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Cornstarch can be found in nearly every local grocery store. Powdered starch is a staple in well-stocked pantries. When powdered starch is heated, Dextrin is formed. Dextrin is a starch/sugar gum that when added to water forms a sticky gum used as a food thickener. Per dry measure, powdered starch is a more effective thickener than flour. Besides a thickener for stocks and gravies, powdered starch has many additional uses. Here is a partial list.

Household Uses for Starch

Prevent pastry dough from sticking to the cutting board and rolling pin -
Sprinkle the cutting board and rolling pin with tasteless powdered Corn Starch before rolling out the dough.
Thicken gravy -
Corn starch has twice the thickening power of flour. When a gravy, sauce, soup, or stew recipe calls for flour, use half as much corn starch to thicken. One tablespoon of corn starch equals two tablespoons flour.

LAUNDRY (image courtesy of http://www.retroclipart.com/samples.html)
Make spray starch for clothing -
Mix one tablespoon powdered Corn Starch and three tablespoons cold water. Stir to dissolve the corn starch completely. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil on the stove. After the water boils, pour the cornstarch mixture into the boiling water and stir for a minute or so. The liquid will be clear or slightly cloudy. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Fill a spray bottle and use as you would any starch. Be sure to shake vigorously before each use. Throw away after 3 to 4 days.
Remove grease or oil stains from smooth fabric -
Apply powdered Corn Starch to the spot, wait twelve hours, brush off, then launder as usual.
Clean stuffed animals -
Rub powdered Corn Starch into the toy, let stand for five minutes, then brush off.

Clean a carpet -
Sprinkle powdered Corn Starch on the carpet, wait thirty minutes, then vacuum clean.
Clean Windows -
Use a handful of cornstarch in a bucket of lukewarm water. Add about 1/4 - 1/2 cup vinegar, depending on the size of the bucket. Mix. Use a wash cloth to wash window, then I use a hand towel to dry the window and a final towel to get it all dry.
Clean blood stains -
Immediately cover the spot with a paste of powdered Corn Starch and cold water. Rub gently, place the object in the sun until dry to draw the blood into the corn starch, then brush off. Repeat if necessary.
Prevent or kill mildew in damp books -
Sprinkle powdered Corn Starch throughout the book to absorb the moisture from damp pages, wait several hours, then brush clean. If the pages are mildewed, brush the corn starch off outdoors to keep mildew
spores out of the house.
Absorb excess polish from furniture -
After polishing furniture, sprinkle on a little powdered Corn Starch and rub wood with a soft cloth.
Clean silver -
Make a paste with powdered Corn Starch and water. Apply with a damp cloth, let dry, then rub off with cheesecloth.

Make finger paints -
Mix one-quarter cup powdered Corn Starch with two cups cold water, boil until thick, pour into small containers, and color with natural food coloring.
Make white clown makeup -
Mix two tablespoons powdered Corn Starch with one tablespoon solid shortening. Too add color, add McCormick or Schilling Food Coloring.
Child Safe Paste - a good child safe paste can be mixed in moments by blending together 3 teaspoons of cornstarch with 4 spoons of cold water. If your little one licks their fingers while gluing together their art project there is no case for alarm, its perfectly edible.

Cure athlete's foot -
Sprinkle powdered Corn Starch on your feet and in your shoes to absorb moisture and reduce friction.
Relieve sunburn pain -
Add enough water to powdered Corn Starch to make a paste, and apply directly to the burn.
Substitute for baby powder and talcum powder -
Apply powdered Corn Starch sparingly when diapering a baby. Corn starch is actually more absorbent than talcum powder, but apply lightly since it does cake more readily.
Help rubber gloves slip on easily -
Sprinkle powdered Corn Starch inside the gloves.
Soothe skin irritations -
Apply a paste made of equal parts powdered Corn Starch, zinc oxide, and castor oil.
Ant-Itch paste -
Mix a paste of cornstarch and water and apply to poison ivy or insect bites to relive itching. Allow to dry on skin and rinse with cool water after itching stops. Re-apply as often as needed.
Dry Shampoo -
unable to shampoo your hair for any reason? Simply rub dry cornstarch into your hair and scalp let set a few minutes the brush out. The cornstarch will absorb dirt and oils, even that stale cigarette odor if you find yourself surrounded by smokers! (This also makes a great dry shampoo for pets, simply rub into their fur and brush!)

Kill cockroaches -
Mix equal parts powdered Corn Starch and plaster of Paris. Sprinkle the mixture in cracks and crevices. Cockroaches will eat the mixture and "petrify."

AUTO & MISCELLANEOUS Shine your car -
When buffing your car, sprinkle a tablespoon of powdered Corn Starch on the wipe rag to remove excess polish easily.
Detangle knots -
Sprinkle a stubborn knot with a little powdered Corn Starch.
Clean a deck of playing cards -
Place the deck of cards into a paper bag, adding four tablespoons powdered Corn Starch, and shake briskly. Remove the cards from the bag and wipe clean.

But what if you don't have access to cornstarch? If you have access to potatoes, you can make your own starch. First, it is useful to know how to store potatoes to preserve their starch content.

Potato Storage
Freezing potatoes or storing them in the refrigerator will cause some of the potato starch to be converted to sugar and reduce the starch content. If potatoes that were previously frozen are used to make starch, you will find that the high sugar content will likely caramelize when heated. If used in a laundry application on white cloth, you may find that some staining results as the caramelized sugar will stain the garment. You will find that refrigerated potatoes darken when cooked due to the increased sugar content.

One way to determine the starch content of a potato is to rub two cut surfaces of a potato together. If a foam develops, it indicates a high starch content, and usually the two cut surfaces cling together. If the potato has a low starch content, the cut surface will be clean and moist and the two cut surfaces do not bond at all.

You will need:
* 1 washed potato, peeled and diced or grated
* 1 cup water
* blender OR mortar and pestle
* Coffee filter OR clean cloth OR fine sieve

Place water and potato into the blender and turn it on high for 1 to 2 minutes.

If using a mortar and pestle, add both water and potato pieces to the mortar and process until well incorporated.

Place the resulting mush into the coffee filter (or cheese cloth or clean cotton cloth) and reserve the cloudy liquid. You can filter the water through another clean cloth if you like. Allow this to set for a while. Once some sediment has settled at the bottom, carefully pour the liquid off into a storage container, allowing the sediment to remain in the bottom of the original container. This can be done more than once, if you prefer. The filtered, cloudy water is liquid starch.

Drying the mixture is not completely necessary, but if you plan on storing it for a while, spread it out on wax paper in a sunny area for it to dry. Or you can place it on parchment paper on a tray in a very low heat oven -- in most cases leaving the light on with the door ajar will be adequate -- overnight and until the film has dried to a powder.

Whether or not you are willing to tackle the project of making your own bioplastic, some businesses have decided that it is a marketable idea.

MLB gives green light to recycling efforts (3/12/2008)
[Major League Ballpark beverages] may be served in a container with the look and feel of a plastic cup but instead made of biodegradable corn starch.

Using corn starch cups, increasing recycling and installing solar panels and possibly wind turbines at ballparks are among the measures teams will consider as part of a major league-wide effort to reduce baseball's carbon footprint.

The photo to the right appears on the Cleveland Indians web site with the following caption: Compostable corn starch based vended beer and Pepsi cups. (http://cleveland.indians.mlb.com/cle/ballpark/green.jsp)

Amazingly, you can type the words "cornstarch cups" into your internet search engine and find a list of retailers that sell compostable cups, bowls, plates, lids, knives, forks and spoons. Some sites call them 'corn cups.' However, like all mass produced food items, you'll have to watch the ingredient list. Likely there are several chemical additives to ensure uniformity of the product. Shop carefully if you decide to purchase.

Making a plastic from potato starch – extracting starch
Technology of cellulose esters By Edward Chauncey Worden
The Versatile Potato


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