How to Adhere Fabric to a Wall

Get the look of wallpaper by adhering fabric to walls with laundry starch or cornstarch. Easy removal makes this a good option for rental homes.

Starching fabric to a wall gives you the look of wallpaper without the commitment. It’s the perfect solution for adding pattern and color to a room that you can change or remove whenever it suits you.

Choosing the Fabric

Television design host Shari Hiller, recommends a good-quality decorator fabric or sturdy cotton fabric with an overall pattern such as paisleys, florals or geometrics for decorating walls. Hiller cautions beginners to avoid stripes, plaids or patterns that require matching. Woven patterns can become problematic with unraveling loose threads, so stick with a printed pattern.


  1. Measure the height of the wall or area you plan to cover. Add 6 inches to this measurement.

  2. Prepare

  3. Cut out fabric strips or panels according to your measurements. Cover your work area with drop cloths to protect floors and furniture from drips.

  4. Wet the Fabric

  5. Pour the liquid starch into the plastic bucket. Dip a fabric panel into the starch, coating the front and back. Squeeze excess starch out as you pull the fabric from the bucket to avoid excessive dripping.

  6. Apply the Fabric

  7. Hold the fabric panel in the upper corners with both hands to straighten it out and then place it into position at the upper corner of the wall. Press the fabric to the wall, slightly wrapping an inch or so around the corner if decorating more than one wall.

  8. Pin and Smooth

  9. Use the push pins to hold the fabric in place at the top of the wall. Smooth any wrinkles or bubbles with your hands or the wallpaper smoothing tool.

  10. Trim

  11. Allow the fabric to dry. Trim excess fabric at the top and bottom with a sharp utility knife. Keep the putty knife between the fabric and blade when cutting.

  12. Tip

    If bubbles appear after the fabric has dried, use a paintbrush or sponge to apply more starch to the affected area. Saturate the fabric and then press it into place. To cut around pipes or outlets, press the fabric in place over the objects as best you can. Apply push pins slightly away from the area you are cutting. Make a small slit with a utility knife or scissors to verify the cut is in the right place. Then make a larger cut to push the pipe through or carefully cut along the edges of an outlet.

Cornstarch Method

  • Cornstarch can also be used to adhere fabric to a wall, using a slightly different method to apply it. The amount of cornstarch paste needed will vary according to the size of the wall or walls you plan to cover.

    1. Make the Paste

    2. Pour 4 cups of water into the pot and bring it to a boil. Mix the cornstarch with a small amount of water in the mixing bowl, stirring with a whisk until it is dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture to the water in the pot slowly while stirring. Boil the mixture until it is thickened. Remove from heat and set the mixture aside to cool.

    3. Measure and Cut

    4. Measure the wall or area you are going to cover with fabric. Add a few extra inches to ensure adequate coverage. Cut strips or panels of fabric to size according to your measurements.

    5. Apply the Paste

    6. Use the paintbrush to apply a generous layer of the cornstarch paste to the wall. Cover enough area for one fabric panel, or if covering a door, cover one entire side of the door.

    7. Apply the Fabric

    8. Apply the fabric by pressing it onto the pasted area, adjusting it and smoothing it as you go. Brush additional paste on in dry spots, right over the fabric as it won’t affect the color once it is dry.

    9. Trim and Finish

    10. Use scissors or the utility knife to cut slits in the fabric as needed to smooth it over any obstacles. Allow the fabric to dry and then go back with the utility knife and putty knife to trim the excess and make exact cuts around obstacles. Apply more paste to stick down any raw edges.

    11. Tip

      With heavier fabrics, apply an additional topcoat of paste over the fabric, decoupage style. To remove the fabric with either method, simply pull up a corner and gently pull the fabric away from the wall.


      Starched fabric is not recommended for textured walls or brick. If your walls are textured, consider covering a door with fabric or hang lightweight fabric covered panels made from foam.

    About the Author

    Michelle Radcliff owned a retail home furnishings business for eight years. Radcliff offers decorating advice on her blog, Home Decorating News, is a regular contributor on interior design at LoveToKnow.com and earned certification as an interior decorator from Penn Foster College in 2013.