Q: I iron a lot of cotton shirts and no matter how careful I am with using steam and letting the fabric dry and cool, the shirts still end up looking rumpled. I’d rather not apply spray starch or sizing. Is there anything I can do to get a better result?
—Judy Falls, via email
A: Carol J. Fresia, Threads senior technical editor, suggests a helpful product: It sounds as if you are following good practices by steam-pressing and allowing the fabric to cool fully before moving it. Ideally, you should lift and lower the iron to press. However, some materials still don’t end up as smooth as we’d like—this happens with cotton and linen wovens in particular. These inherently rumply types may respond better to sliding the iron as you press with steam.
I’ve recently discovered a pressing aid that makes a significant difference for ironing and pressing: The Rajah Pressing Cloth by Sullivans (SullivansUSA.net). This is a 100 percent cotton cloth, 12 inches by 30 inches, that is treated to create crisp, long-lasting pleats and creases, or to remove stubborn wrinkles. The package says it is “chemically treated,” and promises that the chemical will not harm fabric. I contacted the manufacturer, who clarified that the press cloth has a natural, starch-based coating that is nonallergenic and won’t affect a fabric’s color or hand. Heat and steam release the starch onto the fabric as you press, to provide a durable hold.
I tested the cloth on an all-cotton fabric, pressing in pleats with a hot steam iron. The pleats came out sharp and even. The fabric wasn’t stiff, as it would be if treated with starch. I also tried the cloth when ironing finely woven shirting, and on dark-colored materials. The results were smooth, with no flaky deposits—a drawback of spray starch or sizing. The press cloth is a sturdy, medium-weight cotton and, therefore, protects synthetics, including polyester fabrics typically used for school and work uniforms. The manufacturer recommends the press cloth for use on neckties and even veils, both of which are delicate and require careful handling.
You can hand-rinse the press cloth if it picks up dirt or stains, and it should last for 1,000 uses. It’s large enough to cover most of a home ironing board or to press creases in trousers without having to move it more than once. Cut smaller pieces if you prefer. The one downside I have found is that the cloth is opaque. To make pleats, I think it’s easier to pin or baste, press with an organza press cloth to create the initial creases, then press again on both sides with the Rajah Pressing Cloth. I’ve been pleased with the results this press cloth delivers, and it has earned a place at my ironing station.
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