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:
The coating of starch creates a smooth, stiff surface that resists wrinkles and creasing during wear and cleaning.
Starch reinforces the fiber structure to help garments and linens hold their intended draped shape.
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:
The quintessential starched item, dress shirts look sharp with stiff fronts and crisp collars. Starch prevents wilting.
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.
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 delicatehandkerchiefs 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:
Starches contain long carbohydrate molecules extracted from crops like corn, wheat, rice and potatoes.
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.
Built up starch creates a smooth, stiff coating over each fiber and the fabric as a whole.
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.
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.