You probably have a box of cornstarch sitting on a pantry shelf, waiting to thicken your next cream sauce or gravy. But did you know it can also serve as a cheap, nontoxic staple product that cuts grease, removes stains, scrubs, deodorizes, untangles, transforms into non-toxic finger paint, and more? Here’s a list of some practical ways to use cornstarch to save money and time!
In the kitchen, cornstarch is used as a thickener for sauces, soups and gravies. See more about different cooking thickeners.
However, like a lot of pantry basics, you can turn to this staple for many other surprising uses! Here’s my list but I’m sure there are more ways to use cornstarch and welcome your suggestions.
15 Household Uses for Cornstarch
- Scrub tubs: This works especially well for acrylic tubs and bathroom sinks. Mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with a cup of white vinegar in a glass measuring container. Mix well, then microwave for a couple of minutes. Funnel it into a spray bottle to which you’ve added a couple tablespoons of liquid detergent.
- Clean glass: Cornstarch is a wonderful window cleaner! Add a tablespoon each of white vinegar and cornstarch to two cups of water. Funnel into a spray bottle and use on window or door glass. Your windows and glass will be streak-free!
- Remove stains: Dry or mixed into a thick paste with water, cornstarch can remove many kinds of stains on rugs, furniture, clothing, and other fabric items. Leave the paste on until it dries before brushing or vacuuming. A cornstarch paste even works to remove blood and crease stains. Repeat if a single application doesn’t completely remove the stain.
- Polish silver: Mix it with a little bit of water to bring out the natural shine in silver objects.
- Freshen grubby fleece hats, mittens, stuffed animals: Pour a cup of cornstarch into a large paper bag, add dirty items, and shake well. Leave a few hours if the items are stained.Then remove, brush or shake off excess cornstarch.
- Loosen knots in shoelaces, hair, and dog fur: A knot in your shoelaces? Knots in hair or your doggie’s fur? Sprinkle knots liberally with cornstarch, then pull and wiggle on the knot until the laces slide out. Sprinkle liberally on matted hair or dog fur and work it in down to the skin to help the matted fur untangle for easier brushing and clipping.
- Deodorize smelly stuff: Dust the insides of smelly shoes or boots, liberally sprinkle over a dog’s coat (avoiding the face) and leave for a few minutes before shaking or brushing out.
- Soothe a bit or sting: A few drops of water in a spoon of cornstarch makes a paste to spread on a fresh insect bite or sting.
- Ease sunburn pain: While it’s better to prevent sunburns, soothe the pain of one by applying a paste of cornstarch and water to the burned areas. Give it time to dry.
- Prevent athlete’s foot: Renowned for its absorbent qualities, cornstarch sprinkled between your toes and into your socks before putting them on will help keep feet dry and less susceptible to the fungi that cause athlete’s foot.
- Dry-shampoo your hair: Hair looking unkempt and greasy/stringy, but no time or motivation for a wash? Keep a small jar of cornstarch in your bathroom along with a large makeup brush or a small, flexible paintbrush. “Paint” or sprinkle the starch through your hair, working it in until it’s well distributed. Shake your head a bit, then brush the cornstarch out along with the grease and grime. Voila! Smooth, shiny, and fluffed out, you’re ready to go.
- Make a quick deodorant: You can find lots of recipes online for making homemade underarm deodorants, but why bother? Just use a large makeup brush like the one I use for my dry-shampoo to dust my armpits with dry cornstarch. Stand on a towel so the starch that falls won’t get all over the floor. Pat treated underarms with a soft cloth to remove excess.
- Prevent/treat chafing: Many people experience chafing undersides of their arms, inner thighs, and nipple area, especially during vigorous exercise. Rubbing cornstarch over the areas that usually chafe will both lubricate them against chafing, and soothe the irritation that may occur.
- Make a seed tape for planting small herb and vegetable seeds: Small vegetable seeds can be hard to sow evenly across your seedbed, and may result in uneven spacing that wastes seed and increases the need for weeding. Buying pelleted seeds or seed tapes from a seed company can solve this problem, but with a little cornstarch you can make your own. This process involves cutting strips of biodegradable paper, making a thick cornstarch gel, squeezing dabs of gel onto the paper at appropriate intervals, then pressing a seed or two into each dab before folding and pressing the edges of the paper together. Seems onerous, but it doesn’t take much time. It’ll save a lot of seed waste and weeding time.
- Make finger paints: During months of quarantine many families made nontoxic homemade finger paints using cornstarch, water, and food coloring. Here’s a recipe: Add half a cup of cornstarch to two cups of water, whisk well, and boil until thick and gelatinous. Then separate into individual small containers such as repurposed yogurt cups, and add food coloring to reach a desired shade. Some folks add packets of Kool Aid as the coloring agent.
By the way, potato or arrowroot starch works similarly to cornstarch!
Did you learn anything new? My other favorite all-purpose pantry staple is baking soda. See the many amazing uses for baking soda!