Reader Tip: Save Money By Starching Shirts at Home

Shauna sent in this interesting tip:

My husband wears a dress shirt every day of the work week, and after we married, I quickly realized how much he was spending on dry cleaning each month. After some online research (argostarch.com was helpful), I found that I could starch his shirts at home using this method:

1. Wash dress shirts in hot water. Do not dry.
2. Boil some water in the teapot.
3. Meanwhile, mix a half cup cornstarch with one cup cold water.
4. Mix the boiling water with the cornstarch mixture in a large bowl,
and then pour the whole thing in the washing machine (turned on to a
rinse and spin cycle only).
5. Add the freshly-washed shirts.
6. After the rinse and spin cycle is complete, hang the shirts up until
they are slightly damp and then iron.

Not only are we saving hundreds of dollars a year (We save approximately $2 per shirt and he wears five shirts per week which equals $10/week in savings or $520 in savings each year), this method seems to keep his shirts in better shape than dry cleaning does. Corn starch is also a safer, more natural choice over the chemicals used in dry cleaning.

I purchase my corn starch in a 35 oz. container at Sam’s Club for less than $3, and this lasts me several months.

-Shauna

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Comments

  1. Vanessa says

    We pay $.99 per shirt for laundered and pressed shirts and honestly, it’s worth every penny.

    • says

      Its .89 cents at my drycleaner. And my husband will wear his shirts several times. So I probably pay 8 dollars every 2 months.

      Worth it for me.:)

  2. Jessica says

    We invested in some no-iron shirts from Land’s End. They probably don’t come out as crisp as yours, but they look pretty good and save us the laundering bill, and me the ironing.

    • Sarah says

      I haven’t tried Lands’ End, but we do the “Smart Care” shirts by Nordstrom. They are a little pricy (unless you can find them on sale or at “Nordstroms Rack”, but I figure with wearing them 5 days a week is definately saving money at the cleaners. My husband literally wore through one of his and he mentioned this to the sales clerk. They said just bring it back…even though it was several years old! (I knew their customer service was great, but really, several hundred wears later???)

    • Emily says

      I’ll have to check both of those out. We buy my husband the Joseph A. Banks “traveler’s shirts”. They are supposed to be no-iron, though to make them look their best I do iron them. They are quite expensive, but twice a year, they put their entire store on 1/2 price (just before Christmas and FAther’s Day). I buy him 2 or so each sale, and they do last a long time.

  3. Amber says

    Thanks for the tip. How can this be done in a HE maching and does the HOT water shrink the shirts?

  4. Tania says

    Thanks so much for the tip. My goal is to one day be able to pay to have the hubs shirts laundered and pressed by someone other than me, but for now, I have to do it! And starch in the can leaves flakes! I’ll definately be trying this tip soon!

    • Jennifer says

      One thing I do if the starch is leaving flakes (i’m in the military and have done a whole lot of starching and ironing in my day) is just turn the item inside out and iron that way…if you’re not doing that already, that is!

    • Colleen says

      You can also take a pillowcase and put the starch on there, then lay it on top of the item to be ironed and go over it.

    • Katie says

      When you spray starch on the clothes, wait about 2-3 minutes to allow the product to penetrate the fabric and then iron. If you begin ironing while it’s still fairly wet, it will flake.

      • Niki says

        You’re totally right Katie. I was so frustrated until I read that on the can. Been doing that way for years, now.

  5. says

    What a fabulous tip! My husband wears a shirt and tie each day but, I must confess, my current method is just to snag those suckers just as soon as the dryer stops and hang them immediately to avoid (many) wrinkles. There is not a doubt in my mind that your method yields more professional results, though! :)

    • Anitra says

      Yes, this is what I do. I admit, I told my husband that if he wants his shirts ironed, he can do it himself!

      (I HATE ironing. When I was working, I only wore shirts that didn’t need it.)

  6. Shauna Nicholson says

    This does take me time each week! I probably spend an hour each week doing the starching and ironing. However, for us, this was one thing I was willing to take on in order save money, which in turn, allows me to stay home with our child.

    I don’t know much about HE machines. Could you soak the shirts in the cornstarch mixture in a laundry sink (or your kitchen sink, or even your bathtub), and then put them through the rinse and spin cycle of your machine?

    • Fay says

      Why do the shirts need to be washed in HOT water? Why not warm? Most of my husbands dress shirts say on the tag to wash them on a gentle cycle with warm water.

      • Shauna Nicholson says

        I wash white shirts on hot water (with my other whites), along with a little bleach, to get them cleaner. Of course, you could just launder your shirts any way you normally do. My husband does not wear colored dress shirts, but if he did, I would probably wash them on warm with other colored clothes.

  7. jennifer says

    We recently stopped sending my husband’s shirts to the cleaners in an attempt to save money, and I currently use spray starch on them. But that gets expensive too! I may have to try this.

  8. Mary says

    Definitely sounds like it’s a more environmentally friendly method to use. Fortunately, my husband does not need to “dress up” for work–business casual is fine, so I just try to buy wrinkle resistant or wrinkle-free shirts.

  9. Sharon Peterson says

    You are awesome! I just can’t bring myself to do all the work! Plus since I live in a large metro area, the dry cleaners are very competitive. I normally pay $0.89 a shirt but when they have a special, $0.49 a shirt. So, that price is worth it to me.

    Besides then I don’t have to get too mad when I see a shirt flung on the floor because I didn’t personally put all the hard work into it. :)

    • says

      I don’t iron either because I don’t have time. I just hang the shirts in the bathroom and while someone is showering they get “presentable.” Also, I try to buy cotton / poly blend. Not as nice as all cotton, but still nice.

      Also, it’s time finally for us to get a new washer and dryer b/c ours, we just found out, are 20 years old! We are getting a Maytag that has a steam setting on the dryer so you can steam the wrinkles out of your clothes in about 10 minutes . Yippee!!!!!

  10. Carla Sorensen says

    That is a great tip, and it does sound like a lot of work, but worth it! A labor of love! My husband only wears one dress shirt a week. He is a pastor, and dresses pretty casual the rest of the week. I never, ever take his shirts to the cleaners. I just wash and press.

  11. glenda says

    wow having done ironing for a living before. I did them for $20.00 a dozen pieces back in 1998. I can’t imagine any dry cleaner or laundry making any money at all at .49 .89 or even .99. our local dry cleaner charges over $5.00 per shirt do launder, and starch and iron. heck you can’t even pay your help little alone the starch and supplies at that price.

    how are these “competitive” laundry/dry cleaners even staying in business.

    doing it at home is easy on this posts details, but you can use boiled water/starch mix in a large metal pot and dip the shirts, (use gloves of course) then throw them in the washer to spin them out and then hang til damp dry.

    I had customers who used to tell me they had been paying $1.00 a shirt with another lady who ironed in her home could they become a customer of mine, I told them my rate and the ones that flinched or had something to say about the rates really knew what the laundry/dry cleaner was charging! so if they dared to say anything I would dare ask them, well were you tipping this lady that only charged you a dollar a shirt? most said “No!” I said well then thats why you are trying to get in an open slot here, right? she won’t accept your ironing anymore will she? “Huh, didn’t think of that!” I said, she is no fool, she will keep ironing for those who make it worth her while. I would only fit them in if I had a customer who didn’t bring ironing on a particular day. they knew if they didn’t bring it on a set day then it would not get done til the next week on their turn. you only have so much time to give to your chosen field of work, then you must have time for family, I never wanted for clients. believe me my charge was better than the clothing care places. they brought me their already washed clothing, all we did was dampen them, starch them and iron them. we did not smoke so had no trouble getting new customers but never had to advertise but the first time around.

    so bear in mind, you are probably starving your laundry out of business if you are only paying a half dollar for ea shirt ironed. thats slave labor and I am sure you wouldn’t work for that. right?!! if you have never ironed a starched shirt, then you have no idea how much work it is. to license and operate a laundry and dry cleaner is no easy matter either. just sayin…..

    • Jamie says

      Glenda, with all respect, no one said they were forcing anyone to only take .49 for their shirt to be dry cleaned. The dry cleaner offered it at that price. I would think if the cleaner was starving, they might charge more. It’s there business and if they feel like they can charge that price, than far be it for us to be upset about it. I just found it a bit insulting that you seemed to be accusing people of slave labor. I think that’s uncalled for. I mean, nothing wrong was done here. A business offered a service at a price, people used the service at the said price and all was happy. So why should we be upset about that? If their starving their business, then perhaps they’ll change their ways or find a different line of work?? Anyway, I just didn’t think it was fair to call people out for doing nothing wrong, that’s all.

      • Sharon Peterson says

        I posted above about getting my shirts done at a large chain dry cleaners for $0.49. When I was in college I worked at dry cleaners and the shirts were $1.50 a piece. That was in Oregon. I now live in Houston, TX and, because of its size and 5 million + population, there is A LOT of competition. Dry cleaners, in particular, are very competitve here.

        The particular place I take my husband’s things has a normal price of $0.89 a shirt with their special (not all the time) of $0.49 when you bring in something to be dry cleaned (1 piece of dry cleaning=special price on laundering).

        I have a friend that ran a cleaners for 14 years here in Houston. She was the owner/operater and finally closed because she couldn’t offer the prices that the chain stores were offering and still make money.

        It’s extremely labor intensive, hot (we’re talking 100+ degrees and humid, humid, humid in the summertime), and uncomfortable. But these businesses have been in business a long time and they know where their prices need to be to make a profit.

        So, I’ll respectfully diagree with the rather accusatory tone of your reply. I am not starving anyone out. The employees are all very nice and get some pretty awesome cookies from me at Christmas time.

        • Niki says

          How do they do it for .49 each when it used to cost 3 times that in 1980’s dollars? Illegal labor. Don’t believe me? Ask your Local Catholic Charities Immigrant Services. Not accusing anyone of being a bad person, but if you have to pay honest labor prices, .49 ain’t gonna do it. It is also the case that professional cleaners have giant pressing machines to get it done fast, but still, not .49 fast.

          • says

            I worked as a clerk in a dry cleaners during college, that offered a $0.89 laundered shirt special. They had what I liked to think of as a man shaped press in the back. One semi-athletic person could press ~1000 shirts in an 8 hour shift (about 2 per minute).

            Being a “presser” was back breaking grueling labor but paid a decent wage with health care benefits. The workers in my shop were all legal, I still keep in touch with some of them. It was a good opportunity for people on the margins of society to make a fresh start.

    • Jennifer says

      As Sharon responded, offering these low prices is a form of Marketing. They give you a low, low price on a “common” product hoping that when you need something big cleaned (a doona, curtains, your fine silk dress) that you will bring those items to them out of loyalty. The store is choosing their prices (as part of their marketing strategy), not the client saying “I’ll only give you this much for the pleasure of dry cleaning my shirt”.

      Here’s my question to you – all those years that you did ironing for others “to make a living” – did you claim all that cash income on your taxes?

  12. glenda says

    yes it will, you can use salt and a brown paper bag to a hot iron, then iron over some waxed paper. or you can purchase those wipes for a ceramic cook top and use them or you can buy that cream they sell to clean the iron, but I found the salt on brown paper bag to work sufficiently, however,

    buy yourself a teflon pressing sheet – you can find them under June Taylor Pressing sheet. you can lay the teflon sheet over every thing you iron for the investment (they didn’t have them when I was doing it in 1987 for a living, but they had them in 1998 when I was doing it again) these pressing sheets allow you to iron a Tshirt on the face where the screen printing is, in fact, screen printers were the first to use the teflon sheets over their screen printing to save their work. heat seals in the paint/ ink.

    so this new invention is well worth the money – pressing sheets!! and saves your iron too, but when they start wearing thin, replace them, will work for lots of ironing though. I didn’t find the soleplates they sell with teflon on them very helpful at all – in case anyone is interested.

  13. Fay says

    Thanx for the tip but I also believe that it is so important to have your husband look professional and well dressed at work if he wears dress shirts that is. We try to wash and iron his shirts at home whenever we can but if there are important meetings coming up with superiors or higher ups I believe it is just as important to have a professional dry cleaner do the work for you. I consider this an investment in the future and I truly believe that it has worked for him in getting promotions etc. apart from his stellar work ethic. Plus the dry cleaners are much better at cleaning the collar than our washing machine is. So it is good practice to give them your shirts once in a while to get laundered.

    • Tedi says

      I have used shout on my husbands white collars and after a few cycles of doing it, it has helped clean up the gunk.

    • Shauna Nicholson says

      One of the other reasons I started doing the starching at home was because our dry cleaners actually made his shirts look worse. Buttons would be broken, the collar and cuffs would start looking yellow, and often the shirts would have strange creases in them (maybe from the pressing machines they use?). Anyway, while we do send his suits to the cleaners, for us, we are getting a much more professional look by doing it at home.

      • amy says

        I had the same thing happen….buttons that would break in your fingers as you were getting dressed. Plus the chemicals they used were so harsh that I found that my husband’s suits had a much shorter life span when they went to the dry cleaners. I invested in a steamer so I wouldn’t have to take them as often. Works like a charm. He looks professional – clothes look nice – and I have more jingle in my pocket.

        • Niki says

          Amen ladies! I see quite a few dry cleaner “botched” starch jobs at the Salvation Army.

  14. glenda says

    check ebay I noted they had some on there, also Amazon had the cheapest and largest teflon sheets for sale. get the heavier grade if you can find them thicker they last a lot longer and take a lot of heat.

    you can use any old iron with these teflon sheets. or pressing sheets or whatever they call them.

    I bought my first one thru my screenprinting Tshirt shop friend. it was $35.00 for professional grade overly large one in 1997. they are much cheaper now and yet standard are not as heavy as the professional grade ones are but will work as good and for a long long time too.

  15. says

    That’s better than the spray that I normally use and really isn’t much more work.

    My daughter (11) is wanting to earn some extra money and I told her that if she ironed I’d pay her 50cents an item. (We do not pay for household chores, this was an odd exception). After 2 items she said she was done – “it hurts my back.” I just chuckled and gave her the dollar.
    One day she’ll be doing it with no pay!

    • Shauna Nicholson says

      Starched, but wrinkly! I have often just hung up the shirts and let them dry, then when I need to, I iron one (spritzing with a little water as I iron). This way, you don’t need to do the ironing all at once.

  16. Michele says

    Not only is this saving money but I wonder how many how much dry cleaning is horrible for our enviroment? Great GREEN choice in my book! :)

    • Niki says

      Hey Michele-
      You are RIGHT ON! Dry cleaning chemicals are nasty. We pay a fortune!! for city water because an unethical dry cleaning business poisoned the ground water in our small town. You know it’s bad when the EPA steps in.

      • Michele says

        I think so many people are unaware of the process and chemicals that are used as well. The EPA deems the chemical used in dry cleaning extremely toxic.

    • Elizabeth says

      Dry cleaners wash and iron the shirts, if they are washable. They don’t use chemical solvents on them, unless they are dry clean only.

      • Michele says

        Elizabeth,
        Perchloroethylene is a highly dangerous chemical used in the dry cleaning industry that can cause serious risks for the workers or anyone exposed to it for long period of time. From cancer to loss of unborn children. The EPA has heavily regulated it even though it is estimated by the International Fabric Care Institute that 90 – 95% of all dry cleaners use this chemical. Not only that but it creates a concern for waste water and emissions as well. For our family, we just choose not to have our clothing in a place that uses those chemicals.

  17. Beth says

    Wow, I am so grateful my husband doesn’t have to dress up for work. He just wears hoodies and jeans! I take clothes out of the dryer while they’re still warm and fold jeans flat and hang tops before they have a chance to wrinkle.
    But for someone who has to wear dressy clothes, this seems like a great idea.

  18. says

    I’m not sure hot water is a good idea? My husband is 6 ft 5in so if they shrunk even a bit the savings would go to new shirts.

    Dry Cleaning is worth my time and money with 3 kids.

  19. Kelli says

    I use to work for a dry cleaner, and guess what…they never used starch on shirts there! When people asked for starch we wrote it all down, but the way they get their shirts so hard and crisp is by pressing them when they are wet.

  20. joanne says

    Seriously my husband is an Enigneer in an office and I just wash his dress shirts and hang them right before they dry and hang thme right up fast. He looks Handsome! I think I have used my ironing board two times in the 21 years we have been married. We always look great .

    • Emily says

      I do the same thing, with hanging my husband’s shirts up just before they are fully dry, but they still require a light ironing to look their best, in my opinion. And that is even the special, no-iron shirts we buy him.

  21. Amy says

    My ironing saves me $1200 a year. And I only spend an hour a week – and I watch tv while doing it. So it is well worth the time. My hubby used to wear suits everyday (which I would iron the shirt and steam his pants and jackets) but now has a business casual dress. My dry cleaner charges $5 per pair of khaki chinos. I can iron a pair in 10 minutes so I save $25 at least a week ironing those. I buy the wrinkle free shirts from Brooks Brothers and pull them from the dryer after 10 minutes. I run the iron over them quickly just to give them a more polished look. I probably break even on pressing the shirts but it’s not really a big deal for me to do it. The real money saver was the pants. I do it in the evening when my small children go to bed. I am a graphic designer and work from home – so my ironing evenings are a treat because I get to watch tv. The kids are home with me during the day and then I work from here in the evenings. It has been a lot of small things like ironing that have made a difference in our budget.

  22. Brandi says

    Our dry cleaner charges $.89 to launder, press, put on a hanger and picks up and delivers the shirts. Worth every penny! I don’t buy any clothing for me or the kids that requires pressing…. I have no ironing skills. I always burn myself!

  23. mary c says

    Call me clueless but have any of yall added cornstarch to water? If you homeschool you probably have done this experiment with your kids. It looks liquid but can become a hard mess. DON”T pour down your drain unless you want an expensive plumbing bill.

    My question, the starch is going in my washing machine, won’t that gunk it up too?

  24. glenda says

    Brandi nice that you live in an area that will pick up and deliver, I just can’t imagine .89 a shirt.

    Amy thats good save. and great idea. keep that money for yourself and let hubs think he is paying the cleaners and then you can present him with awesome gifts!

    Kelli, I have worked in dry cleaners also, they cannot get that stiffness with out the starch. they are adding it to the laundry, you just didn’t see it.

    I have one more thing to add.
    any clothing that goes to the dry cleaners that says dry clean only – usually they will look at the fabric contect and perhaps just wash it in cold water then they lay them flat to dry like shrinkable sweaters such as that.

    you can take all those wrinkly clothes out of the dryer, use the old fashioned method of ironing them after you sprinkle them down with water and roll them up and put into a pillow case or a basket but don’t let them sit very long after you dampen them and roll them up, you must iron them that day. then make up your starch solution and put in your own spray bottles or buy the starch or sizing in the can. spray the fabric after you get it stretched out on the ironing board, then iron away until it is all smooth and professional looking. thats how an iron at home person would choose to do it.

    if the laundry has yellowed things and you are paying for dry cleaning services, then what you get is build up from the water and chemicals they use for their purposes there. you can do this at home, pick a time you want to watch your favorite TV show, and iron up 5 shirts in about an hour or hour and a half if you are just starting out. starch those jeans for your favorite cowboy in the same way and put those creases down the center leg fronts like they do at the dry cleaning / laundry places using the same method. sprinkle the clothing with (use distilled water if you have hard water or softeners in your water) water, roll them up and this allows the cloth to relax then you take out one piece at a time and iron, you might even have to put more sprinkles of water over jeans as you get them out. depends on how dry your house is inside.

    I am giving away professional secrets here so consider yourselves blessed.

    you can make your own clothes sprinkler or buy off ebay or somewhere that they sell the clothing sprinklers or the heads that you put in a bottle. or just use a bowl of water and your fingers to sprinkle the water on.

    always use distilled water in your steam iron!!!

    well thats about it, all I can help you with.

    bluing was the professional at home way to whiten up dress shirts in the old day. not sure how to attack that problem. you might do some checking for a way to remove that by searching around on line and share with the rest of us.

    hope you all have fun making money for yourselves and saving your budget.

    • Niki says

      Glenda,
      I am eating up all of this advice!! You are awesome. I love, love, love ironing. My college roommates used to tease me that I balled my clothes up in the hamper just to give myself more ironing. We live in an area where home ironing might actually work out for me. Do you have any tips on getting started? Would you use spray starch or do it in the machine?

  25. says

    I can’t believe this is such a “new idea”. I wouldnt do all the mixing and cooking for starch when there is Liquid starch that you can add to the laundry,when I was little my mom washed the shirts,dresses etc rolled them up wet and you can put in the refridg or freezer if you arent ready to iron right then. I do believe if I lived in a city and had to have a lot of things ironed and it was $.50 per item ,or buy a hand steamer

  26. Alex says

    The Costco no iron shirts have been a great purchase for my hubby. At $17 each, they have been his favorites (and mine since I do the ironing!) and they last all day and evening.
    He has an Eddie Bauer one (a little more $, but bought on sale), and the Costco shirt is softer but still wrinkle free.

  27. Amanda Y. says

    Has anyone asked about the long term effects of the cornstarch building up in the washer? Seems like that would be a problem, but maybe not?

    • Amanda Y. says

      esp. since the number one reason for breakdowns is detergent build up and it’s more fluid than corn starch

  28. says

    Don’t judge me or call me crazy….but I love to iron! And I’m pretty good at it. My husband says I do better than the cleaners. We used to send his shirts to the cleaners regularly, but after a few visits, we noticed buttons breaking off and other problems. I’d rather iron myself then have to figure out how to get the replacement buttons back in the right place. (I’m terrible at sewing). I buy my starch in the spray bottles at Walmart for 99cents a can. I get the Niagara brand. One can lasts at least 2-3 weeks (longer when his work assignment doesn’t require him to be in dressy clothes….like now).
    Plus it makes me feel good knowing I’m doing my part to make sure my husband looks good!

  29. says

    Shauna, just curious…does your husband work for Enterprise? My hubby did years ago and he always had to wear a white button down shirt! My friend’s husband works there now and they still have that same rule! I was an ironing/starching machine those first few years we were married.

  30. Nora says

    My father taught us how to iron his work shirts before we were 10 yrs old. I think we got like 20 cents a shirt!

  31. Aberline says

    Um, the men in my family have never worn anything starched. Is this really something that people spend hundreds on every month?!

  32. Wendy says

    I’m very glad that my husband doesn’t have to wear dress shirts for his job; however, I already iron everything we wear. My friends laugh at me, my husband wears jeans & polo shirts or T-shirts for his job and his jeans are always starched & creased (spray starch) and even our T-shirts have creases down the sleeves. Just can’t bring myself to wear clothes without ironing – even ones that are supposed to be no-iron! But I did stop ironing my flat sheets several years ago, and rarely iron my pillowcases anymore, so I guess I’m not as bad as I used to be… LOL

  33. jacque says

    having worked at a dry cleaner I can tell you that unless the shirts were synthetic or contained Lycra they were being laundered, starched and professionally pressed even though they were done at a “dry cleaner”. I understand the frugality but think of the time you are spending ironing not to mention the extra water.