Fabric Starch: Get it or forget it?


You might associate fabric starch with the pleats on your grandpa’s jeans… but he’s not the only one who uses starch. Quilters use fabric starch, too! Fabric starch is a magical spray-on formula that stiffens fabric, making it easier for you to work with while quilting… especially when you’re sewing intricate, complex patterns.

Some quilters swear by fabric starch, but others forget the stuff entirely. So should you follow in your grandpa’s fabric-starchy footsteps? Let’s dive in a little deeper into the fabric starch scene, and let you decide for yourself if fabric starch is a good tool for you.

The Why and How of Fabric Starch

There are two kinds of quilters. First, there are the dive-in-head-firsters. These quilters get home from the fabric store, whip out their new fabrics, and hit the table sewing.

Then, there are the preppers. This second group takes their time planning, pre-washing, and you guessed it, fabric starching. This makes sense, since pre-washing your fabric causes it to lose some stability, and if you’re working with bias edges or narrow strips, you’re going to have to add some of that rigidity back in with fabric starch. If you use your fabric straight out of the bag, fabric starch may not be necessary.

That said… if you go the fabric starch route, keep these three tips in mind:

  1. If you do choose to use fabric starch, STARCH ALL THE THINGS. Starch and no starch don’t mix. Fabrics work differently with each other based on how you have treated them beforehand, so make sure they’re all getting equal treatment.
  2. Fabric starch spray is not the only way. Canned fabric starch is common because it’s pretty darn convenient, but you can also make your own fabric starch! That’s right. DIY starch can come in handy if you’re picky about concentration level. (See below for a DIY recipe)
  3. Don’t starch & store. If you’re going to use fabric starch, you should be ready to use your fabric soon after. If you fabric starch your beautiful fabrics and fold them up… those folds won’t be easy to get out (think again of the creases in your grandpa’s jeans…)

All My Favorite Brands…

It’s time for a round of Fabric Starch Superlatives! Here are the top award-winning fabric starch options… according to me!​


Most Popular: Best Press

People loooove this fabric starch. Quilters order it by the gallon! Mary Ellen’s Best Press is a clear, crisp spray starch with a built in stain shield. (And like all the other popular kids you know, it comes in various, pleasant scents.)​

I recently discovered the Caribbean scent and was pleasantly surprised! I will say that if you're ironing a lot of fabric, the smell can become a little overwhelming. To combat this, I use a 50/50 starch to water ratio in my spray bottle.


Best Attendance: Quilter's Starch Savvy

If you’re looking for a consistent fabric starch, June Tailor’s shows up every time. This fabric starch is FQBQ (that’s for quilters, by quilters), and works great time after time.

Because of its popularity, you can find this starch almost any place that sells sewing supplies.

ECOS all natural spray Starch

Most Natural: Plant-Powered ECOS Starch

ECOS is the leading brand of 100% natural, plant-based, non-toxic, biodegradable household cleaners, made with renewable and cruelty-free ingredients. This product was never tested on animals and is also packaged in recyclable containers.

If you are sensitive to smells and prefer to work with chlorine-free, phosphate-free, enzyme-free materials, this still is as pure as it gets.


Honorable Mention: Vodka and Water

I haven’t yet tried this myself, but the logic behind this fabric starch is pretty sound: Starch is in potatoes. Vodka is made from potatoes. Pour 3 oz. vodka and 24 oz. distilled water into a spray bottle, then shake. Now let that distilled potato starch do its work. Try it and let me know if it works!

To Starch or Not to Starch?

Let’s all be real for a second: quilting can be an expensive hobby. If you’re good to go with a spray bottle of water (and maybe some vodka?), springing for fabric starch might not be worth it to you. Here’s my take: I use fabric starch only when I really, really need it so my bottle of starch lasts longer, and I don’t have to buy it as often.

​If you're completely new to quilting, I made a quick video about ironing...

Check out more of my favorite quilting tools!

What about you? Is fabric starch something you can do without? Or has starch become one of your quilting must-haves? I’d love to hear your comments!

101 thoughts on “Fabric Starch: Get it or forget it?

    • Stephanie Barber says:

      How about the quilt backing? If you starch all of the fabric before piecing the top, do you have to starch the backing fabric or can you use it “as is?”

      • Catalina Urias says:

        Excellent question! It depends on if you have prewashed the fabric. Fabric straight off the bolt already has a lot of starch from the manufacturing process. If you didn’t prewash it, there is no need to starch. If you did prewash your fabric, and you’re worried about it stretching or shifting during the quilting process, starching the fabric during its initial ironing is a great idea.

  1. Susan says:

    I don’t use any starch because the smell of them bothers my machine quilter. And I certainly don’t want her to refuse my quilt tops???? But another friend did give me a bottle of the homemade one, so if it’s something small that I quilt myself I will use it.

      • Suzanne says:

        I had to switch to Mary Ellen’s unscented starch. The scented varieties were delightful, but honestly I would sneeze the whole time I was using them. It was so good to find a sneeze proof version, LOL I’ve got some Vodka I’ve been meaning to use to make vanilla….maybe I’ll make some startch with it instead!

  2. Karen @Tu-Na Quilts, Travels, and Eats says:

    I’ve read somewhere that bugs are drawn to the starch in starch. Yikes! I guess that’s the recommendation for not starching your fabrics until you are ready to use them. But then what to do with all those leftover scraps and how to protect them from becoming the next meal for some little insect critter. What do you do with them?

    • Suzy says:

      That is a great question! I’ve never had a bug issue, so maybe it depends on where you live and how many bugs are in the area. I would suggest keeping starched scraps in covered bins or sealed bags to avoid any tiny critters 🙂

    • Mea Cadwell says:

      Fabric softener sheets in with the starched scraps helps and makes them smell good. Most dryer sheets contain the ingredient linalool, which can be found in plants like lavender, basil, and coriander, all of which naturally repel pests.

    • Donette Kurtz says:

      Commercial starch is not going to attract insects. That was from way back that happened. When starch was made from potatoes.

  3. Clairequilty says:

    The vodka and water has worked great for me if I only want body like in Best Press. The most body in the fabric is created with 3/4 vodka to 1/4 water. The cheapest vodka at the liquor store is what I use.

      • Ruth says:

        I’m a big fan of starching! It’s really improved the accuracy of my piecing and rarely do I have things that need to be “fudged”. It’s a huge help with wovens (think Fableism or RSS Warp & Weft) and skewed fabrics. A couple of old towels laid out on the laundry room floor – starch – let dry (use your laundry rack) and iron. Also helps with fraying when you have pieces that pass through your machine a lot.

  4. Donna says:

    I’m on Team Starchy ????! I go cheap…Faultless Premium Spray Starch! About $1.50 a can at my favorite French store…Target. I saturate my fabrics and let them dry on a rack and then press. It has really made a big difference in cutting and piecing accuracy. Especially when making a Featherd Star! I hope I’m not single-handedly destroying the ozone layer! Guess I’ll check the label! ????

    • Kaye says:

      My pressing board always turns brown. I use a homemade board for this reason. There seems to be nothing that will remove the stains. Once a quilt is finished, I iron it on my standard large ironing board but the 24×24 is great while constructing a block. And once it gets ugly, I just change the fabric or refold it. I would love input on this as it’s not a dirty iron and I always use distilled water in my iron.

  5. YodaMomma says:

    I have been starching for 15 years of quilting. I love working with starched fabric and have converted quite a few of my quilting pals who used to snicker at me when I started. This is the ONLY place I am sharing my WHOLE method with — So here goes:
    I lightly wash my fabric on the fast cycle, then have a bin (the pan I cook the Thanksgiving turkey in) of liquid starch mixture ready for when it is done. I use Purex Stay-Flo in 64-oz HUGE bottle, water and a little vinegar. The ratio is about 1 cup starch, 1/2 cup water, 1 TB vinegar. If I am doing 10 yards (usually in 1 yard pieces), I use a whole bottle and do the proportions from there. Then when the fabric is done with washing, I dunk each piece thoroughly in the bin, wring it out, and toss them all back in the washer. I set the cycle to spin, but I interrupt the cycle about 10 minutes in so they come out still wet but not DRIPPING. Then shake out the pieces, folding it long-wise so the selvage is at the top and far bottom until it is about 12 inches wide. Then I hang it to semi-dry on my heated towel racks for about 30 minutes each side. The ideal moment is when the fabric is just damp to the touch. Then I iron, iron, iron and fold carefully in the manner recommended for “power cutting” from Nancy Roelfsema (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoBKOv3Azzw). I iron while I binge watch a TV series online. I haven’t ever had silverfish in my house, but I remain vigilant. No smell, btw. Thanks for this website. I am bookmarking it to visit again soon I hope!


    I’m a starcher and swear by it I use Mary Ellen’s Best Press and buy it by the gallon. It’s perfect to put that sizing back in if you prewash and it DOESN’T attract bugs like the cheap stuff. I also use the prewash when preparing to cut. Putting 2 fabrics together, starch and cut. Works perfect every time. I also use a spritz after cutting out my pieces. As for Starch Savvy, terrible!! It stains and doesn’t wash out!! I ruined several blocks because the light fabric was on the bottom.
    As for the cheap stuff, it attracts bugs and spiders!! It’s not worth the “savings” to ruin your expensive fabric. The only positive on cheap starch is when you’re doing applique and are using a small amount. I will always be a “Best Press” quilter. Thanks for the great info you provide!

    • Kaye says:

      Thank you The above mention of bugs had me worried. I always use Best Press I’ve never had a problem with it it makes my block look wonderful. I do like the unscented. Sometimes the scented on a large project can do me in with fragrance. Still my favorite. Blocks look fabulous presssed.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Personally, I would pre-wash the double-gauze, then starch the fabric before cutting and sewing. Once you have finished the quilt, wash it again to remove the starch.

  7. Honey Gee says:

    Has anyone noticed that when they use starch it really stains their ironing board cover? I️ use starch occasionally and I’ll have a perfectly clean ironing board and then after using starch it’s got water lines and weird streaks. Does this happen to anyone else?

    • Leeia Graham says:

      Hi Suzy. Love your posts. I started starching when making a quilt with lots of HSTs and flying geese. It really made a difference. Now I starch every time. I just use the cheap stuff from the grocery. I never prewash. I always wash my quilts when complete prior to gifting. I like the crinkles that show up after washing. This also gets out the starch, any leftover chalk or other markings and address any issues…kind of a dress rehearsal. 😂 I am wondering if you get the same crinkles when you prewash?

      • Suzy Quilts says:

        Unless you’re exclusively using recycled fabric that has been washed multiple times, your quilt will crinkle and shrink a bit once you wash it. Most batting comes prewashed, but that stuff still shrinks a little, and cotton fabric, especially, continues to shrink a bit after a single wash.

  8. Aida says:

    I’m fairly new to quilting and just used Best Press for the first time. I’m making a small quilt for a child and I’m sure it will be washed frequently. Since the starch will be washed away, should I recommend that it be starched every time they wash it or is this used only for cutting and sewing purpose. Sorry if this is an odd question, but as I said I’m new to this and never had a hand made quilt in my life. Thank you

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Great question! The Best Press is there to help you cut and sew more accurately by keep your fabric stiff. Once the quilt is finished and washed, it’s no longer needed and you can save it for your next project.

      • Gayle Kush says:

        I bought the Best Press because it was labeled as a starch and sizing alternative as I do not at all enjoy what starch and sizing do to my iron and the board cover. I have to say it really is remarkable. I mixed my own according to a recipe I saw on line with 50/50 water and vodka. It works great too! I had originally stayed away from it because 9fnthe fragrance but was happy to see the fragrance free option. I don’t use it before cutting though, just for the seams during construction.

  9. Lottie says:

    I’m using starch on a new quilt for the first time ever (probably have been quilting for about five years), and like the extra stiffness of the fabric, especially as these are smaller pieces than I usually use. I asked a friend about starch, and she said yes, she almost always uses it, and she just uses what she can get in the grocery store. So, that’s what I’m using, I think it’s Niagra Spray Starch, the pump bottle. I’ve seen the Best Press in quilt shops, is it that much better? Also, would Best Press be softer later? I worry about this quilt being really stiff. I’ve been spraying a little before I cut, then when I flip and press a seam – is that too much? Pretty sure I’ll be washing my ironing board cover soon.

    Vodka sounds interesting too….


  10. Sharon says:

    I have made the ‘vodka’ starch a few times and I LOVE it! Buy the cheapest vodka you can find .. and add a couple drops of essential oil in the spray bottle … add the water and that’s all there is to it!
    Some say it’s as good as Best Press.

  11. Jamie says:

    I used to always use Niagra, but I find it’s so heavy that if I don’t turn my iron down it flakes and gets crispy brown and I have to clean my iron and change my ironing board cover often. And with a lower temp I feel like I’m not getting the press I like. Then I tried Best Press. I don’t exactly know what’s in Best Press, but even with unscented, when I iron it and it evaporates it makes me cough! Like, every time. So, I’ve tried making my own with vodka. I found a recipe online and the ratio was 1 part vodka + 3 parts water. (Lots lower vodka ratio than the recipe above.) I don’t cough anymore! I feel like I do get enough body with this ratio, but I like the idea of trying to amp up the vodka ratio for bias cuts maybe!! Something to try!

  12. S.m.art says:

    I’m like scratching sooo much ..unfortunately I used to use a homemade mix but last week I faced a different problem I do not know the reason ..I bought some yards of fabric on sale then washed them all by hand (should I wash them in the washing machine?),after they dried I got my homemade starcher and used it as every time but I surprised that the fabric selvage is not straight line also the weft threads like weaves and it is not straight…do you think the fabric is old or may be I pressed it in a wrong way 🤔😕

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      No need to wash your fabric by hand, unless it is delicate vintage fabric or if it’s a certain type of fabric that requires it. Regular cotton that quilters use can be thrown into the washing machine.

      Next issue: wonky selvage. The selvage should be on grain, however sometimes the fabric can get warped and stretched so that it looks crooked. I vigorous wash and dry in your washing machine and dryer should help. With quilting, lucky for us, cutting and sewing on grain isn’t that important. The selvage warping shouldn’t cause any issues in your project.

        • Suzy Quilts says:

          I’m 90% sure it won’t wash out. The only reason I’m not 100% sure is because I haven’t tried it, but if you are using a permanent marker it should penetrate through starch.

  13. Cathy says:

    I used to really like Best Press. But then my bottle mysteriously started oozing and leaking under itself and it took the finish off my red cabinet! It made me wonder what the heck it’s made of and I’ve been leery of it ever since.

  14. Blee Bob says:

    I love Faultless spray starch. So so cheap and easy. But now I am actually wondering if there is any vodka in the house. Cause I wanna try that 3/4ths vodka to 1/4th water and see if it works! I ran outta the spray and … I’m on a quilting rampage. Super great article. I love the whole process.

  15. Jacki says:

    How can I wash jelly roll fabric without getting the threads all over the edges? It seems like a lot of the fabric turns into MESS after washing? should I even be washing jelly roll fabric?

  16. Rita Mercredi says:

    I have used Best Press in the past and have had trouble with staining, twice in the last couple months it has left ‘watermarks’ on my fabric, I am not sure why that is, and I can’t try washing it out until the quilt is finished, I am hoping it will wash out!! I have also experienced my bottle of Best Press leaking/oozing from the bottom. Has your Best Press ever left watermarks and did it wash out?

      • Suzanne says:

        I have always been happy with Best Press. Today it left stains on my Kona Cotton solid fabric, but not on the other fabrics I was pressing. I hadn’t even touched it with my iron before the stains were obvious. Very puzzling.

        • Katherine says:

          Yup, this happened to me with Best Press also. I used the purple (lavender?) and it was great but then got the pink (rose) and it left water marks! Even before I ironed I could see it wasn’t going to come out. I nearly ruined fabric that belonged to a fabric company I was doing the project for. I even sprayed over with tons of water and the stains could still be seen. It took days for them to subside a bit to where it wasn’t so noticeable. (And I couldn’t wash because it was just a quilt top). Used the same spray on my son’s school uniform and same stains! Can’t trust it anymore and now I use grocery store starch and it works even better, much much cheaper, makes it very crisp and have had no issues.

    • Teresa says:

      The instructions on my bottle say that to prevent spotting make sure the water tank and sole plate are clean. Perhaps that’s the cause? I don’t know what it means by having a clean water tank, though. Does it mean emptying the tank, or perhaps there are mineral deposits in the tank if distilled water is not used?

  17. becky says:

    Hi all – I am new to all of this – I have made my vodka starch – luckily it’s so cheap I have NO intention of drinking it. So, my question: Do I saturate the pre-cut fabric or just get it damp? Do I let it dry completely before ironing or iron it damp? THANKS!!!

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Hey Becky, I suggest using a spray bottle and spraying your fabric until it is significantly damp – not drenched. If you place a hot iron on wet fabric you run the risk of scorching that fabric.

  18. Katie says:

    Would starch help to prevent the puckering that sometimes happens when you’re quilting the quilt top + sandwich? With some flimsier fabric, I frequently find that the fabric has been puckered under the stitches, creating a very annoying “flap” so to speak. When I use quilting gloves, its harder for me to feel any lumps/bumps under the quilt top while I’m quilting. I’m curious if the starch would help prevent this by making the fabric stiffer and less likely to shift. Did I just answer my own question? LOL. But, would love to hear your opinion/experience, Suzy!

    • Elizabeth Tolbert says:

      I retired from the Air Force. I wash and dry my new fabric for ultimate shrinkage. I make my starch with Argo starch. After it comes out of the dryer, I spray/soak in starch and either hang dry or throw in the dryer.

      Make sure you always use steam. When I need a super sharp crease, I run a light line of beeswax on the inside of the fold.

  19. Leeia says:

    Hi Suzy. My question is not about starching but about washing 😬. I always wash my quilts when they are completely finished especially when gifting. I like to make sure everything survives and also I love to see the shrinking results. I also have several pets so I don’t want to gift a baby quilt with cat/dog fur on it. What are your thoughts?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Great question! That depends on if I have prewashed the fabric. Fabric straight off the bolt already has a lot of starch from the manufacturing process. If you haven’t prewashed, that’s no need to use starch since it’s already present. However, if you did prewash your fabric, and you’re worried about it stretching or shifting during the sewing process, starching the fabric during its initial ironing is a great idea.

      • Rachel Butler says:

        Hi! Piggybacking here. If I’ve pre-washed and starched my quilt top, but not the backing, do I need to wash and starch the backing before quilting or can I skip that? Thanks!

  20. L Mehta says:

    I’ve been starching with a homemade solution of cornstarch and water, heated until it gets viscous, and then cooled. The nice things are that it is REALLY CHEAP and you can make it any strength you like. Put it in a spray bottle and iron, or dip the whole fabric and let it dry. It flakes, it stains…but it all comes out in the wash. Just beautiful, and so easy.

  21. R says:

    My quilt top is as stiff as a board, as I very heavily starched my fabric and let it air dry, before sewing the piecing together. Will boiling my quilt top remove the starch? If so; how long (time) should I boil it to loosen the starch? Can I cook it in the slow cooker?

    If you over-starch before sewing, your threads of the fabric don’t move aside as the needle pushes down into the fabric. This means the threads of the fabric can potentially be severed; especially when you have to unsew and re-sew several times.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      You should have to boil or even use hot water to get starch out. Some gentle soap and your washing machine is all that’s needed. I’d wait until you are completely finished with the quilt before washing. You could end up with a lot of fraying if you wash a top that has raw edges exposed.

  22. Chris Reeske says:

    I have been using a spray starch recipe I found for years and it’s great.
    The portions are: 2 quarts distilled water, 1/2 Cup Vodka (cheapest you can get, NO flavorings) and 1/4 Cup liquid starch. It works great, gives you enough stiffness to cut and press seams well and the slight odor, which is fresh and clean, leaves quickly.
    Extra bonus…it’s cheap.

  23. Jodie says:

    Does the alcohol in the vodka speed the drying time? I like starched fabric, but too impatient to wait for it to dry even a little. If the vodka evaporates quicker I would be willing to try making some.

  24. Noelle says:

    I am having trouble with spotting on my fabric with Best Press too. I’ve read the previous comments and been trouble shooting my iron (cleaned with self cleaning button/running water through 2x and cleaned plate) and washed my ironing board cover…but still issues with spotting. What setting do you have your iron on when using Best Press? My Rowetta is on the cotton setting/steam turned off, but maybe it’s still to hot. Also, do you let it dry COMPLETELY prior to placing iron on fabric? Thanks so much.

    • Suzy says:

      Sounds like your iron isn’t too hot and the issue is the combination of Best Press and your fabric. I am almost 100% sure any spotting will wash out once you launder your quilt, but you should test that theory before continuing with Best Press. To answer your question, no, I spray the starch and then iron the fabric while it is damp. If you drench the fabric so it is wet rather than misted in starch it will scorch, but again that’s probably not what’s happening here.

  25. Joy says:

    I’m having trouble when pressing my seams. It sometimes leaves ripples in my fabric that don’t go away. This can be on triangles or squares. I think maybe the fabric has too much Best Press on it? Any suggestions? Thanks!

  26. Brooke says:

    I’m new to starching, so this might be a dumb question. If I’m using fat quarters, which I haven’t pre-washed, do I lay the fat quarter on my ironing board, starch it, iron it, and then start cutting?

  27. Cindy says:

    I’m going to try using starch on my next quilt. I see that you indicated that you iron your starched fabric while it is damp. Do you iron the fabric on the starched side or on the back side? Thanks.

  28. Susan Fache says:

    My family was quite (and quietly) concerned about the almost empty vodka bottle tucked away in my kitchen cupboard 🤣🤣🤣. Homemade works really well, btw.

  29. Jodie says:

    I tried Best Press, Faultless, and Purex Stay-flo in the blue bottle. The crispiest fabric came from the Purex Stay-flo. I tried a variety of methods for using the Stay-flo. I dipped my fabric in a 1-1 concentration-that was really crispy. I bought a gallon-sized garden sprayer and filled that with the water and starch mixture. You pump the sprayer and it pressurizes the starch. I think I like it the best.
    I found the spray can is the cheapest at Walmart.

  30. Lillian K says:

    I use Pyrex Sta-Flo convey ( in a blue 1/2 gallon bottle at a 1:1 ratio.
    Spray on fabrics – let sit About 30 or so seconds & press. I have had no flaking problems with my method (& no bugs).

  31. Louise Ryan Granger says:

    Good morning Suzy, just a little reminder that not all vodka is make with potatoes and yes this recipe does work!!!

  32. Annette says:

    Thanks you so much for sharing your ironing technique with the clapper. Your little boy is adorable.
    I recently bought the campfire pattern and will be making it to donate towards a school fundraiser so I’ll be using my Clapper!

  33. Linda K. Smith says:

    I’ve used Sta-Flo for years and I really like it. I can make it up at the consistency I want and it’s really inexpensive. It makes a big difference for me when I’m cutting my fabric and again when I’m piecing.

  34. Sheri Ketarkus says:

    Most vodka nowadays is made from grain alcohol (not potatoes😢). It’s out there, but you have to look.

    • Catalina Urias says:

      Hi Rita! Definitely! Keep in mind that you may need to either decrease the seam allowance or made the binding strips wider, in order to account for the thicker fabric. Cheering you on! 🙂

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