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31 Aug 2021

10 ironing tips to get clothes looking their best

With offices reopening and long-awaited celebrations finally taking place, it's time to dust off your best outfit and refamiliarise yourself with your steam iron
Woman ironing fabric

With workplaces shut and celebrations put on hold, many of us haven't ironed in months. But as life slowly returns to normal, and with school pupils either back or due back soon, now could be the time to dig out your iron and spruce up you or your family's wardrobe.

If you can't remember how to iron a shirt or what those symbols on the care label actually mean, don't panic: we've pulled together 10 fool-proof ironing tips.

We've also got advice on caring for your iron - and how to stop creases before they happen.

Check out our video guide below, or keep scrolling for our ironing do's and don'ts.

Need a new iron? Take a look at our best steam irons.

Video: how to iron a shirt

DON'T: Overload your washing machine

You might not realise it, but making your ironing job easier starts before you've even got your iron out. Overloading your washing machine can cause clothes to crumple so leave plenty of room for clothes to tumble around.

If you think you need a bigger washing machine, check out our washing machine reviews.

DO: Make sure your clothes are clean

It might seem obvious, but make sure your clothes are clean before you iron them.

Ironing a stain can make it stick, so it's always best to iron clothes when they're fresh from the washing machine or tumble dryer.

DO: Iron clothes while damp

It's easiest to remove creases while clothes are still damp, although there are some exceptions (see our advice on ironing different fabrics).

If your clothes are already dry, dampen them using the iron's spray function or a spray bottle - you can use an empty cleaning bottle (just make sure it's thoroughly rinsed out).

DON'T: Use ironing water

Ironing water is said to prevent limescale build-up, shift stubborn stains and leave your clothes smelling extra fresh. However, you can manage just fine without it.

In fact, lots of ironing brands caution against using ironing water.

Tefal told us: 'Scented or treated waters can damage your iron or generator, as the chemicals leave residue which can damage seals and moving parts.

'Treated water can also have a higher boiling point, which can result in incomplete steam generation.'

DO: Adjust your ironing board

Iron on ironing board

Your ironing board should be at the right height for you: too high and you won't get enough pressure on the iron; too low and you'll get backache.

As a general rule, your arm should be at a 90-degree angle when you iron.

If that's not possible with your current ironing board, our guide on how to choose the best ironing board will help you find a new one.

DO: Separate fabrics by type

Instead of reaching for whatever's at the lop of the laundry pile, separate your clothes into different fabrics. This means you won't have to adjust the settings each time you iron an item and be left waiting for the iron to heat up or cool down.

If you don't know what fabric a garment is made from, check the care label - it should tell you the fabric composition, and whether it's safe to iron.

DON'T: Ignore the care labels

Some clothes can't be ironed, so it's best to find out before you start ironing - and end up burning a hole through your new top. Others require a press cloth, such as a clean cotton tea towel, to protect them from direct heat.

If you aren't sure what the symbols on the care label mean, check out our guide below.

Ironing symbols explained

Ironing symbols explained

DO: Hang clothes up straight away

There's no point ironing your clothes if you don't keep them crease-free.

Have a pile of hangers next to the ironing board - or iron beside your wardrobe, so you can hang clothes up as soon as they're ironed.

Want more ironing tips? Our guide on how to iron your clothes is packed with ways to make ironing quicker and easier.

DON'T: Wiggle the iron

Wiggling the iron can stretch the fabric, so it's best to stick to long, straight strokes.

There are a handful of exceptions to this rule, where ironing in long strokes might damage the fabric, so take a look at our advice on ironing different fabrics if you're in doubt.

DON'T: Forget to clean your iron

Make sure you drain the water tank after each use. Stagnant water allows limescale to form, which can clog the steam ducts and make the iron less effective.

Before you put your iron back in the cleaning cupboard, it's also a good idea to initiate the self-cleaning function (if your iron has one).

The instructions manual should tell you how often to initiate it, but this is typically a minimum amount - if you live in a hard water area, you might need to do it more regularly.

For more maintenance advice, check out our guide on how to clean an iron.

Woman ironing chequered shirt

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Prices correct as of 31 August 2021.