What Is a Substitute for Fabric Starch?

A couple of common household items can be pressed into duty as a fabric starch. In some cases this is done as a matter of necessity when the supply of commercial fabric starch runs out at an inopportune time or in an effort to use more basic products. The products used are nontoxic and often have other uses within the home.

Corn Starch

Mix about 2 teaspoons of corn starch with 1 pint of cold water in a spray bottle. The corn starch has a tendency to fall out of suspension in the water so the mixture needs to be shaken often and before each use. In addition a drop or two of scented essential oils can be added to added to the mix for a scented starch. Spray the mix on the fabric as its ironed or before the clothes are hung to dry.

Rice Starch

Traditionally the water used to boil the rice during cooking would be saved and used for fabric starch. Cook the rice at a boil for about 20 minutes before pouring the rice starch water in a container to cool.

Corn Versus Rice Starch

Corn starch may yield a slightly yellow tint to the fabric. Rice starch remains white especially if applied to cotton material. However, the rice starch takes longer to prepare and requires extending cooking periods not necessary with the corn starch.


Unflavored gelatin is used as a starch substitute for delicate materials. The common recipe is one package of gelatin mixed with 2 cups of hot water. Test the mixture on a corner of material. If the fabric dries with a sticky feel, add 1/2 cup more water and retest. The gelatin method of starching involves dipping the entire piece of clothing into the container of the gelatin and water mix. This works best with small pieces of clothing. Ideally the gelatin-dipped fabric dries stiff, as if it was starched, but without a sticky feel.