How To Harden Fabric Permanently (Easy Fabric Stiffener DIY)

Stiffness over comfort. Everyone knows that a stiff speaker is not a very good person to have as a lecturer. They are uncomfortable to listen to. The same situation arises when you have stiff clothes but there are those situations where stiff fabric is better than comfort.

There are those sewing projects that demand you use stiff fabric. This could be to sculpt a specific look or cover long surfaces. When your project calls for stiff fabrics, there are glues, wallpaper paste, and commercial stiffeners you can use to create that look.

To learn more about how to stiffen fabric just continue to read our article. It has the information you need so your sewing projects come out the way they are supposed to look. A few minutes of your time is all you need to find out the facts.

How do You Permanently Harden Fabric?

There are several ways to achieve this objective. The first is to mix some glue with water and the steps to use that formula is as follows:

  • Step 1. Mix water and glue together. The amount you need to mix depends on how much fabric you have to stiffen. It is equal parts of both ingredients.
  • Step 2. Put the fabric you are stiffening into the mixture and remove after a thorough soaking. Remove any excess glue and water from the fabric but take care not to twist it.
  • Step 3. lay the fabric on a table or workbench. Drape or form the fabric to its called for look and let the glue dry. And you're done.

Wallpaper paste is another method you can use and the steps mentioned above are used here as well. Just make sure when you mix the paste and water that you get the clumps out.

Then you can use commercial spray stiffeners. In this case, you would need to place your fabric in the shape it is supposed to go. You do this after you cover your floors, etc. So they do not get sprayed as well.

Then just spray away and let the fabric dry.

What Can I Use as Fabric Stiffener?


Like the methods above, there are several items you can use as a fabric stiffener. The first would be PVA glue. This adhesive would have to be mixed evenly with water and stirred till a nice paste appears. Then use a paintbrush to apply the glue. Once it hardens you have permanent stiff material.

Another option would be gelatin and it is best used on hats etc. All you need is about 2 ounces of the powder and 2 cups of water. Once the powder dissolves use a sponge to apply it to the fabric you want to stiffen.

Sugar and water are another two ingredients that can provide a temporary stiff nature to the fabric. Epsom salts and liquid starch is a good substitute for sugar and water.

Then you can always use interfacing when the pattern calls for it. Interfacing helps your garment to be stiff in the right places while not sacrificing comfort.

Best Fabric Stiffener Alternative


We have mentioned some good ones already and depending on how long you want the fabric to be stiff will determine which option you will use. One that hasn’t been mentioned already in this article is hairspray.

When you go to this method, you want the aerosol style, not the pump. The reason for this recommendation is that the aerosol will spread the hairspray evenly and quickly. Pumps are not so fast and can send too much hairspray to the same spot.

On top of that, you want to use a non-alcohol hairspray. The sprays with alcohol can cause color bleed or discolor the fabric. After you have sprayed the hairspray over your garment, use an iron to set the spray and have it stiffen the material.

If you are looking for specific retail products that will stiffen fabric then the following should be of some use for you:

  • 1. Dritz Fray Check - this helps stiffen fabric in little areas that may begin to fray as you sew.
  • 2. Fabri Glaze - this concoction helps keep the fabric flexible after it is applied.
  • 3. Terial Magic - it should be available at crafty stores, etc and it works like the hairspray option already mentioned.
  • 4. Potato Vodka - mix with water and place in a spray bottle and then follow the hairspray directions

Can Mod Podge be Used as a Fabric Stiffener?


Yes, it is possible to use Mod Podge as a fabric stiffener. It is easy to brush on and has a variety of applications that makes it very flexible and versatile. But the cost of Mod Podge may cause you to hesitate to use this option.

The benefits of using Mod Podge is that it is easy to clean items with it on. Once you put it on your fabric the stiffening is permanent so make sure your project is going to be a permanent fixture before using this option.

Then you just hand wash those items. For best results, this product can be used for decoupage projects. When applying this product it may be best to coat both sides of the surface you are applying the fabric to and the fabric itself.

A brayer tool is helpful to get all the bubbles out of the fabric once you lay it on the flat surface.

Is Fabric Stiffener the Same as Liquid Starch?


You have probably heard an actor in a movie or tv show tell the laundromat attendant to hold the starch. The reason for those instructions is because the service can overuse the starch and really stiffen up the collars of a shirt or the shirt itself.

The key to using liquid or any starch products is to not starch the clothes on a rainy day. The starch needs the sun to help it harden up but water is not the total enemy of starch.

You should dip the shirt, etc., in some water to dampen it up. This action will help the starch spread out evenly giving you a better stiffness all round. Knit materials are the best candidates for receiving a starch treatment.

Nylon products or synthetic materials not so much.

Fabric Stiffener DIY

There are lots of web sites that contain do it yourself recipes that help you create a good fabric stiffener. This section will only deal with one

Materials needed - white rice and water

  • Step 1. Boil the rice and then drain the water from the pot
  • Step 2. Do not let the rice water cool in the pot or it will solidify and be of no laundry value.
  • Step 3. Thin the rice water out to the correct consistency then let cool
  • Step 4. Dip the garment you want to stiffen in this mixture and then get rid of the excess water from the material.
  • Step 5. Hang to dry in the sun immediately after you get rid of the excess water. If you don’t you may offend your nose as the rice water can give off a bad smell.

Click on this link to see some more homemade fabric stiffener recipes.

How to Make Fabric Stiffener With Glue


This process is almost as easy if not easier than making liquid starch with rice water. All you have to do is mix equal parts of glue and water together and mix well. That procedure should work with any type of glue.

Elmer’s white glue can be done in the same manner. All you will need is about 1/3 cups of the glue and 1 cup of water. Mix both in a glass bowl until it becomes a paste. When it does you need to use this fabric stiffener right away.

You can customize this fabric stiffener by making it thicker through adding extra tablespoons of glue. One or two should do the trick. Then if you want to make it thinner add a little more water. Again one or two tablespoons of water should handle that task.

How to Make Fabric Stiffener for Crochet

To start you will need one of the following starches- corn, potato, or wheat. Then from one of those ingredients, you dissolve 3 tablespoons in a 1/2 cup of water. Next, you need to boil 3 cups of water in a larger pot.

As you boil slowly add the starch and water mixture, stirring continuously to get rid of any lumps. After you have reached the boiling point and you have stirred in the mixture remove from the heat and pour the contents into a large enough bowl.

Continue to stir to keep the surface from creating a film cover. Soak your crochet in the bowl for about 2 to 5 minutes then remove the crochet item. Squeeze out the excess and stretch and pin into place.

Allow to dry and this could take a day for the crochet item to dry properly. Keep a bowl of warm water handy as your fingers will get messy and you need to clean them from item to time throughout this process. The contents of this recipe will handle a lot of material.

Does Fabric Stiffener Wash Out?


This would depend on the type of fabric stiffener you use. The temporary version will be like the temporary fabric glues and wash out in the first load of laundry you do.

That is normal as that version of fabric stiffener is not made to be permanent. The ones that are designed to be permanent should not wash out once they have set. It is possible to remove fabric stiffener from cotton fabrics.

Dryer sheets, fabric softener, and vinegar all handle that task with ease. With vinegar, all you would need would be 1/4 cup and your cotton clothes should be softer than they were before washing.

There should be some fabric stiffeners that can’t wash out and those would fall into the category of glues and drywall paste. Then do you really want to wash the stiffener out?

Is Fabric Stiffener Waterproof?

This would have to be answered on a trial and error basis. A lot of the permanent fabric stiffeners should be waterproof even when they have water mixed into the concoction.

The ones with glue and wallpaper paste would be the closest thing to being waterproof. Yet those fabric stiffeners that use Elmer’s glue and Mod Podge do not repel water. They are not the strongest stiffeners on the block either.

A lot would depend on how heavy the rain was that hits the fabric. Even the waterproof stiffeners would have a hard time keeping heavy rain from soaking into the fabric.

On the homemade versions, it is hard to say how waterproof they would be. The temporary variety definitely would not be waterproof as you need water to wash them out.

How Long Does Fabric Stiffener Take to Dry?


The time for drying is adjustable and would depend on the type of materials you are putting together to make your own fabric stiffener. Store-bought brands may not need a lot of time to dry but that would depend on how big an area you are searching.

In some cases, you will be looking at up to 24 hours before the stiffener is fully dry. Temporary versions would be quicker. The best way to find out is to read labels on the store brands and see what they say.

The homemade recipes you would have to check from time to time but give each one more than 5 hours before you check them. You will have to play it by ear as drying time may also be affected by the humidity levels in your geographical regions.

Usually, this drying time refers to hang drying. It may not be wise to put freshly starched clothes in the dryer as the heat can affect the starch and ruin your hard work.

How to Apply Fabric Stiffener


There are probably as many ways to apply fabric stiffener as there are fabric stiffeners. Some you need to use a brush. That will enable you to get a fine even coat over the fabric you are stiffening up.

Another way would be to dip the garment or material into a bowl or bucket of stiffener then squeeze out the excess water, etc. Then in some cases, you can use a sponge and lightly dab the stiffener on the parts of the garment you want to have stiffer than others.

The next way to do it is to spray the fabric stiffener onto your clothes or other fabrics you are using. Finally, you can soak the smaller pieces, especially if they are small crochet items, and let the stiffener soak all the way through the fabric.

No matter how you apply the stiffener, always give the items lots of time to dry thoroughly.

Can You Use Fabric Stiffener On Paper?

Yes, you can as there are many DIY or craft projects that call for the paper to be coated in fabric stiffeners. Like stiffening your clothes the process is both simple and very easy to do.

First, you would need to lay the paper out flat. If there are creases use an iron on low to medium heat to flatten those creases.

Second, you can use a spray stiffener or one that needs to be rolled or brushed on. It doesn’t matter the technique. What does matter is that you get an even coat that completely covers the paper.

Third, once you coat one side, you will have to coat the other as well. Flip the paper over and put a nice coat on that side.

Fourth, hang the paper up to dry and it may need the night before that happens. When dry continue on with your project.

Another method would be to use white glue mixed with water and brush the stiffener onto the paper. Then once that is done you take the time to shape the paper before it dries. Once it does dry, it will be too late to shape that paper.

This format allows you to layer the paper by adding more of the mixture, then adding another piece of paper before coating that new layer.

Some Final Words

It is not hard to stiffen fabric once you know how. It gets even easier when you know more than one way to accomplish that objective. All you need are the ingredients, good instructions, and a little time.

If you want more DIY recipes that use homemade Mod Podge click here. The more ways you have the better time you have stiffening fabric. The key is of course to allow the fabric plenty of time to dry.

If you wear clothes that you stiffen you may not be comfortable but you should look really good.

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