Surprising Uses for Cornstarch

photo of cornstarch

Good For Cooking — And Much More

Chances are you reach for your box of cornstarch when you want to thicken sauces and puddings or coat meat for a stir-fry. But this starch, milled from corn, has dozens of uses beyond the kitchen. It’s a staple in industries that make paper, adhesives, and coatings. Scientists are even turning it into products for pest control. But you don’t have to ace Chem 101 to put cornstarch to work for you.

photo of cornstarch paste on face

Take the Sizzle out of Sunburn

Dab sunburned spots with a light paste made of cornstarch and water. Then, after a cool soak in a lukewarm tub, sprinkle cornstarch between your sheets before you get into bed. Its silky texture cuts down on friction between your scorched skin and the fabric.

photo of father and daughter baking

Whip Up a Vegan Swap for Eggs

Back in the kitchen, a mix of cornstarch and water can replace an egg in many baked items. The ratio varies between recipes, but on average, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to 3 tablespoons of water matches the liquid content of an egg. Always dissolve the cornstarch in the water before you add it to other ingredients to avoid any lumps.

photo of putting cornstarch paste on bug bite

De-Sting Bug Bites

Go old-school and make a poultice — a thick paste that can ease the pain. Mix about 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cold water, and gently smear it over the spot. Let it dry. You can even leave it on overnight to work its magic.

photo of dog getting groomed

De-Tangle Rover’s Coat

It’s a shaggy dog story, but not the good kind. Many dogs get matted fur, especially if their coats are long or curly. Those tangles look bad and can also pull on the skin, causing pain. To help get them out before you have to cut them out, rub a generous amount of cornstarch into your furry friend’s coat, and then brush gently from the bottom to the top of the mat with a slicker brush. 

photo of woman dry shampooing hair

Make Dry Shampoo Simple

Cornstarch is great at soaking up oil, which makes it a handy fix between shampoos. The secret is to mix two parts cornstarch with one part of another kitchen shelf staple, baking soda. Dab on the mixture close to your roots and brush through thoroughly.

photo of blister on foot

Keep Blisters at Bay

It’s a simple formula: Sweat plus friction equals blisters. Keep feet smooth and dry with a sprinkle of cornstarch before you slip on your shoes, especially if you go sockless. If you get a small blister despite your efforts, cushion it with a bandage until it reabsorbs. If it’s large, place a doughnut pad — a cushion with a center hole — around the blister. Make your own with felt or foam, and keep it in place with a big bandage. 

photo of wiping windows

Clean Up Around the House

Cornstarch is a multipurpose natural cleanser around the house. To shine up silver, rub on a thick water-and-cornstarch paste, let it dry, and then buff with a soft cloth. Spray a thin solution on glass, rinse with plain water, and dry for a nice sparkle. Sprinkle it dry on wood, and use elbow grease to remove real grease and furniture polish buildup. 

photo of fresh armpit

Make a DIY Deodorant

Want to skip the chemicals in store-bought products? Mix equal amounts of cornstarch and baking soda in the palm of your hand, and use an oversized makeup brush or cotton balls to apply. This is a great swap for people having radiation treatment for cancer, as regular deodorant can irritate treated skin. 

photo of making oobleck

Have Some Silly Fun with the Kids

Just for fun, make your own Oobleck — a version of the children’s toy called Slime named after a Dr. Seuss book. Mix 1 cup of water tinted with a few drops of food coloring with 2 cups of cornstarch. Press it into a slippery ball with your hands, then watch it go back to a liquid when you let go. Squiggle it through a strainer. Wash up with plain warm water, but to avoid a clog, throw your Oobleck away in the trash, never down the drain.

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