If you love your classic Levis or Wrangler jeans, why not find a way to make them classy enough to wear to work? You can starch jeans to get sharp creases or to maintain that classic stiff, raw-denim look. Once you learn how to starch jeans, you can dress up your favorite denim for a day at the office or a night out at the bar!
The most popular way to starch jeans is to use commercial starch and ironing. Other effective methods include adding liquid starch to the washing machine or using a dryer or heat press instead of ironing. For an affordable DIY option, try mixing up homemade starch using cornstarch.
In this article, you will find out why people like to starch jeans. You will learn five easy ways to starch your jeans at home. Finally, you will find tips to help you find the best starch for your jeans.
- What Are Starched Jeans?
- Why Do People Starch Jeans?
- Can You Starch Your Own Jeans?
- How to Starch Jeans at Home: 5 Methods
- How Long Does it Take to Starch Jeans?
- Why Do Cowboys Put Starch in Their Jeans?
- Are Starched Jeans Comfortable?
- Can You Starch Without Ironing?
- What is the Best Starch for Jeans?
- How Much Does it Cost to Starch Jeans?
- How to Get Starch Out of Jeans
What Are Starched Jeans?
Starched jeans have a stiff texture and slight sheen created by soaking the cotton fibers in starch. These jeans will hold sharp creases and may have a slightly shiny finish.
You can starch jeans by applying starch in the washing machine or by spraying starch onto the fabric and then ironing the denim to set the starch. More commonly, you can also take your jeans to a dry cleaner for an intense starching experience.
Commercial starch products such as liquid or spray starch contain glucose from grains such as wheat, rice, or corn. This easily soaks into natural fabric fibers like cotton and adds a lot of body to the material.
The added body does not make the cloth fluffy; instead, it gives the fibers a stiff coating. In some cases, starched jeans can stand up independently with no one wearing them!
Today, starched clothing does not have the huge popular appeal that it did even fifty years ago. It is still required by many military organizations and still sued by some drycleaners for items like button-down shirts, but less so than it used to be.
This is because the trend for more form-fitting and casual clothing has eclipsed the stiffer fabrics of the past. It is also because these days, nearly 70% of all the clothes worn around the world contain synthetic, man-made fabrics instead of natural fabrics that come from plant or animal fibers. Synthetics do not hold starch very well, unlike the more traditional natural fabrics.
But jeans form one big exception to this rule, as this super-popular garment still contains denim made from actual cotton! You can successfully starch denim jeans into nice sharp, shiny creases if you want to.
Why Do People Starch Jeans?
The main reason people starch jeans is to get that sharply creased, extra-stylish appearance. Many jeans use thick denim that does not hold a good crease or folded edge when ironed on its own. Adding starch helps the pants hold that nice sharp crease, making them look more formal.
This is a great reason to starch jeans, especially if you want to wear your favorite denim with a nice buttoned shirt to a barbeque, party, or night at the bar. You may even get away with wearing jeans to the office if you keep them nice and sharply creased!
Another big reason people starch jeans for everyday wear is that the starch adds a protective coating over the denim that makes them more dirt-resistant. This is why cowboys and ranch hands have traditionally worn starched jeans.
Imagine that you have spent a day out repairing a fence, digging holes in the dirt, and wrestling with barbed wire. Of course, you will get dirt smeared all over your jeans during this hard day’s work! But if you have a layer of stiff starch covering all those tiny cotton fibers, the dirt will not soak into the fibers and stain them. Instead, you can brush it right off once it dries and hardens!
The added protection of the starch means you would not have to wash your jeans every time you wear them.
Finally, starched jeans also don’t wrinkle easily. This matters for anyone who still has to spend long hours in the saddle as part of their daily work because it means that the denim will not bunch up uncomfortably beneath you as you ride!
Now that you know all the reasons people like to starch jeans, you should also know that you will find mixed opinions about the practice of starching jeans, as it comes with significant pros and cons. People in the cowboy and ranching industries often swear by it, but the big drawback is that starch will eventually cause the cotton fibers inside the denim to break apart.
In fact, over time, starch can cause buttons to become more brittle and eventually crack apart! People with sensitive skin can also find the starch abrasive and uncomfortable.
So the bottom line is that starch makes jeans tougher and nicer-looking in the short term, but in the long term, it destroys them!
Can You Starch Your Own Jeans?
You can easily starch your jeans at home using basic tools like iron or even a washing machine and dryer! The traditional method for applying starch requires basic ironing skills to put creases in the right places, though you can follow the directions in this article to learn how to master this talent!
You can also use less-traditional methods at home if you own a heat press. Most people use a heat press or a Cricut Easy Press for sealing designs onto t-shirts, but you can also use your press to put sharp creases in your jeans!
If you don’t like the idea of using commercial starch, you can even mix up a batch of DIY homemade starch instead.
That said, many people do like the super-starched feel of jeans freshly returned from the dry cleaners. If you do not have the time or the right supplies to starch your jeans at home, it may be useful to know that this service is offered by many professional dry cleaning companies.
How to Starch Jeans at Home: 5 Methods
You can starch your jeans at home using your washing machine and dryer, an iron, or a heat press. You can also buy bleach or make your own using simple ingredients like cornstarch. All you have to do is follow these instructions to learn how to starch jeans step by step!
1. Washing Machine
The least labor-intensive way to starch jeans is to add liquid starch to your regular washing machine cycle.
- Start by loading the jeans into the wash by themselves. You will want to run a regular hot water cycle using the normal amount of laundry detergent. Make sure you do not add any softeners or bleach.
- Before you start the cycle, add liquid starch to the spout you would typically use for adding fabric softener or bleach to your load of laundry. The starch bottle will tell how much to measure in if you want a light starch or a heavy, very stiff starching.
- Finally, you can hang up your jeans to air dry if you want them to feel extra stiff. Or place them in the dryer if you need them more quickly.
The most popular, traditional way to starch jeans is to use spray starch and ironing. This allows you to control the amount of starch used and apply exactly the type of creases you like in your jeans.
You can use store-bought spray starch for this method or make your own following the recipe provided later in this article.
- Set up a full-length ironing board with a removable, washable cover. Turn on your iron to a high-heat or cotton setting and let it warm up. Do not turn on the steam setting.
- Next, drape one leg of your jeans long ways down the length of the ironing board so that the inside of one pant leg faces up at you. Use your hands to smooth out any wrinkles if you can.
- Give the spray bottle a good shake and then spray the pants quite heavily so they feel damp to the touch.
- Iron down the jean leg, moving in slow, steady sweeping motions. Pay extra attention to the sides of the leg, as this will create nice creases.
- Once you have completely ironed the inside of the leg, flip the jeans over to spray an iron down the outside of the same leg.
- Repeat these steps to iron the other leg of the jeans. Make sure you use the spray bottle quite liberally, as the starch is what will keep your jeans looking stiff and wrinkle-free!
- Use the pointy end of your iron to gently press the pocket area of the jeans, and touch up the waistband if it has any obvious wrinkles.
- Spread your jeans flat on the ironing board to dry fully before wearing them. If you have them up using a clip pants hanger, you will get weird dents in your waistband!
While you want to use a lot of starch to get the stiff, shape-holding jeans you want, you can go overboard and end up with white flakes on your jeans. This happens when your iron touches down on a wet puddle of starch that has not soaked into the jeans. It cooks the starch, creating a floury flake on the surface of the denim.
To avoid this, give a good, even spray coating, iron, and then spray again. You may have to practice a bit to get the right ratio for spraying and ironing down pat!
3. Without Iron/Soak
If you want heavily starched jeans, you can make cornstarch soak to give them extra time to absorb the starch.
- Find a bucket or basin that can comfortably hold your jeans. Measure in six cups of cold water.
- On your stove, measure two cups of water into a saucepan. Slowly whisk in two cups of cornstarch. Turn on the stove and bring this solution to a gentle boil.
- Stir the heated cornstarch water into the cold water in the basin.
- Lower the jeans into the basin and let them soak for ten to fifteen minutes.
- You will want to lift your jeans out of the basin over a tub or sink to avoid dripping starchy liquid everywhere.
- Next, roll up the wet pants inside a clean bath towel (you will have to wash the towel later, as it will soak up some of the starch).
- Finally, take your jeans outside and hang them up to air dry. If you have a clothesline, that is a great option. If not, you can use a drying rack and drape the jeans over the top of it.
This method creates extremely stiff jeans, so keep that in mind before you try it!
4. With Heat Press
If you want an effective and unique way to “starch” your jeans, try using a heat press! If you have not seen one before, a heat press is a device that uses heat and pressure to seal ink, vinyl, or other substances onto fabric or other materials.
A heat press usually has a top and bottom platen that opens up in a clamshell-like shape. Handheld devices like the Cricut brand’s EasyPress work more like a regular iron, except they can release much more heat.
You do not need starch for this method, though you can add a coating of spray starch after the fact if you prefer. The heat press uses such intense heat and pressure that it will make your jeans form sharp creases all by itself!
- To try this method, turn on your press to the temperature recommended for use with cotton. For many presses, this is about 380℉.
- Next, fold your jeans in half longways so the legs stack up neatly on top of each other and the inner side seams align with each other on one edge.
- Set the pants inside the press with the pocket area hanging off the edge of the platen.
- Close the lid and heat the pants for just fifteen to twenty seconds.
- Open the press and move down the pant leg so you can close the lid on the next section of the leg.
- Repeat this until you have pressed all the way down to the ankles on the jeans.
- You should have a pair of jeans that feel stiff and have very sharp creases!
- As a finishing touch, you can apply a light mist of spray starch to your jeans to help keep the creases in place. If you’re in a hurry, you can just wear the jeans as-is!
5. Homemade Starch/Cornstarch
If you want a reliable, cheap way to starch your jeans, try mixing up a batch of homemade starch! You can find several homemade starch recipes floating around, including some that use ingredients like vodka! But the simplest DIY starch recipe uses nothing but cornstarch and water.
What is cornstarch? It comes from the endosperm of a corn kernel that goes through intense processing that turns it into a fine white powder. It looks almost exactly like a confectioner’s sugar if you have ever seen that sprinkled on a powdered sugar donut.
- Measure two tablespoons of corn starch into a bowl and one cup of water into a liquid measuring cup.
- Add a trickle of the water to the bowl and stir it up. This will start to create a thick blob.
- Trickle in a little more water, stirring constantly. As you add a little water at a time, the cornstarch will smoothly incorporate and eventually form a cloudy liquid. If you add the water all at once, the cornstarch will form lumps instead of stirring into the water.
- Next, use a funnel to help you pour the cornstarch water into a spray bottle. Any kind of spray bottle with a nozzle will work, even a cheap plastic one from the Dollar Store!
- Finally, make sure you shake up the bottle before each use. Some of the cornstarch will likely settle down to the bottom of the bottle over time.
How Long Does it Take to Starch Jeans?
It can take between ten minutes to an hour or more to starch jeans, depending on which starching method you try. You can quickly starch jeans with the ironing or heat press method. But if you use the washing machine method, you will have to wait for your washer and dryer to finish their full cycles, which often takes more than an hour.
The most popular way to starch jeans is to use spray starch and an iron. This usually takes about ten to twenty minutes, depending on your skill level with an iron.
Why Do Cowboys Put Starch in Their Jeans?
Cowboys put starch in their jeans as a stylistic preference and project the denim from wear and tear. Starching and ironing jeans gives them sharp creases and a more formal look. This can make the “cowboy uniform” of jeans look much classier for a night out on the town!
But the real reason cowboys traditionally apply starch to jeans is to give them a protective coating. The starch acts as a barrier between dirt, mud, cow poop, or any other undesirable elements a cowboy might encounter during a day working on a ranch.
Plain denim would soak up some of this mess, leading to hours of scrubbing at the stained cloth. But starched denim will not absorb the dirt. This means you can wear your jeans out for a hard day’s work, shake them off, and then wear them again the next day!
Are Starched Jeans Comfortable?
Whether or not you find starched jeans comfortable depends on your personal taste. Some people find the stiff fabric more comfortable because it means that the denim does not wrinkle up around your knees and seat as you move.
Others dislike the stiff denim and prefer a softer, worn-in pair of jeans. It is also true that starch can irritate sensitive skin, so you may want to consider that if you have allergies or skin sensitivities.
Can You Starch Without Ironing?
You can starch jeans without ironing them by using liquid starch in a washing machine or by using a heavy-duty starch soak in a basin. You could also use a heat press if you have one!
That said, spray starch and ironing is the most popular way to starch your jeans. It gives you a lot of control over the shape of the creases in the jeans.
What is the Best Starch for Jeans?
The best starch for jeans depends on the starching method you plan to use. If you want to use the washing machine technique, the best starch is liquid starch like the Sta-Flo brand listed below. If you want to try the ironing method, you can find many different spray starches that work well, like the
Purex Sta-Flo Liquid StarchSta-Flo liquid starch comes in a concentrated form designed to work in the washing machine.
It works best on natural plant-based fibers like cotton. It even guarantees to work especially well on blue jeans!
This reputable starch brand comes with clear instructions and easy measuring,
All you have to do is add the appropriate amount to your washing machine, and you’re good to go!
Faultless Premium Luxe Spray StarchIf you want to stock up on four cans of spray starch, look no further than the Faultless line of heavy-hitting, smooth starches!
This set comes with a four-pack of 20 oz bottles. The spray cans offer a smooth flow with no clogging or clumping.
The starch has a smooth-glide property to keep your jeans from sticking to your iron as you work!
And of course, if you want to try the soaking method, all you need is cornstarch and water!
How Much Does it Cost to Starch Jeans?
You can starch your jeans for as little as a dollar if you want to make your own DIY spray starch. If you take your jeans to a professional dry cleaner, getting them cleaned and starched will typically cost about $7-$10.
If you want to starch your jeans at home, you can find a bottle of commercial spray starch at Walmart or on Amazon for under $2 most of the time.
How to Get Starch Out of Jeans
The best way to get starch out of jeans is to use a soak before the regular wash cycle in your washing machine.
If you used a very heavy starch, you may also want to try adding a cup of distilled white vinegar to the load. This will help flush away any lingering starch and leave the cotton fibers in your jeans nice and fluffy!
The most popular way to starch jeans quickly is to use spray starch and ironing to give the denim a sharp crease and a stiff texture. You can also add liquid starch to your washing machine for a hands-off approach. If you do not want to buy commercial starch, you can easily make your own using cornstarch, water, and a spray bottle!
The biggest advantage of starching jeans is that it makes them look more formal, and it helps them stay clean so you can wear them repeatedly. The big disadvantage is that starch does destroy cotton fibers over time, so starching jeans will shorten their lifespan.