Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Old Fashioned Starch

Q: I have a very hard time with spray starch, I never seem to be able to get it right. Could you explain a little bit about what you use and how you use it?

A: We like our cotton shirts heavily starched. A military friend suggested I try boxed starch powder. I thought it was too much trouble until I saw some at Dollar Tree, and overtaken by curiosity, tried it. I had to call my grandma for advice.

The box has two different instructions for use. You can dissolve the starch in hot water using the directions for "cooked starch," then dip the laundered-but-not-dry shirts in the pot. Roll the shirts in a towel until they are damp. Pressing with a hot iron completes the drying process.

The advantage of the dipping method is that the starch permeates the fabric--no flaking or white spotting that comes from spray starch. If you are running short on time, you can also line dry the wet, starched shirts and save the ironing for later. Sprinkle them with water until damp, and iron away.

For the second method, which is quicker but slightly less starchy, follow the box directions for making the starch into a liquid. Then, instead of dipping the shirts, put the liquid starch into a spray bottle. When the wet shirts come out of the washer, hang them up and spray all over. You can let them dry on hangers or the line. They get very stiff. Ironing softens and smooths the starch out.

I won't lie--you'll still find me dropping off shirts at the 99-cent cleaners if we've had a crunch week! But old-fashioned starch is definitely a savings, and to my mind, produces a superior result.

12 comments:

ancient one said...

I'm old enough to have ironed with the old fashion starch years ago. I hope I never have to go back... I love spray starch!!! LOL

Anonymous said...

Can you hear me sing "Memory" My husband was a Marine. More than 20 years...I can iron a shirt. I remember using it as a paint to get his 'cover' (hat) stiff enough to hold a shape. I never sent his shirts to the cleaners. To me and to him it was a matter of pride. I did his shirts and he did the shoes. My Marine is retired now. So I do not have to do those shirts any more. I am not going to say I am sorry, it would be a lie.

Did you know you can use starch as a glue to hold fabric to a wall? We lived in military housing. We were not allowed to do much in the way of decoration...but you could put fabric on a wall with starch like wall paper. It will come off later and not leave anything behind that a tad of soap and water can't remove. I still have some of the fabric I used in almost all of our kitchens as we were moved from pillar to post. It is yellow with black roosters on it....I have always loved 'country' and yellow has always been my favorite color..

Take care of that wonderful family of yours. Enjoy your blog very much. Good night. Roxie

Alison said...

Roxie, your story made me think of my Grandma, my Grandpa was in the Air Force 20 years so she did all the moving too. The family story is that she was so accustomed to starching & ironing everything that my Grandpa finally had to tell her "stop starching my boxer shorts." Thanks for sharing.

pomo housewife said...

Thanks for this! These days most Australian Army uniform isn't starched, but we still use it for 'polys' - the formal trousers and shirt - and for business attire and evening shirts, so I'll give this a try. I have a box of starch I bought for a science experiment - it must be much 'greener' than using a disposable aerosol can, too.

Wow, Roxie, you have my admiration. I'm so glad we don't have those old cotton uniforms to maintain anymore. My husband irons his own uniform, though.

Anonymous said...

Alison, I could probably BE your grandma...I am 55...looking at 56 on Christmas Eve...I have 4 grand children. Two of them live with me. So at the ripe age of 55 I have 2 little boys 5 and 7 to keep me young.

Beautifuly Created said...

I will have to look for the dry starch. I used the caned starch for years and resently switched to liquid starch that you dilute, but I wonder if the dry starch would be cheeper. DH is getting hte new wash and wear air force uniforms but we will still have the regular ones for a few years too. I also like to starch almost all of my cottons. I start with the heavy starches and work down to the lighter starches diluting the solution as i go so there is virtualy no waist.

Mrs. H. said...

The smell of aerosol starch makes me queasy, so I buy large bottles of Stay-Flo liqiud starch from Wal-Mart. It is thick stuff, so I mix it 1:1, then fill a spray bottle, and spray dh's work shirts when they come out of the wash, because he likes a heavy starch. For items that need body, but not too much starch, I just spray with water, then starch when I iron. This type of starch doesn't build up on your iron, either.

Meredith said...

Neat! I didn't realize you could buy liquid starch already made up in a bottle. Depending on how that's priced, that sounds a lot easier than making your own from powder.

I really appreciate all the tips and trick shared here! Like I said, I had to call my own grandma for advice when I wanted to experiment with Argo laundry starch. If we don't share these old-fashioned ways, they'll definitely die out.

Laural said...

I've always wondered about starching! I've never done it, but my husband's mother does, and he misses it. You make it sound much easier than I thought- I might give it a try!

Anonymous said...

I bought powdered starch from the dollar store, too, and here's what I do. First, Mix a few tablespoons (I use 3)of starch in 1/2 cup cold water. Heat a quart of hot water on the stove. Stir in the starch/water combination with a whisk. Put all the items to be starched in the washer and start filling with warm water. Slowly pour the starch water from the pot into the washing machine, so that it is at a temp that the fabric can handle. Let the washer agitate and then spin out the water. Hang clothes to dry and run some more warm or hot water through the washer to rinse. Play around with the amount of starch to achieve the desired stiffness.

Chief Family Officer said...

I have only ever used spray starch. I love that you had to call your grandmother for help! (I would have too. Only mine would have said, "What's that???")

Ewokgirl said...

I've, also, only ever used spray starch. I learned from my mother to lay old towels or a sheet under the ironing board to keep the starch off the carpet.

Liquid starch sounds interesting and far more economical (and I assume I wouldn't be carded buying it like I am with the aerosol spray starch), but it sounds like more work. Then again, I'd be using less energy, too, if I had to hang dry the things that are starched with the liquid. Hmmm...