how to stiffen fabric
Kristina Davis

Do you want to know how to stiffen fabric for craft purposes? Perhaps you are looking for a quick fix for lace on a costume that just won’t stay where you want it to?

Do you need an alternative for a sewing project because you ran out of interfacing? How to stiffen fabric is a commonly asked question by amateur sewers.

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Fabric can be stiffened using different methods. Your choice of method depends on the purpose, ingredients on hand, and your comfort level. 

Some projects require stiff and smooth material especially if you want to cover long flat surfaces.

Others may need to be molded into a permanent shape to drape figurines like the ones you see in malls or toys.

Either way, you can make fabric stiffeners with ingredients found at home yourself. It’s easy.

To learn more about how to stiffen fabric, continue reading. We will explain these methods in easy-to-follow steps.

What Can I Use as Fabric Stiffener?

Here are some quick fabric stiffener recipes, although you will need to judge which one to use for the type of material you are stiffening.

1. Glue and Water

how to stiffen fabric with glue

This is a simple stiffener that you can make at home. It is as easy as mixing equal parts of liquid glue or wallpaper paste with water in a bowl.

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Stir until the two are thoroughly mixed. Since viscosity is a key factor in this stiffener’s effectiveness, ensure that you add equal amounts of glue and water.

To stiffen the material, simply immerse it into the mixture you just created. Leave it for a while to soak up the glue.

To avoid dripping everywhere, run the cloth between your fingers to remove excess adhesive.

Don’t twist or wring at this state because the glue has already started working. You do not want to distort the shape.

After you are done, you’ll need to lay it out to dry. The drying process could take anywhere between a couple of hours to a whole day, depending on the weather.

Hot and dry are the ideal weather conditions for drying glue-soaked material.

2. Starch or Cornstarch

how to stiffen fabric with cornstarch

Another standard DIY method for creating a stiffener is to mix starch or cornstarch with water.

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A lot of people prefer this recipe because it’s cost-effective and less laborious. Here’s how to stiffen fabric with cornstarch.

First, you’ll need to add a tablespoon of starch in two cups of water in a large bowl. Stir as gently as possible to avoid creating lumps.

Add the resulting mixture into a spray bottle, and it’s ready for use.

Before you spray this onto the cloth, make sure that you safeguard your workspace. Cover the surrounding area with plastic sheets or newspaper, so you don’t get any spray on nearby items.

Depending on your requirement, lay the material flat on the ground or drape it around a figurine or mannequin. Then apply the stiffener.

This is a highly effective mixture, so don’t oversaturate your cloth. Start by spraying small quantities and only add more if the result isn’t as per your expectation.

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3. Gelatin

how to stiffen fabric with gelatin

Did you know that gelatin, a substance popularly found in desserts, also makes an excellent fabric stabilizer?

However, gelatin is best suited for fabrics with a smooth, slippery texture, and only if you need to stiffen it for a limited duration.

Again, all you need to do is add a teaspoon of gelatin to two cups of water, mix thoroughly, and let it rest for a while.

After that, add four cups of hot water to the solution, and your stiffener is ready.

You can either soak your fabric into the mixture or add the mixture to a bottle and spray your clothes. It works either way.

4. Water and Sugar

how to stiffen fabric with sugar and water

This is the simplest, most natural recipe on this list. It is preferred if the fabric needs to be hardened permanently.

You’ll need to mix water and sugar in equal parts—the quantity will depend on how much material you need to stiffen. Use powdered baking sugar for best results.

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Next, warm your solution until bubbles start to form. Then, lower the heat settings and let it simmer for a while before taking your cloth and directly soaking it in the mixture.

Once you take it out, try not to squeeze the cloth too much. You might end up deforming it. Just leave it to dry in the shape you require.

As the water evaporates, the fabric will begin to stiffen like a crisp stick of celery.

How to Stiffen Fabric Sculpture?

You might be making clothes for a figurine, a mannequin, or to cover any surface with a shape.

In this case, you might need to learn how to stiffen fabric permanently. There are several ways of accomplishing this, like the water and sugar mixture.

Most DIY recipes focus on a water-based fabric stiffener. However, you can use a commercial spray stiffener if you so desire.

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First, you’ll need a mold such as a mannequin to hold up the material or wrap it around.

Soak the cloth in or spray a water-based stiffener made from any of the ingredients mentioned earlier. Set the cloth on to this mold to dry so that it shapes as it stiffens.

After your fabric has dried, use your touch to gauge stiffness. If you’re unsatisfied, you can use a commercial fabric stiffener on top of it.

More DIY Fabric Stiffener Recipes

Did you know there are numerous simple ingredients available to you at home that you can use to make fabric stiffener?

All of them are probably right in your kitchen.

An example is rice water. All you have to do is boil some rice in water and filter out the water.

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This method only works while the liquid is hot.  Use it immediately. Rice water, however, gives off a pungent smell.

It would be prudent to leave it to dry outside. For more quick and easy DIY home methods, just follow this link.

Can You Wash Out Fabric Stiffener?

can you wash out fabric stiffener

It depends on the type of stiffener you’ve used as well as the fabric.

Some solutions are made to lose integrity over time without the need to wash them such as gelatin, while others won’t lose their effectiveness even after several washes.

Solutions like starch, wallpaper paste, glue, or heavy strength commercial fabric stiffeners are quite stubborn and by design.

If you’ve accidentally stiffened a piece of fabric that you want to return to its original state there are some things you can try, though.

Hot Water Wash

If you’ve only recently applied the stiffener, a manual or washing machine hot water wash might be enough to reverse its effect.

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This method is best suited for cotton fabrics as they’re easier to return to their previous texture and state.


If hot water alone doesn’t work, you can try adding ¼ cup of vinegar. Not only will vinegar remove the adhesive, but it will also act as a softener.

Commercial Fabric Softeners

If all else fails, there’s always commercial fabric softeners. Go for a liquid one.


Making fabric stiffeners with eco-friendly, easy to procure ingredients, and applying them to projects is a fun activity to do with children.

They love mixing and they don’t mind getting their hands all over sticky stuff. If you’ve got a little helper around the house, fabric stiffening could be the perfect parent-child afternoon activity.

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