How To Use Cornstarch On Laundry Stains

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Did you know you can use cornstarch on laundry stains? Although cornstarch is most often used to thicken sauces, gravies, and soups, it’s also an indispensable ingredient in the battle against laundry stains and odors.

Pile of folded laundry sitting on tennis shoes

Known as “cornflour” in the UK, cornstarch is a gluten-free product made from grinding dry corn kernels until they’re a fine, silky powder. In addition to its use as a thickening agent, it’s also used in foods and cosmetics to prevent caking.

Side note: Slowly stirring 2 cups of cornstarch into water makes a non-Newtonian fluid called Ooblek, which has the properties of both a liquid and a solid and a fun little science experiment to do with your kids.

Along with white vinegar, cornstarch is one of my favorite frugal ways to treat laundry stains.

How To Use Cornstarch On Laundry Stains

Greasy Stains

Don’t panic when that pizza cheese dribbles onto your favorite t-shirt. Just grab a clean white cloth and blot it as well as you can, then heavily dust both sides of the fabric with cornstarch. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then shake the powder off before dabbing at any remaining grease with white vinegar. Launder immediately at the hottest temperature permitted by the manufacturer’s label and you should be stain-free. (Always check that the stain is gone before putting clothes in the dryer, or you’ll set the stain.)

For greasy stains on leather or suede, carefully blot the area with a dry cloth then heavily sprinkle on cornstarch. Let it sit 12-24 hours to absorb the grease and gently brush the item clean.

Sunscreen, zinc or petroleum ointments

Scrape off as much as you can with a butter knife, then dust the remaining goo with cornstarch and let it sit for an hour or two. When the cornstarch has had a chance to do its absorbing thing, brush it off and dab at any remaining stain with a grease-cutting dish soap and a washcloth. (I use Dawn Original for this.) Launder and check to ensure the stain is gone before transferring the item to the dryer.

Cigarette smoke

Although technically not a stain, cornstarch can help eliminate the stale, sooty smell of cigarette smoke. For clothing, place the item in a plastic shopping bag and add 1/2 to 1 cup of cornstarch then seal and shake. Let sit overnight then remove the item and shake off as much cornstarch as possible before laundering.

For carpeting and upholstery, sprinkle on cornstarch liberally and use a brush to work the powder into the fibers or fabric. Wait for at least one hour (overnight if possible) and vacuum thoroughly.

Get Foot Odor Out Of Uggs and Other Shoes

As comfortable as Uggs are, they get horribly smelly but can’t be washed. To remove odors in them (or in any unwashable shoe, like your favorite pair of pumps) mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 5 drops of tea tree oil. Sprinkle this liberally inside the shoes then stuff them with newspaper and let them sit overnight. The cornstarch and newspaper will both absorb moisture and odors, while the tea tree oil will kill the bacteria that causes the stink. To get the outside of Uggs clean, see these tips about how to get salt stains off of shoes.

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How To Use Cornstarch On Laundry Stains - I had no idea you could use it to get rid of greasy stains or nasty odors. How easy and cheap!

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  1. can the more readily available (in Australia) wheaten cornflour be used as an alternative to cornstarch from corn for effective cleaning of oil stains? I have read that cornstarch is perfect coupled with baking soda as a pre treatment then brushed off washed in hot water and then vinegar in the rinse for cleaning and freshening bed linen but my local stores only sell the wheaten type, I can get rice flour still not sure which to use. Also for treating mattresses the same, vigorously worked in then vacuumed off and spritzed with water vinegar solution.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Yes, the cornflour is a perfectly acceptable substitute.

  2. Kori Canale says:

    Can you use Apple Cider Vinegar as a substitute for the White Vinegar?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It should be fine.