How to Starch Shirts Like the Laundry at Home

Starched Shirt
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If you like crisp shirts, then you probably rely on a professional laundry service to handle their care. But believe it or not, you can capture the sharp and professional look of a "stiff as a board" fabric at home. There are just a few things that you should know and by following these tips, you'll save time and money by making fewer trips to the cleaners.

How to Starch Shirts
Detergent Regular
Water Temperature Cold to warm
Cycle Type Varies
Drying Cycle Medium heat
Special Treatments Use starch or sizing
Iron Settings High 204 °C (400 °F)

Project Metrics

Work Time: 30 to 45 minutes

Total Time: 8 hours

Skill Level: Intermediate

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Spray or liquid starch
  • Laundry sizing (optional)

Tools

  • Large sink or tub
  • Ironing board with heat-reflective cover
  • Iron
  • Spray bottle (optional)
  • Clothes hanger

Before You Begin

One of the keys to crisp shirt success is selecting the right type of shirt. The shirt must be made of a woven fabric. You cannot achieve a crisp shirt with a knit fabric.

Shirts made of natural fibers like cotton or linen will hold the starch and their crispness much better than a fabric made from a blend of natural and synthetic (cotton/polyester) fibers or a hundred percent synthetic fabric. If the shirt is labeled dry clean only, you will not be able to successfully apply the amount of starch needed to achieve crispness.

Always start the process with a freshly-washed, stain-free shirt.

how to starch shirts
Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018
  1. Select a Starch

    A commercial aerosol spray-on starch, liquid starch or powdered starch, or homemade starch solutions can be used to coat the shirt. For the straight-from-the-cleaner crispness, you need to use a liquid starch solution because the entire shirt needs to be dipped and dried.

    Tip

    Alongside the cans of spray starch in the stores, you will find laundry sizing. Sizing will simply add a whisper of body to the fabric but not the stiffness of a starched shirt. It is good, however, for synthetic finishes because it adds some soil-resistance and helps smooth wrinkles.

  2. Mix the Starch Solution

    Fill a large plastic storage container or laundry room sink with three gallons of water and two cups of liquid starch.

    However, if you can't iron right away you can very lightly mist the shirt with water before ironing.

  3. Dip the Shirt in the Solution

    Submerge the clean shirt(s) in the water/starch mixture. Be sure that the entire shirt is saturated.

  4. Wring and Hang to Dry

    Once the shirt is completely wet, wring it out, and hang to dry. Do not allow the shirt to dry completely. It should be ironed while it is still slightly damp.

    Tip

    If you can't iron right away you can very lightly mist the shirt with water before ironing.

  5. Set Up the Ironing Board

    A sturdy ironing board with a heat reflective ironing board cover is essential to a crisp shirt. The contoured shape of the board will help you prevent unwanted creases. You will also need the stiffness of the board (as opposed to ironing on a bed) to provide the support the fabric needs.

  6. Select an Ironing Temperature

    Since the shirt fabric is cotton or linen, use the highest heat recommended (204 °C or 400 °F) for those fibers. Do not use the steam setting.

    Tip

    For the best and crispest results, you need an iron with a clean non-stick soleplate and adjustable temperature. It does not need to be a steam iron. Steam does not equal crispness; so, obviously, using a clothes steamer is out.

  7. Iron the Collar First

    Heavily starched shirts are ironed the same way as any shirt. Start with the collar and be sure to iron both sides with the collar flat on the ironing board. Next, move to the shoulder area or yoke and place it on the narrow end of the ironing board. Iron from one shoulder, across the back of the yoke, to the other shoulder.

  8. Iron the Sleeves

    Move to the sleeves by laying one sleeve flat and extended on the ironing board. Hold the cuff in one hand to make the fabric taut and iron from the armpit across the bottom seam and iron a crease into the top of the sleeve. Next, iron the cuff and do the other sleeve.

  9. Iron the Body of the Shirt

    Iron the body of the shirt last taking care not to wrinkle the areas that you have already finished.

  10. Address Any Scorching Immediately

    Starch-dipped shirts have a tendency to scorch more quickly if the iron is left too long in one spot. Light scorching can usually be removed easily and an attempt should be made to remove even darker marks.

  11. Hang the Shirt to Cool and Dry

When you are finished, hang your crisp shirt on a hanger to dry completely before wearing. A damp shirt will wrinkle more easily. 

Storage

After putting in all of the effort to get a perfectly-starched shirt, be sure it is completely dry before hanging in the closet. Give the shirt plenty of room and air circulation to prevent wrinkling so it is ready for your next occasion.

If you plan to store shirts away during an off-season, do not starch them first. Starch is food for a number of insects. Wash the shirts to remove body soil and starch and store in plastic bins or fabric hanging bags.