The Ultimate Fabric Stiffener Guide

There are times when we need the fabric we are working with to be a little bit stiffer and less likely to fray on us. It helps to use the right coating on the edges of the material to keep them intact. Or, perhaps you like to work with lace and crochet and need something a little stiffer for practical applications. Stiffer fabrics also let us drape material into interesting shapes and create leaves and petals for floral decorations.

Whatever your project, you need the best fabric stiffener to be sure that you get the right finish with no ill-effect and minimal hassle. In this guide, I will show you some of the DIY approaches on how to stiffen fabric, as well as some of the best fabric stiffening sprays online. You can then choose the best option for your needs and create some great fabric pieces.

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Can you Make your Own Fabric Stiffener at Home?

Yes, it is possible to create some DIY fabric stiffener solutions at home instead of buying them at the store. I can see the pros and cons to this. On the plus side, you are going to get some sort of result without paying too much money. Some of the commercial fabric stiffener products below may be too pricey for a one-time project. On the negative side, it can be more of a hassle to make the solution and get the fabric coated in it. There could also be issues of mess and smell. You need to determine the advantages and disadvantages for yourself before committing to a solution.

What Can you Use to Make DIY Fabric Stiffener?

There are a few different options for making a DIY fabric stiffening spray. Some are more enjoyable to work with than others. Personally, I wouldn’t try these unless desperate because of the mess. But, I know that some people get great results. They are:

  • Sugar and water
  • Glue and water
  • Cornstarch and water

All you need to do is mix equal parts of each ingredient into a liquid, dip the fabric in it, and wait for it to dry. Sugar and water do require you to boil the two together, so isn’t suitable when working with kids. Also, any glue should be a basic PVA that isn’t going to do any damage if it gets in the wrong place.

Can you Use Hairspray as a Fabric Stiffener?

Some people will use hairspray instead. But, this might not be the best idea. The benefit of hairspray is that you may already have some at home that you can use. All you need to do is spray it over the fabric and wait for it to dry. But, there is the downside of using an aerosol and the environmental implications that brings. You may have to ventilate the craft room too if you use a lot of it. Another potential problem is that hairspray with alcohol in it can cause staining.

Buying the Best Permanent Fabric Stiffener Online

A better option for a lot of crafters is to get a bottle of a fabric stiffener online and use that instead. There may be a bigger cost involved, but it could be worthwhile for the time and effort saved. You may also find that the bottle keeps pretty well and you can use some of the solution on a project in the future. The other possible downside is that there may be some chemicals in the mixture that could leave a different sort of odor or that you might not be comfortable spraying around your home.

What Should you Look Out for When Choosing the Best Fabric Stiffener for your Needs?

1) Does it offer the stiff results you are looking for?

It should go without saying that any top fabric stiffener should have the power to create a rigid piece of material. But, some are more effective than others. There are cheap imitations around that don’t provide much of a difference. So, make sure to check user reviews.

2) Are you guaranteed a clear, quick-drying formula?

It isn’t just the rigidity of the material that you need to worry about here. The formula should be clear and leave no obvious sign of its use when dry. The last thing you want is discoloration to your fabric, especially when dealing with white lace. It also helps if it dries nice and quickly, or else you are left with your material draped awkwardly somewhere for hours on end.

3) Is the product easy to use?

The best fabric stiffener products are typically sprays that offer a lot of coverage in a simple application. This is what makes them so much more practical and user-friendly than the pastes and dips of DIY options. So, you need a bottle with a simple action where you aren’t forcing the liquid out and getting a cramp.

4) How much do you get in the bottle?

Also, you might want to consider how much you get in a bottle. Some smaller options may not last as long as you expect if you get a little trigger-happy with the spray, or if you have more fabric to coat than you planned for. It might be more economical to get something bigger and save it for another time.

5 of the Best Fabric Stiffener Sprays on the Market at the Moment

1) Aleene’s 15581 Stiffen-Quick Fabric Stiffening Spray

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Aleene’s is a name that you may be familiar with if you have seen any of my other guides on adhesives and fixatives. They have quite a few options in fabric stiffeners, but this is their spray version. There are 8 fluid ounces in the bottle, so enough for a few different projects, and it comes with a simple pump-action spray. It should disperse for an even coating. There is the promise of a fast and clear-drying solution – and the large number of positive reviews suggests that it lives up to these claims. You can also wash out the liquid to reshape the material.

2) SpraynBond Fabric Stiffener

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This next option is sold with a greater emphasis on creating fray-free appliques and edges on more decorative materials. This suggests a nice delicate effect where the solution isn’t going to saturate the material too much or lead to anything extreme. Again, you get that nice pump-action bottle with a safety cap so it doesn’t dry out. It also dries clear so you don’t notice it on when adding the appliques or other decorations to your work. There is a little less in the bottle at 6.76 fluid ounces, but still enough to keep you going for a while.

3) Bickmore Kahl Hat Stiffener

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This product is one that you might overlook at first because of the name. There is the notion here that this is primarily for stiffening the brims of felt hats. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t try it out on other projects as well. The stiffener liquid is colorless and doesn’t affect the material other than providing rigidity in the right shape. So, there is no reason why it shouldn’t work with other felt projects or for other fabrics. It is an inexpensive option as the bottle is 8 fluid ounces with the same user-friendly pump action with safety cap, so it can’t hurt to try. A nice bonus about this product is that it’s made in the USA.

4) Sullivans Fabric Stabilizer

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As I mentioned before, there are some downsides to using aerosol cans when fixing materials. The hairspray option comes with some health warnings, and the same is true for any commercial aerosol fabric stiffener. This spray is one such product and the can is more like that of spray paint than the other products so far. You get 9 fluid ounces, so plenty for various uses, and it seems to work well. But, there is that issue of the pressurized contents, flammable material, and possible irritants. It all depends on how you feel about using aerosols. If you are fine with it, this could be a great option for you. Users do generally have high satisfaction with use of this fabric stiffener. It claims to keeps fabric firm for machine embroidery, lace making, and applique without fraying. It will wash out completely as well. This is another product that is also made in the USA.

5) Terial Magic Fabric Spray

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This final product is the most heavy-duty as it looks and acts more like a cleaning spray with the trigger on the nozzle. You might be able to get more power behind each spray for great effect. An interesting claim here is that it is made with natural ingredients, which is good for those worried about spraying chemicals near their kids. You also get a lot more in one bottle at 16 fluid ounces.

Should you Buy Fabric Stiffener Spray or Make your Own

My recommendation is to go for one of these commercial fabric stiffener sprays rather than make your own. You could find that some of the options in DIY fabric stiffening solutions work well, especially if this is a one-off. But, it is more practical and enjoyable for all concerned to use a non-toxic spray on multiple projects over time – rather than hairspray or a watery glue. Once you find a product that has the results you are looking for, you know you will get consistent results too.