How To Use an Iron the Right Way

Say goodbye to wrinkles.

There are three types of people: Those who love to iron, those who only iron when going to a job interview or funeral, and those who don't own an iron. If you are in the first two groups, you know that ironing clothes can give you crisp collars and cuffs or flowing fabrics without wrinkles. It all depends on how you use your iron and the type of fabric. Whatever your style, knowing how to iron clothes properly is key to helping your clothes look better and retain their shape.

Related: How to Iron Pants for a Crisp and Wrinkle-Free Look

<p>Michael Haegele/Getty Images</p>

Michael Haegele/Getty Images

Understanding Your Iron

There are two types of household electric irons: dry and steam irons. Both offer settings to control the temperatures for ironing different fabrics. A dry iron has no vent holes on the pressing surface, is lightweight, and is less expensive than a steam iron. A dry iron works well for lightly wrinkled denim, wool, polyester, and silk satin.

A steam iron has a water tank and holes in the pressing plate where steam flows out onto the fabric. Many also feature a front "jet" to spray water on the clothes. The added moisture helps remove wrinkles from the fabric. A steam iron works better on cotton, linen, muslin, or any heavily wrinkled fabric.

Setting Up Your Iron

Both irons are simple to set up. To use a dry iron, plug it into an outlet and let it heat to the selected temperature. For a steam iron, fill the water tank with distilled water to prevent mineral build-up that can clog the steam jets before plugging it in and setting the temperature. Both irons usually take five to 10 minutes to reach temperature. To get the best results when you are ready to iron, use a padded ironing board or a firm surface protected by an ironing mat.

Keep the soleplate clean to prevent staining clothes. After using starch or sizing, allow the iron to cool completely and wipe the plate with a damp microfiber cloth. For heavy build-up, make a paste of baking soda and a few drops of water and gently scrub away the scorched mess. Wipe with a damp cloth to "rinse".

Preparing Your Clothes for Ironing

Never iron clothes that are dirty, smelly, or have stains because the heat can set body oils and make stains nearly impossible to remove. Most clothes should be ironed while they are slightly damp or you can add moisture by sprinkling the clothes with water, using a steam iron, or adding an ironing spray like sizing or starch. The exception for adding moisture is when ironing a fabric like silk that can easily get water spots.


You can make ironing much easier by folding or hanging clothes immediately when you remove them from the clothes dryer. Leaving them in a heap causes more wrinkles to form.

Ironing Techniques

Step One: Read the Care Label

Most care labels on clothes have a guideline in writing or symbols for how to iron the garment. Follow the heat settings on your iron and always start with the lowest temperature recommended.


If you have multiple garments to iron, start with the ones that require the lowest temperature setting (synthetics) to prevent scorching or melting. Increase the temperature setting as you move on to natural fabrics like cotton. It takes longer for an iron to cool than to get hotter.

Step Two: Prevent Scorch Marks and Shiny Marks

Iron clothes inside out to prevent shiny marks on the fabric. Or, use a thin, white (prevents dye transfer) cloth to cover the section you are ironing. Ironing on the wrong side of textured or napped fabrics prevents crushing and flattening.

Step Three: Follow a Sequence

  • Start with the largest flat section of fabric and iron it on the inside.

  • Follow the grain of the fabric to prevent stretching. This is usually from top to bottom of the garment.

  • Add moisture or more pressure on the iron as needed to help remove wrinkles.

  • For collars and cuffs, iron the inside first and then the outside.

  • Do not iron over zippers, buttons, or embellishments, they can melt. Or, use a pressing cloth and a lower temperature.

  • Hang the garment immediately to cool. Do not wear a freshly pressed garment until it has cooled or more wrinkles will form and counteract your ironing efforts.

5 Safety Precautions

  1. To prevent tripping, never set up an ironing board where the electric cord of the iron is stretched a long distance or use an extension cord.

  2. Never leave an iron unattended. Be sure the cord is not accessible to pets or children who could pull the iron down on themselves.

  3. Never leave an iron sitting flat on the ironing board or mat. It can cause overheating.

  4. Always unplug the iron when not in use and don't wrap the electric cord around the iron while it is still hot.

  5. Check the cord for damage regularly and replace the iron if it overheats or sparks.

Tips for Ironing Different Fabrics

  • As a guideline, follow these temperature settings for different fabrics: Low: acetate, acrylic, nylon; Medium: polyester, silk, satin, wool; High: Linen, cotton, denim.

  • When ironing textured or napped fabrics, place a plush white towel on the ironing board, lay the fabric on the towel, and press on the wrong side. Turn the fabric over, and use steam only (no pressure) on the front side to refresh any crushed pile.

  • When ironing nylon or thin synthetic fabrics, always use a pressing cloth for protection between the fabric and the iron because they burn and melt easily.

  • Do not iron sequined or embellished fabrics because the sequins can melt. Use light steam and no pressure on the wrong side of the fabric to remove wrinkles.

Related: How to Clean an Iron to Get Rid of Mineral Spots

For more Real Simple news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on Real Simple.