The Heat is On

Most of my life, I spent doing something most people can not stand to do. Ironing. I made a career of cleaning and then pressing clothes that require more attention than just your basic wash, fold, and done. I was perfectly fine with that, I enjoyed the challenge of wrinkles in tricky fabrics, ( can you say velvet?) and why not? I had the best tools in which to accomplish the task.

An iron with 15 different heat settings attached by cords and pipes to a boiler room where endless amounts of steam is being created has its advantages. The average home iron has about 3 settings and the steam process is a joke. 9 times out of 10, you get a stream of water or nothing. It just doesn’t get hot enough.

So, how do you take care of the day to day wrinkles without having to get professional help? Lets chat.

The range of materials and the limitations on the iron is sometimes tricky to navigate, throw in inexperience and you have your self a hot mess.

You wouldn’t wash your clothes without checking the label, why would you try to iron them without reading the label as well? Once you make an iron mark (scorch), there is no return. Most cotton fabrics can be ironed on the hottest setting with no problem. Sometimes you need the assistance of a spray bottle of water and you’ve got a decent finished product. The same can be said about linen and seer sucker but you made need more patience with these materials than you have.

What about some of these other fabrics? Polyester is popular, but I can be a home irons worst nightmare. These fibers are synthetic and when heat is applied they melt together (hello imprint of the iron). Knit polo shirts fall into this category. The same is true for any fabric that has so stretch to it. I like to use the steam setting on the iron and barely skim the surface of the material, applying steam the whole way. The steam creates a buffer and usually wrinkles fall right out of these resilient materials. Another thing you can try is to just hang the garment in a steamy bathroom to see if the wrinkles will release. Most wool garments can have low heat applied directly to the surface and it is good to go, don’t forget the brushing trick I shared in a previous post. Another trick that works is to take a thin cloth like a tea towel or cheesecloth (does anyone use that anymore?), and lay it directly on your garment to create a buffer between the iron and the material. Then you can take the chance of putting the iron directly on these synthetic fabrics for more stubborn wrinkles that the steam just isn’t lifting.

What about formal wear? I have seen people drop big money of a fancy suit or dress and not spent the extra cash to have it professionally finished, and they have ruined it before they have even worn it. If you don’t own a steam wand (they are pretty inexpensive these days) you can use just your basic iron on the steam setting. Now granted it isn’t easy, but I can be done with some time and patience. You always want to use low to medium heat when dealing with delicate material. Heat is not their friend. It is difficult to steam the shoulders and back of a man’s jacket, just lightly touch the iron to the fabric as you move across in a sweeping motion. The iron can be gently placed on the sleeve if there are some stubborn elbow creases. Pants with a crease can be folded inseam crease to outer seam crease and you can use the towel method mentioned above or steam continuously across fabric to get that nice crease down the center of the leg

Women’s formals generally just need a light steam to get rid of wrinkles that form from being smashed together in the store. Again, try the shower trick. It is quick and easy and requires no real extra effort o your part. If that doesn’t work, try just gliding the steam gently over the fabric without stopping for too long in one spot. You can try the towel method on stubborn fabrics but steer clear of decoration. Acetate will tolerate a cool iron directly on the fabric, but any tule undershirts must be steamed.

Velvet is a beast of it’s own. I have found that lightly misting water from a spray bottle onto fabric and then come back with a horse hair brush to gently brush against the grain of the material has worked. You can shoot steam at the velvet, but DO NOT get anywhere near it with the iron.

It seems so simple on the surface. Most customers come in and say “just” press/iron this. It is not always that simple. Fabrics are complex and each poses its own set of challenges, but with a little know how and the right tools anyone can be successful.

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