There is no substitute for fanning powder.

Zinc stearate is the main fanning powder ingredient, so if you can get hold of that, go for it.

But don’t try to use baby powder, talc, flour, or anything like that. It could actually ruin the cards.

Instead, keep practicing and work on your card fans until they look really smooth, without using any powder.

In most cases, you don’t really need fanning powder provided you’re using quality playing cards that aren’t brand new.

What is fanning powder, and what does it do?

Fanning powder looks like flour or talc. It’s a white powder that can make playing cards spread evenly.

  • Fanning powder will not turn old, ruined decks into high quality ones.
  • It won’t make you better at doing card fans either — you need to learn the right technique and just practice.

However, it can extend the lifespan of some decks and make some moves look smoother. Think of ribbon spreads and one-handed fans.

It can also make it easier to cut the deck into packets. This is because fanning powder makes the card stick together… in a good way.

For example, if you fan a deck that’s been powdered, the deck won’t be as slippery and all the cards will be spaced evenly apart.

There are no real fanning powder alternatives

In short: there is no such thing as a fanning powder substitute. Just like you can’t replace a brand new Tally Ho deck with a cheaper deck of playing cards.

The main ingredient in fanning powder is zinc stearate, and some say it’s the only ingredient.

I imagine it’s not, but you could buy pure zinc stearate separately and see if it works the same.

But the thing is, fanning powder is cheap, and you only need to apply a tiny bit. Using too much powder will actually have the opposite effect.

Check out this guide on how to apply the powder, by the way.

If you’re looking for a fanning powder alternative, then my advice would be to just stop overthinking and buy some online.

Because you only need a little bit at a time (unless you’re using fifty decks of giant playing cards), it will probably last you years.

I had a look at the prices online, here’s what I found:


If you can’t buy a tube for whatever reason, then my advice would be to simply not use any powder at all, and get a new deck if your current ones are too old.

In most cases, you actually don’t need to use any fanning powder to do card tricks (more on this in a minute).

Using baby powder as substitute

I did this just for fun — I purchased some baby powder and applied it on a used Tally Ho deck to see what would happen.

The deck smelled really good afterwards, but that was the only good thing, really.

As explained, there is no substitute for real fanning powder and in this case using baby powder actually made the fans worse.

Before and after applying baby powder

I remember reading on a forum that baby powder would work, but unfortunately it didn’t for me.

If it worked for you, or if you managed to find another substitute, then please leave a comment at the end and share your thoughts.

You don’t need to use fanning powder

Here’s the thing: if you fan and spread the cards with the right technique, and if you use a quality deck, you probably don’t even need fanning powder.

You can use fanning powder to make the fans look even smoother, but that’s about it.

And as for the condition of the playing cards, then as long as you use a deck that’s not too new, and not too old, you’ll be fine.

The powder can make the cards last longer, but you shouldn’t rely on it.

Always clean your hands and store the cards in a cool place to prevent them from sticking together.

And just buy a bunch of new decks after a while because playing cards get old too.

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