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Woman ironing a shirt (Köln, Germany 1953).
Source: German Federal Archive
Ironing is the work of using a heated tool, or tools, (an iron) to remove wrinkles from fabric. The heating is commonly done to a temperature of 100°Celsius. Ironing works by loosening the bonds between the long-chain polymer molecules in the fibers of the material. While the molecules are hot, the fibers 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.

Ironing may also be used as a germ/parasite killing hygienic operation, such as in areas where the Tumbu fly is prevalent.


Although some may consider ironed clothes to be more aesthetically appealing than wrinkled clothes, the practice of ironing has no known practical value.


Charcoal irons, used by eestri wala's, which are still in use commercially in India.


American woman ironing.

The iron is the small appliance used to remove wrinkles from fabric. It is also known as a clothes iron, flat iron, or smoothing iron. See the Iron (appliance) entry for more information on the modern-day iron.

The world's largest collection of irons, encompassing 1300 historical examples of irons from Germany and the rest of the world, is housed in Gochsheim Castlemarker, near Karlsruhemarker, Germanymarker.

Some commercial-grade irons have a boiler unit separate from the hand-held iron.

Ironing board

Most ironing is done on an ironing board, a small, portable, foldable table with a heat resistant top. Some commercial-grade ironing boards incorporate a heating element and a pedal-operated vacuum to pull air through the board and dry the garment.

On 16 February 1858 W. Vandenburg and J. Harvey patented an ironing table that made pressing sleeves and pant legs easier. A truly portable folding ironing board was first patented in Canada in 1875 by John B. Porter of Yarmouth, Nova Scotiamarker. The invention also included a removable press board used for sleeves.

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.

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. Alternately, a rotary iron may be used.

Tailor's stove.
Image:Flat-iron-stove 2.jpg|
Another example of a tailor's stove.
Image:Flat irons dsc05527.jpg|
Various antique irons.

Historically, larger tailor's shops including tailor's stove, a stove used by tailors to quickly and efficiently heat multiple irons.


Miniature irons used for ties, collars etc.
The physics behind ironing is the liquid-glass transition. When the fabric is heated above this transition, the fibers become mobile so that the weight of the iron can impose onto them a preferred orientation.


Continuous manual ironing can be a cause of repetitive strain injury to the user's wrist .


Extreme ironing is a tongue-in-cheek extreme sport.

See also


  1. Ironing temperature
  3. Mario Theriault, Great Maritme Inventions 1833-1950, Goose Lane, 2001, p. 31

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