Clothes ironing is the process of moving a hot iron on top of fabric to remove wrinkles. It's worth the time ironing because it helps your clothes keep their shape and look like new longer. You can optionally spray water, starch, or sizing to help you get your clothes looking crisp.
To properly iron clothes, get started by washing and drying your clothes correctly to reduce wrinkling. Never iron clothes that are dirty or still have stains. The iron's heat will likely permanently set the stain into the fabric. Also, never iron sequins, velvet, and items with screenprinting, since those designs can get singed or melt away.
If this is your first time ironing, take your time. If you are looking for a way to do it fast, you can, once you let the iron heat up adequately and get a feel for the fabric. Read on for the steps that will help you iron clothes professionally—at least as good if the pros were doing them.
Before You Begin
Before you get started, read the garment or linen care label. There will be ironing guidelines written or shown with symbols. If the label is missing, refer to an ironing temperature setting chart for different fabrics. It takes about 10 minutes for an iron to get to full temperature. It is always best to start with the coolest temperature recommended for the material. You can always increase the heat but cooling an iron takes longer.
- Low-temperature: Acetate, acrylic, nylon
- Medium-temperature: Polyester, silk, satin, wool
- High-temperature: Linen, cotton, denim
If you have several things to iron, start with the fabric type that needs the coolest temperature setting and work up to the one that requires the hottest iron. Planning your ironing will save you time and prevent accidental melting or scorching.
Check the iron to be sure the base plate is clean. The scorched build-up of starch or sizing can be transferred to clean fabrics. Take a look at your ironing board cover as well. It should be clean. Most covers can be washed or easily replaced.
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Equipment / Tools
- Ironing board (optional)
- Spray starch or sizing (optional)
- Water (optional)
How to Iron Clothing
Prepare Your Ironing Space
What type of ironing board do you have? Whether it is a full-sized or a tabletop model, be careful about where you place it. Ensure the iron cord is not strung across a walkway where a pet or child can pull the iron down.
If you don't have an ironing board, you can still iron by using a sturdy flat surface like a table or counter and prepare it correctly using an ironing blanket or thick cotton towel as a liner.
Iron the Garment Inside Out
When ironing most fabrics, iron on the wrong side of the garment. This trick will prevent the shine of the material. This shine effect is most noticeable on dark colors, silk, rayon, linen fabric, and acetates.
For velvet, corduroy, and textured fabrics, ironing on the wrong side prevents crushing and even removes the texture. Ironing the right side of seersucker could potentially remove the "puckering" that provides the seersucker's texture.
You should iron fabric lengthwise to prevent stretching.
Iron While Clothes Are Damp
It is usually best to iron clothes while they are still slightly damp. The exception is when you need a completely dry iron for fabrics that can stain easily with water.
To add dampness, sprinkle the clothes lightly with water, use your iron's steam or water spray feature (if it has one), or use an ironing spray like starch or sizing to add moisture.
Ironing Hems and Collars
When ironing shirt collars, cuffs, pockets, or hems that are double the thickness of fabric, iron on the inside first and then on the outside to smooth any final wrinkles. These areas, especially curled hem edges, will benefit from steam during ironing or pre-wetting before ironing. Do not iron over zippers, buttons, or any decorations.
Care and Repair of Ironed Clothes
Hang your ironed clothes immediately after ironing to help them keep a just-pressed look.
If you scorch a garment while ironing, take steps to correct the situation immediately. You might be able to remove the scorch marks with laundry detergent, white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, or hydrogen bleach.
Most evening attire contains fabric and designs that are difficult to iron or should not be ironed. When in doubt, take the garment to the dry cleaners to remove the wrinkles. If you're unsure of how to remove scorch marks or if you have formal wear, like gowns or suits, or dry clean only garments, take them to the dry cleaners for professional care.
Make Ironing Fun
If you don't enjoy ironing—or even if you do—there are ways to make the time more enjoyable and productive. Listen to music or set the ironing board up so you can watch television. It's a great time to listen to a book on tape. Enlist others to help you. Kids love to sprinkle water on clothes. Ask others to take freshly ironed garments directly to the closet and hang them up.
What fabrics don't need to be ironed?
Never iron sequins, rhinestones, velvet, or screen-printed clothing. Also, some fabrics are labeled "no iron" or "wrinkle resistant," usually polyester and nylon.
Can irons leave burns on clothes?
Yes, irons can get build-up or residue caked on the ironing plate over time. It can make the garment smell and leave unsightly marks. Prevent transferring that residue on your clothes by cleaning the bottom of the iron with a baking soda and vinegar mixture using an old toothbrush.
What is "cool ironing"?
A cool iron is a setting on your iron usually used for delicates and wool. It's still hot, but about half the heat of the iron on its hottest setting. Most items that use a cool iron setting are nylon, acetate, and wool.