Ironing Tips and Tricks

There is nothing as frustrating as trying to iron a garment when you are rushing to get somewhere, having an iron that won't heat correctly or ruining your favorite silk blouse with an iron that is too hot. Nothing seems as dismal and boring as standing over an ironing board for hours on end.

Thankfully, with today's fabrics, ironing is not the trial it once was. With the right equipment and a few tricks of the ironing trade, you can turn this chore into a brief but plesant break from your day.

Secrets to the Best Equipment

Buy a sturdy ironing board. The board should not wobble when you work at it. It should have rubber feet on the legs to grip your floor and a well-padded cloth cover that is clean, smooth and fire-resistant. The best covers are secured with spring clamps, but most are attached with a cord run through a casing and pulled snug to fit the board.

Try a lightweight, pointed steam iron. Use distilled water to fill the steam chamber and empty any water from the iron after each use by steaming it out. If the steam vents of the iron have mineral buildup, clean them by pouring white vinegar into the water chamber and then operating the iron on steam. Flush with water and the deposits should disappear.

Keep the soleplate, or the face of the iron, clean. If it becomes stained or clogged with starch, it can be cleaned with a paste made by adding water to a quarter cup of baking soda. Rub this on the iron and let it set a minute. Rinse with a damp washcloth.

A rack for hanging items on hangers nearby is handy. Clothes should be hung to thoroughly dry after ironing so that they will not mildew or become wrinkled in a crowded closet.

Arrange a Nice Place to Iron

If possible, position your ironing board in a spot where you can see out a window and rest your mind. Put some soothing music on so you can listen and enjoy the smells of warm, clean clothes. Iron at your leisure; it can be a relaxing activity. It can give you a feeling of accomplishment to see wrinkled clothes transformed into wearable garments.

Preparing Items

Many of today's fabrics come from the drier ready to hang up and wear. Sheets don't need to be ironed, but some like to do this for the aesthetic value. Some people only iron pillowcases or pillow shams.

Know which fabrics can be safely ironed and which can't. Don't iron washcloths, rugs or mats, diapers, mattress or crib pads, comforters filed with down or foam filler, sweatpants or sweat shirts, stretch tights, swimwear, spandex articles, athletic sportswear or underwear. Most clothing made of cotton or linen will need ironing to look suitable.

Sort and Sprinkle Articles for Ironing

Why sprinkle with water? Sprinkling makes ironing easier and the finished items smoother. Sprinkle each piece by hand by dipping your hand in a bowl of warm water and flicking water onto the cloth. Linens will need to be damper. Roll up the pieces, then place them in a plastic bag or tub. If you aren't ironing them immediately, place the bag or tub in a refrigerator to prevent mildew from starting.

Starch and Sizing

Sizing is cellulose that is derived from cotton. It dries and stiffens when heated. Sizing is good for ironing items that can't be ironed with high heat. You spray it on the item and allow it to soak in before ironing. It is good for linens that you do not want to be too stiff. You can dissolve a packet of unflavored gelatin in two quarts of hot water to create your own sizing.

Starch is plant starch, usually corn starch, but it can be made of wheat or potato starch. Liquid starch can be added to the final rinse of your wash, or items may be dipped in starch or sizing water and allowed to dry before being sprinkled and ironed.

Buttons, Cuffs, Collars and Trouble Spots

Set your iron on low for synthetics, warm for silks and wools and high for cottons and linens. Test your iron's heat before starting. You don't want to melt or scorch a fabric. To iron, use steady strokes with slight pressure when pushing the iron forward and less pressure when moving back.

Start with the fabrics needing low heat and work toward the ones needing higher temperatures, adjusting the setting as you proceed. Unbutton shirts and dresses, but close snaps and zippers. Use the nose of the iron to work carefully around buttons.

To iron gathers, lay the gathered part at the tapered end of the board. Work the iron point up into the gathers while holding them tight with your free hand. Move with the thread of the goods to avoid puckering and unwanted creases.

Keep a damp cloth at hand to dab any places that aren't smooth. If starch leaves white residue, you have not allowed it to soak into the cloth enough.

Do collars, gathers and cuffs first on the inside, then again on the outside. Then do the flat portions of the garment. Turn out any linings, such as pockets, and do these first. Pressing the inside of these double-thickness areas first makes for an easier job and a better-looking finish.

You cannot iron velvet or corduroy, but you can steam them by holding the steam iron about ½ inch from the wrong side of the garment and releasing steam along the surface without setting the iron on the fabric. Iron stretchy garments with the direction of the fabric's weave to prevent the material from stretching out of shape. Pleats should be pinned straight before ironing. Press along the tops of the pleats first.

For table napkins, iron flat, without the creases, then fold. Start round tablecloths at the center and work outward. With curtains, do casings, hems and ruffles first, then continue from the center of the item and work toward the outer edge.

Embroidered or sequined garments should be ironed carefully. Lay a towel on the ironing board, then lay the piece wrong-side-up on the towel. Use a thin pressing cloth to cover the fabric and press mainly with the tip of the iron. Pressing does not use a back-and-forth motion; the iron is moved from spot with steam and a hard press at each new location.

Hang items and fold them carefully when they are fully dry. Check the collars, bands and cuffs. Air the items before putting them away.

Enjoy your ironing. Restoring an item to a smooth and lustrous condition is a satisfying accomplishment. It is a skill almost forsaken by today's bustling society, but one that will make your home and your clothing look their nicest.

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