Compared to a few decades ago, ironing your clothes is something of a lost art. Many modern fabrics are less prone to wrinkles than their predecessors, so ironing is not as important a household task as it once was. Plus, many workplaces have relaxed their dress codes in recent years, allowing employees to ditch their suits and dress shirts for more laid-back business casual attire. The art of ironing has been forgotten by many, and many more never learned how to do so in the first place. Yet ironing is still often necessary, even if it's for a one-off occurrence like a wedding or job interview. For this reason, learning how to iron properly is never a bad idea.
Don't despair — you, too, can iron like a pro with just a few notes and a little practice. So, here are some ironing tips that should make things much easier for you:
1. Consider the Heat and Steam Level
While you might be inclined to want to use the same level of heat and steam with all your clothing, this is not the way to do things. In fact, it could damage or outright ruin your clothing — and you know how expensive it is.
You should check the tags on the clothing for any ironing instructions to avoid damaging your garments with a hot iron. For example, there may be explicit instructions on heat levels, or you might see a small iron with dots inside. The number of dots corresponds to the heat level you should use. In other cases, you might get more detailed text instructions. Just pay attention and take care to choose the appropriate heat setting and you should be fine.
Be careful with using a steam iron, too. Steam isn’t appropriate for all fabrics and can cause serious damage. Again, pay attention to the care label and learn to decipher the various symbols to ensure that you know how to wash every item in your wardrobe.
2. Use Long, Straight Strokes
You might be tempted to just go over the wrinkles you can see. This will only create more work in the long run. Instead, it is far better to do everything in longer, straight strokes on the ironing board. Doing this will save you time and help you make sure that nothing is missed.
At first, pay careful attention to how you iron your clothing and then make a conscious effort to change your default habit. After some time, the correct strokes will be second nature to you and you will have no trouble removing unwanted wrinkles.
3. Use an Ironing Board
You may think this is obvious, but you would be surprised at the number of people who might try to iron on a table or a counter instead of an ironing board, leaving room for disaster. Ironing boards should be easy to set up in your home, and they are not usually expensive so there is no excuse for not getting one and not using one every time. If you can afford a good iron, you can afford an acceptable ironing board.
The only exception we would make for this is ironing an extra-large sheet of some kind. In this case, you may wish to line your table with a protective layer and then put down the item and carefully iron it. An ironing board just might not be big enough in those cases. Of course, there is rarely a need to iron such things, but the option remains open to you.
4. Use All of the Ironing Board
Many people make the mistake of hanging their clothes over the ironing board when ironing. This only helps to create more wrinkles and creases, and there is no need for it when there is more ironing board to use. Instead, try to lay down clothes to use the ironing board as much as possible. And as you iron shirts and pants, use different sections of the ironing board to achieve the desired results. For example, the pointy end of the ironing board makes it easier to iron pants legs and sleeves.
If you still have frequent problems here, it might be time to invest in a larger ironing board. There are larger (and smaller) ironing boards on the market for people with less or more space.
5. Give Yourself Time and a Good Environment
You are probably going to put in as good a job as possible given that you are the one who wants the clothes ironed, but it's also best to make the environment around you well-suited for the job. Give both yourself and the ironing board plenty of room, and make sure you won't easily trip, stumble or bump into anything (irons can be dangerous, after all). Making sure the place is well-lit can help, ensuring you don't miss any spots or creases.
Similarly, ironing is something you don't want to rush. The iron will not get hotter faster just because you're in a rush, and you're prone to make mistakes if your mind is elsewhere. Schedule ironing time into your day rather than rushing to get it done as quickly as possible and things will go much smoother for you. If you tend to rush because this is one of your least favorite household chores, consider putting on an audiobook, podcast or some music to make the time pass a little faster.
6. Put Away Ironed Clothes Immediately
After you finish ironing an item, you should seek to hang it up or fold it immediately, putting it in its proper place before usage. Leaving it lying around can mean it loses some of the form and smoothness you wanted it to get from ironing. If it gets more creases, then what was the ironing for?
We recommend having some coat hangers and a rack relatively nearby if you're ironing several things at once, or a table you can safely use if you are not using hangers. If possible, you might want to do your ironing in the same area you intend to store the clothes so you don't get tempted just to leave them there.
7. Do Not Iron Dirty Clothes
While it might be tempting to try and get another use out of some clothing, we strongly recommend that you do not use an iron on any clothing that might have a stain or dirt on it. It will only serve to make the stain permanent or at least much, much harder to get out. In some cases, such as blood stains, ironing will further bind the staining agent to the clothing fibers. At that point, maybe only a professional can get the stain out. Try to make sure your clothes are clean and dry before ironing.
If you need to iron something that is mostly clean aside from a small spot, you may be able to remove it without washing the entire garment. Use a spray bottle to spritz plain white vinegar or another pre-treatment product on the spot and wipe it away with a damp cloth. Let dry completely before ironing.
8. You Can Get Rid of Scorch Marks with Vinegar
No matter how hard you might try or how careful you might be at times, not everything will go right. You might slip, you might put the iron on just a little too hot or too long or the iron might malfunction. This can lead to scorch marks on your clothing, making them unwearable in public or at least in more formal settings.
However, using white vinegar applied to a clean cloth can help with these marks. Just take the cloth and wipe at the mark, taking care not to spread it in the process. You may also want to rinse off the affected area as well.
Note that this isn't a perfect method. Vinegar cannot magically restore burned fabrics, but vinegar can do the trick for those occasions where there is just a light mark.
9. Consider the Water You Are Using
While ideally all tap water should be perfect and free of impurities, the sad truth is that the water from the tap in one town will be different from another — and not in a good way. There are impurities in a lot of water, and while not noticeable at first, over time, it could hamper the effectiveness of your iron or even make it dangerous.
We suggest you deal with it in one of the following ways:
- Boil your water before you use it in your iron.
- You can buy bottles of water, especially for ironing. There are arguments for and against distilled water, but there are also just regular bottles of water that might be better than your tap. It’s a small investment but a worthy one.
- Some irons proclaim to either have filtering technology or resist the mineral build-up that would affect irons. You might want to look into one.
10. Don't Iron Over Decorations or Embellishments
When ironing, take care to look at what you are ironing over. Are there any attachments, buttons or tassels? Could they be affected by the heat and pressure of an iron? Take note and do your best to iron around them. A single wrinkle is still better than a burnt or melted decoration.
11. Consider Ironing Inside Out
You might not always think of it, but sometimes ironing your clothes inside out is the best option. After all, it doesn't matter which side you iron as it'll all come out smooth in the end. And if something leaves a mark on the inside of your article, who cares? No one else is going to see it. Ironing inside out is an especially good idea when dealing with delicate fabrics that are prone to damage.
Ironing inside out can also confer other advantages, such as making sure the seams and hems are ironed and giving you the ability to check on the integrity of your clothing overall. Of course, you might need to be careful turning them right side out again, but the benefits could be worth it.
12. Iron on One Side
While some pieces of clothing will require a lot more ironing to make perfect, such as thicker fabrics, a lot of clothes don't need too much to get the wrinkles out — especially if you are going to follow all of the other tips listed here. Therefore, you probably only need to iron one side of the clothing and then be careful with it until you want to wear it. This can save you time and the integrity of the clothing.
13. Iron Items in Order of Necessary Heat
The amount of heat you use is vital when you are ironing your clothes. This much is apparent, but have you ever considered the order in which you are ironing items and whether it's efficient where heat is concerned? If you want to cut down your weekly ironing time, simply ironing in order of necessary heat could be the solution. Doing so is a great way to protect your clothes, too.
We recommend that you start with ironing the items that require low heat and work up. That way, there is a logical progression. If you don't do this, you might not wait long enough for your iron to cool off to an appropriate temperature, causing damage. You also might have to wait longer for the iron to prep overall if you're doing a lot of ironing and switching back and forth between settings.
14. Consider Using Sprays and Products
There are special sprays and products you can apply before or after ironing that can make the process easier or prevent wrinkles from coming back as easily. We will not recommend anything specific as the best product will change depending on your intentions and the fabric you are ironing. However, we suggest doing some research and reading the labels to find out what might work best. With the proper treatment, you can save a lot of time and help keep them looking great longer.
15. Use an Ironing Board Cover
A high-quality ironing board cover allows for heat and steam to transfer from the iron to your clothes with ease. This ensures adequate wrinkle removal. Without the proper transfer, you will likely have a hard time removing wrinkles from your clothing.
To ensure the best results, choose a well-fitting cover made from 100 percent cotton or Teflon. These fabrics are resistant to heat damage and provide an ideal texture for heat transfer. They’re easy to maintain, too, and only require occasional washing.