Polyester is an extremely popular fabric in fashion and sports clothing because of its low heat retention and lightweight, moisture-wicking properties.
You can sometimes avoid ironing polyester altogether because of its innate resistance to wrinkles, but, in some cases, you’ll have to use an iron to get it perfectly smooth.
The problem is… how do you even iron Polyester?
The synthetic fibers are incredibly heat-sensitive and can easily melt or burn when exposed to the full heat of an iron! I’ve seen several dresses, shirts, and even curtains be completely ruined because of ironing, so, it can be tricky.
In this article, we’ll look at the right, safe way to iron Polyester, as well as some tips and tricks to make the whole process much easier.
Ps. We’ve also created a different article if you’d prefer to learn how to steam polyester with a steamer instead.
Can You Iron Polyester?
Can I iron polyester? Yes, you can iron Polyester, but it has to be done carefully and at the right temperature setting because its man-made polymer fibers can melt very easily.
This article will give you helpful tips that can help you avoid any damage.
Iron Temperature Setting for Polyester
The iron temperature for polyester is “cool” to “warm” ( 300°F / 148°C ). This means that your iron should be set on its lower settings… maybe even its LOWEST. Different irons use different scales of measurement, but the average setting for polyester is a 1 or a 2.
Irons don’t typically display the temperature in degrees, but instead use dots to indicate heat intensity; this should match the ironing instructions on your clothing label.
Our recommendation is to start with the iron’s temperature set all the way down. Test it on a corner, on the reverse side of the garment first. If the material is handling the heat, then check to see if the temperature is enough to remove wrinkles.
You can slowly turn up the temperature if needed. Moisten the fabric with a spray mist so the steam created can help soften the material and release tight creases. A good alternative to using an iron and to avoid risking a burn is to use a handheld steamer.
There’s also a risk of shrinking the garment, so follow the steps below closely unless you would like to know how to shrink polyester garments on purpose.
How to Iron 100% Polyester Fabric
Ironing polyester can be tricky, but with the right precautions, you can iron polyester dress shirts, skirts, jackets, suits, ties, tablecloths, curtains, flags, and even priceless prom dresses, graduation gowns, or wedding dresses.
Blended materials like polyester rayon, polyester satin, or even spandex and lycra should get the same careful consideration.
Have a steam iron handy. Here’s exactly how to handle these special items:
1. Use a Pressing Cloth
Firstly, always use a pressing cloth (this can be any piece of clean cotton material like a dishcloth or pillowcase, or even a towel). The idea is to create a protective layer between the iron and the piece of clothing you’re ironing. You can use a cool iron directly on polyester, but if it’s a new piece of clothing that you haven’t tried ironing before, it’s not worth the risk.
2. Set the Irons Temperature to Low
Set the temperature of your iron to a low heat setting, especially if you don’t have an ironing cloth.
Most irons will have a dial that can be set to “Polyester” or “Synthetic”. This will ensure that it stays well below 300°F (149°C), which is the temperature at which Polyester will completely melt.
Your iron’s indicator light will flash when it’s adjusting to the correct temperature and should stop flashing when it’s ready.
Some irons will even show the name of the fabric on a display so you know you’re safe.
3. Test the Temperature First
Test the iron on a small, inconspicuous section of the clothing item before you start, to make sure it’s not too hot.
That way, if you do damage the garment, it can usually be hidden from the general view.
4. Dampen the Fabric
Spray the item lightly with water. Wetting the fabric will relax it much easier and require less heat.
You can also use the steam burst feature from your iron to help pull out the wrinkles faster at lower temperatures.
5. Don’t Leave the Iron in One Spot
Be sure to keep the iron moving around. Leaving it in one spot for too long could cause the polyester to melt or scorch.
Even on a low heat setting, long exposure to the hot soleplate can deform the polyester fibers.
Pro Tip: If you’re ironing a polyester wedding dress or prom dress and don’t want to risk damaging it right before your special day, you can use the steam from your iron without touching the dress.
Simply adjust the steam setting to its maximum and run it along the dress or graduation gown without letting the soleplate come into contact with the material. You can also activate the steam-burst feature (if you have one) for larger bursts of steam.
Removing Shiny Iron Marks on Polyester Clothing
Because polyester is sensitive to high heat, it’s easy to scorch accidentally. It’s unfortunately not always possible to reverse shine, or heat damage, on polyester. In blended fabrics like polyester/cotton blends, there is however a chance you can repair or improve the mark.
There are 5 quick tips you can try which will help save a damaged piece of clothing. The success will all depend on how badly the item has been damaged.
- Steam the spot to help soften compressed fibers. While the fibers are warm from the steam, gently pull any distortion to help flatten it out.
- With blended fabrics, try soaking the item in cold water overnight.
- Wash the item with 1 part vinegar to 2 parts detergent.
- Dab the area with vinegar and water until the fibers lift and the shine fades.
- Place a cloth soaked in hydrogen peroxide over the item and iron over it. Repeat until the shine mark disappears.
For detailed step-by-step instructions, check out this article on how to remove shiny iron marks from polyester.
How to Remove Polyester from an Iron
If polyester fabric has melted to the surface of your soleplate, you need to take care not to scratch the surface while cleaning it, never use a scouring brush or harsh abrasive as this can damage the iron and it will lose that smooth glide when you iron.
Soleplate Cleaning Kit
The best solution is to buy a soleplate cleaning kit and then follow these steps:
- First, empty the irons water tank.
- Set your iron to ‘3’ for cotton. Your iron must be hot.
- Apply a small amount of the cleaner to a cotton terry cloth or face cloth.
- Iron over the cloth and cleaner using a circular motion. You’ll notice a bit of smoke which is normal.
- Lift to check if the burned material is coming away, repeat until it’s gone.
- Unplug the iron and while it cools, remove any cleaner from the soleplate with a clean cloth.
Homemade Soleplate Cleaner
If you don’t have a cleaning kit, you can make a homemade baking soda mixture and use the following steps.
- Heat up your iron to the lowest heat setting and allow the melted polyester to soften.
- With a wooden spatula, remove as much of the melted material from the soleplate, taking care not to scratch the surface.
- Mix 1 part baking soda and 1 part water in a bowl. This will act as a mild abrasive.
- Dip a cloth in the mixture and using a circular motion, remove any bits of residue. Be careful not to burn yourself.
- If there are still pieces of fabric stuck to the plate, you can try acetone-based nail-polish remover on the spot when the iron has cooled.
It may seem strange that you need to iron a fabric that is designed not to wrinkle, but if the item hasn’t been packed or stored properly, it may have some deep creases that need to be smoothed out.
Tablecloths or newly bought curtains are two commonly creased items. Seasonal clothing items may also need to be straightened out after a few months in storage. Now, with just a little extra love, they’ll look as good as new and if we’ve learned anything from this article, there’ll be no sad scorch marks.
Also, see how to iron wool, leather and felt items.