/ Home & Energy

Crease-free style – are irons required or redundant?

Man holding iron and shirt

How much would you be prepared to pay for crease-free clothes and quick, easy ironing? £50? That’s around the right amount to get a great iron, but are any of us ironing that much any more?

I can think of many uses for £50, and none of them involve forking out on what I consider to be a non-essential household chore. But then, I happily avoid ironing at all costs with hardly any impact on my day-to-day life.

And that’s because I can. I don’t have to be suited and booted for work, and I’m prepared to sacrifice crease-free style when I buy clothes. And while I can appreciate there’s nothing quite like slipping between crisply-ironed sheets, if it’s at the cost of man-handling the duvet cover around the ironing board I’ll choose to line-dry bedding every time.

But if I had to iron 232 shirts a year – roughly the number a five-shirts-a-week suit wearer transitions through their ironing pile every 12 months – I suspect I would have to face up to my ironing aversion.

Ironing avoidance tactics

When I think about it, I’ve evolved a trick or two to make my iron-free life possible. I select a lower spin speed on my washing machine so clothes are left a little wetter. Then time spent shaking out creases in damp washing and pulling fabrics taut on the airer works wonders for smooth (ish) dry clothes.

Adrian Porter, our laundry researcher, has given up on the pressed shirt. He too reduces the spin-speed, gives shirts a 10 minute tumble-dry, then puts them straight on the hanger. A quick once-over the areas that are prone to creasing (like the collar) with an iron and the finished article is perfectly acceptable.

Cheap vs pricey irons

Still, I must admit that I do own an iron, and in some ways I wouldn’t be without one. It’s essential for those unavoidable occasions when I have to dress smartly, for example. But I know that when it finally gives up the ghost, I’ll want to spend as little as possible on its replacement.

Cheap irons do exist – we test a lot of them at Which?. But they’re not always up to scratch. Common failings are they just don’t generate enough steam to tackle stubborn creases. Or they start off OK, but steam levels soon tail off as they clog up with limescale.

On the flip side, more expensive irons (in the £60 – £100 price bracket) generally do noticeably better in our tests. The best of them steam powerfully and glide smoothly across fabrics, making it quicker and easier to blitz through the laundry pile.

It looks like I’ll face the eternal price vs quality dilemma when I’m next shopping for an iron. The outcome will be heavily influenced by my aversion to ironing. But that’s just me – how much would you be prepared to spend on a new iron? And if you have any tips and tricks to avoid or minimise ironing, I’m all ears.

How much would you pay for a new iron?

£25-49 (51%, 522 Votes)

Less than £25  (23%, 235 Votes)

£50-99 (18%, 184 Votes)

More than £100 (9%, 89 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,030

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Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I do iron shirts, even those that claim to be non-iron.

I iron shirts while they are still damp, straight out of the washing machine. That means that they are nearly dry when they have been ironed. I have never understood why most people wash and dry clothes and then mess about with a steam iron.

Profile photo of richard
Member

This is why I bought my steam mop – It came with a de-creasing mop head – useful for de-creasing shirts curtains and trousers – so much easier than using an iron.- even a steam iron. Just hang the item up and run the mop down the cloth – a couple of minutes and allow to dry – a freshly ironed shirt at half the trouble. It isn’t quite as good for collars – but usually gives an acceptable result – Haven’t used the iron for over a year. Oh a plus – during the dog moulting season – the loose fur ‘sticks’ to the mop head rather than the shirt – so no need to a painstaking removal of fur with Static brush as well.

Member
Lesley Bennett says:
2 November 2012

Sounds amazing. I am using Which to research which steam mop to buy. Which one can do this?

Profile photo of John Ward
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I’m not trusted to operate the washing machine so I get to do the ironing. If it’s made of cotton or similar then I iron it and I press trousers. I don’t like doing some of my wife’s blouses with their darts and pleats but she admits I do a pretty good job. I do like doing duvet covers, pillow cases and table cloths, and getting fitted sheets to look correctly folded. Sometimes I also starch shirts. Like Wavechange, I iron while things are damp and turn the steam off. I also have a water spray bottle which helps with any crumples. Since one never gets a second chance to make a first impression, I think an iron and a good ironing board are essential. I couldn’t wear a tie if the shirt wasn’t crisp and smooth and I never go out without a tie. Ironing time is a great opportunity to put on some pleasant music and do some private thinking.

Profile photo of william
Member

I never ironed a shirt during the winter as the jacket would cover it or else the jumper over the top would 🙂 During the summer I’d try and hand dry to avoid large creases. And now I don’t wear shirts so win win for me.

Profile photo of dean
Member

Nice point about spin speed, I’ll take that on board.

I don’t have to be suited and booted for work, but I do wear a shirt, I just never iron it. I haven’t ironed any clothes for years actually. Maybe I do a shirt when the occasion calls for it but generally, no. The last time we used an iron was when my girlfriend plugged it in, dropped it on the floor and then wondered what the bubbling sound was coming from the carpet!

I like removing pointless chores from my day wherever possible. Another one to mention is sock matching.

Profile photo of Jonathan Richardson
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It is a chore that I do in batches, although some people get their cleaner to do it. I find that a misting bottle, the kind you use for plants, is essential as you can get the shirt damp on the board before you iron.

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Member

Summer only unless I’ve got to wear a suit. Linen stuff is the worst: It doesn’t do to look too crumpled, even on holiday. Fortunately the dry cleaners near us does just ironing.

Profile photo of Nikki Whiteman
Member

Wow – have to say I’m impressed with all of the people who iron clothes – I try to only buy clothes that won’t need ironing, as I find the task so time consuming. I do have an iron somewhere in the back of a cupboard for special occasions, but I don’t think I spent a lot on it.

Profile photo of Lisa Barber
Member

My iron’s just given up the ghost, and does a rather spectacular job of dripping water over my clothes without getting out any actual creases, so I need to buy a new one. There’s no way I’m paying over £25 for something that I actively avoid using.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Why not take the iron apart and find out why it is leaking? Many faults in household appliances are due to simple problems that can be fixed easily.

Profile photo of Jess O'Leary
Member

Hi wavechange,

Can you think of a fault that might cause an iron to start dribbling or spitting water mid-iron? I’m really curious as to whether there’s an easy fix that most people just don’t know about.

I for one would probably throw it out before I’d see whether I could fix it – it just wouldn’t occur to me to try. And now it has… I must admit I wouldn’t know where to start.

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Member

The cheapest iron from Argos is four quid. You’re pushed to buy a glass of wine in a pub for less. Unless you use the thing all the time and are good at it it’s not worth worrying about.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Jess
Many years ago I had an iron that did this when it needed to be descaled, so I suggest you follow the instructions to descale your iron. If you don’t have an instruction manual you may find one on the manufacturer’s website. If that does not cure the problem the reason for leakage is likely to be obvious when the iron is taken apart. If you do what I do and iron clothes when they are damp, you don’t need a steam iron. 🙂

Best of luck.

Nick
We don’t all subscribe to a throwaway society. It’s neither sustainable nor necessary.

Member
Graeme says:
16 November 2012

Sorry to be pedantic, but ironing of any sort is not sustainable or necessary! I definitly suscribe to the reduce, recycle, reuse, repair approach though; better still, don’t buy that gadget at all (the refuse option?).

Profile photo of Jess O'Leary
Member

That’s a really interesting point about descaling, Wavechange. Looking through the latest set of irons’ manuals littering my desk, a lot of manufacturers recommend descaling every couple of weeks, particularly if you live in a hard water area.

Descaling can be as simple as turning it on, pressing a button and shaking the limescale debris out over the sink. It can also involve removing a scale filter, soaking it in vinegar or lemon juice and then re-fitting it – a fiddly job.

Which makes me wonder – how often do regular ironers descale their irons, if at all? And would you be prepared to descale it every two weeks to keep it in tip-top condition?

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Member

It’s better to avoid letting it get limed up in the first place. You could use distilled water sold precisely for this purpose, or try bottled mineral water, or rather more cheaply use water that’s already been boiled.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Even if there is a filter to be removed and descaled, it probably does not take much effort. If descaling involves putting something in the iron then it is important to follow the instructions. If the filter is removable, kettle descaler and hot water will remove the limescale more efficiently than vinegar or lemon juice.

My water used to be very hard (though that has changed over the years) and one of the reasons that I started ironing clothes straight out of the washing machine was to avoid the need to descale my steam iron.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Nick is right about using distilled water and that tap water is better if it has been boiled, but bottled mineral water could cause more limescale than tap water. 🙂

Profile photo of Jess O'Leary
Member

But would you be prepared to go through the descaling rigmarole (whatever it involves) every two weeks?

Profile photo of John Ward
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In case any Which? writers are thus inclined, I have it on good authority from someone in Muswell Hill that there is no advantage in using Balsamic vinegar for this purpose. Chip Shop Grade will do just as well. Again, the Eureka lemon from Tesco’s is a satisfactory substitute for Waitrose’s Sorrento variety.

Now, back to the ironing . . .

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Jess

Descaling my 1980 Hoover steam iron involved removing a single screw, removing a stainless steel filter and putting it in descaler. It took less effort than using an espresso coffee.

Descaling my current Philips iron involves turning a knob to the correct position, pulling it out and putting it back. I rarely do it because I have ironed clothes when damp for many years.

Member

Why not keep an old clean plastic milk carton and all the water in the kettle which has been boiled but not used, put that in there, then when you need ironing water use that, nearly as good as distilled and a lot cheaper. When you do want to descale your iron try citric acid, its quite cheap if you look, and its clean and easy to use.Lemon juice contains sugar and vinegar is brown and smells of vinegar, why would you want to smell of that?
Part of the reason for using a iron is to reshape the item or garment, it means they last longer and look better, nevermind just make it smooth.
I think people need to listen to their Grandmothers more!

Member

I have an iron somewhere… I haven’t used it for years. Once upon a time I had a husband and three kids, all of whom needed clean ironed shirts every day. No more! Life is too short.

Member
SaraJayne says:
2 November 2012

I wouldn’t be without ironing. It’s just a couple of minutes’ work for most garments, and it gives such a polished look. Why spend the same amount of time, or even half the time, faffing with stretching garments taut on the airer to only achieve “acceptable” garments?

As I’ve discovered this week (thanks to a injury) you can even do it sitting down. I like to have a movie, tv show, or Udemy lecture on while I do it, and as such I even look forward to the down time.

A great deal of fuss is being made over how much “rigamarole” is involved in descaling an iron. While I must confess that I’ve never done it, I’ve never known about doing it. Reading what’s been written here about it, it doesn’t sound troublesome at all; you have to do little things to your stuff to keep them operating properly. Whether that’s virus scans on the computer, cleaning your things, or descaling your kettle/iron/washer/dishwasher/etc, these things don’t take much effort, really, and they improve the life of the item, as well as the hygiene of your home, so drastically. Again, for just a little bit of effort, you get such a great reward – not rocket science.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I recommend Which? podcasts as something to listen to when ironing.

Member
Ian Savell says:
2 November 2012

A lot of people ironing shirts, no mention of non-iron shirts. All my work shirts are non-iron. All I have to do after washing and tumble drying is hang then in the bathroom while I shower.

Of course, shirts are not the only things that might get ironed. Skirts are awful to iron, so buy those deliberately wrinkly fabrics. Trousers, especially jeans, don’t iron anyway if they get creased. Wash in a light load so the legs don’t twist, then pull flat and fold before tumble drying. Finally remove while still damp, pull flat again and hang up to air. That all takes less time than ironing. And bedding! When I was single it was possible, but a king size duvet cover takes all morning. Develop a taste for wrinkles!

When I was a student I found that the big tumble dryers in the launderette over the road were amazing, the only creases left being the ones where they were folded in the packet, even socks. Now I’m grown up and no longer live in a student ghetto the nearest launderette is miles away!

Member
MrsM says:
2 November 2012

I iron as little as possible which involves careful handling when bringing out of the washing machine, shaking to remove creases and then either hanging on hangers or placing carfully on racks. Most of these things can then be folded and put into cupboards or hung in wardrobes. Shirts, jeans and work trousers need pressing and if I am going to iron a duvet cover I fold it carefully prior to that and just iron it folded. The iron I have is a steam generator so the steam seems to reach all the way through most of the covers and therefore only takes a couple of minutes to iron the whole cover from top to bottom. (I fold it lengthways into four and then iron the duvet cover that full length). this always works a treat and even worked when I just had a normal steam iron. I do the same with pillowcases – fold into 4 and then press. I dont iron jumpers or fleeces (occasionally a jumper or cardigan needs a little steam but thats all).
I think my shopping habits have changed when I buy anything now, I always think if it will need ironing and if I am prepared to do it (do I really like it that much).

Member
Jeff says:
2 November 2012

This article, although nice enough to read, became a pointless exercise after “And that’s because I can…”

Unfortunately, if you are expected to wear a suit to work, ironing is virtually inevitable, even with so-called ‘non-iron’ garments (although these are an awful lot easier and quicker to do than untreated cotton equivalents). Once practiced it should take less than five minutes per shirt.

Jess talks about pulling and stretching clothes straight from the machine. Is that any less time-consuming than ironing the item? There are also a lot of commenters here talking about tumble drying. Hopefully they can spare a thought for those of us without the floorspace for a separate tumble dryer (never mind the fact that to save yourself up to £50 to buy an iron – I’ve never paid that much – those that do have the space will have to have forked out upwards of £250 for a decent dryer, plus the extra electricity consumed by using this method). Ok, so there are combined washer-dryers out there, but they are in the main very expensive, wash and dry poorly compared to their separate equivalents and are energy inefficient.

Profile photo of Jess O'Leary
Member

I think you have a point here, Jeff – if I had to wear a shirt to work ironing would undoubtedly become part of my household routine and I’d just get on with it.

Plus, the more I’d iron the better I’d get at it, so it would take less time, seem like less of a chore and the results would probably improve – the few attempts I’ve made recently on a cotton shirt and pleated skirt were pretty dreadful.

Member
Mary says:
2 November 2012

I don’t mind ironing. I turn on the radio, the dog comes and lies beside me and I get some downtime all of my own. It’s such a “virtuous” task and no one else wants to do it, that I am left in peace. The bonus is, I get a pile of beautifully laundered garments. See the positive side of the tasks not the negative.

Member
Jeff says:
2 November 2012

Curious how someone has marked down my comment…but not posted giving any reasons for their disagreement!

Member
Mike Porter says:
2 November 2012

I used to iron everything untill a friend who was visiting (and to whom ‘ironing’ is anathema) pointed out that there is a ‘minimum-iron’ control button on my washing machine (A Bosch). My ironing days are not completely over, but very much reduced!

Member
Sandy says:
2 November 2012

Ironing didn’t come about to make you look smart. It began as a way to kill lice and their eggs, particularly in the seams. Hot wash and a hot iron makes good hygiene.

Member
robert smith says:
2 November 2012

So why does Jess O’Leary iron her duvet cover? I bet it is because she does not use a sheet between her body and the duvet cover. If she used a sheet, only the sheet gets to be washed [and ironed] when necessary. Much better to air dry only and not iron at all. If she used a sheet then the duvet cover needs a wash [ or dry clean ] only every 6 months.
Underwear most certainly does not need ironing, neither do socks. Indeed using the reduced ironing programme on our Bosch wash machine we do not iron shirts,PJ’s, jumpers, or washable jackets. That, I think, leaves only trousers and slacks,my handkerchiefs oh, and a summer blanket, which gets the same treatment as the duvet cover. The reduced ironing programme is really a magic time saver.
Before I sign off I thought it best to read the entire article and there are a few startling comments, the main one being the use off a tumble dryer. This really is the domain of the lazy! A quality steam iron is worth every penny. Even though we do very little ironing we do still do some and the fact that 48% buy a cheap iron says it all. Buy cheap, get cheap, and in a lot of cases, nasty. And what about the researcher saying “when I’m next shopping for an iron” how many does she get through for gods sake. I believe we buy an iron on average about once every 15 years, and the thought “when I’m next shopping for an iron” has never entered our brains . And as for listening to something whilst ironing what is wrong with improving your mind or mental arithmetic or remembering the last time you had a good time or anything but mindless drivel. Robert Smith

Member
Ann B-J says:
2 November 2012

Cotton T shirts for me are the worst for creasing and I hate ironing. But I have discovered a trick (My sister who lives in America with 3 grown men in the family who wear T shirts +++++ told me) Machine wash but don’t tumble dry, just air dry on a hanger. When dry, smoothly fold and neatly stack in a pile. Always use the bottom shirt first and by the time the top shirt reaches the bottom of the pile it is nicely pressed. I have very little space in my apartment to air dry, but I found hangers fit very nicely on door frames and within 24hrs everything is dry.
I do a similar thing with sheets/pillow cases/tea towels etc.(I try to buy cotton/polyester mix – ?minimal ironing). I tumble dry and fold neatly. Make a pile and use the bottom ones first and by the time the top reaches the bottom of the pile, it is nicely pressed.
I have got used to buying minimal iron clothes, so I rarely have to iron. Reducing the spin cycle and lighly tumble dry, hang up to dry for an hour, does the trick. Jeans are better folded properly before you tumble dry them and they come out with nothing more than the manufacturers folds, but I do fold pile them and use the bottom one first. This trick works a dream
I have a washer/tumble dryer combination. The drum is not very big and I have found through trial and error that small loads with a low spin are essential. Tumble dry on lower heat for longer, reduces creases dramatically.

Member
Gillian K says:
2 November 2012

Ironing and tumble drying use precious electricity, so one should try to avoid either when possible. Line drying out of doors is ideal, failing that airing racks are invaluable. I find that sheets, towels, teeshirts etc. can be adequately smoothed by hand before folding and stacking. When ironing is really necessary, e.g. for smart clothes and table linen I use a 25 year old dry iron, a spray bottle and, when needed, a press cloth, and get excellent results. Is it any longer possible to buy a dry iron?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Gillian

Steam irons work fine as dry irons and are much lighter than the conventional irons they replaced.

Try ironing clothes when they are still damp, after they are washed. It saves messing around with sprays etc and the clothes will be nearly dry once they are ironed.

Member
ChrisK says:
3 November 2012

I absolutely detest ironing, but there is no way I would walk out the door with anything other than ironed clothes.
Also I could not get into a bed that had un-ironed bed linen on.
I look at some people with creased clothes on, and think to myself, that they look like they’ve slept in their clothes. That look is definitely not for me.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

There now follows a brief interlude in the ironing . . .

I think Which? Conversation will form one of the most important sociological records available to historians in decades to come, on a par with those Mass Observation diaries and other journals of everyday life from the Thirties and Forties. We are laying bare our domestic lives – at the ironing board, in the shower, doing the shopping, running the car, and so on. I hope the significance of this is registering with Which? and that it will all be suitably archived and made accessible for future generations.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Future generations could read the archives and learn that John Ward is one of the few who publicly admits to sartorial elegance. What are some of the younger contributors going to make of your reference to starch? For most people, starch is something in food.

Member

No one has mentioned my pet hate – ironing my husband’s handkerchiefs which I consider a complete waste of time.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Fancy allowing somebody else to iron one’s handkerchieves. I hope he does something very generous in return.

Member
Marjo. says:
4 November 2012

If you buy a cheap iron you cannot expect it to last very long. The last one I bought was about 15 years ago. It all depends what you want from your Iron. I do a lot of sewing and it’s very usefull to have one that switches itself off after a short while.

Member
Linda M says:
5 November 2012

I bought myself a Jiffy steamer about 2 years ago and wouldn’t be without it. It is so much quicker and easier than ironing. Creases just drop out. You work in the round so don’t need to fight with sleeves. My steamer needs descaling now and again as I live in a hard water area (I think I’ve done it twice) but it is a simple operation.

Member
sandrock says:
7 November 2012

at present i have 2 irons and always ironed my clothes ! as off late , i am attempting to iron much
less ,shirt cuffs and collor’s and the front only gets ironed , jeans ironed inside out to smooth out the
front off my quality jean’s legs only ! and like some other comments a lite spindry and smooth out
damp laundry to hang up works for me , its all about changing ones idea’s ,and invite change in
the way we go about daily household tasks

Member
Elizabeth of England says:
21 December 2012

I very rarely iron anything. We dry all the washing indoors on an airer – I shake things out and smooth them first, and fold them to put away when they’re dry (which takes about 24 hours, winter or summer). This doesn’t create any consensation or dampness problem in the house. My husband’s shirts dry on hangers and he irons them himself. Smoothing and folding does for all the bedding, tea towels etc. I don’t have low standards – it just really doesn’t make much difference, so is not worth wasting time on. Try it – energy efficient in every sense.

Member

When we were married over 40 years ago I thought it was a waste of time for my wife to rion my shirts. since then I have only bought shirts that promise not to need ironing. It is still a gamble whether a new shirt will turn out satisfacotry after drip or tumbler drying, and price is no guarantee. All of my current shirts look good and they range from an cheap, ancient Peter England to much more expensive Roccola, Aquascutum and Austen Reed. On the other hand I have had expensice shirts were disastrous. For travel I use Rohan because they dry very quickly. Wake up, ironing is a waste of time and energy.

ps we don’t iron bed linen either

Member
Jackie says:
10 February 2015

I love ironing. I find it so soothing. At the moment I have 5 irons, ranging from a £250 one to one that cost under a fiver. I love them all, apart from the cheap one.It makes a huge difference to set the scene – decent iron, and a solid, nice sized board, and somewhere to hang or place your ironed laundry. Peace and quiet or the tv both do me fine. I love my steam gen but you don’t get the very relaxing ‘sloosh’ of water that you get in a normal steam iron. As someone else pointed out I also iron for hygiene reasons. I don’t boil wash my teatowels but feel the heat from the iron will kill any bacteria that might still be on them – also my son has really bad eczema and even though I have a steam function on the washer that I use, and I rinse his clothing 3 times, I iron his clothing and bedding to get rid of any dust mites that may still be on them. Give me your ironing and i’ll be very happy! I should maybe get a job ironing or working for Which, testing irons lol