Homemade clothes starch & Fabric stiffener (10 Recipes)

Homemade recipes for stiffening clothes and adding that crispiness to your clothes that make it wow.

home made clothes starch


Home made starch and fabric stiffeners are so easy to make, it is not nice that you are not making it instead of using the unnaturally fragranced starch from the stores or worse not starching at all.

How to make fabric stiff at home

There is no question that starch is good for your clothes. The crispiness of a starched dress is something else. I am not talking about the stiff petticoats and gowns of yesteryear, which can stand on their own, but the light crispness of a freshly dry white dress shirt or a baby’s dress.

Cotton looks divine when it is starched. It makes your garments wrinkle-free and even resists stains to a degree.

Have you slept on crisp  ironed bedsheets, nothing like it. Some even like their jeans starched.

In sewing, cutting into a prewashed and starched fabric is heaven. Knits are the best candidates for this, because they tend to curl up along the edges when we cut, frustrating many a patient sewist.

Soft fabrics, sheer fabrics -all benefit from starching before cutting. After the fabric is starched, it becomes smooth and easy to manage

Homemade Recipes for Laundry starch and Fabric stiffener

1.From Starch powder

Buy starch powder. This is the easiest way to make your own laundry starch.

In a pan put about 1 cup of starch and dissolve it in a cup of plain tap water. Add 1 1/2 liters of hot water to this solution. Keep this  mixture over flame and stir till you get a smooth texture. 

2. Cooked rice water – Liquid starch

laundry stiffeners

In my home I have grown up seeing rice water being used to starch the clothes. This is water left over after the rice is boiled.

Do not use this method if you donot eat rice at home – you will have to throw away the cooked rice and that is waste of food.

You should preferably be using the water from boiling white rice (raw rice) not the red rice – or you can strain out the red particles and then use.

Drain the water from the boiled rice. You have to take the rice water out as soon as it is cooked, because if it is left to cool the water will solidify and it will be useless.

Take out and thin to the proper consistency. This thinned starch water can be left to cool. Dip the dress in this solution ; wring out the water from it. Hang to dry.

laundry stiffeners

Please take care that the garment is fully drying in the sun immediately. If left damp the rice water can create a foul smell. But after it is dried the dress will look wonderfully crisp.

3. White glue – Liquid starch

Dilute white glue 1 tbsp in 500 ml water. Mix thoroughly. Use as spray starch or dip and starch as explained below, after diluting it further. Easy peasy.

Everyone has white glue at home. I know a friend who does this every week – starching all her husband’s shirts in the white glue solution – she claims it is the best. For a real stiff finish for your fabric use equal parts glue and water.

4. Cornstarch recipe – Liquid starch

If you are more into the natural things, cornflour is a good solution.Yes, the cornflour that you add to your gravy to thicken it can make your clothes starched. Cannot get homemade than this.

  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

Whisk the mixture together nicely till the powder is blended in. Pout this into a spray bottle.Shake the bottle thoroughly before each use to make sure that the cornstarch which settles down is mixed in.

You have to use it up fully. Cornstarch is after all food . Make fresh batch next time you need more. A disadvantage of using cornstarch is that you have to be wary of white spots on dark clothes. However, for light clothes this is a very quick and effective way of starching.

I add a small leaf of basil to the bottle for a nice smell.

5. Potato / tapioca water – Liquid starch

This is a recipe I have seen around in home management books – guess the starch in the potato is put to use here. Take 2 medium potatoes. Skin the potatoes and then grate with a vegetable grater. Pour water over it and let it sit for some 10 minutes. Strain the water. Let the water sit for sometime. Take out the clear water on top. Keep this clear water in a stove and boil, stirring all the while. Mix more water if you want

For the tapioca starch, you can grate the tapioca and strain it to get the starch water. This is supposed to be a very effective starch. But tapioca is difficult to get and I suppose seasonal. You can use tapioca flour for the same purpose. Boil tapioca powder in some water till it turns clear. Use this to starch your clothes.

6. Rice Starch Paste – Fabric stiffener

This is called Nori in Japanese printing. This is basically used as a glue , preferred because of the non-destructive quality of this natural glue.

A thing which is stiffened with this paste will stay that way without the properties of the glue detroying it after some time. So if you have a period costume which you are not going to wash for a long time, this is the stiffener you should be using.

  • Rice powder from glutinous rice (fine milled white rice flour- the refined rice, not the rice with fiber) 5 tsp
  • Distilled water

Keep 300 ml of water to boil. First, spoon in 5 teaspoons of rice powder into 100 ml water  in a glass. Whisp with a fork / spoon.

Pour this mixture  into the boiling water. Continue whisking to make sure that no lumps are formed at all. Use a wire whisk used to whisk eggs .

Do double ensure that these are no lumps. Take off the stove when you see a semi-transparent look to the liquid.

Dilute to use as needed, when hot. Make sure to dilute with more hot water (do not mix in cold water).

Cool before use. This can be used as spray starch also if properly diluted and without any lumps. If more rice powder ( like 1 tbsp)  is added to this, this can be used to really stiffen the fabric the way you want it, like a board

Aside: Some add a teaspoon of borax powder to this for more stiffness. Have not tested it, but sounds sound enough.The borax is dissolved in hot water

7. Cooked Cornstarch paste – Fabric stiffener

  • 250 ml water
  • 1 tbsp cornflour

Whisk cornflour with half the quantity of water  together nicely till the powder is blended in. Now boil with the rest of the water

8. White flour – starch

Maida or the white flour also has binding properties which makes it great to be used as glue. So you can use it as a fabric stiffener.

But remember that this mixture is made of food and needs to be washed after some time. Do not keep in a cupboard and forget about it. The moths and ants will make a meal of it and will leave the rest to you.

diy laundry starch


If you are afraid of these homemade starches going to spoil on your clothes, you can add a little formalin as a preservative. Fine, Forget I said that. Preservatives have no place in homemade goods.

9. White flour – Cornflour -salt

Mix together 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 tablespoon White flour and 10 tablespoons salt. Put this to boil, stirring constantly. This makes for a nice stiffener for fabric.

10. Borax

Slight stiffening and starching is possible with borax powder. Mix 1 table spoon of borax to 1 liter (about 1 quarter) of boiling water.

How to use the starch you have made

Sieve the starch solution if you notice any lumps. Wash the garment , then dip the garment in the starch solution you have prepared – completely and thoroughly so that the starch solution gets everywhere.

Wring excess water. Hang to dry. Make sure that the place where you hang it to dry is ok with some water / starch dripping down

If you want a heavily starched effect, increase the concentration of starch to water (a heavy starch solution)  and do not wring the water afterwards. Just hang to dry.

Completely dry it in sun. You will get a stiff garment/ fabric this way.

When you want to tightly stiffen a fabric, it must be dry when you apply starch. The starch mixture is absorbed into the mesh of the fabric; squeeze out excess. Rub off the fabric surface of any starch grains remaining with a clean wet fabric

Haven’t you heard the phrase “too much of anything is good for nothing”? Over starching frequently can make your garment weak and when force is applied the fabric may even fray and break in places.

Importent pointers when using the homemade starch.

Make sure that you are starching all the pieces in a pattern (ie if you are using two fabrics in one pattern both should be starched. If one is not starched and the other is, the pieces will not lie nicely after it is sewn)

Do not starch on rainy days. The starched cloth should dry out in the sun for maximum effect. Also dampen the fabric before dipping in the stiffener solution – gets more even spread.

I would also not starch nylon clothes and such synthetic fabrics as well as very dark fabrics. But then it is your call.

And turn the clothes rightside in before starching.

 How to iron a starched fabric

Lightly sprinkle water on the cloth, then roll it up nicely. The laundry man at our place stuffs all the water sprinkled cloth into a big bag and keep it aside for some 10-20 minutes, so that the water somehow smoothens the fabric enough to iron out all the wrinkles.

I don’t do that but sure do some rolling of the fabric on the ironing surface. Use medium heat setting and light steam to nicely iron out all the wrinkles. You may have to use a heavy hand on stiffened fabrics.

What can you use instead of starch for ironing?

Tapioca flour, corn flour and white refined flour are used as starch substitutes, as mentioned above. The starch present in these flours act almost the same way as store-bought starch. But other than that, you can use baking soda just the way you use spray starch; if diluted baking soda solution is sprayed on the garment as you iron, you can freshen up the clothing and also remove heavy odours. I would do this if I am ironing already-worn clothes.

Related post: How to add volume to a dress :  10 best stiff fabrics ; How to use spray starch

Related posts

how to remove ink stains from clothes
How to get sweat smell out of clothes


Subscribe to get weekly notifications of posts in your email

Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.