Hate ironing? You're probably doing it wrong

how to iron properly
Ironing is apparently Britain's most hated household chore, but it doesn't need to cause you dread Credit: Irina Zharkova/Alamy Stock Photo

I am a smooth operator, insofar as I love everything ironed. I draw the line at towels and underwear, but apart from that, get pressing. I even tested myself – in an effort to lighten up and roll with the creases – by buying a set of fashionably rumpled bed linen and, well, no. It was very nice and everything, but I liked it much better pressed. Smooth.

I’m constantly surprised by friends who claim never to iron a thing and yet somehow don’t look as though they live in a bin. I can only assume they leap upon the tumble dryer the moment it finishes and have everything folded before you can say “wrinkle free”.

According to a YouGov survey, ironing is our most hated domestic task, which makes me think these people have never met vacuuming.

Even in these odd times when we see no one and go nowhere, I still iron almost everything. In the early 1990s, I lived in Moscow. I called an American friend who arrived there a little before me and asked her how she was getting on. “Well, I stopped wearing eyeliner in week eight.” I don’t care about eyeliner, but I do care about looking vaguely pulled together and for me, that’s a crisply-ironed shirt, because if I stop ironing, who knows what’s next? Washing? Combing my hair? Speaking in sentences? Anyway, thanks for indulging me. This is probably best between me and my therapist.

Back to ironing…

First, catch your iron.

  • I use a steam generator iron which makes light(er) work of everything, racing through heavy clothes such as jeans, or huge things like sheets, in a fraction of the time it would take with an ordinary steam iron. Steam irons have their water tanks inbuilt, whereas steam generator irons have separate reservoirs to provide more steam and higher pressure.
  • When buying a new iron, get a balance between power and weight. It’s no good having a wrinkle-busting iron if it’s too heavy for you to handle.
  •  If you’re someone who doesn’t iron much, consider a garment steamer, which allows you to freshen up clothes without much faff.
  •  Get a sturdy and well-padded ironing board and replace the cover when it becomes battered and lumpy.
  •  Keep your iron clean, particularly if you use fabric conditioner and starch. When the iron’s unplugged and cool, wipe the hotplate with a damp cloth. If it’s in a bad way, give it a scrub with an old toothbrush and a little bicarbonate of soda mixed into a paste with water, or use a product such as Faultless Hot Iron Cleaner, £5.99 from lakeland.co.uk.
  • Clean the filter or reservoir regularly, particularly if you live in a hard-water area. Even with anti-scale and anti-calcium functions, limescale can build up and clog the steam vents.

Scented ironing waters

  •  You want your laundry to be slightly damp from the tumble dryer or the line when you iron it. This isn’t always possible, so I usually spray my clothes with a fine mist of water first. You can buy fancy ironing waters for this too, some of which can go in the machine’s reservoir, but it’s quite simple to make your own. In a spray bottle (you don’t want to put home-made ones inside the iron), mix together four tablespoons of unflavoured vodka and 10 or so drops of your favourite essential oils (lavender and citrus work particularly well). Swish the mixture about a bit, leave for a few hours, then top up with distilled or filtered water.

How to iron

  •  In the international language of the iron, one dot signifies 120C for synthetics, two dots 160C for silk and wool, and three 210C for cotton and linen. Divide up your laundry, start at the lowest temperature and work up.
  •  To stop clothes becoming shiny or damaged from ironing, press dark cottons and linens, silk and wool using an ironing cloth placed over the top (a clean linen tea towel will do). Use an ironing cloth on embroidery and lace, to protect them.
  • Never iron a pile fabric such as velvet. Place it on a hanger and use the steam setting on your iron to get the wrinkles out, holding it vertically about 12in from the clothing and giving it a good blast.
  •  When you’ve finished ironing, let your clothes air for an hour or so and lose all of their moisture before putting them away.
Dear Debora...your questions answered
The detergent drawer of your washing machine can get a bit grubby if you don't clean it regularly Credit: Piotr Adamowicz/Getty Images

Dear Debora,

How do I get rid of washing powder residue that’s built up in my machine dispenser drawer?

– Alison Alexander, Hemel Hempstead

Dear Alison,

It’s surprising how grimy the machines designed to get our clothes clean can become. First, unplug the machine and pull out the drawer. Fill the sink with warm water and add a squirt of washing-up liquid. Put the drawer in there to soak while you tackle the drawer cavity in the machine. Use a cloth you’ve wrung out in the warm, soapy water to wipe off the worst, then spray with a product such as Dettol Mould and Mildew Remover Spray, £3.50 for 750ml from supermarkets. Leave it for five minutes then wipe again. Next, go back to the drawer in the sink and give it the same treatment. Put it back into the casing and run a service wash with a small amount of detergent and no clothes in the drum.

Readers' tips
Is your extractor fan getting a little dusty? A can of compressed air could be the answer Credit: MileA/iStockphoto

Dear Debora,

Extractor fans can get dusty and they’re a pain to take down to clean. Instead, turn the fan on and give it a good blast from a can of compressed air and it will dislodge the dust in seconds.

– Danny Jackson, Middlesbrough

Compressed air is available from stationery supply shops – it’s intended for dislodging dust from laptops and keyboards – and online. Try Office Depot Air Duster, £2.38, from viking-direct.co.uk. -DR