Starchy foods on our lips goes straight to the hips but that same starch is actually our secret weapon when it comes to keeping our cottons and linens clean.
I was reading Pamela Anderson’s (not that Pamela Anderson) article in the November, 1952, issue of Good Housekeeping (I’m a little behind on my reading…) on “How to Starch.” Yep. Fun times in the McFann cottage. Seriously, though, this article made me decide to take a second look at starching my cotton and flax garments and linens!
If you’re like me, you’ve basically associated starch with maids, nurses, and removable collars. Well, there’s a reason for it. You see, as Miss Anderson tells us, “Starching does more than give a crispness and sheen to cottons. It protects fabrics from ground-in soil. For instance, curtains and aprons stay fresh-looking almost twice as long when they’ve been starched.”
But things have changed quite a bit since Miss Anderson first wrote her article on behalf of the Good Housekeeping Institute in 1952. For one thing, synthetic fibers were still in their infancy and starches are pretty useless on them because they do not easily absorb liquids. For another, we are not having to mix up our own batches of starch to use with our laundry. I liked Miss Anderson’s tips on how to make starch but the ease of being a modern retro woman is that I can just head over to the grocery store and buy a can of either spray starch or sizing. Or, if I’m feeling adventurous, I can get a half gallon of it already mixed for me to add to the laundry as if it were fabric softener.
I decided to head over to the Faultless website to see what I could find out about modern starching. First, I wanted to know what the difference is between starch and sizing. Basically, you use starch on 100% or mostly natural fiber fabrics. Sizing is designed for synthetic fabrics to help them regain their “body” or “crispness” without making them stiff to give them a “like new” appearance (Sizing is usually added to garments during the manufacturing process and to fabric during the milling process–especially to inexpensive fabrics which is why issues like the fabric being off-grain isn’t discovered until after it is washed and the sizing is dissolved).
The second thing I wanted to know was what I need to keep in mind as I incorporate starch and sizing into my laundering routine so I poked around some other websites and this is the consensus of what I found:
- Some quilters prefer to use sizing instead of starch because they are constantly re-ironing the quilt blocks as they put their quilts together
- If you don’t follow the directions on the can/bottle, starch can flake and gunk up your iron
- Starch should never, ever be used on garments labeled “Dry Clean Only” but sizing is ideal for these garments
- Read labels to make sure that brand of starch/sizing can be used on your fine fabrics
- Depending upon how stiff you make the garment, starch can reduce the life of your garment because the stiffness can cause the fibers to break.
Two websites worth exploring are:
- The Faultless website has tips on how to iron out wrinkles in a shirt and other advice on garment care
- The Laundry section on About.com has an entire list of videos demonstrating how to iron different fabrics and garments correctly (Correctly being the key word…)
- Sewing with Trudy offers tips on how to get the starch gunk off of your iron
Now that I know that starch and sizing can help repel soiling, I am going to start adding it to my laundry routine–especially to The Mister’s work clothes!
How about you? Did you know that starch and sizing helped to prevent stains?