Starching Work Shirts

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Sunday 10th October 2010
In this article
  • What is starch?
  • Upsides and downsides of starch.
  • Tips for using starch.

What is starch, anyway? It’s that thing in French fries, right? Well, actually, it is. The kind of starch used for laundering your work shirts is the powdered form of the complex carbohydrate found in vegetables like potatoes and corn. And like those French fries that could eventually harden your arteries, laundry starch is used to stiffen fabrics.

Why bother with a stiff shirt? You don’t iron, right? Using starch in shirts helps control wrinkles when you put the shirt on. Remember Miami Vice and all those linen suits? In the real world, linen (a cotton generally laundered without starch) wrinkles up the second you put it on and move. Since most SharpMen don’t work as police detectives in Miami, the cotton they tend to wear takes the form of plain ol’ work shirts. But even crisply ironed cotton shirts can look unkempt minutes after you’ve put them on — especially during summer heat (even outside of Greater Miami). When you request that your dry cleaner use a light starch on that same shirt, the result is a longer-lasting just-ironed look. Very Sharp.

Don’t overdo it. Too much starch can leave spots or a slick finish, especially in darker colored fabrics. If your shirt isn’t 100% cotton (read: cheap blend), or if it’s a more delicate fabric (read: expensive), starch may cause damage. The most common problem is that starch actually builds up in the professional laundry machines, which sometimes leads to this shiny, cardboard-like look. This can also lead to the disintegration of fibers, resulting in shirts that tear and wear out faster (not my Zenga!!!). Make a point of finding a high-end cleaner to protect your investment (or at least avoid having to buy new work shirts).

What else can you do? Check out these tips for using starch like a pro:

  • Don’t starch all of your clothes.
  • But, if you like the finished look of starch, have your cotton shirts lightly starched every other time you take them to the cleaners (or only during the summer, when you’re likely to look un-Sharp sooner).
  • Don’t starch your shirts at all if you have a tendency to remove clothing, roll it up and stuff it under the bed — if these lightweight shirts are starched, you’ll have to launder them again to get the wrinkles out — and this won’t be easy. Instead, hang your shirts between wearings.
  • Same goes for suitcases; don’t starch your stuff before folding it up for business travel — the creases will show when you put the shirt on. Instead, have the cleaners launder the shirt without starch and then box (fold) it for easy travel.
This article last updated on Wednesday 13th October 2010
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