Starched Fabric Wall

Fabric Wall Treatment Using Starch     

I have been SO excited to try this wall treatment.  Fabric can be hung on a wall using starch.  It’s great for people like me who are afraid to commit to wallpaper.  This (faux) wallpaper is easy to remove – you just peel it off when you get tired of it.

I ordered my fabric (Premier Prints Suzani Blend Oatmeal/Cloud) and painted my half bath in preparation for the new wall.  

Starched Fabric Wall BEFORE

I used a small sponge roller, small paint tray, Liquid starch and a knife.  I found that this rotary cutter wasn’t the best choice, and I ended up using my X-Acto knife.

Supplies for Starched Fabric Wall

I tacked up my fabric with small nails and decided to measure this way rather than using a ruler and risking a mistake… 

Starched Fabric Wall Dry Fit   

Starched Fabric Wall Trim

 I left several inches on the bottom – which I thought would be more than enough.  Learn from my mistake and add an extra six inches to the length.  Trust me.  

Applying starach to fabric for wall

I laid out my gigantic piece of fabric on my tile and rolled starch on the back.  This process makes a mess, and the liquid starch got my floors really sticky.  (But, it is really easy to wash away –  I used Mr. Clean and the starch cleaned up quickly.)

Applying starch to fabric for wall prep

This is where the craziness began.  That fabric was huge and heavy – and now being soaked in liquid starch it was CRAZY heavy.  My husband wasn’t home, and I’m not sure why I tried to attempt this project alone.  DO NOT TRY TO HANG THE FABRIC YOURSELF.  

It’s. A. Disaster.  

I was sweating, frustrated and just a hot mess.  I yelled for my kids to help, but they were useless.  Somehow a half hour into it (maybe 45 minutes?), I managed to successfully tack the fabric back on the wall.  This was so difficult because you have to line up the fabric to the ceiling and along the side of the wall.  However, I did this.  Successfully!  Or so I thought…

Starched Fabric Wall - just short!

Starched Fabric Wall - Fabric shrunk

I realized the wet starch had shrunk my fabric.  A LOT.  Bummer.  My fabric was several inches short and wide.  So close, yet SO far away.  I wanted to cry.   

Rolling Starch on Wall

I was not in the right frame of mind (after the craziness of hanging a heavy piece of wet fabric alone).  I really was afraid that heavy piece of fabric was going to come falling down on me, so I rolled more liquid starch over top.  In hindsight, this was probably overkill and you can skip this step.

Starched Fabric Wall piecing

I then went to work piecing the fabric so it covered the entire wall.  This wasn’t too hard.  The smaller pieces were so much easier to work with.  The difficult part was finding the right piece of fabric to match the pattern.

Starched Fabric Wall - Cleaning up edges

I went through and cleaned it up by cutting off the extra along the edges.  Yes, I cut myself (note the bandaid) in the process.  This really wasn’t my night, but I was determined to have my fabric wall treatment.  I did find that it was easier to cut the drier, starched fabric than then wet fabric.  So if you can wait until the fabric dries, it will be easier to clean up the edges.

I had done a lot of research on this before I actually did this fabric wall.  I read several times that the seams sort of “disappear.”  I’m hear to tell you mine don’t disappear very well.

Starched Fabric Wall Seam

Overall, I think this is a great project for a small area and a great idea for a renter.  (And don’t forget you need a partner for this project!)  Maybe with more practice I could do a larger room and my seams will disappear.  However, it may take a lot of convincing before I try this again…

Starched Fabric Wall

*UPDATE*  I removed the bottom portion of the fabric because I added paneled walls to the bathroom walls.  I was able to remove the fabric easily and without any damage to the walls!  To see more, click HERE

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Comments

  1. I’ve been using this method (with a few variations) for many years. If you wash the fabric, it shrinks BEFORE you try to put it on the wall. I rolled the painted wall with the liquid starch, spread the damp (washed) fabric on the wall and smoothed it out (NOT heavy), cut it a little larger than needed to begin with. After everything is in place, I rolled another layer of liquid starch on the fabric which dried to a glazed finish. After it was all dry; I used the X-acto knife to trim everything to the exact area needed. I did it by myself with no problems. I used bulletin board push pins to hold the top of the fabric in place – easy to push into place. I have used this in several rooms, but not in a bathroom where there would be more humidity. I still have it on one wall in our master bedroom after 15+ years. It is still fresh and clean with the starch glaze rolled on top!! LOOKS GREAT!!!

    • Anne – Where were you when I needed you?! Thanks so much for the suggestions (I’m kicking myself for not washing my fabric first), and I love hearing that your fabric is still up 15 years later! That’s amazing! I also love the push pin suggestion. I need a little more time, but I may attempt this project again – with your suggestions in mind! Thanks for the comment!

    • I did this in a bathroom and it worked fine. I also would put mine halfway up and use a painted piece of trim across the border. It looks great! If you use a hard rubber roller to roll over the material as you are putting it up it really smooths it out well.

    • Thanks ladies, i never thought of fabric on walls. And believe me i have an ugly wall that has damage, so i can cover that lol. BTW does fabric type matter?

    • I did it the same way….washed the cotton fabric…applied the starch to the walls and applied the starch to it once it was on the wall and used …….just me and I wallpapered the whole bathroom with the fabric….15 Years it looked beautiful….until we moved….removing it was a breeze…

  2. Shari of Room by Room fame on HGTV used to do this a lot. Quite a few years ago. I always wondered how one would clean it? any ideas?

    • I miss the days of those great HGTV shows!
      I read somewhere that someone talked about vacuuming their fabric wall. I guess that makes sense? I also assume you can spot treat if needed. Thanks for your comment, Brooke!

    • When my children were small I had done this in a hallway, and little kid fingerprints and even crayon just washed off with a damp cloth. Used it in military housing where we weren’t allowed to do anything!

      • Hi Annette! I’ve heard so many people say that it was used in military housing, and I think this is brilliant! I love that crayon washes off – how awesome! Thanks so much for the comment.

    • Jamie – Definitely learn from my mistakes, and hopefully it goes smoothly for you! I had one reader say her starched fabric has been on the wall for 15 years! I’d love to see your finished project!

  3. This looks awesome! Do you know anything about the condition of the wall after you remove the fabric? Will it be able to get clean? I’m moving for the first time this year, and dread not having the option of choosing my own color for the walls etc. for the next few years until I can buy my own appartment…

    • Hi Maria! I think the walls should be just fine. Everything I’ve read about this wall treatment talks about it being great for renters – meaning there should be no wall damage. While I was working on my wall, I had liquid starch all over the place (on the walls, floors) and it cleaned up really easily. I hope I helped!

  4. I did this on my living room wall, the way a friend (who has it in almost every room in her house) told me to. I bought quilt backing fabric because it’s double wide, I found exactly what I was looking for at Joanne’s actually. I’m not sure how but the piece I bought was pretty much exactly what I needed so I didn’t trim any and there isn’t any seams.
    To put it up I dunked it in a big bucket (cooler) of the liquid starch to get it all covered, both sides. Thumb tacked the top and then using my hands just pushed it down from top to bottom.
    It looks amazing, it’s been almost five years, and I get compliments on it all the time.

    • I love hearing that it still looks great – 5 years later! And I’m jealous that you didn’t have to deal with any seams. Thanks for the advice on fabric with quilt backing. I’ve never heard anyone recommend this. I appreciate the comment, Emily!

      • PLEASE NOTE She said quilt backing NOT fabric with quilt backing. Two different things. Quilt backing is just an extra wide piece of fabric designed for being the bottom of a quilt with the “stuffing” between it and the top quilt designed piece of fabric. You can purchase it on line or in fabric stores that sell quilting material. It needs to be washed before use just as regular fabric should be washed.

        If you use quilt backed fabric it may slide off the wall or peel soon after installation. It also would be two to three times heavier to deal with as it would be so thick.

    • I think it could work, but I’m guessing there could be a few issues: You probably wouldn’t want it near a stove (I’m just thinking about steam, etc.) and somewhere where food/drinks would easily be spilled on it. But I’m the girl who put it in the bathroom where all kinds of things could happen to it. 😉 Hope I helped!

    • I have used this method in my kitchen and it worked great. I too saw this on Room by Room and just took it down last year. The secret to the seams are to not overlay the fabric much and use plenty of starch at the seams. It will shrink slightly when dried completely. I painted my walls with a color that matched my fabric just incase it shrunk a lot but that wasn’t necessary

  5. I put fabric on my kitchen soffit and back splash in my kitchen. I used wallpaper paste. It worked great! It still looked good 15 years later when I pulled it off. So easy to remove. Just had to wash the walls and they were ready to paint.

    • Thanks for the comment, Barbara! I love to hear that fabric works on walls – and last for years! I’m interested in the wallpaper paste. Sounds like a great idea!

  6. Too cool this has been a life long wanna try project I now have two jugs of starch and your trial and error to proceed. Thanks

  7. is there a particular fabric you used? I understand the wide width would be great.but I don’t know if you can use a cotton, if it needs to be thick, thin…..what kind of fabric do u use?

    • I used a thick home decor fabric that was 100% cotton – which probably explains the shrinking issue. I haven’t tried anything other than the one fabric I used, so I can’t give you much advice. However, the cotton fabric has held up really well! Good luck!

      • It doesn’t need to be any one type of material i.e. cotton, decorator, etc. It should not be sheer (why cover the wall if you can see it anyway) unless you are going for “fairy” shimmery look. Just be careful that you don’t pick a really thick type of material i.e. car interior fabric as that would be cumbersome to work with.

        All fabric should be washed prior to use for shrinkage and manufacturing additives that can cause adhesion problems, but cotton and cotton blends especially need to be washed. To keep the ends from fraying you can apply “fray stop” to the cut ends then wash if the fabric unravels excessively . I also just fill washer with water and soak fabric 20 minutes or so. Do not agitate. Then run spin cycle. Do not use soap or additives in water. Then toss in dryer.

        If you are doing a large amount of walls with same fabric you can pre-cut it but make sure to cut extra long to allow for shrinkage in washer.

  8. I should be your partner in crime! I love doing many of the same projects you do!! I have always wanted to try fabric on the walls! Thanks for the insight! ! I think I’m only an hour and a half away if you need an extra helper:)

  9. Does anyone know if this would work on flat paint? I would loveeeee to do this but we can’t repaint and I’m afraid it’ll stain the wall.

    • I did this on eggshell paint, and removed the bottom half of the fabric. The paint still looked great! Now it wasn’t on the wall very long, but everyone I’ve heard has no issues with the fabric removing paint or hurting the wall. Good luck!

    • I decorated my daughter’s nursery this way. It has been up for a year. We are moving and so I pulled it down today. My walls are stained where there was darker fabric! Beware! I loved it, but moving out of a rental in two days, I’m beside myself trying to figure out how to reverse the damage. I’ve tried Magic Eraser & SoftScrub to not avail. Just a heads up.

  10. I have been doing this since the 90’s. started in college dorms when we hated the look of cinder-block walls. Anywho, be careful to NOT get it onto hardwood floors. I have seen drips take off the finish off old floors. Just an FYI, getting messy on a tile floor is WAY different if you do it on a nice old hardwood one.

    Looks great btw.

  11. What makes it adhere to the walls? And, I have seen bathrooms with an apparent padding behind the fabric. Any ideas?

    • Hi Lisa, The liquid starch is what adheres the fabric to the wall. My fabric wall doesn’t have apparent padding – I’m not sure what that may be? I hope I helped! Thanks for the comment.

  12. Love the wall.!! Thanks for the great tips on what to do and not to do! And thanks to those who gave more tips in order to have it be successful. I think I’ll try it in smaller sections (width of wallpaper length & width) and work with matching the seams. A seamless wall definitely has a better effect but if I choose the right pattern & material, I just may be able to pull it off. Thanks again!

    • Yes, please learn from my mistakes! My fabric was so wide, and I think that had a lot to do with a hard install for me. However, mine has held up really well, and it’s really easy to remove if you need to take it down. Also, I’ve had people tell me they have had fabric walls hold up for over a decade! Good luck!

  13. ıt is great but ı wonder how does it stick to the wall?is the starch enough or we must use glue kind of thing?thanks for reply

  14. This will attract insects. When I removed mine, there were bugs underneath the fabric. Hope you have better luck.

  15. I also did my hallway below the chair rail about 20 years ago have never removed it I just dust it off. .People called me crazy when I did it but it turned out great.

  16. Very nice! (I found a small typo in your text and wanted to let you know. “My husband wasn’t home, and I’m not sure why I tried to attempt this project along.” “along” should be “alone”.)

  17. I was so happy to find just what I needed to do. I am redoing my bedroom and am a renter. I wanted a wall that would be easy to deal with when and if I move. this is the perfect solution. I really love all the notes on what went wrong with your project. as I myself have done things like that and was really annoyed that no one mentioned the things to look out for. I sew a lot and as we learn we forget and do not appreciate all the lessons we learned the HARD way. Many times we do not give it a second thought. You are a great creator, and decorate with a great sense of style and class Thank you for sharing that great idea!!!.

    • Kathleen, Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and encourage me! And I’m so glad you can find a fun way to decorate your home as a renter. Definitely learn from my mistakes, and make your space beautiful! Best of luck on your bedroom!

  18. I loved your bathroom. You just gave me a fantastic idea for our west bedroom wall that was wallpapers in old lady wallpaper. Plus they had piled the ceiling fan and yes a spray of oil all across the wall. The wall was repapered too quickly. My fault. But have been picking at it for over a year. Rest of three walls are textured with spackle except this west wall. THANKYOU FOR GIVING NE AN IDEA TO COVER IT UP FINALLY. WISH I COULD HUG YOU. THANK YOU.

    • I’ll take your virtual hug, Erika! I’m so glad you now have a solution for your bathroom wall. Just remember to find someone to help you hang it, and you should be good to go! Best of luck!

  19. Love this post! We live in Germany and they use cement (cheaper… annoying though can’t hang anything without a special drill!) Anyhow, do you think this would work on that type of wall? We live in goverment leased housing and cannot paint the bathrooms, and its a very plain ugly white! Would love to try this out if it would work! Also, if its a smaller wall you said add 6 inches? I would have to order online from joanns or fabric.com and don’t want to have too little or too much! 🙂

    • Hi Rebecca! I think it would be a great solution for a plain white wall. I assume it will work on painted cement – although I’ve never tried it. The liquid starch really seems to be a good adhesive. I used a cotton fabric which shrunk pretty badly. If you wash the fabric first, you shouldn’t have the issues with shrinkage that I had. However, I would definitely keep this in mind when you order. I know fabric is expensive! Good luck and let me know if you try it! I’d love to hear about it and see pics!

  20. You did good – really good. Tenacious and focused – both required for a DIY project. I love the effect but will limit my application to the back of my new book shelves in my NEW art studio. Mahalo for your transparency and sharing, as well as the great documentation.

    • I think your plan is a good one – learn from my mistakes! Fabric really does make a beautiful wall treatment, and I love the idea of using it on your bookshelves. Thanks for the comment and best of luck on your DIY project!

  21. Hi, Sara! I just found your blog entry on hanging fabric on a wall via starch. While reading, there were two things I wanted to tell you: (1) This method was first passed along to me when I married a Marine. Apparently, it’s an old trick used by military families. They can easily make a new place feel pretty and home-like, yet also remove/reuse the treatment without damaging government housing walls.
    And (2), to reader “Becky,” who hung fabric on her cement-block college dorm room walls in the ’90s: I was in school a decade earlier, and wish I had known this trick! My friends all laughed at me for using Caspari wrapping paper and that weird, double-sided, spongy tape that would adhere posters to cement walls. Oh, how far we’ve come! Then again, maybe things haven’t changed much at all?!

    • Hi Terrie! Thanks so much for all the information! I love that starched fabric walls are an old military family trick. It really would brighten up a space! Also, I love how creative you were with your cement-block walled dorm rooms. This would be the perfect solution for those ugly walls! And I remember that spongy tape you’re talking about – the stuff none of us could actually remove once it was time to move out! Love it. Thanks so much!

    • My brother and I just tried this technique on his wall, which is done in wood paneling. This is an old house, built in the 40’s and has been smoked in for at least 30 years, so we cleaned the wall first, just using Awesome (Dollar Tree purchase!) and rags. We went over the wall twice and let it dry completely.

      We then rolled the starch onto the wall and placed a cotton sheet we’d washed, pinning it at the top to hold it up, and rolled on more starch.

      It worked GREAT!! Except for a few places which were flaws in the paneling, the sheet looked just like we’d painted a regular wall.

      One tip, though, when rolling over the fabric go up and down, bring careful not to let the edge of the roller push it into the grooves, or at an angle. The angle seemed to work best.

      The wall we used will not be covered as it will be the accent wall in the room, but it was easiest to reach, thus it was used for the experiment. But we are now excitedly planning to cover the other three walls as well as the walls of the house I’ve just moved into.

      Thank you, Sara D and your commenters for all the great information on this technique. My brother was dreading painting the paneling (YUCK!) but simply couldn’t face four walls of it or afford to have it replaced by drywall. Now, we’ll both not only save money and time, we’re having a blast doing it!

  22. When I used this method in my daughters’ room 15 years ago I used $2 clearance thick cotton tablecloths. I dipped the fabric in a bucket of starch like wallpaper and “booked” it to make it more manageable to deal with. I overlapped the seams and when it was almost dry used a rotary cutter with a drywall T-square to cut a straight line on the overlapping fabric and along the baseboard. Then I peeled off the scrap (which included the hem of the tablecloths and rolled a little extra starch over the seam. I also used a chair rail to cover the top of the fabric since I was only doing the bottom half of the wall. Two rambunctious little girls never messed it up. When I tested removing a small section it did not leave any mess (nor bugs). Good luck diy-ers.

    • Melissa, thanks so much for the comment and GREAT suggestions! I love the idea of using inexpensive fabric finds like tablecloths. I also love that two young kids (or bugs!) didn’t destroy it. Thank you!!

  23. I remember our military housing bathrooms being done this way…my mom was pretty crafty! I do think she used narrower strips, buy very busy pattern where the seams disappeared.

  24. You can also cut out cloth designs. It is easier to do and you can arrange the pieces in any way you like.

    • Hi Maria. I’m not sure if it would work or not. However, I can’t imagine that it would hurt a solid wood wall (since it doesn’t damage dry wall), so I think it’s worth a try! Good luck!

  25. I dd so enjoy your description of all the difficulty you encountered not because I’m sadistic, but because it reminds me of well, me. I frequently run into snags that frustrate me to no end.

    And part of the frustration is reading about how perfect and easy DIYers on the blogs make the project. I’m glad to know there are others like me.

    It look lovely, by the way.

    • Hi Doreen. I agree that too many of us DIYers make projects seem easy and perfect. I need to start sharing all my flops – because I have plenty of them! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

    • Since it is fabric, it won’t be the easiest to wipe down. I’m not sure if it’s the most practical backsplash. However, the beauty of the starched fabric is that it’s temporary. If you want to test it out and end up hating it, it will be easy to remove!

  26. Hey there! That looks sooo good! I Saw this done on windows to provide privacy without giving up natural lighting. I do have a question. I have a cabin with rustic walls made of OSB, do you think the fabric would adhere to that type of surface? Maybe if I paint it first? What do you think? Thanks!

    • I have had several readers tell me they used this same wall treatment on concrete walls in military housing with success. I assume if it sticks to concrete, then you should have luck? I guess the best way to try is to do a little test. I would cut a square piece of fabric maybe a foot wide and high and see if it works! Good luck! I’m getting ready to attempt another fabric wall in my house soon!

  27. Hi Sara, nice wall, looks elegant ! I do not have liquid starch , will it work by desolving normal powder starch in water and how much should i use starch and water if yes. Thankyou !

  28. Hi Sara, nice wall, looks elegant ! I do not have liquid starch , will it work by desolving normal powder starch in water and how much should i use starch and water if yes. Does any kind of fabric work or you suggest some are better than others. Thankyou !

    • I’m not sure about powder starch since I’ve only ever tried the liquid starch. However, I’ve only ever hung fabric that 100% cotton. It’s prone to shrinking but it does work well. Also, I found that the home decor fabric that is extra wide is hard to handle. I would stick to normal sized fabric. Good luck!!

  29. How about pre-shrinking if you can keep from wrinkles. Freshly sized fabric always looks perfect but shrinks. Tack it in place the spray the entire thing with starch in a spray bottle. Then ring out the roller and give it a one over?

  30. Thank you for this amazing post. This technique is so much cheaper than removable wallpaper and offers more selection! I am a renter, I will be doing this for my kitchen backsplash. I can’t tell you how excited I am. Thanks for all the tips.

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