My husband wanted all his socks and underwear ironed! To the young me who ironed only when it got to the stage of not having anything to wear, this seemed very odd. Ironing was a bone of contention between us for a long time. So long as he did not expect me to do all that, I dismissed this as an idiosyncrasy. With time, he learned to adjust and iron all his socks and underwear himself and I learned some simple tricks to iron better, at least when absolutely necessary. Here is the crust of ironing wisdom in a list form.
1 As soon as the clothes are out of the washer (if you are line drying) give it a shake to remove the wrinkles and hang them properly. This is so that the fabric does not bunch up and dry in this position full of wrinkles and make your ironing more difficult ( as if ironing is not difficult already!).
If you are using the dryer take it out as soon as the process is over and hang it or fold it neatly – do not wait for the wrinkles to settle in.
2 Just before ironing ensure that the iron box sole plate is clean and without any stains. I have experienced horror stories of fabric staining because of some random burn mark on the iron. Here are some simple ways to clean up the iron before your ironing. Prevent sole plate stains by using correct heat settings for clothes according to the fabric type and resting the iron after use on its resting place and not on the cloth covered board.
I always forget this and burn the board surface by forgetting that the hot iron is resting on there for the last 15 minutes I was on the phone.
4 Test the temperature of the iron on an inconspicuous place like the inside of the hem before ironing straight on the front pocket or somehwere as in-your-front.
5 Plan: Sort your washed laundry first by temperature requirements – ie start ironing clothes that require low heat first before moving on to clothes that need high heat like ones made of linen/cotton. Saves on electricity bill. Plan the sequence of ironing and follow it – like for shirts start with sleeves, collar, back yoke and back, front shoulder, front body, or however you intend to do it.
6 Synthetic fabrics (Polyester or, Nylon) may not necessarily need ironing. Scorch marks, melted fabrics – these are all real when ironing clothes made of these fabrics. Synthetic fabric burns super fast – even when you think you have the lowest temperature, a little pressure and a forgotten moment are all they need to burn and mark.
Hang them in the area where there is humidity like the hot shower area where the steam will iron out the wrinkles. With synthetic or some polyester-cotton blend clothes this is all you may need to do – the dampness will do the trick – wrinkles will magically disappear after it is hung there a few hours. No need to iron at all-yay.
7 If you do not want to hang clothes in the bathroom, Get yourself a water mister – just before you iron a clothing hang it somewhere clear (you do not want water on your other clothes) and mist it with the water sprayer.
You can also dampen clothes by using a clean cloth which is dipped in water and wrung to remove excess water. A dampened press cloth is a boon when ironing out stubborn wrinkles . You can keep this on top of hard wrinkles or use it to gloss over the fabric for making the fabric slightly wet. Another way is to iron clothes before the clothes are fully dry, just out of the washer dryer.
As I said fabrics iron better when slightly damp. But not all fabrics – Dampening rayon fibers are not a good idea before ironing. They become weak.
8 A steam iron is not a necessity but a very convenient tool to have. There will be a space inside this iron to pour in water which will turn to steam when plugged into a power outlet. The iron plate will have small holes which will emit the resultant steam through them. This way you do not have to use a dampened pressing cloth to remove stubborn wrinkles
If your area has hard water this is going to be trouble for your iron. This article says to always remove excess water from the chamber when you’ve finished ironing. Otherwise the deposits from the water will ruin your clothes. Talk about a good thing turned bad.
You can use de-mineralised water to fill up iron box. You can use bottled spring water or untreated tap water. Do not use 100 % distilled water.Never use starch, perfume or fabric conditioner in the water for steaming.
9 Get a proper ironing table – do not iron on a wooden table or on the bed. Getting that ironing table will make a difference even if you think you do not want it – the length of the table, the narrow end – all are there for a reason. Make use of the full length and you can save some of the effort. Your ironing table height can be adjusted for sitting or standing. The narrow tip is used to insert blouses, shirts, skirts and iron properly without crushing the other side. ( works like the free arm of your sewing machine). Some even come with a rack to hang your ironed clothes.
Get a cover for the table which is soft as well as firm -this will further give a good ironing experience. Check out this tutorial to make an easy ironing board cover using old towel and fabric as I said. If you do not have an ironing table, you can simply lay wool fabric and cotton fabric on top of a wooden table and iron away. This will give the necessary surface to complete your ironing in ease
10 So many different fabrics – so many different ways to iron them.
With velvet you cannot iron on the face – the napped surface will be crushed. So what do you do ? Hold the steam iron about an inch above the fabric, let it get steamy and this will get the wrinkles out. Linen should be pressed with sufficient high heat, when damp. You can use a pressing cloth to avoid the shine on linen.
Silk requires a lower temperature ironing and should be steam ironed, preferably with a press cloth or you can iron on the reverse side to be on the safe side. Silk is expensive and worth all the trouble. Do not mist silk; you will leave water marks. Wool should be pressed with steam and a moderate temperature. Do not iron or stretch wool as you iron -the best method is to just press and remove the fabric. You can keep a dampened cloth on top of the woolen fabric for better results. Ironing and the resultant to and fro motion can damage the surface of wool. All animal fabrics (Check out this post on animal fibers and fabric) should be ironed with steam in medium heat.Rayon needs to be ironed from the inside and in low heat.
11 Take special care of embellishment fabric finishes, printed surfaces, painted areas, embroidery etc. All these types of fabrics cannot be ironed from the face. Iron them from the back side. Fabric with nap also needs special care. Remember to iron the pile only in one direction, not randomly this way and that way. Buttons and zips are plastic and needs all the precautions to prevent melting from a hot iron.
12 If you dread the idea of shine on the fabric after ironing, keep a tissue paper on top or a pressing cloth to prevent the shine marks. This way you would not touch the iron box straight on such clothes. The shine usually occurs in synthetic fabrics and dark fabric. Here is a useful article on removing the shine if it is already present.
13 Using starch on fabric creates a crisp look which is very attractive especially for linen and cotton clothes. You can spray starch before ironing, if you have not done it the traditional way ie dipped the garment in starch solution. Too much starch and you will get unattractive blotches or a super shiny look. Just a little and you have super crisp elegant clothes.Check out the post on home made starch recipes.
14 Do iron most of the clothes by pressing – You can check out the tips on pressing here. This will prevent stretching of clothes – leading to out of shape clothes. When you drag your iron over fabric this distortion is inevitable. Pressing is better. If you are ironing make long strokes – you will get fewer wrinkles. Avoid going in circles with the iron.
15 There is another easy way to get wrinkles out of clothes if you do not have an iron – Boil water in a kettle and hold your clothing above the steam to get rid of any creases. Not the most genius method – but in a tight spot this is something you can try.
Finally some tips on Ergonomics and Safety. Be on the safe side when ironing – Do not touch the ironing box with wet hands – water is a good conductor of electricity. Wear rubber slippers to be safer. And correct the height of your ironing table to one optimal for your back. Your back will thank you. And as instruction manuals of irons will tell you “ Never iron or steam clothes while they are being worn.”