and Ironing Aid (17 fl.oz/500ml)
Sonett Organic Starch Spray, made by Nature Capital International, features a vegetable oil starch that is certified organic and vegan-friendly. It features a formula that is right for most natural fabrics.
What Things Are Suitable For Spray Starch
When it comes to spray starch, there are a variety of things that it can be used for.
You can use spray starch on tablecloths, tulle, curtains, napkins, hats, aprons, dress shirts, jeans, pants, and more.
Many brides choose to have their wedding dresses sprayed with starch for that extra bit of perfection on their big day. And it’s not just for white fabrics – you can use spray starch on colored fabrics made from natural materials or synthetics.
But still, you should study the instructions provided by manufacturers. Some manufacturers do not recommend using spray starch on synthetics.
How to Use Spray Starch
Once you find the best brand, the next step is to figure out how to use it.
First, check the fabric label and ensure the material is suitable for starch. Generally, natural materials like cotton, linen, bamboo, and even cotton blends will respond well to starch. But silk and silk blends, wool will not do well with starch.
Some common steps for applying spray starch include:
#1. When using spray starch for the first time, always test it on an inconspicuous area of the garment first (like the inside seam) to make sure it won’t damage the fabric or leave any unwanted residue.
#2. Start with a freshly cleaned clothing item or prewashed fabric. Slightly damp clothes tend to iron best, but ensure the ironing board is free from dirt or debris.
#3. Set the iron to the recommended heat level for the fabric.
#4. Don’t spray the fabric on the ironing board as drops will make things around dirty.
#5. If you are using Faultless brand make sure that the nozzle is pointed toward the red dot.
#6. Hold the starch about 6 to 10 inches from the fabric at a 45-degree angle. Apply the starch evenly across the fabric. Be sure to move the can back and forth so that an even coat is applied. Give the liquid a few seconds to sink into the fabric.
#7. Too much starch will make your clothes stiff and uncomfortable. Not enough starch will leave your clothes looking wrinkled and sad. So, try to find the perfect balance. A good general rule of thumb is to start with a small amount of starch and add more if necessary. It’s always easier to add more than it is to remove it.
#8. Gently move the iron over the areas wet with the spray starch. Don’t hold the iron on one particular spot for too long, because you might scorch the fabric there.
#9. Hang up the clothing immediately after you iron it.
#10. Starch stiffens the fabric, so you want to iron along the natural folds of your clothes. If you don’t, you will create a new one, and the clothes might not hang right.
Different Types of Spray Starch
Although there are different types of spray starch, there are primarily two ingredients that matter:
The differences come in the type of starch used and any additives for fragrance or as a preservative. Commercial spray starch usually comes from grains like corn, wheat, or rice. There are also starch products made from potatoes.
An organic spray starch has organic ingredients grown without pesticides. It will also be preservative-free.
Homemade Spray Starch
The simplicity of laundry starch means you can make it yourself if you don’t want to buy it. There are many recipes that use:
- 1 to 2 tbsp of cornstarch
- ¼ cup cold water
- 2 cups boiling water
Mix the cornstarch in the cold water and then add the boiling water. Some people substitute vodka for cold water because the cornstarch dissolves better. You can add a little fragrance, like essential oil if you want.
You can read about it in detail at this link.
How to Store Spray Starch
If you are using commercial spray starch, follow the storage directions on the product. If you are making your own, you must store unused portions in the refrigerator. It will only last for about two weeks, so try only to make what you need.
Spray Starch vs. Fabric Stiffener
Spray starch is a type of fabric stiffener. There are other types designed to be more permanent, though. For instance, some are made with glue. They are more for craft projects like creating bows. You might also use a more permanent stiffener if you sew a costume or shape lace.
What’s the difference between spray starch and fabric stiffener? Spray starch is made from natural ingredients and dries quickly but doesn’t provide much stiffness. Fabric stiffener is made from synthetic ingredients and can be difficult to work with but provides a lot of stiffness. Ultimately, the choice between the two depends on your needs and preferences.
Additionally, fabric stiffeners are more expensive than spray starch since you’ll likely need to purchase it from a craft store rather than a grocery store.
Tips for Avoiding Common Mistakes When Using Spray Starch
Consider some ways to make starching clothes more successful:
- Use the right level of starch product. You’ll see them as light, medium, or heavy. If you want significant starch, use the heavy product.
- Always check the label. If the garment is dry clean only, you can’t starch it.
- If the spray nozzle clogs, run it under warm water to free it.
- Check the ironing board and iron before using starch. If debris is on them, they will stick to your clothes with the starch.
- Store starched fabric in airtight containers. The starch can attract bugs.
How to Remove Starch From Clothing
In most cases, all you need to do to remove the starch is soak the fabric in water for an hour before washing it. Check the label to ensure the soaking is safe for the fabric. Add a cap of white vinegar to the wash cycle for stubborn starch.
How To Remove Burned Spray Starch From An Iron
You can see that my iron has this sticky residue after I used it to press starched fabric. While it’s not something that happens frequently, there are times when it does happen. While this can be frustrating, there’s no need to worry. You can easily remove burned spray starch from your iron using a simple iron cleaner. I always use this one – Faultless hot iron cleaner.
In the short video clip below, I demonstrate how to quickly clean a dirty iron. One minute – and you are done. Clean your iron regularly.
FAQ About Spray Starch
Let’s answer some common questions about spray starch.
Homemade spray starch has a very short shelf life – only about two weeks if stored in the refrigerator. Commercial products will last much longer. Check the label for information, but some will last years.
Spray starch is a fabric stiffener that will come out in the wash. A permanent stiffener is better if you want something that will last, like for bows.
Spray starch does wash out. It may take a few washes to get it all out, though. A capful of white vinegar in the wash might speed up the process. Be careful about pouring the vinegar directly on colored clothes. You may make a spot.
Yes, whether you iron it or not, it will stiffen the fabric once dry. Ironing ensures there are no wrinkles in the fabric when the starch dries. You can put it for example on jeans and not iron them.
Using spray starch does reduce the risk of developing wrinkles when wearing clothing. It is a primary benefit of starch. Make sure the clothes are dry before you put them on, though. Otherwise, you may make create wrinkles from the starch.
Not directly, but static electricity comes from things rubbing together. Starch makes the fabric firmer, so it may be less likely to rub in a way that creates static. There are no guarantees, though; spraying it on clothes prone to static won’t help.
Using light starch on rayon can help stabilize the fabric. This is especially helpful when sewing with it. It can be slippery to handle.
You can use spray starch on tulle. Apply it in a thin, even coat for best results. Make sure to let the tulle dry completely before handling it, though.
Yes, for the most part, it is suitable for clothes made of natural fabrics. It helps protect them. There are some downfalls, though. Heavy starch can stress fabric, making it more vulnerable to tears.
Spray starch is not flammable, but the container it comes in might be when exposed to heat. Some commercial spray starches are in aerosol cans that can explode in the heat.
When used correctly, it should be safe. However, manufacturers like Bon Ami Company state it can irritate the eyes and may trigger respiratory problems if inhaled.
Medline Plus warns of the potential of starch poisoning if you ingest spray starch. Manufacturers state a small amount will likely only cause temporary discomfort. If children eat it, they should get medical attention, or if you ingest large qualities.
The real danger is the can if it is aerosol. You should avoid inhaling it and keep it away from heat.
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