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For the past month, I’ve been working in the fabric store where I worked about five years ago when I was in college. Overall the job is the same, but there are little differences here and there and more policies to abide by. One of these policies is that we must push to sell a
corporate pre-determined special specific item. These items change every three weeks and vary from scissors, lint rollers, and chemicals to enhance your sewing experience. Of course they aren’t going to let us try out these items for free so we know how to pitch them. There are often semi jokes and daily reminders that we should buy one/sell more to meet our personal quota, or else we may not get that raise. Most of these items fall in the $8-$12 range, which for me at minimum wage equals one or two hours of work.
One of these items we were to sell was a “spray starch alternative……quilters love it, because it gets out all the impossible wrinkles after washing your fabric. It also gives it some stain protection and makes the fabric crisp, not stiff like normal starch”. And it’s called Mary Ellen’s Best Press Spray Starch. One lady asked if she could use it on her face. Some coworkers who have used it said it actually worked well and was fine on my coworker’s sensitive skin and smell. I do iron quite a bit between sewing and my wardrobe so I was curious if I could really use starch to battle all those wrinkles.
I’m pretty leery of any type of chemical in my home. I also leery of any unnecessary consumable that costs $12 a bottle. Especially if the ingredients aren’t listed. But if you don’t really mind the trade off, then Mary Ellen’s may be for you. I was pretty curious as to what could be in this magic bottle. Maybe teflon if it keeps stains off? Maybe something that’s like in Scotchgard™? Maybe quick drying alcohol to break down my clothes faster? Possibly formaldehyde since it’s pretty much in everything like this? So what’s in other spray starches? Probably a variety of things. But if you search for ‘Niagara spray starch ingredients’ you will find that liquid petroleum gas is one of them. Probably not good to breathe, to be on my clothes and skin, on that quilt that’ll be next to my face, or to be released into the washer’s water.
I went online and did research on Mary Ellen, only to find that others wondered the same and had no luck in getting the ingredient list. I did find tons of rave reviews with several dislikers too. So I contacted Mary Ellen (my store contacted them too), even alleging that I had an allergic reaction, and never heard a peep.
So like with everything else, I wondered if starch could be made at home with gentle ingredients. I figured you could, since someone sometime had to come up with it before its ingredients were lab-whored. We do know that starch in food is pretty sticky and dries stiff. At the basic concept, it seems to make sense to use it with ironing. I hadn’t ever wanted to use starch because I figured it was too messy and resembled the smell of hairspray. But sometimes my clothes didn’t look like they were ironed even if I ironed them twice. So here I went searching for for a good working homemade version on the cheap.
I found two basic formulas. One is a combination of water and cornstarch, which some say you need to cook and probably has a shorter shelf life. The other was vodka and water (vodka is made from potato, which equals starch). Yes! Vodka! Who says you can’t have a good time while ironing. I chose the vodka figuring it was less messy and would have a good shelf life. It actually works well! I used it on all my cotton blouses and cotton fabric (white, black, and colors) and it got them wrinkle free and slightly crisp. I’d say you might able to use this version to get out the wrinkles on your skin too… Ok, don’t really try that out, but ***do try out any starch you make on a discreet part on the inside of your clothing first to make sure it doesn’t discolor.
Vodka Spray Starch
That’s it! Super cheap! Easy to make. Takes the cheapest vodka possible (around $5 for a 750ml bottle). So 20 cents per shot of vodka. $12 for Mary Ellens or 40 cents for Vodka Starch.