Spray Starch

This post is kinda hard for me to write!  I do believe in supporting the local quilt shops and the quilting niche industry but . . sometimes commonsense gets the better of me.

Recently when I posted about spray starch, a reader told me about the Niagara non-aerosol spray starch.  I’m the kind of shopper who goes to the store with a list and if it isn’t on my list, it’s not going into my cart so I hadn’t even seen the Niagaro starch.  A couple of times since then I’ve gone to Wal-Mart but didn’t have it on my list and forgot to look for it.  The other night Vince needed a few things from Wal-Mart, the starch was on my list and I remembered to get it.  As I was pressing items yesterday, I noticed the starch sitting around on my ironing board.


On the left is the new Niagara, next is Vicki’s homemade recipe, Mary Ellen’s Best Press, Magic Sizing and regular starch.

For some reason, I thought Mary Ellen’s Best Press was something besides “starch”.  I worry about bugs with starch and, for the most part, I only use it when piecing and then my quilts usually get washed but . . I’m sure it’s no surprise that I start quilts, sometimes get quite a ways into them and then they get put aside for months or even years . . with starch in the fabric!  Living in central Texas, we seem to have way more than our share of bugs and I don’t want to do anything to encourage them to find a way into my sewing room, where not only fabric is stored but lots of quilts and lots of wool yarn.

The more I read about Best Press, the more I’m convinced that it is starch and may attract bugs just the same as most any other starch.

Before I begin my review of the starch products I use, I did a little cost comparison.  The Best Press in the squirt bottle is 16 ounces.  I usually buy it by the gallon and re-fill my bottles.  The Niagara Non-Aerosol is 22 ounces so I did a cost per ounce breakdown.

Best Press in 16 oz. bottle – 48¢ per ounce
Best Press in gallon bottle – 33¢ per ounce
Niagara Non-Aerosol – 9¢ per ounce

These prices were based on the suggested retail from the Mary Ellen’s Best Price website, and what I paid at Wal-Mart.  That is a huge price difference!  Let me also say this:  I paid $1.96 per bottle for the starch at Wal-Mart.  I’m kinda having a hard time believing that is the correct price.  You kinda never know with Wal-Mart’s pricing.  I’ll watch and see if I see the price change next time I’m there or when I’m somewhere else that carries it.

Here’s my review of the products:

Best Press – I’ve used and loved this for years.  There’s unscented but the smell good varieties are fantastic.  I love things that smell good!

Niagara Non-Aerosol – I’ve only been using it less than 24 hours.  The scent I bought is the Fresh Linen.  The bottle says “Original” on it but that’s the only kind they had at Wal-Mart.  Some of the containers I’ve seen online look a bit different.  So far, I love this stuff.  It smells good, it dries quickly with no residue.

Homemade – I do find this flakes but I only use it when I’m ironing fabrics that I know will be washed.  I love that I can make it light or heavy, depending on how much cornstarch I add to the mixture.  If I’m doing a lot of bias edges, I make it strong and soak the fabric and it makes a huge difference in my piecing.

Magic Sizing – I mostly use this for ironing clothes, though I used to use it all the time for quilting.

Regular Starch – Again, this is used exclusively for Vince’s shirts.  It gets on the iron and I don’t like that at all but I like the way his shirts look when I use this.

Have you tried the Niagara?  What do you think about it?

Thanks to the reader who told me about the Niagara Non-Aerosol spray.  What else do I need to know about?  🙂


  1. 1

    jean says

    I like the Niagara, that is the price I pay at our Wal-marts.HEB use to carry it but have not seen it there in over a year.Some say Target has it but I do not shop there so I don’t know for sure.I do not like the aerosol spray starches they run out of the air and start to spit out the starch.

  2. 2

    Richelle says

    I use the Niagra also, purchase it at Target for right around $2.00. Mary Ellen’s Best Press is over priced in my opinion.

  3. 3

    PegD says

    I love Mary Ellen’s but the price is so high. I too use Niagra and am pleased with it.

  4. 4

    Deb says

    I always get a bottle of Best Press in my stocking at Christmas so I take that to retreats and sew-ins but for use at home is the Niagara-na, I think it is the same and the price is what hooked me, same as you paid! For bias edges I just iron it twice. Even use it on hubby’s shirts now.

  5. 5


    I seldom (like never) use starch any more, but back in the day, after they came out with ready made starch in the grocery, we used Niagra. That may have been the only brand made at that time. Mostly, what I remember was mixing up corn starch and water, dunking the clothes in it before we hung them on the lines to dry, then sprinkling them with water and rolling them up before ironing. I’m really dating myself here, but our sprinkler bottle was an old RC cola bottle with holes punched in the top that we filled with water for sprinkling. In those days it was high tech stuff. These days I get perma-press clothes that I don’t have to iron. I do own an ironing board but haven’t seen my iron for such a long time I don’t really remember if I still have one or not. I know I’ll have to have one when I start quilting again, so if it’s here I’ll have to hunt it down, and if I can’t find it I’ll have to buy a new one, in which case the old one will fall on my head the next day. That’s just the way my life goes lately.

    • 5.1

      Carolyn says

      Oh Girl! I’m right there w you! I do have an iron since I started quilting though

  6. 6


    This is one of the many reasons I so enjoy your blog. So much good info and much to ponder. I can’t add a thing, but will have to start trying some of your suggestions. Thanks so much for your independent research, do you use lab rats!

  7. 7

    Micki says

    I have used the Niagra-na and liked it. Also it’s easier for me to hold and spray. I have small,arthritic hands. My friend just gave me some homemade which I also like a lot. It is 2cups distilled water, 1/2 cp. potato vodka, and 1-2Tsp of fabric softener ( we use lavender), and essential oil if you want more smell. It really works well and is cheap!

  8. 8


    I’ve used the Niagra and liked it–seems it is hard to find in Montana–rarely can I find it at our Wal Mart in Laurel.

  9. 9


    Judy, you can minimize the flaking with starch by letting the fabric dry slightly before you iron it. Once the starch is absorbed into the fibers there won’t be any flakes. At least that’s what I found recently when I starched the crap out of fabric I used for setting triangles.

  10. 10

    Hilary McDaniel says

    My most favorite is Faultless MAXX. It’s maximum power starch. When I use it I love the smell and the fabric is very pressed. Love it on my quilting fabric, my linen sheets and pillowcases, and my linen clothes. I iron EVERYTHING. My bed is like a spa bed with crisp linen sheets and pillowcases. When I was lucky enough to stay in a fabulous resort, they ruined me with the hotel linens. Now I buy them from an Engliah lady in Santa Barbara that orders her linen from Italy. Yes it’s work, but I iron on a bar stool sitting and watch tv at night. I love to iron. It’s therapeutic to me.. So try finding MAXX you will love it. I do use Niagra for some things. The starch is usually carried by Krogers. HEB only carries a few brands now.
    Not at Walmart or Target. I buy it by the case.

  11. 11

    Lee says

    I’ve only ever used Faultless, I guess not realizing Niagara non-aerosol existed. I would be willing to try it next time I’m in need to purchase starch. I’ve always ironed clothing using starch, just love that crispness, esp. on creases :). I never worried about bugs until I heard someone mention it at a quilt guild meeting once, so since then if I starch my fabric, it’s only when I’m using it in a project, but as you said, that project may get shelved for who knows how long (I wrote about some of this in my own blog a day or so ago.), so I then use a moth-ball product or cedar product to *hopefully* keep any bugs from the quilting stuff. While I’ve never found a bug in my stash or kits, I have found silverfish and carpet beetles/larvae on walls elsewhere, in the bathroom (drawn to moisture as well) and even last night of all places, there was a silverfish on my kitchen counter! Ewww, *it* did not live beyond the time it took me to find something to smoosh it with.

  12. 12

    Jane says

    I’ve used Niagra for quite a while & think it’s just fine. Can’t comment on Best Press. Never used it because I thought it was just prettied up starch & the price was obscene. As often as not I use homemade on my fabrics as well as hubby’s shirts.

  13. 13


    Piecing and starch are my usual routine. Although it depends on the pattern. Mostly use liquid starch 1 part starch to 5 part water. Like it heavy. I also have Niagara starch on hand. buy it at Cub foods for $1.69. I also have bought it from the dollar store but it’s always scented and it doesn’t agree with me. but the price is right.

  14. 14


    Piecing and starch are my usual routine. Although it depends on the pattern. Mostly use liquid starch 1 part starch to 5 part water. Like it heavy. I also have Niagara starch on hand. buy it at Cub foods for $1.69. I also have bought it from the dollar store but it’s always scented and it doesn’t agree with me. but the price is right.

  15. 16

    Josie says

    Love the review of different starches and the comments by the users of different brands I have used and like Best Press but I totally agree it is overpriced.. I have not seen the Niagara non aerosol but you can bet I will be looking on Saturday when at Walmart..I use starch all the time
    also it really makes bias manageable an d clothing look sharp.

  16. 17

    Donna P says

    I have used Niagra but almost always use Faultless Heavy Starch. I was not aware that there was a Maxx and would love to try it. I will have to look for it here in Florida. Regardless, I do starch and iron before cutting.The heavier the starch the better.If I were to do a scrappy with small pieces, I think I would make my own heavy starch.

  17. 18


    I switched to Niagra after seeing the huge price difference. Love it and my fabric gets a little bit stiffer! I also use a 50/50 solution of Stay-flo and water after buying a Craftsy class with Anita Grossman-Solomon. Now, that is some heavy-duty starch.

  18. 19

    PamO says

    I have used the Niagra pump spray for years. It controls bias and makes a stiff backing for machine applique. I don’t have to use a stabalizer to keep the stitches from tunneling in the background. I have made my own but don’t use it fast enough.
    By the way, to clean your cold iron, wipe it with a cloth dampened with the same stuff that caused the caking on the iron. None of that stinky iron cleaner for me.

  19. 20

    Julie says

    Wondering if Hilary would share her source for the linen sheets; I’ve been looking for some.

  20. 21


    My can of starch is behind my dryer – I haven’t retrievied it because I’m not too crazy about it. (It’s gotten be hard to get, I’ll have to climb on top the dryer and then my arms are not long enough to reach it.) I don’t like it as it leaves flakes. I really like Magic Sizing. And here I thought Magic Sizing wasn’t starch. Why did I think that?

  21. 22

    Donna F says

    I’ve been using Niagara from the start, I love the stuff! Like you, I use Magic Sizing and that other spray starch (I don’t know the name but I do recognize the can) for ironing hubby’s clothes. The Niagara has an awesome smell and hasn’t caused me any problems with my iron. I ran out once and no store within 30 miles had it. I ended up driving 50 miles for something else and found it. I’m glad you discovered it too! Have you splurged on a “purple thang” yet? If not I have an extra I’ll send you since they are so expensive lol. I use it mostly for turning whenever I make tubes or stuffed animals, or to actually push the stuffing in. I just got my package for Stable Stuff by Ricky Tims to use on my applique quilt. I love that stuff too.

  22. 23


    I’ve never used the Niagara non-aerosol, but it looks interesting. I find their regular spray starch flakes a bit, but I think that’s because sometimes the little nozzle gets clogged a bit and then you end up getting a bit more than you’d like. I do love Mary Ellen’s — like you, I thought it wasn’t regular starch, but I’ll have to do more research. Of course, I buy it wholesale and, being somewhat frugal, I water it down a bit, perhaps a little less than half and half. Still seems to work just great. If it is just starch, I’m switching! No sense spending that kind of money for something that is essentially the same.

  23. 24

    Colleen Gander says

    I converted to the non-aerosol Niagara due to price and love it for piecing. My husband likes it for his shirts. And because it isn’t available to me in Canada, he made a special effort to purchase it for me while on a business trip to SC. So even though I would love to save it for quilting only, what’s a girl to do when he suffered the derision of the customs official, explaining why he came across with 6 bottles in his suitcase. I press his shirts and they smell wonderful!

  24. 25

    Joan in NE says

    Love Best Press and order gallon when JoAnn has it online on sale–50% off. Also use magic sizing and just bought a container of Niagra-na haven’t used it yet. Price was right though.

  25. 26


    Best Press is great, but I can’t afford it all the time. Also? I love that Niagara spray starch that is not for sale in Canada where I live. Fortunately,after a trip to the USA, I have 9 cans of it. Love that stuff..

  26. 27

    Donna Williams says

    I love and use Best Press when I have it and Niagra when I don’t. When there is an event (Christmas, birthday etc) I hand over my Hancock’s coupons to everybody (everybody who asks me what I would like to have for a gift, that is – not just random people on the street) and they get them for me. Win – win.

  27. 28

    Sibyl Scott says

    You are so right. I have had a few discussions (arguments) with quilters that just tell me that that Best Press isn’t starch. What I have read it states it is a starch. I just can not see myself purchasing it because of the price just to say I’ve used it. As far as the price you paid for the Niagara that is what it usually costs. I have used non aerosol starch for years. It is very nice and a good value. Thanks for giving your critique on the different starches.


  28. 30

    JoEllen says

    I love and use Best Press- lavender scent! I buy it by the gallon when it is on sale on Joann’s website!

  29. 31

    Debra says

    I prefer Faultless over Niagara. Best Press is a starch product according to the Material Safety Data Sheet. It does not indicate type of starch, corn or potato. Although I like Best Press, at $45.00/gallon in my area, it quickly went to the bottom of my ‘Like’ list. I also dislike that it’s been marketed as a ‘starch alternative’ when it is nothing more than a different type of starch. Our local Joann’s doesn’t carry Best Press. I’ve made my own from cornstarch and water in varying degrees of density and even used the vodka mix with scented oil. The vodka mix didn’t make my fabric stiff enough…there were a few times when I used straight vodka in my spray bottle and it’s a whole lot cheaper than Best Press! We don’t drink the stuff and I had a whole jug of it..so why not iron with it….I had to do something with it. The alcohol smell dissipates. But my new favorite starch is Sta-Flo…not new to me but something that I couldn’t find in the stores for many years until recently. As AngieG9 said, I also used Sta-Flo to dunk my husband’s work shirts…waaay back in the day. I have three spray bottles, labeled with the dilute ratio. I dilute it 1:1 for regular ironing. I use it full strength in a spray bottle to starch fabric before cutting with my Accuquilt cutter. It makes the cuts so much cleaner.

  30. 32

    Cheryl in PA says

    I am on my fourth bottle of Niagara NA. I love it and the price is right!

  31. 33

    Kath says

    I do use Best Press found out that I am allergic to the scented Lavendar. I switched to Niagara NA. I read that when using startch, spray the stratch on the opposite side of the one you are ironing (spray on the back of the fabric and iron on the right side) I then don’t have any problem with build up on the iron or flaking. Sometimes I spray a 2nd or 3rd time to make it stiffer, especially when I am machine embroiderying

  32. 34


    I have tried Niagra but I’m not a fan because it has a tendency to flake and cause scorching. I use Best Press, unscenter exclusively and I’ve never had an issue with flaking or scorching. I purchase it through Amazon.com at the cost of about $40 per gallon with free shipping.

  33. 35

    Pat C in Washington says

    You can get Best Press at Amazon for as low as $28.95 per gallon with free shipping – that’s how one of my friends always gets it. That’s through one of the non-Amazon vendors but it’s still the real deal.

  34. 36


    I love Best Press. I dilute it though with about half water and it works fine. I will check out the Niagra though, just to give it a try.

  35. 37

    Deb K says

    Nevermind the startch topic, what I found most astounding, Judy, is that you can actually go to a store and only buy what is on your list. I’m a marketers dream. I find so many other goodies that I just have to take home. I need to shop with you so you will keep me on the straight and narrow.

    As for starch, I was an Army nurse and I have used a lot of cans of starch over the years. I was a Faultless girl rather than Niagara and to be sure that starch was hammered in, I used my elnapress to seal the deal. I found that starch flaked less if you give it a minute when you spray it before ironing. I suspect that the flaking would be worse if you don’t wash your fabrics before piecing and trying to starch. I used to pre-wash my fabrics but I’ve changed my approach over the years and I drifted from starching. I recently started starching again while pressing because it definitely seems to make the piecing more accurate and I’m a stickler on things matching right on. I’ve found the starch does tend to stand on top of the fabric whether it is Faultless or Best Press but I know it is going to wash out, so I don’t worry about it.

    • 37.1

      Deb K says

      just correcting my previous post. Sorry for that. I’ve found that spray starch sits on top of the fabric more when it hasn’t been prewashed but it comes out when washed. So, I’m fine with that.

  36. 39

    Liz A. says

    I’m glad you were ale to find the Non aerosol Niagra and you like it. I definitely think its a great value. I’ve been hunting for information aout whether other not it attracts bugs but have been unable to find any information on that. I think I will try writing to the parent company and see what they say. I do know I’ve been using it for a couple years and spray all my fabric before I iron and cut it it. Several of those pieces get strips cut off and then folded and put back on the shelves. So far I have not found any evidence of bugs and that includes two moves in the last 7 months.

  37. 40

    Bev Austin says

    Re Starch: I’m from the old days, like Angie – used the pop bottles with holes in top for sprinkling starched and dried items with water; I use mostly Niagara regular (must find the non-aerosol) and Sta-Flo. The starch for applique (dipping a Q-tip in strong starch & press dry) is a great technique.

    Key to all, for me, is after spraying or dipping in starch, (then dried or not) roll up item, place in plastic bag and then chill for a while in fridge. Stops the flaking!