There is a twofold reason for the use of starch in laundry operations: (1) the glazed surface of a starched garment keeps clean longer than an unglazed, or unstarched, surface; (2) the. increase in body of the starched garment gives it increased resistance to moisture and some garments are considered correspondingly more attractive in appearance. In the commercial laundry and in those industries in which the finishing of fabrics is a consideration, use is made, not of one kind of starch, but of several, according to the nature of the work to be done.
The American housekeeper uses, as a rule, only cornstarch, because of its cheapness and a lack of knowledge of the char-- acteristics of the other starches. The several varieties of starch vary considerably in their ability to penetrate fabrics. The reason for the use of rice starch with finer fabrics by those considered to do a superior grade of laundry work, is because of its penetrative quality. It is said to penetrate the pores of a fabric more completely than does any other starch and to give a finer, smoother finish. Next to rice starch in penetrability comes wheat starch. Cornstarch is the poorest of the three starches; it has a tendency to lump and show starch spots after ironing.
Rice starch gives a natural, pure white color to fabrics, while cornstarch gives a yellow color, and wheat starch a color between the two. Since wheat starch and cornstarch are the practical possibilities in the American household, further comparison will be between these two. When good color, smoothness of surface, pliability, and fine finish are desired, wheat starch gives the better results; moreover, it is said to hold up better in damp climates. Cornstarch gives the greater stiffness, or body, to a fabric.
According to the finish desired, advantage is taken of the different characteristics of wheat starch and cornstarch. When flexibility and finish are the main objects, wheat starch is used alone; if stiffness is the chief consideration and finish may be overlooked, cornstarch is used alone; when it is desirable to combine stiffness with flexibility and good finish, a mixture of cornstarch and wheat starch is used. There is no reason why the use of wheat starch should not extend to the home laundry.
Various substances are used with starch to increase its penetrability and prevent it from sticking to the iron, as well as to give pliability to the cloth, increase its body, and improve its color. Of these substances may be mentioned borax, alum, paraffin, wax, turpentine, kerosene, gum arabic, glue, and dextrin.
Borax increases the penetrability of starch and aids in preventing it from sticking to the iron. Moreover, starch containing borax adds gloss to a garment, increases its whiteness, and gives it greater body, together with more lasting stiffness, than it would otherwise have.
Alum is used alone, or with borax, in starch to improve color, to increase penetrability and pliability, and to thin the starch mixture. When alum is cooked with a starch paste it causes the paste to become thinner. "Cooking thin" with alum does not affect the strength of the starch mixture and is an advantage when a stiff starch is desirable and the thick mixture would be inconvenient to handle. By the use of alum, starch may be made thin without dilution. Alum has been objected to by some persons as being somewhat injurious to fabrics.
Oily substances, such as wax, paraffin, turpentine, lard, or butter, are used to add a smoothness, gloss, and finish, to prevent the starch from sticking to the iron, and to aid in preventing the absorption of moisture.
Substances resembling glue, such as gum arabic and dextrin, are used with starch to increase its stiffening power. They are sometimes used alone when the white color of starch is considered a disadvantage in stiffening colored fabrics.
Directions for using starch, starch substitutes, and starch accessories:
In making starch, a naturally soft water is greatly to be desired, but if the water furnished is hard it should be softened with borax, not with washing-soda or lye, since these tend to produce a yellow color with starch:
2. 1/4 cup cornstarch to 1 quart water gives moderate body stiffness.
3. 1/2 cup wheat starch to 1 quart water gives flexible, firm finish.
4. 1/2 cup cornstarch to 1 quart water gives stiff body finish.
A mixture of the two starches may be varied, to produce any desired result.
Directions for cooking starch:
Starch should first be mixed with a little cold water and then stirred slowly into boiling water and cooked in accordance with the following directions:
1. If wheat starch is used, cook slowly at least 25 or 30 minutes.
2. If cornstarch is used, cook slowly 15 to 20 minutes.
3. If a mixture of wheat starch and cornstarch is used, the wheat starch should be added first and cooked 15 minutes. The cornstarch should then be added and the mixture cooked 15 minutes longer. Stir the mixture frequently, to prevent sticking and formation of a film.
Thorough cooking of starch is very desirable in laundry practice, for it increases the penetrability of the starch and decreases its tendency to stick to the iron. If borax, lard, butter, kerosene, or other like substance is used, it should be cooked with the starch, to insure thorough mixing.
1/2 cup starch, mixed with 1/2 cup cold water 1 quart boiling water 1/2 to 1 level tablespoon borax
1/4 level tablespoon lard or butter or kerosene or turpentine; or 1/4-inch-square wax or paraffin
Mix, and cook according to directions for cooking starch.
1/2 cup starch, mixed with 1/2 cup cold water
3 quarts boiling water
Other ingredients, same as for thick starch
Mix, cook according to directions for cooking starch.
Dilute 1/2 cup thick starch with 1 quart hot water.
Clearstarch is used for thin muslins, infants' dresses, and the like.
Same proportions as for thick starch.
Use borax but omit fatty substances.