What is Starch and Why is it Used on Clothing?

One of the most commonly dry cleaned items is suit shirts—men’s dress shirts—and to secure creases and give the fabric a crisp, semi-stiff appearance, dry cleaners use starch. Have you ever wondered what starch is, exactly?

What is starch?
Starch is a compound created by plants and a crucial carbohydrate in the human diet, but outside of this, it has several practical and beneficial purposes.

When mixed with warm water, it creates a thick, white, sticky paste—since as far back as Egyptian times, it has been used as an agent for thickening substances.

Why is starch used on clothing?
In the 16th century, the paste used centuries before was modified to create the starch that we commonly associate with dry cleaners today (although, we have further altered and advanced it over time). It was discovered that sweat, debris, dirt and other grime would attach to starch—as opposed to the clothes—and the fabric would be easier to clean. This is still one benefit of starching clothing and one reason why starch continues to be used in the dry cleaning industry.

It is important to remember, when you ask for starch, you need to specify light, medium or heavy. The more starch used, the stiffer the fabric will be after ironing—starch is typically applied while the clothing is being pressed.

The most common reason people use starch is for aesthetics. A starched, pressed shirt looks professional and clean under a business suit. Dresses and other more formal attire can remain wrinkle free for longer after being starched.

Another reason for starching is that it extends the periods in between necessary dry cleaning visits.

Some people shy away from starch because they believe it overly stiffens the fabric, becomes caked or leaves behind residue. This is possible, but if you use a reputable, experienced dry cleaner, they will avoid over starching.

If you have additional questions or inquiries about starch used in dry cleaning—or the process in general—give Atlanta’s Classic Touch Cleaners a call at 404-365-8660 or contact us here.

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