Spray starch is a traditional aid for ironing. With spray starch, ironing goes faster and smoother, and you can enjoy crisp collars and pleats that look freshly ironed for longer. Quilters find it is one of their best tricks for piecing different fabrics and weaves, and making and applying appliques. For many sewing projects, a bit of spray starch can make the job of cutting fabric easier. Besides, starching clothes makes them last longer because dirt and perspiration stick to the starch and not to the fabric.
Why You Should Make Spray Starch
You can buy spray starch in aerosol cans. These, of course, contain propellants that are often flammable alcohols. They also contain other additives that keep the starch diluted and keep it from degrading. Additives may include formaldehyde and other chemicals you are probably better off avoiding. Often a fragrance is added, which can be an allergy trigger. If you get a headache or sniffles when using scented products, this could be a culprit.
Eco-friendly brands come in spray bottles and are made with cornstarch, but you can make your own for pennies. By using this recipe, you have full control of the stiffness you desire and whether you include a scent or not. You also won't be disposing of the cans or bottles.
Here's how to make spray starch with everyday items you may already have in your pantry.
Equipment / Tools
- Bowl, measuring cup, or container
- Blank label
- Pen or marker
- Spray bottle, new
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 cups cold water
- 1 to 2 drops essential oil of your choice (optional)
Dissolve Cornstarch in Water
Combine a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch and 2 cups of cold water in a bowl, measuring cup, or container. More cornstarch will add stiffness to your garments, and more water will cut down on the stiffness.
Stir until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. (The mixture will be milky in color.)
If you find the starch clogs your spray bottle nozzle, try dissolving cornstarch in boiling water. Boil for one minute. Let the mixture cool down completely before transferring it to the bottle.
Add Essential Oil
Add one or two drops of essential oil for fragrance into the bowl if desired. Mix well.
Pour Mixture into Spray Bottle
Transfer the mixture to a clean spray bottle. It's ready to use.
Label the Bottle
Add a written or printed label to the bottle that says "Spray Starch." You might want to add, "Shake well before each use" to remind yourself of that crucial step. The starch will settle, and it needs to be remixed with each use.
Store the Bottle
You can store your bottle in a dark, cool cupboard and it will stay good for a few weeks. You can also store your starch in the refrigerator to extend its life.
Your small batch of starch will eventually degrade after a few weeks to a couple of months. Toss it if you see any mold or if the solution becomes darkened or discolored.
Tips for Using Spray Starch
- A little starch goes a long way, so use sparingly.
- After spraying starch onto the fabric, wait a few seconds to iron so the starch can penetrate the item.
- If you get starch build-up on your iron, wet a cloth with white vinegar and iron it to refresh your iron.
- Homemade liquid spray starch may leave white spots on darker fabrics so you may want to consider store-bought products formulated for dark garments.
- Starching garments lets the item go longer before you need to wash it, but don't let it go too long or the starch may cause damage to the fabric.
- Do not store starched clothing or linens for long periods or they may become discolored or attract bugs. Store freshly cleaned and unstarched items for the long-term.
Cuesta, Laura, et al. Fragrance Contact Allergy: a 4-Year Retrospective Study. Contact Dermatitis, vol. 63, no. 2, 2010, pp. 77–84., doi:10.1111/j.1600-0536.2010.01739.x