Sewing Blog

3 Quick Steps to Homemade Fabric Starch

Starch or pressing spray is essential for maintaining crisp, straight seams and accurate piecing. But should your sewing come to a screeching halt if you happen to run out? Or what if you’re not a fan of the chemicals in everyday fabric starch — is there a better option? Homemade fabric starch is gaining popularity based on its low cost and quick recipe with natural ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen.

make your own fabric starchPhotos via Right Sides Together

Want to try your hand at homemade fabric starch? Check out our easy tutorial below!

What is fabric starch, anyway?

Long before manufacturers began bottling it up and selling it, people made their own fabric starch out of, well, starch. Starch is a sticky, sugary carbohydrate found mostly in grains; it’s the stuff that makes rice stick to the bottom of the pan or that turns leftover mashed potatoes into cement right on your plate.

It’s also the primary ingredient in many glues, which is what makes glue basting such a fabulous technique. Ironing the starch removes its moisture, making it stiff and adding structure to whatever it’s been applied to.

Here’s how to make your own homemade fabric starch

1. Raid your kitchen and gather supplies

For the perfect solution of homemade fabric starch, you’ll need:

fabric starch ingredients
  • An empty spray bottle
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm tap water
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch*
  • Essential oil for fragrance, such as lemongrass, lavender or thyme (optional)

* Some homemade fabric starch recipes (including another one of mine) use vodka in lieu of cornstarch. There are pros and cons to each approach. Cornstarch is easier to use and cheaper, but it needs refrigeration if you don’t use it all right away. Cornstarch spray is also best for quilts that will be washed, so that bugs don’t find and eat your fabric.

2. Combine the ingredients

Whisk the cornstarch into the tap water, doing your best to avoid any lumps. Add the 2 cups boiling water and 1-2 drops of essential oil, if you’re using it.

cornstarch and waterfabric starch DIY

3. Pour & shake

Pour the mixture into the bottle carefully, and then reattach the nozzle. Shake it up, making sure that all the starch has completely dissolved. (If it hasn’t, all is not lost: just filter it out with a strainer or coffee filter.) Once your starch has cooled enough to handle, spray it generously on your fabric and press as desired. If you desire more or less stiffness in your fabric, you can alter the recipe to suit your needs.

homemade fabric starch

Tips for using homemade fabric starch

  • If you have your iron on high (as most of us quilters do), take care not to scorch your iron or your fabric. As a carbohydrate, starch burns easily and can potentially ruin your project or leave burn marks on your iron plate.
  • Store any excess starch in the fridge so that it doesn’t ferment or get moldy.
  • When piecing, simply press your pieces — don’t move the iron, or the damp fabric might get distorted. Get more tips for pressing pieces here.
  • Clean your iron regularly with iron cleaner or with a solution of vinegar and water. Starch has a tendency to build up over time.

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16 Comments

Joan

Thanks so much. I have heard that the brand (don’t know if I can mention the name here) is the cream of the crop – but I never felt comfortable spending so much $$ on a spray starch. Does is really matter? I am anxious to try your recipe. Do you prefer the vodka starch to the cornstarch? Appreciate your input.

Reply
JulieCC

The brand you talk about? It’s not worth it. It’s closer to the vodka recipe.
I make my own with corn starch, BUT I heat it in the microwave so it won’t go bad on me. It lasts a very, very long time – like months if I haven’t done any sewing in awhile. I refill a used store brand starch spray bottle, so it won’t clog.

Reply
Carolyn

Everything old is new again!

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claire quilty

About 2 months ago, I mixed up a batch of cheapest vodka and water (5 oz vodka/12 oz distilled water) and put it in a spray bottle. Kept messing with the proportions of each until I got a solution I liked. It adds body to fabric rather than making fabric board-stiff like starch. The mistake I made is it smelled up the laundry room like a saloon. Next time will add a drop or so of essential oils. It hasn’t deteriorated nor spoiled while sitting on the shelf.

Reply
Misha

I use 30mls vodka to 240mls water and it works great.

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Vickie Carter

I remember an old story from when I was a girl. My mother’s friend was ironing her husband’s uniform (he was a milkman – white cotton uniform) and scorched the fly of his pants. She removed the mark by using hydrogen peroxide. Does anyone know if this works?

Reply
Grace

I don’t know about the hydrogen peroxide, but when I scorched the collar of a white shirt, remembering a tip learned in my home-ec class 50 years ago, I squeeze a little lemon juice on it and set it out in the sun for an afternoon. Worked like magic.

Reply
JulieCC

Hydrogen peroxide works well on that and blood. And yes lemon juice and sun bleaching. You can sun bleach after HP too.

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Ann Winter

Can remember my staring of our nursing veils,they were that stiff they would stand up straight .Also used it to do crocheted waste baskets for gifts.

Reply
Barbara Ferris

Thanks I enjoy the tutorials, the discussions and the helpful info.

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Sue King

Thanks for all the great tips, ladies!

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JulieCC

You really MUST microwave this mixture before using so it won’t spoil. I personally don’t want to keep it in my fridge – too far from the sewing room and no room! I blast a pint canning jar of the mix for 90 seconds. Then it keeps for months.

Reply
Dee

Add a little vodka to the starch mixture and it will remain good for months with no need put in fridge.

Reply
Michele

How much vodka, please? Are we talking a tablespoon or more?

Reply
terri lee

I add about 1 oz of vodka to 8 oz of the cornstarch water solution, and it hasn’t gone bad in over 6 months.

Reply
Judy P.

I remember my mom starching my dad’s white dress shirts with starch she made with flour and water. The collars and cuffs were stiff as could be!

Reply

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