To Starch or Not to Starch

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Who would’ve thought that one little question on Facebook would spark such an amazing conversation? We had a simple question that yielded big results!

Do you use spray starch when sewing?


Do you use spray starch when you sew? Learn about the Pros and Cons on The Sewing Loft 

A few months back, we posted a question to the Sewing Loft Facebook page

We wanted to know how many of you out there like to use spray starch for your sewing projects, and how many of you don’t. We got a lot more than we asked for, and the resulting conversation was really interesting!

Home seamstresses of every type piped up to give us their opinions on starch (in addition to a few comments about sizing spray). What we discovered is that there are as many opinions about starch as there are ways to finish a quilt! Here are some of the highlights.

 Do you use spray starch when you sew? Learn about the Pros and Cons on The Sewing Loft

Of the people who responded to our question, 70% of them were in the PRO starch camp. Here’s what they had to say about starching their fabrics:

– Joan said, “When I am making patchwork, I use lots of spray starch. I like my fabric to feel almost like paper before I cut it…. The starch makes precision cutting a breeze, makes the patches easy to line up and sew, and the seams press ultra-flat.”

– Lee Ann is a recent starch convert; she commented: “I learned the hard way that these steps [of starching and pressing before starting a quilt] are so much easier than using a seam ripper and trying to realign [my quilt pieces].”

– Andi added: “I don’t feel like I can iron correctly without it.”

– Pink Mouse Boutique adds, “I use starch and a very hot iron to preshrink all of my cotton fabric. It keeps the colors vibrant, makes the fabric workable and resists wrinkles.”

– Instead of using starch for quilt piecing, Stephi uses it for knits: “Starch is fantastic for working with slinky knits that want to slip and slide and stretch out of shape,” she says.

– Jenni notes that she is “learning to appreciate the extra effort for a nicer finished product.”

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However, not everyone was a fan of using starch in their sewing projects. Approximately 18% of respondents said they don’t use starch at all, and the other 12% preferred some other product, like a wrinkle releaser or sizing spray. Here are what some of the people from the Con corner had to say:


Photo: Orkin

– Cara says that she can’t use starch because she hasn’t found one yet that doesn’t make her break out into hives, yikes!

– If you tend to put your quilting projects off to the side for extended periods of time, you might want to heed Lesley’s warning: “Caution with starch! The silverfish love the residue left and will leave your quilts like confetti if left in a cupboard for any length of time.” We checked it out, and she’s right – silverfish are attracted to food starches, which are found in spray starch. So if your area is prone to these little pests, be sure to keep your starched fabrics sealed in an air-tight container or in a very cold room while you’re not working on them, and wash your finished quilt to remove all the extra starch residue when you’re finished with the sewing.

– Terri prefers to use a wrinkle releaser instead of starch. She says “it works great for pressing and the fabric maintains its ‘new’ quality without being stiff.”

Several of the posters on Facebook prefer to use Mary Ellen’s Best Press over traditional spray starch; this product comes in a variety of lovely fragrances and has proven itself to quilters everywhere. Some also preferred to use sizing spray instead of starch to limit the amount of shrinkage in their fabrics during the piecing process.

Still, other posters liked to make their own starch using a recipe similar to this one; this is an economical option compared to the cost of traditional starches and sizing sprays, and as long as you keep the basic ingredients on hand then you can always make more when you run out!

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There are a variety of products available on the market, with a wide range of prices. Here’s the break-down:

Do you use spray starch when you sew? Learn about the different brands. The Sewing Loft

Do you use spray starch when you sew? The good the bad and the.....The Sewing Loft





(These products can be purchased in your local stores but quick links are included above.)

What did we learn from all this? Well, the story on starch is that it has its ups and its downs – but don’t we all? Here are the basics: (I thought this would work best in two columns but again I can’t format columns here, evidently.)


  • It makes it easier to sew and piece quilt tops or sew quilt sandwiches.
  • Keeps fabric edge neat when cutting pieces for quilt tops or another form of patchwork.
  • It also makes finger pressing easier.


  • Attracts bugs because of the food content.
  • Makes fabrics feel stiff.
  • May cause allergic reactions for some people.

What do you think? Do you have a starch-filled success story or do you stay away from the stuff? Let us know in the comments below – let’s keep the conversation going!

Plus, if you happen to get starch on your iron, you’ll want to keep that clean! Be sure to watch my video and see my quick tips here.

The Sewing Loft


  1. I cannot use any starch either due to an allergic reaction, which was so bad twice that I had to use an epipen. My friend does not use it either as it affects her breathing. She has asthma. good luck to those who can use it though

  2. That silverfish is creeping me out!

  3. Amanda Guthrie says

    I’m absolutely blown away by the almost $8 a can price tag for Magic Sizing on Amazon!! I use it all the time and buy it for $1.15 at Dollar General and WalMart. It’s about the cheapest “starch” you can get. It smells great, doesn’t leave white flakes, and it isn’t starch based so it won’t attract bugs. Definitely shop around because that price is crazy!

  4. You need to talk to Anita Grossman Soloman. The leading expert I think on starching fabric. Her quilts are wonderful!

  5. I use the concentrated liquid starch, then I can adjust the heaviness of it as needed for different fabrics. Also, it’s cheaper.

    I spray on the wrong side of fabric so if I do get flaking it doesn’t bug me until I wash the project. 😉

  6. legallyspoiled says

    I have absolutely enjoyed this post. Well written and great information!

  7. niagara is the same identical price as faultless here, cheap cheap cheap

    • Stephanie says

      I have found that Faultless Regular Starch is very flaky but the Faultless Extra is not. The Extra is about a dollar more but I think it’s worth it. I also use Best Press. Sometimes I dilute it with water to make it stretch but it isn’t as stiff as full strength.

  8. I definitely use starch, but I buy the concentrated Sta-Flo brand and dilute it 50/50. This is how I starch: I starch every piece of fabric I’m going to work with, at least 2 hours ahead of the time, throw it in a plastic bag, and let it sit, then I’ll take it out, either line dry or throw in the dryer for a few minutes, then iron, have never had a problem with the iron getting all gunky then. When your iron gets all gunky, it’s because when you ironing instead of ironing the fabric, you were ironing the starch.I do spray mist with water since I don’t use the steam on my iron.

  9. I like to use a heavy starch. However, I do not starch my fabrics until I am ready to use them. I don’t worry about the bugs that way. I do also use the Magic Sizing. I don’t believe I prefer one over the other. As long as I get my fabrics paper-like then I am a happy piecer.

    • Stephanie says

      I’m definitely going to try the Magic Sizing. I’m sure it is much cheaper than Best Press.

  10. You can fight Silverfish , placing clove sachets in closets. Descupem meu inglês, eu sou do Brasil.

    • what a wonderful idea. I think it would make a neutral fragrance for both men and women. Thank you!

  11. I found that spray starch will take the pain out of getting burned by your iron. Won’t heal but does relieve the pain. I prefer to use sizing to press with.

  12. Great information! I’ve recently started quilting and I’ve been using Best Press but didn’t even think of some of the other products as being viable alternatives.
    Yuck on the bugs tho!
    Thanks again for the info.
    Really love your website!

  13. I have read some posts about using a cheap bottle of vodka mixed with water and was wondering if anyone had used this. I currently have the Best Press and like it. I want to say that I really love following you on both of your blogs. Keep up the great work (posts). Thank you.

  14. Linda Cejnar says

    Has anyone used Terial Magic instead of starch?