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7 July 2021

How to iron clothes properly

Faced with a crumpled mountain of ironing? Don’t despair. There are plenty of ways to make the whole experience quicker and easier.
Rebecca Duff

Our guide is packed with expert tips to help you save time on your ironing, from when to use continuous steam to how best to target really stubborn creases. 

We also explain what you need to look out for to buy the best iron - for more expert iron buying advice, head to our separate guide to choosing an iron or steam generator.

Read on for advice on buying ironing boards and if you should use ironing water.

Video: tips on how to Iron

Of all the household tasks, ironing is one many of us dread the most. It can be time-consuming and, if you get it wrong, you risk doing permanent damage to your favourite piece of clothing.

Make your life easier and avoid ruining your clothes with our top tips: 

  • Your clothes should be damp when you iron them, as the extra moisture will loosen the fibres and smooth out creases. For best results, get started while your garments are still a little damp from the washing machine. If they’re too wet, you’ll end up with an unmanageable, water-logged heap; if they dry completely, deep creases may set in.
  • If your garments have already dried, a good steam iron should provide the moisture you need to loosen them again. If not, spray them with a little fresh water before you begin.
  • Whatever you do, always read the label on each item to find out what setting your iron should be on. Don't be tempted to spin the dial up too high: synthetic fabrics will suffer as a result. See the video above for more pointers.
  • If your iron's clogged with limescale, it won't work properly. Which means you'll need to put in more time and effort. So clean it regularly - find out how to clean an iron.

Choosing the best steam iron

Even the most proficient ironer is only good as their iron, so you could benefit from finding a reliable, efficient model. If you think yours might be past its best, there are plenty of new models to choose from in our irons reviews area.

One of the Best Buy steam irons will be fast, but one of the best steam generator irons will be even faster. The heavyweights of the ironing world, steam generators can flatten the competition thanks to their superior steam production.

Ironing boards

If you're struggling to get through your ironing pile, it's worth taking a closer look at your ironing board. Does it have a lumpy cover that means you're ironing creases into your clothes? Or is it set at an awkward height?

The best ironing boards are made of mesh and have thick padding, but even these vary considerably.

Some are better suited to those who like to iron while sitting down, others are long and wide enough for bulky bed covers or curtains, or helpfully angled to support the shoulders on shirts or blouses.

Make sure your ironing board suits your needs, or you could be spending longer than you need hunched uncomfortably or struggling to manoeuvre large items of laundry.

See our guide on how to choose the best ironing board.

Should you use ironing water?

You might already be using ironing water - fragrant, distilled water - for your steam iron. Available in various scents, manufacturers claim that it prevents limescale build-up in irons, makes stubborn creases easier to shift and makes fabrics smell extra fresh.

It typically costs around £1-2 for a bottle, but a small handful of brands can charge up to £15 a bottle. 

However, this could be one luxury that just isn’t worth your money. In fact, lots of steam iron manufacturers actually advise against using ironing water.

One of these is Tefal. A representative told us that ‘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.’

Rather than fragranced water, Philips advises using tap water or distilled water in your iron for the best results. If you live in a hard water area, you can also mix a combination of 50% tap water and 50% distilled water to help prevent limescale build up.