homemade spray starch


Yes, my frugality has come to new levels as I now cook up my own spray starch. Using spray starch while you're sewing is great because getting sharp creases is essential to getting perfect stitching. I have the standard can of heavy starch and that's great for most quick and easy starching.

Sometimes I would find myself applying layers of starch to get the stiffness I needed, this usually caused flaking and scorched starch on the iron. So I admit that it's more than being frugal that has led me down this path.

Researching how to get a stiff press without all the layers I found many references to liquid starch and homemade starch. Liquid starch can be bought in the grocery, look up at the top shelf where they have all the old time laundry solutions. Liquid starch, liquid bluing, fels naptha, etc.. Sure I could buy it premixed but that seemed a bit boring. I wanted to make it myself. After all what does a box of corn starch cost right?

The methods to making your own spray starch fall into two categories, the raw and the cooked. Wasn't that an FYC album? It seems that many people use the raw method and it works fine for them. This is a simple procedure of mixing raw corn starch with water. It can't get much simpler than that! This method has the drawback of needing to be shaken before use since the starch will tend to settle. I have not tried the raw method so I can't say how the starch itself performs compared to the cooked method.


The cooked method has many variations and this is probably because it's hard to mess up. The most basic recipe involves mixing about half a cup of corn starch with a few cups of water and cooking it for at least 20 minutes. This will create a concentrate that you further dilute with additional water. The idea for me being what's the heaviest starch I can make while still being able to spray it in some form of mist. Cooked starch stays suspended and does not require shaking before use.

I'm being a bit vague with the directions here because I think it's best to experiment and find the best method that works for you. I do have some insights! If you fail to stir your starch enough while you cook it then it will create a thick mass at the bottom of your pan. I made this mistake and fixed it by running it through the blender until it was perfectly smooth as chunks will clog your sprayer. Speaking of spray bottles, if you want to spray heavy starch get a heavy duty sprayer that's not going to break down.

Many of the older recipes I found call for the addition of borax.
Since many of us see borax in the laundry section of the grocery we assume it's a detergent but in actuality it's a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. In detergent it's used as a water softener and laundry sweetener. I've started using it again in the laundry and I do like it's effects.

Why use borax in spray starch?

Well the old recipes mention that it has the affect of creating shine or modifying the finish of the starch. However after doing more research on borax I think it's actually due to it being a preservative, both an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent. Your homemade starch will go bad without the addition of a preservative, borax is a cheap and effective choice. I added a tablespoon to my recipe but I'm experimenting with using less.

Another ingredient you may want to consider adding is alum. Alum supposedly makes your starch whiter and helps create a crisper finish. More importantly it has good antibacterial properties will will also keep your starch from going bad. I used about a tablespoon of alum in my recipe. The best source for alum I've found is the Asian grocery where alum can be bought in bags very inexpensively. Alum changes the physical properties of the starch making it more viscous allowing you to spray heavier starch then if you didn't use alum in your recipe.

Homemade spray starch is different than what you buy in the aerosol can and how you use it depends on how dilute you made your starch to begin with. Like I said I made my starch as thick as possible but still sprayable. This starch is wet. It reminds me of getting my hair cut as a kid and getting sprayed down with the spray bottle. If you think you're going to use it while you're sewing think again! It will drench your fabric and your ironing board with slimy starch slurry and you'll be wondering why you signed up for this homemade stuff to begin with.

I found the best way to use this type of starch is by doing it ahead of time. When clothing or fabric is wet from the washer take it outside and spray it down with starch. If you have a clothes line this is ideal for fabric and hangers will work for shirts. Then let it dry. When you iron use enough steam to soften the starch but not enough to make it sticky or slimy. I have also sprayed dry fabric with great results, the advantage being able to see where you've sprayed and the fabric sucking up more starch.

So there you have it, homemade spray starch. It won't replace the aerosol can in my sewing room but it sure is a welcome addition. I'd love to hear some specific recipes people use or other liquid starch techniques. I've heard of actually dipping fabric in starch which sounds like some extremely stiff fabric. I also saw some recipes using rice flour instead of corn starch.

9 comments :: homemade spray starch

  1. I have been wanting to DIY starch recently because I don't like to buy things I can make (dish soap, furniture, cat food- yes, think what you will). This is great, thank you for the info!

  2. I love that you're the only one who's commented on this! When I had a dog I used to make my own dog food. I also grind my own flour in the vitamix blender! I make my own mayonnaise, thank you Julia Child.. I love doing things from scratch, it makes me feel so empowered. Let me know how your starch goes!

  3. Thank you for giving me the answer that I have been looking for. I am making crocheted Christmas ornaments and just could not get them to stiffen up. I think if i make it concentrated enough it will work perfectly. Thanks Again

  4. Thank you! This is the most helpful blog I have found for homemade starch. I am making a large batch of Halloween decorations that all need to be starched in order to hold the manipulated shape. I don't get payed again for another 2 weeks and was desperately searching for a homemade answer. This sounds perfect! I too make almost everything I can from scratch. With 3 kids it is too painful on the wallet to just buy stuff I could save on. I am interested in the comment about the homemade catfood though, I have a stray that has attached himself to our family and his food was not an expense I had anticipated. But what can I do he is sooo cute;) Thanks again for the ideas!

  5. Thanks Brian, I love this post on homemade starch. I will have to try it for stiffening some quilting projects in progress; helps prevent stretching on bias edges.
    I would warn those using a lot of starch on craft projects, if you plan to keep them though. Silverfish & other bugs love starch, after all it is food!
    It may be better to get some really cheap polyurethane spray for say an ornament you will store longer term.

  6. While googling how to suspend cornstarch, I found this wonderful post.

    You said it won't replace your aerosol can, but it sure has in our household. (I am the husband). My wife has used commercial spray starches until I checked the ingredients in our brand. It contains FORMALDEHYDE!!! a known cancer-causing substance. The National Institute of Health. Commercial manufacturers use it as a preservative and stabilizer, so I think I will try using borax as you suggest. Here is the link http://bit.ly/AoirqR

    Home made and natural is definitely the way to go for us.

    Thanks for a great share.

  7. Thanks for your post! The extra info about the slimy ironing board is especially helpful. Knowing how it will work reassures me that I'll know I didn't mess it up! And I agree with the last post...any time I can minimize nasty chemicals in my environment, I want to do so. I had know idea spray starch had formaldehyde in it!

  8. Good tips but I don't see your actual recipe for starch. Would like to see the proportions including the borax.
    And does the borax have to be in a cooked version or can it be in the raw version as well?

  9. thanks for your post as regards the homemade startch. i must confess that as an african we kearn to make starch from like age 10, especially as some tribes eat it nevertheless i have learnt alot as to using borax for a preservative.. also in nigeria we have cassava starch not cone starch... thanks Afolabi Abrahams

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