Want that crisp, clean, pressed look at a moment's notice? Invest in an iron, ironing board, and related products and accessories to be able to smooth out those annoying wrinkles. The right tools make a big difference. Ironing will also save you money when compared to taking garments to a professional laundry or dry cleaner.
Classic and Steam Irons
The number and quality of features are the biggest influences on the cost of an iron. In addition to the selection of features, the amount of wattage can also affect the price; a high-wattage clothes iron heats quickly and maintains its temperature. Starting around $10 for a basic model and ranging to more than $100 for top-of-the-line, handheld, cordless steam irons, your choice of iron depends on your needs and preferences.
A classic dry iron features a flat soleplate (the bottom or face of the iron) with a heat-generating electrical element. In addition to a dry iron's basic features, a good steam iron includes a variable steam gauge to adjust the amount of steam released and a burst-of-steam feature for stubborn wrinkles.
- Ironing board: Ironing boards range from $15 to more than $1,000 for professional-quality models that are marketed through specialty home stores and catalogs. The most common ironing boards are the adjustable metal X-leg types readily available at retailers. Look for adjustable models that allow comfortable use when either sitting or standing. Ideally, the ironing surface should be at hip level for ease of use. Some affordable boards provide cord holders that prevent tangles, iron rests that prevent scorching the cover, and racks for hanging clothes. Depending on the size and location of the home laundry area, a built-in with a pull-down board might be a convenient feature, easily hidden in a wall cabinet when not in use. Retailers also offer boards that can hang over a door for convenience and easy storage.
- Ironing board pads and covers: Yesterday's ironing boards were wood; today's are made of metal. Either way, you need to cover the board with thick cotton padding to reduce overheating from beneath and to reduce wrinkling. Pad covers come in many colors and patterns, in plain cotton, and with nonstick coatings to make starch or sizing cleanup easy. You will also need ironing board cover fasteners (elastic strips with metal fasteners -- usually four to a package) to keep the cover tight and wrinkle-free. These elements are often packaged as a kit, too.
You might want to consider the following accessories and products to help you achieve good results when ironing.
- Spray bottles: Even with a good-quality steam iron, it can be helpful to add a mist of dampness to particularly stubborn wrinkles and creases. A handy spray bottle for water gives you just the right wrinkle-fighting boost. Some bottles can also be used to spray liquid starch or sizing.
- Pressing cloth: Pressing cloths are pieces of fabric used to protect the item being ironed. Place it between the face of the iron (i.e. soleplate) and the wrinkled item. If desired, dampen the cloth before ironing to create steam to help subdue wrinkles. You can purchase a pressing cloth or use a white cotton dishtowel or any cotton fabric that will not transfer color to your garment. Silk organza press cloths, which are sheer but also withstand heat, are good for pressing silk, lace, and iron-on interfacings.
- Sleeve board: This solid wood accessory with a cotton cover includes a free arm that allows the entire sleeve to be ironed. It also accommodates small, hard-to-reach areas.
- Tailor's ham: Shaped like its namesake, this firmly stuffed wool-and-cotton-covered notion is used for molding and shaping darts.
- Seam roll: Similar to a tailor's ham, the seam roll is a wool-and-cotton-covered form that is stuffed to offer a firm surface upon which to press long seams and narrow areas.
- Ironing mat: This heat-resistant mat easily turns a flat surface, such as the top of a washer or dryer, into an ironing board. Heavy magnets sewn into the mat's corners help it stay in place.
- Spray starch and sizing: These products help clothes look and stay crisp by facilitating a smooth finish and sharp creases. Use starch for natural fabrics such as cotton. Use sizing for synthetics. Spray lightly from several inches away before ironing.
- Ironing water: Commercial scented ironing water can be poured into your iron's reservoir and steamed onto your clothes to add a fresh, clean scent as you iron.