Wearing crisp, wrinkle-free clothing is an essential part of maintaining a professional appearance at work, school, or social gatherings. Most of the time, you can easily get those wrinkle-free results by using an iron and ironing board. But what if you don’t have access to an ironing board? Maybe you’re traveling, or staying at someone else’s house, or maybe your ironing board is just not available at the moment.
I know how frustrating it can be to be faced with a wrinkled shirt and find yourself with no ironing board on hand. In our family’s case, for instance, we’re in the midst of moving between houses and so our own ironing board is packed up for the next few weeks. But I still need to present myself in a professional way for work—and crumpled-up shirts just aren’t going to cut it. Fortunately, there are several ways that you can iron without an ironing board, and they’re all really straightforward.
There are two options for you: use a makeshift ironing surface or use a non-ironing alternative. This tutorial will walk you through both of these approaches.
What you need
If you are using a makeshift ironing surface, you’ll need:
- An iron.
- A flat, heat-resistant surface that is at least the area of your garment.
- Heat-resistant fabric or an ironing blanket or mat that can cover the surface.
The non-ironing alternatives described below use a variety of different tactics. While none of these are as effective as ironing on a makeshift board, you might find yourself needing to turn to one in a pinch.
If you are pursuing one of the non-ironing alternatives, some of the things you may need are:
- A hair straightener, OR
- A shower with a place to hang your garment and/or a coat hanger, OR
- A dryer and (optionally) a damp towel, OR
- A clothes steamer, OR
- Wrinkle release spray.
To make and use a makeshift ironing surface, following these instructions:
Select a surface
Choose a flat, level surface that is at a comfortable height for you when you’re standing. Some people suggest using the floor but crouching over might be uncomfortable; also, you want the surface to have an edge over which you can drape parts of the garment to help pull it taut while you iron.
The material of the surface must be heat-resistant. Solid wood or tile is best. Metal also works but be aware that metal will heat up quickly when you put the iron on the garment. Avoid painted surfaces and surfaces made of plastic or other materials that could melt.
Make sure that the surface is clean and equal to or slightly larger than the surface area of the garment. It should be located close to an electrical outlet so you can plug in your iron.
Protect the surface
It is essential that you avoid ironing directly on the surface of your makeshift ironing board because doing so will ruin the surface (and probably your garment). Cover the surface fully with a heat-resistant fabric that can protect the entire area, and pull it tight so that the fabric itself isn’t bunched up or wrinkled underneath your garment as you iron (if it is, you’ll end up ironing wrinkles into your garment rather than getting them out).
The best fabrics to use to protect your makeshift ironing surface are wool, canvas, thick cotton, or heavier linen. Thick terry cloth or flannel can also work well. Do not use fabrics that are delicate (like lace) or that can easily melt (such as rayon and polyester). Avoid colored fabrics as the dyes in these can sometimes transfer to your garment when they’re heated up.
If you prefer, you can purchase (or even make) an ironing blanket to protect your surface. These sturdy, scorch-resistant blankets are usually made of stiff cotton, quilt batting, or nylon—often stuffed with foam or polyester—and are heat-resistant. Many have non-skid backings to hold them in place, or magnets so you can use it on top of your dryer or washing machine. They can be folded easily and are great for traveling or if your home has too little space for a full-sized ironing board.
Iron your garment
Smooth out your garment on top of the protective fabric and iron it according to the instructions on the care tag. Be certain that you never place your iron face down on the protective fabric or the makeshift surface.
Always unplug your iron when you’re finished and let it cool fully before putting it away. Be aware, also, that the protective fabric may be hot after you finish ironing, so let that also cool fully before taking it up.
If you need to use a non-ironing alternative, here are some options:
- Smooth small wrinkles with a hair straightener. If there are just a few wrinkles that you need to get out of your garment, or to smooth creases in parts of your garment that are difficult to reach (such as collars), a rod-style hair straightener can be a useful tool. Make sure that the plates are clean and free from any hair or hair product residue. Set it to the heat level recommended by the garment’s care tag. Once it’s ready, squeeze the wrinkled part of your garment between the plates for a few seconds.
- Hang wrinkled clothing in a steamy room. An iron gets wrinkles out of a garment by heating it up and relaxing its fibers, then pressing the fibers smooth. One substitute for this is to use the heat and steam from a shower to relax the fibers and the force of gravity to pull it smooth. Close the bathroom door, hang your garment as close to the shower as possible without getting it wet, and let the hot water run for several minutes until the room is filled with steam.
- Use a dryer. Running your garment through the dryer for 10 to 15 minutes can often get many of the worst wrinkles out. Some dryers even have a wrinkle-release setting for just this purpose. If yours doesn’t, simply set the dryer to the highest heat level permitted on the garment’s care tag. Be sure that your garment is dryer-safe before putting it in any dryer, however. If your garment is severely wrinkled, putting a damp towel in the dryer along with it can help steam out the creases as well.
- Use a clothes steamer. You can purchase a reliable clothes steamer for under $30 if you want to avoid applying direct heat to your garment. This appliance heats up water in its reservoir to create a hot mist that relaxes the wrinkles out of clothing. Make sure your garment is hanging evenly and move the steamer’s head in even, downward strokes. Let it dry fully before putting it on. Always make sure that your garment’s care tag specifically permits the use of a steamer, otherwise, you may damage the fabric.
- Use a wrinkle release spray. Commercially available wrinkle release sprays are available from most groceries, craft stores, and laundry shops. To use one of these, hang your garment and pull it taut with one hand while spraying the product over the wrinkles from a few inches away. Then use your hand to smooth out the fabric. Let it dry fully before putting it on.
No matter which of these options you choose, always hang clothing promptly after washing it. Folding most clothing and stacking it in drawers can lead to wrinkles, especially if the drawers are overly packed. Hanging clothing on padded and shaped hangers that are the correct size will prevent wrinkles from forming in the first place.
Keeping your clothing crisp and creaseless sends a message about your professionalism and your degree of care. People are more likely to take you seriously if you aren’t draped in wrinkled garments. But it’s not always possible to lay your shirt on an ironing board and smooth it out.
Hopefully, some of these suggestions and guidelines above will help you solve this problem. Let me know in the comments what you think, and please remember to share this article if you found it at all helpful.