Starching Fabric to Walls Creates Fantastic Looks

Starching fabric to walls is one of my all time favorite projects because the results are always so fantastic.

Matt and I have tackled the project of starching fabric to walls at least three times in residences, and then we took the whole process on the road one year as well.  Why do I mention this?  Well, because many people wonder about the sturdiness of starching fabric to the walls and I’m here to say that it works.  We carried three 8 foot starched fabric walls around with us, shoving them into our van, carrying them through home shows and just generally abusing them, and the fabric never budged.

Bathroom with Fabric Starched to the Walls -

I guess this means that in your home, with regular wear and tear, starched fabric could stay on the walls forever!! However, the beauty of this process is that the opposite also holds true as well.  If you want to get the fabric off of the walls, simply pick at a corner of the fabric and pull.  It will come off without harming the wall and you can even wash and use the fabric again if you like.  This makes this technique perfect for people who move alot, like to change their decor often, or for those living in aprtments where altering the walls is frowned upon. If you are interested, here is the step by step instruction.

Materials List:

Fabric Tip:
Good quality decorator fabrics work very nicely for this technique, as do sturdy cottons.  To keep your sanity, consider using a pattern that may not need to be matched and stay away from stripes and plaids…at least for your first try!  Overall patterns work great, like paisleys, florals and geometrics! 

Instructions:Fabric Soaking in Starch -

1.  Start by measuring the height of the wall space to be covered, add 6” to this dimension, and cut out your fabric strips.

2.  Methodically dip the fabric panel into the starch and make sure that the entire piece is coated on the front and back.  It doesn’t need to be dripping, just wet all over with starch. Try to sqwueegee some of the starch out of the fabric as you pull it out of the bucket or sink to save the starch and keep it from dripping all over the floor.

Installing First Strip of Fabric with Starch -

3.Straighten out the fabric panel by holding it up with two hands at the upper corners and then go to the wall.  Place the fabric into position and press it on the wall into place.  Allow the first panel of fabric to wrap slightly around the corner.  Use your hands or the wallpaper smoother to get out all the bubbles.

Use Push Pins to Hold Fabric in Place - MattandShari.comI used push pins to hold one end of the fabric in place while I smoothed the other end.

Trim Off Excess Fabric -

4.  Once the fabric is smooth on the wall, you need to trim off the extra at the top and bottom.  I used a very sharp utility knife and a flat blade just like I would with wallpaper. The type of fabric you use will determine your cutting and trimming method.  My fabric was woven so the loose threads kept unraveling which was a big problem.  I found that if I waited until the starch was dry it was easier to cut a straight, unfrayed edge.   If you use a regular printed cotton fabric, it won’t do this.

Tips for Trimming Around Plumbing -

Tip: If you need to cut around pipes or outlets, simply press your fabric in place the best you can, push pin it in areas slightly away from the area you are cutting out, and start with a small slit made with scissors.  Once you verify that the small slit is in the right location, cut a larger slit until you can push the pipe through or find the edges of the outlet to cut around.  Just take it slowly and you’ll be fine.

Last, let me mention that I did get a little bit of bubbling once the fabric had dried and stiffened.  To remedy this I grabbed a paint brush and some starch and painted the starch over the bubbly area to saturate it again and I pressed it in place.  This worked well and everything is still lying as flat as can be.

Hot Glue Braided Trim as a Finishing Touch -

If by some chance you have jagged edges that need to be covered up, purchase a braided trim and hot glue it along the edge for a nice finishing touch. I used this to hide the staples on the fabric I upholstered to the wall but it would work on the starch as well.

In another article I’ll explain the upholstering method.  It isn’t as difficult as it sounds and the results are amazing.



  1. Freyja Lauritsen says

    Hi Shari-
    I’m in love with a silk gingham by Schumacher and I want to put it on the CEILING in my dining room. Yes, it’s silk, but I get a trade price, and I need 28 yards, which is expensive, but so are the gorgeous wallpapers these days. Since it’s silk, I take it I CAN’T do the starch hanging you say to do in this article? I know there’s a to-the-trade company that can convert any fabric, even silk, into wallhangings/wallpaper, but I was wondering if that’s necessary since no one will be touching it. This is my “forever house” and the walls are shiny green, bright white woodwork, and this green apple and white silk on the ceiling would be dressy and fabulous. Please advise if you have any suggestions on how to hang silk. Thank you!

    • Shari Hiller says

      I wouldn’t try our starching method on silk, nor would I try it on a ceiling…only because I haven’t tried that before and I couldn’t be sure it would stay on the ceiling. Have you found someone to actually do the work? I would contact a reputable wall covering hanger in your area and talk to them about what you want to do and get their recommendation. You might want to simply upholster the ceiling instead of attaching the fabric tight to it. It can be upholstered by adding furring strips to the ceiling along with batting in between and then stapling the silk from underneath and folding it over to hide the staples. Hard to explain, but a wall covering hanger may be able to do this as well. Or, try a local fabric and drapery workroom. Your colors and design sound wonderful. Let me know how it comes out!

  2. thi says

    Hi Shari,

    Have you done this over wallpaper? I have ugly wallpaper on my panels in my house now and having it removed and installed with new wallpaper is not affordable for me at this time. I came across this and really interested in knowing if it’s doable over wallpaper.

    Any tips or recommendations will greatly be appreciated.

    Thank you

    • Shari Hiller says

      Hmm, that is a good question. We haven’t ever done this technique over a wallpaper and my initial thought is that it would wet the paper and get the process started of removing the paper…than of course they would both come down. However, some wallpapers are destined to NEVER come down! Especially the ones you want off the wall! If the paper is super stuck to the walls and there is a place to try it with a small swatch of fabric, like behind a china cabinet or something that won’t be moved, it might be worth a try?

    • Shari Hiller says

      Hi Colleen, we have tried this over paneling and there are several “ifs”. If the groove in the paneling is minimal and the fabric is thicker, the project works well. If the grooves are deep and the fabric is light, it has a tendency to shrink into the grooves a bit. You might want to try a strip low on the wall in a concealed spot to test it before doing the entire wall.

  3. Raine Tillman says

    I have a very small half bath with bead board on the walls. I want to hang blue toile fabric above the bead board. The fabric says “dry clean recommended”…. Can I put a “dry clean” fabric in the wet starch? Thanks in advance for any advice.

    • Shari Hiller says

      Raine, I have to admit, I’m not sure, although the fabrics we have used in the past have been decorator fabrics that are usually used for draperies and upholstery, and I imagine they are dry clean only as well. The checked fabric on the walls in the bathroom photographed is the exact fabric used for draperies in another area of the house and I wouldn’t wash the draperies, I’d dry clean them, so we had no problem with it. I would probably (if I had any extra fabric) cut a swatch, dip it in starch and try it on a wall, perhaps even the inside of a closet or something. Once you see if it works, just pull the swatch off of the wall and wipe the wall clean with warm water.

  4. Raine Tillman says

    Thank you so much Shari. I think I’m gonna buy one piece (smallest they sell) of drywall and practice on that. I actually found the fabric at 50% off , and being a toile freak….( Is there therapy for that?? ) ….I bought a ton of it and, consequently, have plenty of scraps left over from pillows, drapes, and chairs I’ve covered! Wish me luck!

    • Shari Hiller says

      Plain, unpainted drywall may absorb a lot more starch than a painted wall, so your final results might not be equal to the results you would get in your home. However, you should be able to test how your fabric reacts to the starch, if nothing else. And, there is no cure for the love of toile…we don’t really need one do we???? I’m right there with you – I’d wear it if it didn’t seem a bit too much! Hahahaha!

      • Raine Tillman says

        Oh good! A fellow toile addict! Actually it’s a brand new powder room, so right now there is only dry wall and that “mud” stuff you put in the cracks. Do you think I should paint the walls first? Also, speaking of paint, I put up bead board and so far have 2 coats of glossy white paint on it, but you’d never know! It’s kinda dull and lifeless looking. Even a bit rough in spots. Should I have painted a primer first as a base?

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