Is It Better to Iron Clothes When Wet or Dry?

ironing wet clothes

There’s a hot debate about the best way to iron clothing. Should you iron clothes wet or dry? For many people, learning that ironing clothing while it’s still wet is even an option is a revelation. However, you may have questions about the results of going the wet route instead of battling wrinkles on a dry terrain.

It is better to iron clothes when they are slightly wet (damp) instead of completely dry. Less heat is required to flatten wrinkles when the fabric is damp. Just look at how the best steam irons and steam generators work – their soleplates blast clothes with steam and at the front there is a nozzle to spray fabrics your ironing with a mist of water. These built-in features are designed to wet fabric, for easier ironing.

Should You Iron Clothes Wet?

You have a few reasons to consider ironing clothing wet. The obvious perk is simply that you’re saving time. When you’re doing a load in a pinch, you may not have time to let the entire drying cycle run. Ironing your clothing when it’s still damp actually helps to put the finishing touches on the drying process.

If you exclusively “line dry” clothing around your home, pulling your clothing down before everything has had a chance to get fully dry can be a great way to get better results from ironing. Wet ironing can also save you money on laundry because you can skip the tumble dryer in favor of indoor or outdoor line drying. What’s more, not putting your clothing through the dryer can make it last longer because you’re skipping all of that wear and tear from the dryer.

With that said, some of the best condenser tumble dryers have an “iron dry” feature with moisture sensors that leave laundry damp, and in the optimal state for ironing.

A Better Way to Fight Crinkles and Wrinkles

From an aesthetic perspective, your clothing might just look better if you iron it wet. That’s because creases don’t have time to fully set in if you iron clothing wet. That means you won’t have to spend tons of time battling creases on an ironing board the way you would with “stale” clothing. Here are some tips to get the best results from wet ironing:

  • Straighten your garment out to remove any bunching or hidden wrinkles.
  • Hang garments on hangers as you line them up to be ironed.
  • If you’re removing damp clothes from a dryer, have your iron all set up to welcome them as soon as the cycle ends.
  • Never place damp clothes in a laundry basket after removing them from the dryer! Warm clothing will form very stubborn creases during the cooling process when crumpled into a ball.

Always remember that clothing is very temperamental when it’s in a damp state. Every movement can create an impression within the fabric. If you allow clothing to be crumpled badly while it’s still wet, you may end up with deep creases that can only be removed by throwing it in the wash again to start from scratch. If you’re finding that your clothes still have wrinkles after ironing, then try ironing your clothes when they are still damp.

Wet Doesn’t Mean “Soaked”

Keep in mind that “wet ironing” doesn’t mean simply moving your clothing from the washing machine to the ironing board. It means ironing clothing when it is still damp. Clothing should not be placed on the ironing board when it is dripping. Ideally, you’re ironing clothing that has been put through the spin cycle to remove all excess water.

Allowing some drying time out in the open can also help you to get good results. You’re really looking for a “sweet spot” where clothing has a good amount of moisture that leaves it very pliable. This pliability will allow you to reshape your clothing as you even out creases.

As you iron, the heat from the iron is going to cause any moisture that was hiding within the fabric of your clothing to finish drying fully flat. You’ll find that it’s very easy at this point to simply fold clothing. When you pull the clothes out to wear them later, the smoothness you created through wet ironing should be fully preserved.

Things to Remember When Ironing Dry Clothing

If you’ve allowed clothing to dry fully before getting a chance to iron, you can still tap into the benefits of wet ironing. In fact, irons are actually designed to help you recreate the experience of wet ironing. The water sprayer near the nose of the iron is there to apply moisture to help you cut through stubborn stains and creases.

Like most people, you probably find yourself relying on the lever that controls this feature to get through ironing sessions when you’re working with dry clothing. However, it may not be enough if you want to recreate the benefits of wet ironing.

To bring clothes back to life after you’ve allowed them to dry, use a separate spray bottle to spray water on all creased areas. This will simply save you from the frustration of having to refill your iron’s water basin constantly. You’ll also get a more direct aim. You can also moisten an ironing cloth that you’ll place over dried clothing. This will help to reintroduce moisture into your fabrics for a more aggressive approach to targeting wrinkles.

Lastly, you can always try simply hanging dry clothing in your bathroom before you take a steam shower or bath. You’ll just need to have the ironing board ready to go as soon as you jump out of the shower to take advantage of the moisture that’s been temporarily trapped in the fabrics.

Is Dry Ironing Ever Better?

Some people do find that dry ironing can create crisper, fresher looks with certain fabrics. This is especially true when it comes to getting a very stiff, pressed collar. For that reason, dress shirts can sometimes benefit from dry ironing. However, dress shirts are notoriously difficult when it comes to wrinkling. A “best of both worlds” scenario may be to iron most of a dress shirt wet in a first round that is then followed by a delayed second round for just collar and cuffs.

Final Thoughts

Overall, ironing clothing wet is the winner if you want to save time, preserve the life of your clothing, save money and get smoother results with less work. However, you can still get the benefits of wet ironing with fully dried clothing if you reintroduce moisture through sprays or ironing clothes. While the debate over wet ironing versus dry ironing really comes down to personal preference, everyone should try wet ironing at least once to see what the big fuss is about!