Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lab Test Results: DIY Best Press Starch Alternative

When I signed up to join the block swap I just completed, there were lots of rules. Some of the guidelines pertained to the type and style of fabrics used, pre-washing the fabrics, use of unscented products, deadlines, etc.
I think the hardest thing for me was using unscented products. A lot of quilters have allergies to the scents added to detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets and starches. Of course, you don't want someone to have an allergic reaction to the blocks you submit to the swap, so you have to be sure to follow through on this guideline! 

I've used the same liquid laundry detergent since the 1970's. My oldest son had terrible allergies back then and it was the only product that didn't cause him to break out in a rash. So I stuck with a good thing and haven't had any reason to change. I don't think my detergent has a very noticeable scent, but I'm sure there has to be some sort of scent added to it--maybe after over forty years, I'm desensitized?  To be safe,  I ran my fabrics through just a rinse cycle and then dried them without adding a dryer sheet.

But then came the construction of the blocks. I hadn't realized how much I depended on my Mary Ellen's Best Press Clear Starch Alternative!
 I love the scents. 
I love how crisp my fabric feels.
 I love the steam facial I get while pressing. 
Mary Ellen Products Best Press Refills 1 Gallon, Lavender
I know it's available in an unscented version, but I had at least half a gallon of Lavender Fields to use up and didn't want to invest in any more Best Press. 

(FYI: When your significant other is carping about the price of milk and gasoline being over $3 a gallon, DO NOT mention that you paid $42 for a gallon of Best Press!)

Someone in the swap group mentioned that it was possible to make your own "best press", so I did a little research and found several recipes online. Just about all the recipes I found used distilled water and vodka. Apparently, the vodka, being made from potatoes (or wheat, I have learned) has a starch effect that contains no scent. I decided to give it a try. The recipe says to use the cheapest possible vodka, because the idea is too save money!

Basically all of the recipes boiled down to :
24 ounces of distilled water
3 ounces of vodka
Mix together and store tightly capped.

1) I didn't really feel like the vodka/water mixture did a thing to crisp up my fabric. I thought about upping the ratio of vodka to water, but was afraid of scorching or spotting. (There are recipes that suggest adding a teaspoon or so of corn starch, but that seemed like it would also cause spotting, so I didn't try it.)
2) If you aren't happy with this mixture, you are left with a lot of cheap vodka that you will have to figure out how to use up in something else.
3) The sewing room smells like a cocktail bar. Caution: spouse will not believe you are just ironing.

1) Cheap
2) The mixture absorbs into the fabric very fast, and when pressed, evaporates quickly.
3) The sewing room smells like a cocktail bar. Caution: could cause craving of wine at 9 am.

I will continue to use up my pint of cheap vodka making starch alternative, but will be going back to my Lavender Fields ASAP.


  1. Oh my goodness, this is hilarious!!! I love, love, love my Caribbean scented Best Press and even the temptation of a cocktail bar scent can't get me to change!

  2. I've never used a pressing agent on my fabrics so I can't respond to that part of the post, but I can suggest a way to use the vodka. (I haven't tried the recipe yet because I can't bring myself to spend money on vodka when I could spend it on fabric.) Anyway, the recipe is for Lavender Linen Spray and I found it in Country Living magazine, p. 56 of the July/August, 2013 issue. Most fragrances are too strong, esp. in laundry soap, dryer sheets, etc., but lavender in moderation is one I love. I'm sorry your new pressing spray didn't work.

    I also wanted to say I love the illustration of the lady and the clothesline.

  3. Karen thanks for stopping by my blog ! I got a good laugh on this post! Thanks for the field testing! Karen on Keuka

  4. I just use regular spray starch and have never thought of it having a scent. The vodka recipe is a DIY delight. Who thinks up these things!

  5. This is hilarious! Thank you for a good laugh. Your husband sounds like a normal one harping on about prices, and fancy him thinking you've taken to the vodka. And at 9am! The sewing must have been really difficult that day, hahaha.

  6. From what I have been reading you need to make sure it is a vodka made out of potatoes ( they are a starch)

  7. add a little scented fabric softener

  8. add a little scented fabric softener

  9. Like your post. Will you tell me where you found the illustration of the laundress?

  10. I used Mary Ellen's Best Press for a short time and realized I am
    severely allergic to something in it. Twice anaphylaxis. Resulting in ambulance ride. Unfortunately, I cannot find out what chemicals are in it. In order to avoid what I am allergic to. Anyone out there, who can help I would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Anyone out there know how to contact Mary Ellen herself, maybe she will just give me the names of the items she used in her recipe. It is a matter of life and death. When I get in contact with whatever I am allergic to it is a matter of seconds and I am out cold. Don't even have time to dial 911 or take Epi-pen. Please I need help finding out.

  11. Can the vodka recipe(potatoes based) attract bugs which is the worry with starch & reason to use Best Press instead?

  12. Vodka is just water and ethanol distilled from wheat (or potato traditionally) and nothing else my son-in-law informs me . He should know as he sells the alcohol to the big manufacturers in the drinks industry

  13. I was told to use Potato Vodka and water. I did, it works very well but I spent 6 months reading labels at the liquor store trying find vodka made from potatoes!

  14. Vodka, like all hard liquors, is distilled. The distillation process separates all substances in the original liquid. Any starch in the starting liquid is left behind, only the alcohol molecule is siphoned off. There is no starch in vodka. The government would classify starch as a contaminant, production of hard liquor is tightly regulated.