While many of us have abandoned the habit of ironing, artist Maira Kalman, best known for her New Yorker covers and beloved children’s books, considers ironing a form of meditation. This artist’s eccentric passion for ironing may actually have some science behind it: repetitive tasks like ironing can empty the brain, prevent the body from overreacting, foster feelings of relaxation and boost creativity.
Still not convinced? Taking up ironing again after a long hiatus can seem daunting and, well, dull. But with some tips on prep, fabric care and choosing the right tools for each task, in no time you’ll be back in the flow, ironing like a pro.
Setting the stage
Board or no board? Can’t find that ironing board? No worries. You can iron on any sturdy, flat surface as long as you cover it with a protective material, preferably a heat-resistant ironing blanket or at the very least a thick towel. If you’ve found the board but the cover isn’t in the best of shape, consider replacing it, particularly if it’s more than 2 years old.
Checking fabrics. Whatever you’re ironing, make sure you read care labels to identify the fabric you’re about to iron. Also make sure the item is clean because the iron’s heat can cause stains to set in.
Ironing by fabric type
If you can’t find a fabric care label on an item and you’re not sure of the fabric type, start with the lowest temperature setting and test on an inside seam. For many fabrics, it is preferable to iron on the wrong side of the material to prevent damage. For some sensitive fabrics, it’s best to iron with a pressing cloth—a cloth napkin will do—between the item and the iron. Do the same for fabric blends. In general, synthetic fabrics should be ironed at a lower heat than natural ones. So let’s start with those.
- Acetate - Low heat. Turn the garment inside out. Use a dry iron (no steam).
- Acrylic - Low heat. Turn the garment inside out. Use a dry iron (no steam). Use the spray button on your iron if necessary.
- Nylon - Low heat. Use a dry iron (no steam). Use the spray button on your iron if necessary.
- Polyester - Low or medium heat. Iron while the fabric is still damp, or pre-moisten it using a spray bottle or the spray button on your iron.
- Silk – Medium heat. Dry iron. Turn garment inside out. Use a pressing cloth. To press a silk tie, place the “right” side down against the ironing board.
- Wool – Medium heat. Dry iron. Use a pressing cloth and iron on the “wrong” side of the fabric.
- Cotton - High heat. Iron while fabric is still damp, or pre-moisten it using a spray bottle or the spray button on your iron. Use steam if necessary.
- Linen – High heat. Turn garment inside out. Iron while fabric is still damp, or pre-moisten it using a spray bottle or the spray button on your iron. Use steam if necessary.
|Polyester||Low - Med||No||OK||OK|
Choose the right tool
If getting back into (or just into) the ironing groove isn’t in the cards, consider getting your hands on a garment steamer, a steam iron or iron/steamer combo. Steaming is an easy way to freshen clothes and smooth out the wrinkles in dresses, slacks, shirts, sweaters, coats, curtains, comforters and more. Consider a light, compact model like the Handheld Garment Steamer, which is perfect for traveling. Of course a steamer alone won’t give you a crisp shirt, perfectly creased trousers or beautifully pressed linen napkins—for those everyday luxuries you’ll need a steam iron. Also lightweight and compact, the 2-in-1 Iron/Steamer gives you flexibility for those times when you can get yourself into the ironing groove and those times when you just can’t. Whether steamed or fully ironed, your clothes will look and feel better with a little effort on your part and the help of a thoughtful appliance.