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Starch: Straightening Out Your Laundry
One way to make dress clothes look sharp is by adding starch. Peruse Groupon’s guide to this upstanding stiffener to understand whether starch is for you.
Dry cleaning might seem like a way to avoid making laundry decisions—just slide everything across the counter and do away with worrying about delicate cycles and detergent levels. But if your bundle includes dress shirts, you’ll likely be asked how much starch you would like: light, medium, or heavy?
Laundry starch really is related to the stuff we talk about when we talk about potatoes and pasta. Starch is present in all vegetables, grains, and other green plants, and manufacturers turn it into a commercial product by grinding and drying plant sources such as corn, wheat, potatoes, and cassava (which also produces tapioca). When starch is used for cleaning, warm water is added in varying proportions to produce a thinner or thicker paste which is then applied to any clothing that needs to look well pressed—dress shirts are the most common, but other business or formal attire can also benefit. Heavy starch produces a dramatically stiff look, with knife-sharp creases and arms or legs that look as though they might be able to walk away on their own. The more casual styles of today generally call for a medium or light application.
Starch is soluble in warm but not cold water—it’s a tenacious substance and can endure four or five regular washings. That provides good bang for your laundry buck, and dirt and sweat tend to bind to the starch instead of to the clothing, making it more stain resistant. On the other hand, starch can build up over time to make shirts feel itchy, a sign that the fabric fibers may be growing brittle and ready to fray. It’s a delicate balance that can be maintained by forgoing starch every few washes, opting for light starch, or treating just the cuffs and collars. Synthetic starches may also be harsher and take longer to break down, so if you’re worried about the lifespan of your most memory-soaked hawaiian print, it’s worth asking which kind your cleaner uses.