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Ironing a shirt Ironing a shirt.jpg
Ironing a shirt

Ironing is the use of an iron, usually heated, to remove wrinkles and unwanted creases from fabric. [1] The heating is commonly done to a temperature of 180–220 °Celsius (356-428 Fahrenheit), depending on the fabric. [2] Ironing works by loosening the bonds between the long-chain polymer molecules in the fibres of the material. While the molecules are hot, the fibres are straightened by the weight of the iron, and they hold their new shape as they cool. Some fabrics, such as cotton, require the addition of water to loosen the intermolecular bonds. Many modern fabrics (developed in or after the mid-twentieth century) are advertised as needing little or no ironing. Permanent press clothing was developed to reduce the ironing necessary by combining wrinkle-resistant polyester with cotton. [3]


The first known use of heated metal to "iron" clothes is known to have occurred in China. [4] The electric iron was invented in 1882, by Henry Seely White. Seely patented his "electric flatiron" on June 6, 1882 (U.S. Patent no. 259,054). [5]



The iron is the small appliance used to remove wrinkles from fabric. It is also known as a clothes iron, steam iron, flat iron, smoothing iron or iron box.

On 15 February 1858 W. Vandenburg and J. Harvey patented an ironing table that facilitated pressing sleeves and pant legs. [6] A truly portable folding ironing board was first patented in Canada in 1875 by John B. Porter. The invention also included a removable press board used for sleeves. [7] In 1892 Sarah Boone obtained a patent in the United States for improvements to the ironing board, allowing for better quality ironing for shirt sleeves. [8]

Ironing board cover sizes

Size[ citation needed ]InchesCentimeters
A43 × 12110 × 30
B49 × 15124 × 38
C49 × 18124 × 45
D53 × 18135 × 45
E53 × 19135 × 49

Tailor's ham

A tailor's ham or dressmakers ham is a tightly stuffed pillow in the shape of a ham used as a mold when pressing curves such as sleeves or collars. [9]

Commercial equipment

Commercial dry cleaning and full-service laundry providers usually use a large appliance called a steam press to do most of the work of ironing clothes. Alternatively, a rotary iron may be used.

A tailor's stove Flat-iron-stove 2.jpg
A tailor's stove

Historically, larger tailors' shops included a tailor's stove, used to quickly and efficiently heat multiple irons. In many developing countries a cluster of solid irons, heated alternatively from a single heating source, are used for pressing clothes at small commercial outlets.


Different machines promise to automate ironing, such as Effie and Panasonic Sustainable Maintainer. Both machines individually treat clothes and then fold them onto a shelf.

Woman ironing a shirt (Koln, Germany 1953) Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F001163-0012, Koln, Textilfabrik Bierbaum-Proenen.jpg
Woman ironing a shirt (Köln, Germany 1953)
A man ironing clothes using a charcoal iron box ManIroning.JPG
A man ironing clothes using a charcoal iron box
TextileTemperature[ citation needed ]Temperature [2] Dot mark
Toile 240 °C
Triacetate ("Estron", "Silene", "Tricell")200 °C220–250 °C
Cotton 204 °C / 400 °F180–220 °C* * * [10]
Linen (flax)230 °C / 445 °F215–240 °C* * * [10]
Viscose/Rayon190 °C150–180 °C* * [10]
Wool 148 °C / 300 °F160–170 °C* * [11]
Polyester 148 °C / 300 °F* [10]
Silk 148 °C / 300 °F140–165 °C* [11]
SympaTex * [10]
Acetate ("Arnel", "Celco", "Dicel")143 °C180 °C* [11]
Acrylic 135 °C180 °C
Lycra/spandex 135 °C
Nylon-6150 °C150 °C*
Nylon-66170 °C180–220 °C***
Dot markTemperature
*< 110 °C
* *< 150 °C
* * *< 200 °C

Another source suggests slightly higher temperatures, for example, 180-220 °C for cotton [2]


When the fabric is heated, the molecules are more easily reoriented. In the case of cotton fibres, which are derivatives of cellulose, the hydroxyl groups that crosslink the cellulose polymer chains are reformed at high temperatures, and become somewhat "locked in place" upon cooling the item. In permanent press pressed clothes, chemical agents such as dimethylol ethylene urea are added as crosslinking agents.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Laundry refers to the washing of clothing and other textiles, and, more broadly, their drying and ironing as well. Laundry has been part of history since humans began to wear clothes, so the methods by which different cultures have dealt with this universal human need are of interest to several branches of scholarship. Laundry work has traditionally been highly gendered, with the responsibility in most cultures falling to women. The Industrial Revolution gradually led to mechanized solutions to laundry work, notably the washing machine and later the tumble dryer. Laundry, like cooking and child care, is still done both at home and by commercial establishments outside the home.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rayon</span> Cellulose-based semi-synthetic fiber

Rayon is a semi-synthetic fiber, made from natural sources of regenerated cellulose, such as wood and related agricultural products. It has the same molecular structure as cellulose. It is also called viscose. Many types and grades of viscose fibers and films exist. Some imitate the feel and texture of natural fibers such as silk, wool, cotton, and linen. The types that resemble silk are often called artificial silk.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clothes iron</span> Tool or appliance for smoothing cloth using heat and pressure

A clothes iron is a small appliance that, when heated, is used to press clothes to remove wrinkles and unwanted creases. Domestic irons generally range in operating temperature from between 121 °C (250 °F) to 182 °C (360 °F). It is named for the metal (iron) of which the device was historically made, and the use of it is generally called ironing, the final step in the process of laundering clothes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paper machine</span> Fourdrinier Paper Manufacturing

A paper machine is an industrial machine which is used in the pulp and paper industry to create paper in large quantities at high speed. Modern paper-making machines are based on the principles of the Fourdrinier Machine, which uses a moving woven mesh to create a continuous paper web by filtering out the fibres held in a paper stock and producing a continuously moving wet mat of fibre. This is dried in the machine to produce a strong paper web.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cellulose triacetate</span> Chemical compound

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Dimensional stability is the change of dimensions in textile products when they are washed or relaxed. The change is always expressed relative to the dimensions before the exposure of washing or relaxing. Shrinkage is also called residual shrinkage and measured in percentage. The major cause of shrinkages is the release of stresses and strains introduced in manufacturing processes. Textile manufacturing is based on the conversion of fiber into yarn, yarn into fabric, includes spinning, weaving, or knitting, etc. The fabric passes through many inevitable changes and mechanical forces during this journey. When the products are immersed in water, the water acts as a relaxing medium, and all stresses and strains are relaxed and the fabric tries to come back to its original state. The dimensional stability of textile materials is an important quality parameter. Failing and unstable materials can cause deforming of the garments or products. Shrinkage is tested at various stages, but most importantly before cutting the fabric into further sewn products and after cutting and sewing prior to supplying the products to buyers and consumers. It is a required parameter of quality control to ensure the sizes of the products to avoid any complaints regarding deformation or change in dimensions after domestic laundry. The tests are conducted with provided specifications of buyers imitating the same conditions like washing cycle time, temperature and water ratio and fabric load and sometimes top loading and front loading washing machines are chosen to authenticate the test and assurance of the results. This procedure provides standard and alternate home laundering conditions using an automatic washing machine. While the procedure includes several options, it is not possible to include every existing combination of laundering parameters. The test is applicable to all fabrics and end products suitable for home laundering.

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  2. 1 2 3 Fritz Schultze-Gebhardt, Karl-Heinz Herlinger "Fibers, 1. Survey" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, Wily-VCH, Weinheim, 2000. doi : 10.1002/14356007.a10_451
  3. "IRONING definition". Retrieved 2022-07-12.
  6. U.S. Patent 19,390
  7. Mario Theriault, Great Maritime Inventions 1833–1950, Goose Lane, 2001, p. 31
  8. Mary Bellis (2011). "Sarah Boone". Inventors. . Retrieved 13 November 2011.[ permanent dead link ]
  9. "Tailor's ham and Seam Roll Free Pattern". Sewing Princess. Retrieved 2012-05-24.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 "Bra att veta vad man har på sig" (PDF). Ulla Popken. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-11-22. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
  11. 1 2 3 "General care" (PDF). Lanidor. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2010-02-04.