If you’ve ever had shirts professionally laundered, you may have seen an option for “starch” on the service menu. But what exactly does starching do for clothing? Starch gives fabrics a crisp, stiff finish that helps maintain a smooth, wrinkle-free shape. However, there are also downsides with potential damage to fabrics over time. Let’s explore the pros and cons of starching clothes.

The Purpose of Starch

Starch has been used for centuries to stiffen and strengthen fabrics. By applying a thin layer of starch, clothes hold their shape better with less wrinkling. The main goals of starching include:

Wrinkle Resistance

The coating of starch creates a smooth, stiff surface that resists wrinkles and creasing during wear and cleaning.

Maintain Structure

Starch reinforces the fiber structure to help garments and linens hold their intended draped shape.

Soil Protection

The barrier effect of starch prevents stains from setting into the fabric as deeply prior to laundering.


Heavily starched fabrics feel crisp and stiff, with no limpness or sagging.


Starch can enhance fabric sheen for added visual appeal. Whites appear brighter and colors more vivid.

By infusing clothes with starch, the items maintain their crisp look and structure longer.

Using Starch on Garments

Certain clothing types commonly receive starching:

Dress Shirts

The quintessential starched item, dress shirts look sharp with stiff fronts and crisp collars. Starch prevents wilting.

Table Linens

Linen napkins, tablecloths, and placemats stay smooth after starching, without bunching on tables.


Military, medical, hospitality and food service uniforms often require starching to look neat and professional.

Cotton blends

Starch suits lightweight cotton, cotton/polyester shirts and dresses, providing body.


For that knife-sharp denim look, starch makes jeans feel extra stiff and structured.


Adding body to delicate handkerchiefs with starch helps them keep their intended shape.

Stiff, crisp fabrics tend to benefit the most from starching.

How Does Starch Work?

The chemistry behind starch helps explain its effects:

Natural Polymers

Starches contain long carbohydrate molecules extracted from crops like corn, wheat, rice and potatoes.

Fiber Fillers

Starch molecules wedge between fabric fibers, acting as filler material to add solidity and density.


The polymers bond to textile fibers through hydrogen interactions, adhering starch to garments.

Coating Effect

Built up starch creates a smooth, stiff coating over each fiber and the fabric as a whole.

Heat Activation

Heat from ironing or drying sets and activates starch polymers for enhanced stiffness.

On a molecular level, starch bonds to fabrics, creating a stiff matrix.

Pros of Starched Clothes

Used properly, starch provides multiple benefits for clothes:

Wrinkle Resistance

The stiff starch coating prevents wrinkling between washes and during wear.

Maintains Shape

Starch keeps garments looking smooth, crisp and structured as intended.

Soil Barrier

Starch prevents stains from permeating the fabric as deeply.

Extends Wear

Keeping clothes looking new with starch helps extend time between washes.

Professional Finish

Heavily starched uniforms, napery and shirts get a polished finish.

Holds Creases/Pleats

Items like pleated skirts and creased trousers keep their lines when starched.

Protects Fibers

The starch layer acts as a protective filler between delicate fibers.

Overall, starch allows clothes to stay crisp and hold their shape better.

Downsides of Starched Clothes

However, starching does come with some disadvantages to consider:

Stiff, Uncomfortable Feel

Excessive starch leads to cardboard-like stiffness and loss of softness. This can irritate skin.

Fiber Damage

Repeated starching and ironing causes fibers to breakdown over time, weakening fabrics.

Discoloration Risk

Under high heat, some starch products can yellow or discolor light fabrics.

Attracts Dirt

The coating of starch attracts lint, dust and dirt to cloth.

Added Expense

Buying starch products and paying for starching services increases laundry costs.

Time Consuming

Frequent starch application and touch up ironing takes considerable effort.

Environmental Impact

Most starches are petroleum-based and not biodegradable. Starch runoff pollutes water.

While helpful in some cases, starch also has drawbacks to weigh carefully.

Starched Clothes FAQs

Let’s answer some common starch-related questions:

What fabrics hold starch best?

Cotton, linen, rayon and cotton-polyester blends absorb and hold starch effectively. Wool and synthetics do not take to starch.

Does starch wash out permanently?

Starches designed for laundering will fully wash out over 1-2 cleanings. But some residue may remain on fibers.

How long does starch last?

Depending on the garment type and care, starched clothes can remain stiff for 1 to 4 weeks typically. Starch wears off quickest on collars and cuffs.

Is starch bad for clothes?

Excessive, repeated starching and ironing can damage fabric over the long term. But used sporadically, starch causes minimal issues.

Why do some starches discolor fabrics?

Certain cheaper starches contain impurities that cause yellowing on white/light fabrics under high heat during ironing or drying.

What’s best for stiffening collars?

Heavy duty laundering starches applied via spray, dip or foam provide the highest level of stiffness. Cool ironing also helps.

Is store-bought starch effective?

Yes, spray can and liquid starches work on simple items at home. But professional laundry starches are stronger for uniform finishing.

Can you un-starch clothes if needed?

Simply wash the garment thoroughly 1-2 times to remove starch. Extended soak times help dissolve and strip off starch buildup.

Are all starches petroleum based?

No, some eco-friendly options derived from vegetables or cornstarch are available. But mainstream commercial starches remain oil-based.

Get your crisp, wrinkle-free laundry results minus the long-term damage! Visit Laundry Pro in Austin, TX and ask about our professional garment starching. We apply just the right amount of stiffness without overdoing it. Plus we use plant-based, biodegradable starch products to avoid discoloration and fibers breakage. Our experts can advise on ideal finish options based on fabric content. Contact Laundry Pro today for all your starching needs – keeping clothes structured and dirt-free in an eco-friendly way.

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