878 E 222nd St
Euclid, OH 44123

Doing drycleaning in Northeast Ohio since 1946

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Serving Northeast Ohio since 1946

What is starch, and should I get it on my shirts?

If you’re at all familiar with the word “starch,” your first thought may be potatoes or pasta. So if we were to ask you whether or not you wanted starch on your shirts, you may get the image of us rubbing a potato all over your shirts. Rest assured, that’s not the case. But it’s also closer to the truth than you might think. Laundry starch is, in fact, based on a vegetable byproduct - most often corn - that’s dried and then mixed with water to create a viscous liquid.

When you launder your shirts at Jay Dee Cleaners, we separate all shirts that are going to receive starch from all shirts that aren’t. Large commercial laundry machines like ours are equipped to perform a separate starch cycle that’s different from a wash cycle. After these shirts are washed, they then are put through this separate cycle to receive starch.

If that’s what it is, then what does it do? Generally, the phrase we’ll use is that starch “helps keep the form of the shirt” longer. In simple terms, you’re less likely to develop wrinkles in your shirt while wearing it over the course of the day. And if you do have specific creases that you want in your shirt - some folks like to have their sleeves creased, for instance - then you’ll want starch on your shirt to help keep those in place. We’ll always recommend starch for anyone whose shirt will need special retouching beyond the regular mechanical shirt press, like if you want those creased sleeves or if you have a tuxedo shirt whose pleats need special attention.

That tuxedo shirt idea is a hint on whether or not you might want starch: starch is traditionally associated with a more formal look. Stiff collars are an aristocratic conceit, from when the well-to-do could set themselves apart from commoners by how crisply tailored their clothes were. Think of a starched collar as a distant cousin of the corset or the riding jacket - stiff, rigid, and distinctly upper-class. While the corset has lost its place in modern society, the starched shirt lives on. Business professionals can still send a message by the way they look, and a well-pressed, wrinkle-free shirt does set a tone of being well put-together.

But if those words “stiff” and “rigid” in the previous paragraph set you on edge, then you see why starch is a divisive concept. Some people feel a shirt is incomplete without it. Some people think a starched shirt feels like wearing cardboard. You’ll only know for sure by trying out both styles and determining what feels comfortable and right for you, both physically comfortable and, in the spirit of the aesthetics of a starched shirt, perhaps also what feels psychologically comfortable to you.

As a general rule, you may know which camp you fall in based on the composition of your shirts themselves. If your shirts are almost all 100% cotton, then those are the shirts that are most welcoming of starch in the first place. Starch isn’t usually recommended on cotton-polyester blends, on the other hand (though it doesn’t ruin or damage a shirt at all). These shirts are softer, more likely to be found in brighter and varied colors, and just generally less likely to be really formal. So if you own mostly cotton-poly blend shirts, you’re probably less concerned with formality in the first place, and the aesthetics of a starched shirt probably don’t matter to you.

In either case, try things out and see what you like. There’s no price difference between having your shirts done with starch or without it.