Cornstarch is a staple found in most every kitchen. Commonly used as a thickening agent for soups and sauces, this substance derived from the endosperm of the corn kernel, also has a number of other non-culinary uses.
The highly absorbent nature of cornstarch is useful for removing oil secretions and dampness from our body. Being non-toxic and hypoallergenic, it is safe to use on babies and pets too.
Here are just some non-culinary ways you can put cornstarch to work for you…
Make non-toxic face paint for kids
Take a cup of cornstarch in a bowl and mix in 2 tablespoons vegetable fat. Add just enough water to get a moderately thin paste. Try painting the face with it; if it is too thin, add more cornstarch. Divide the paste between several bowls and add a different food color to each. Use paint brushes or fingers for painting the face and body.
The thickness of the paint can be adjusted by adding more water or cornstarch as and when necessary. This face paint washes off easily and is totally non-toxic and safe. Loads of fun for a rainy afternoon or even a birthday party.
Make silly putty
Get the children interested in creative projects by making homemade silly putty with cornstarch and glue. Take a cup of cornstarch in a bowl and add ½ a cup of water to make a paste.
While stirring the mixture very well with a wooden spoon, add just enough Elmer’s glue to it to get the consistency of silly putty. Divide the mixture and add different food colors to each portion. Knead well to make it uniform. Store the putty in plastic pouches.
Stiff clothing and hard seams rubbing against the body can chafe the skin. You can dust the area with cornstarch to reduce friction. Fill an old talcum powder can with cornstarch to make it easier. Put some lavender blooms inside the can for a sweet fragrance
Soothe diaper rash
Treat this common problem in infants with just plain cornstarch. Being edible and inert, it is safer than talcum powder and diaper creams, and can be used repeatedly without any worries.
Every time you change a diaper, use an old-fashioned powder puff to dust the area lightly with cornstarch.
Get relief from sunburn
If your skin gets red and sore from too much sun exposure, cornstarch can give you quick relief. Mix it in cold water to make a thin paste and apply all over the inflamed area.
Allow it to dry and then wash off before applying a moisturizer. If the burning sensation doesn’t subside, you can dip washcloths in this mixture and place it over the sore skin to take it away.
When you go to sleep, sprinkle cornstarch on the bed and on the inside of your night clothes to prevent them irritating your damaged skin further.
Treat first degree burns
First degree burns or superficial burns may not require medical treatments, but they can be very painful. You can use this home remedy with cornstarch to reduce the pain and inflammation.
Add a tablespoon each of cornstarch and baking soda to 2 quarts of water. Bathe the scalded area with this solution for instant relief. If a large area is affected, dip a towel in the solution and place it over the area.
Make a face wash for oily skin
Make a paste with 3 tablespoons cornstarch and enough freshly squeezed lemon juice to get a spreadable consistency. Apply on the face and leave it on until it is nearly dry. Wash off with plain water. It will remove all the dirt and extra oil from deep inside the skin pores to give your skin a dry and smooth feel.
Treat skin rashes
If you have itchy skin rashes, be it from poison ivy or some other skin irritant, applying cornstarch will bring some relief. First try sprinkling it on the area; it should relieve itching. But if it does not give enough relief, mix cornstarch with water to make a thin paste and spread it all over the affected area. You can add a few drops of lavender oil or Roman chamomile oil to the paste to make it extra soothing.
Dry wash your underarms
On a hot and sultry day, too much perspiration can make your underarms smell. You can dry wash the area between baths to reduce bad odor. Apply cornstarch liberally with a powder puff and wipe off excess with a wash cloth. This will make the underarms pleasantly dry and also reduce chances of contact dermatitis.
Use it in place of talcum powder
If you’re living in a humid place or visiting the seaside, you may feel sticky from constant perspiration. While using an antiperspirant all over the body is out of question, talcum powder can be used liberally.
This powdered form of the mineral magnesium silicate is considered relatively inert, but some people have an allergic reaction to it. It is also implicated in breathing problems in infants and some type of cancers.
Cornstarch is a safer alternative, and many baby powders are now using this in place of powdered talc. You can fill an empty talcum powder container with cornstarch and sprinkle it all over or use a powder puff. Apply it liberally and frequently wherever skin rubs against skin.
Clean stuffed toys
Frequently used stuffed toys get soiled very quickly with dirt mixed with grease. Machine washing and drying too often can reduce their life. Give them a cornstarch treatment between washes.
Put the stuffed toys in a pillow cover or fine cloth bag with a cup of cornstarch, close the opening, and shake well. Leave it overnight to allow the starch to absorb all the grime. Take the stuffed toys out and remove the residue with a vacuum cleaner.
Deodorize stinky shoes
Stinky shoes may not be a problem exclusive to teenagers and athletes. Sweaty feet inside the shoes promoting microbial growth are to blame, but shoes made with non-breathing synthetic materials make matters worse. The best way to prevent bad odor is to remove the sweat as soon as you take them off.
Washing and drying your shoes frequently may not be practical or suitable, but you can remove most of the sweat by allowing cornstarch to absorb it. Sprinkle it liberally inside shoes at night and shake into all nooks and crannies. Leave it on overnight and then shake out the powder before wearing the shoes.
You can add some cinnamon or sandalwood powder to make your shoes sweet-smelling. The volatile oils in them can reduce microbial load too.
Give your kitten a dry bath
Most kittens hate water. In addition, it can be downright dangerous to bathe young kittens in water, especially in cold weather. A dry bath with a mixture of cornstarch and oatmeal with some baking soda will not only clean the kitty’s fur, but help get rid of fleas and bad odors.
Take half cup each of cornstarch and oatmeal and a teaspoonful of baking soda. Give the kitten a nice rub with the mixture to get it deep into the fur, but avoid getting any of it on his face.
Brush him thoroughly after half an hour or use a hand-held vacuum cleaner to get all the stuff out. Repeat once a week for one or two months to get rid of fleas in different stages of growth.
Remove sticky things from a dog’s coat
Dogs get all kinds of stuff on their coat when they roll over on the ground. It is better to get sticky materials off the fur before attempting to bathe or brush.
Take a clean plastic can and poke several small holes in the lid with a hot skewer. Fill it with cornstarch. Whenever the dog comes in grimy and dirty, sprinkle it all over the coat, taking care to avoid the eyes. Brush it off and repeat, if necessary.
Eliminate cockroaches from your home
Cockroaches are a perennial problem almost everywhere in the world. Chemical control should be avoided inside the homes as repetitive use can build up toxic residues to dangerous levels. The home remedy with cornstarch is not only safe and environment friendly, but it does not create resistance in the bugs.
Make a dough with cornstarch, boric acid powder, powdered sugar and a few drops of water. Break off small bits and stick them inside kitchen cabinets, under the sink and behind doors and windows.
Cockroaches nibbling on them will be dehydrated to death. And the best thing is that they usually go to the drains to die and spare you the pain of having to remove their carcasses.
Make a fresh batch every 3 weeks initially to get rid of the resident population and then once in 3 months to send any newly hatched ones and visitors packing.
Make fabric starch
Mix 1 tbsp cornstarch in 1 cup of water and bring it to a boil. As the starch gets cooked and the mixture thickens, add 3 more cups of water to make it thinner. Strain it into a bucket and soak your cottons like tablecloths and napkins in it. Wring out lightly and hang up to dry. To get crisp napkins, you can iron the pieces before they are completely dry .
For a spray-on starch, fill a spritz bottle with the thin starch solution and spray on the inside of clothes as you iron them.
Fix squeaky floorboards
Floorboards often start squeaking as a result of their changing shape when they expand and contract with weather changes. If the sound is coming from a minor and temporary rubbing of boards, it can be easily remedied without any major repair or sanding. Spread some cornstarch in the area and sweep it into the gaps with a broom or brush. It will reduce friction and stop the squeaking.
Polish silverware to a high shine
Use cornstarch on a piece of polishing cloth and rub your silverware with it. The fine grains of cornstarch absorb oil residues and rub off tarnish without of abrading the surface. Dust off the remains to reveal the high shine. Since cornstarch is edible and gluten-free to boot, you can use the polished cutlery directly after the treatment.
Clean glass panes on windows and doors
Remove the accumulation of grease and dust on glass panes with cornstarch. Mix in one tablespoon each of cornstarch and vinegar to a half quart bottle of water and shake well. Use it to wipe the glass clean without leaving in any streaks. Mirrors also can be made spotlessly clean this way.
For glass panes that have become nearly opaque with dirt deposited over a long time, use a paste of cornstarch and vinegar on a piece of cloth or sponge. Apply it over the glass and allow it to become slightly dry. Polish with a sponge or cloth, rubbing vigorously to get all the stubborn spots clean.
Remove grease stains from upholstery and carpets
Sprinkle cornstarch liberally over areas soiled with grease. Rub it in with a stiff nylon brush and add some more, if necessary. Leave the powder on for at least half an hour to absorb the oil. Afterwards, use a vacuum cleaner to remove the residue. Repeat the process until all traces of the grease stains disappear.
Give your seedlings a head start
Plant your seeds coated in cornstarch goo to provide some extra warmth to them when you sow them in early spring. The starch will break down releasing heat that will protect the seeds from freezing ground temperatures. Your seeds can sprout earlier, and the seedlings can get established faster.
To make the cornstarch goo, mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in 4 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Cook the mixture to get a nearly transparent, thick gel and let it cool. Use a bit of this gel in each hole as you plant your seeds.
Protect your veggie crops from worms
Just when you think your vegetable plants were doing great, an army of worms can appear from nowhere and devastate them. You wouldn’t want to use any chemicals on your vegetable patch. Diatomaceous earth is fine on the ground around the plants, but not so good on the leaves where it can be disturbed and breathed in to cause respiratory tract irritation. Dust your plants liberally with cornstarch instead.
This will keep off caterpillars and other creepy crawlies from your plants. Take care not to knock off the cornstarch or flush it down with your watering hose. If it rains or the wind blows off most of the powdery deposit, repeat the treatment.
Whenever you use cornstarch in place of chemicals, you are contributing towards a healthier environment besides saving money.
Precaution: When cornstarch is used on your body and on pets, you should later wash it off or dust it off thoroughly. Being an organic substance, microbial activity is involved in its breakdown, so we don’t want a build up of their metabolic byproducts on our body. Use fresh cornstarch every time for personal use.