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Home & garden.

Updated: 9 Feb 2022

How to iron your clothes

From denim jeans to cotton shirts, we reveal our expert tips for ironing clothes
Joseph Perry
Man ironing chequered shirt

If you're faced with a mountain of crumpled clothes, don't despair. We've pulled together expert advice to make ironing quicker and easier.

We've got tips on ironing a shirt, what to do before you start ironing and the best settings for different fabrics. Plus, we reveal whether you should use ironing water – and what the symbols on care labels actually mean.

Whether you iron your entire wardrobe or just the odd garment, read on to discover how to make ironing less of a chore.

Video: how to iron a shirt

Before you start ironing

If you want to get ahead of the game, here are four things to do before you start ironing:

  • Get a good iron The best irons heat up quickly and remove creases with ease, but the same can't be said for all models – some make ironing even more of a chore. Our steam iron reviews weed out the duds.
  • Don't overload your washing machine This can cause clothes to crease. Make ironing easier by leaving plenty of room for clothes to tumble around in the washing machine or dryer.
  • Adjust your ironing board Too high and you won't get enough force on the iron; too low and you'll get backache. If you've outgrown your board, our guide on how to choose the best ironing board has you covered.
  • Check the care labels Some clothes can't be ironed, so it's best to find out before you start ironing (and end up scorching them) while 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 tips

The moment you've been putting off has finally arrived; there's a Kilimanjaro-sized pile of laundry staring at you, and you don't know where to begin. 

Here's what to do:

  • Iron clothes while they're still damp It's easiest to remove creases while clothes are damp, although there are some exceptions (see our advice on ironing different fabrics below). Spray on a little water if they're already dry.
  • Separate fabrics by type Rather than reaching for whatever's at the top of the pile, separate the clothes into different fabrics. This means you don't have to fiddle with the settings so often.
  • Let the iron heat up If you've increased the temperature, make sure you give the iron enough time to heat up – or you needn't have bothered adjusting the thermostat. Similarly, allow the iron to cool if you've turned the temperature down.
  • Stroke, don't wiggle This can stretch the fabric, so it's best to stick long, straight strokes when ironing along them.
  • Hang or fold clothes straight away If you've gone to the effort of ironing, you might as well keep your clothes crease-free. Have a pile of hangers next to the ironing board – or iron beside your wardrobe, so you can hang them up straight away.
  • If you don't have an iron... hang clothes in a steamy bathroom (using it as an excuse to take a long, hot shower). This won't give you the same crispness as ironing, but your clothes will be a little less crinkled than before.

Ironing different fabrics

Careless ironing could ruin your favourite silk blouse or linen trousers. Here's how to iron different fabrics without damaging them:

How to iron acetate

Acetate is a synthetic fabric made from cellulose or wood pulp. It's often used for wedding dresses and occasion wear.

You should iron it inside-out on a low heat.

How to iron acrylic

This man-made fibre is often used for jumpers, socks and hats.

You should cover acrylic with a press cloth before ironing. Use the lowest temperature setting and press down gently, rather than moving it back and forth.

Iron acrylic when it's completely dry, or you might stretch it. Don't use steam.

How to iron cashmere

Cashmere comes from goat wool. Often used for jumpers and scarves, it's finer and softer than sheep wool.

You don't normally need to iron cashmere. Instead, smooth it out on a flat surface and leave it to air dry.

If it's still wrinkled after drying, iron on a low heat. Move in gentle strokes, never lingering on any one spot.

How to iron corduroy

You should iron it inside-out on a low temperature setting. Use as much steam as necessary.

After ironing, brush down in the direction of the pile. This helps corduroy keep its distinctive texture.

How to iron cotton and cotton blends

Whether you're ironing bed sheets or clothes, it's best to iron cotton while it's still damp. Iron on a high heat and use lots of steam.

Some cotton blends need less heat, so check the care label for instructions.

How to iron denim

Denim is a tough fabric, so use the highest steam and temperature settings.

Press firmly and use the steam burst function (if your iron has one) to eliminate stubborn creases.

How to iron embroidery and lace

Vintage clothes and accessories are back in vogue, but they need special care.

Iron embroidery and lace face down, with a press cloth on top. If you're not sure which side is the back, look for small tails of loose thread.

Use the lowest temperature setting and press down gently, being careful not to pull the stitching. 

How to iron linen

You don't always need to iron linen: some linen clothes are designed to look informal and crumpled.

But if you prefer to be crease-free, iron linen on a high heat setting while it's still damp.

How to iron nylon and polyester

Nylon and polyester are synthetic materials made from plastic.

Wait until they're nearly dry to iron them. Use the lowest temperature setting and a press cloth.

Polyester is sometimes mixed with cotton (poly-cotton). You should iron poly-cotton on a medium heat.

How to iron rayon

This synthetic material is made from cellulose or wood pulp.

Iron rayon on a low heat. Don't use steam, as moisture can stretch and damage it.

Allow rayon to cool before taking it off the ironing board.

How to iron silk

Regular ironing helps preserve silk's distinctive sheen.

To protect it from your iron, sandwich silk between a large white sheet and a press cloth. The matte side should be facing up.

Use a low temperature setting. Move in gentle strokes, never lingering on any one spot.

How to iron velvet

Velvet is often made from acetate, rayon or nylon fibre. It shouldn't be ironed. 

Instead, use the vertical steam function on your iron or a garment steamer to freshen it up while it's still on the hanger.

Hanging velvet clothes on a padded hanger helps keep them crease-free. Avoid folding velvet, if possible.

How to iron viscose

Viscose is a semi-synthetic fibre made from food pulp.

You should iron viscose on a medium heat while it's still damp, using a press cloth to prevent shine.

Move in quick strokes, never lingering on any one spot. Don't use steam.

How to iron wool and wool blends

You should iron wool and wool blends on a low heat.

Iron wool while it's still damp and use steam. Ironing wool when it's dry can damage it.

Should you use ironing water?

Filling iron with water

Ironing water ranges from a couple of pounds to more than £20 per bottle. 

According to ironing water manufacturers, it prevents limescale build-up, makes stubborn creases easier to shift and leaves fabrics smelling extra fresh.

However, you can manage just fine without it. In fact, lots of ironing brands advise 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.’

Philips recommends using a combination of tap water and distilled water to prevent limescale build-up.

After you finish ironing

Woman polishing iron soleplate

Before you put your iron back in the cleaning cupboard, here are three things you should do:

  • Let the iron cool down Never carry a hot iron around your home. Unplug it and wait – irons usually take 45 minutes to an hour to cool down.
  • Drain the water tank You should drain the tank after each use. Stagnant water allows limescale to form, which can clog the steam ducts and make the iron less effective.
  • Clean the iron Most irons come with a self-clean function. The instructions manual should tell you how often to initiate it – if you live in a hard water area, you might need to initiate it even more often.

For more advice on caring for your iron, see our guide on how to clean an iron.