How to make sugar starch

Written by alice stewart
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How to make sugar starch
Sugar starch stiffens and sets doilies. (antique tilted table lamp with doily image by Scott Williams from

Sugar starch, otherwise known as laundry or clothing starch, is a solution that consists of granulated sugar and water. Using the solution as starch originated in Western Europe and found its way to the United States, where it was used as a stiffener for fabric items, such as men's shirts, women's petticoats, dresser scarves and doilies. Sugar starch was also used to stiffen the antimacassars that American housewives added to the backs of their fabricated chairs and sofas. Sugar starch has the unfortunate side effect of attracting insects, which led to the invention of a sugar-free vegetable-starch solution. You can purchase ready-made starch solutions in a convenient aerosol spray can dispenser.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Pan
  • Granulated sugar
  • Towel
  • Bowl
  • Ironing board (optional)
  • Fabric item
  • Aluminium foil

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  1. 1

    Pour 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of tap water into the pan; place the pan on a hot stove.

  2. 2

    Gently stir the solution until all of the sugar granules have dissolved.

  3. 3

    Remove from the stove, and leave the solution to cool for 5 minutes.

  4. 4

    Lay out the towel. Fill the bowl with fresh water. Dip the fabric item you wish to stiffen into the fresh water. Place the wet fabric onto the towel. Fold the towel over itself, and gently press down, removing some of the excess water.

  5. 5

    Immerse the damp fabric item in the sugar starch and leave for 1 minute until it is fully saturated in the solution.

  6. 6

    Lay the aluminium foil over an ironing board or flat work surface. Remove the fabric from the sugar starch solution, and place it onto the foil. Mold the fabric piece into the desired shape. Leave to air-dry naturally.

Tips and warnings

  • Run a low heat iron over stubborn shirt collars to set them in place.
  • Make a sugar spray diffuser by decanting the solution into an empty spray dispenser bottle.
  • Take care when using the hot stove.
  • Never let the sugar starch solution fully boil.

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