An Ultimate Guide to Pressing Tools

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Hey, you!

If you sew, you MUST press. Sewing and pressing go together like Spock & Kirk, bread & butter, Batman & Robin. You get the idea. One cannot, or should, not, exist without the other.

At the end of this post, I promise you that you’ll know how to wisely choose the basic pressing tools you need and why you need them!

You may be thinking to yourself: She crazy. I hate ironing. And I’m going to avoid it as much as possible.

But wait a minute…

Let me ask you a question:

Do you want your clothes to look professionally crafted or homemade?

Professionally crafted, right?!

Well then, you need to know that pressing–not ironing -is what makes the difference between a dress that looks like a hot, homemade mess and one that looks professionally sewn.

RELATED: Click HERE if you are curious about the distinction between pressing and ironing!


Well, let’s press on shall we…

NOTE: If you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies, please click HERE!

First, A True Story

When I first started, I invested about $100 in a Rowenta iron.

At first, all was well. But it wasn’t too long before that damn iron became a great source of frustration and disappointment!

That stupid iron was a leaky, hot mess!

Which led to an ugly, stained ironing board cover. And I really hate ugly things.

Finally, one day, after trying to cope with its repeated bad behavior, I totally lost it and threw that leaky iron into the trash.

This hurt. It hurt a lot.

Because it felt like I had just thrown my hard earned $100 away, which I had!

Not too long after, I replaced the Rowenta with a Shark Professional iron. At four pounds, she was chubby enough to make a good press and crease.

But damn, if she didn’t start to leak too over time.

So I started doing a bit of research online. I don’t remember where I saw this, but I finally found a solution that keeps me humming at my pressing station and my money in my pocket.

You ready?!

Forget putting water in your iron’s water chamber. Instead, simply arm yourself a trusty, inexpensive spray bottle.

small blue spray bottle

In fact, get two (I’ tell you why when I teach you how to press. And call a truce with your iron.

UPDATE: I think that if you are willing to pay really, really good money for a professional iron, then maybe all the drippy drama is a non issue. At this time, I have no experience with these expensive babies. But if I ever do, I will be sure to update this page.

Sew easy tip #1: Did you accidentally iron on the wrong side of the fusible interfacing and now your sole plate is a gunky mess?! Here’s an easy fix: Iron over an unscented dryer sheet immediately after the unfortunate mishap, not three months later. It works, but I still like to follow up with Dritz Iron Off or Faultless Iron Cleaner. Because I like to show my iron a little extra love.

Sew easy tip #2: If your iron is NOT producing enough steam, cover the area to be pressed with a press cloth and mist your pressing cloth with a spray bottle filled with plain water just until damp. Then, press away.

You Need a Heavy Iron

shark professional steam iron

If pressing is not to be a chore, you need to buy an iron that has some weight to it. No puny, lightweight iron for a serious dressmaker.

When choosing your iron, you do NOT need to spend an arm and a leg. There are irons and ironing systems that make the price tag on an iPhone seem like a steal.

But while you don’t have to take out a loan to get a good press, you do need to choose a heavy iron that has these two crucial features:

  1. Heavy, about 3 to 4 pounds
  2. Good temperature control

Please, do yourself a favor and don’t even look at a featherweight iron. They are trifling. And they require more effort on your part to get rid of wrinkles and get a good crease and press.

Whereas, a heavy iron is ergonomically friendly. Because they allow you to press and crease with ease.

And my Shark Ultimate Professional Iron meets all of the requirements above!

How to Clean Your Iron

2 iron cleaners on a heart-shaped washcloth

Your iron is one of your most important sewing tools. And as such you need to take very good care of her.

Here’s how to show your iron some love…

  1. First, empty the water chamber.
  2. Now, set your iron’s temperature to cotton. You want it to get good and HOT!
  3. Squeeze about two inches of Dritz Iron Off or Faultless Iron Cleaner onto a thickly folded 100% cotton washcloth or a cotton rag. Please do NOT use any fiber other than cotton–for example, polyester. It will burn and melt.
  4. Rub the cleaner over your iron using a circular motion. It might smoke a bit. Not to worry. This is perfectly normal.
  5. Finally, wipe iron clean with a thickly folded cloth, making sure vents and edge of the sole plate are completely free of any trace of the iron cleaner.

Sew easy tip #1: Never clean a COLD iron.

Sew easy tip #2: I buy my 100% cotton rags in bulk.

Brown Spots

If your iron has the audacity to leave brown water spots on your fabric when you use steam, this means you need to clean your iron’s reservoir. And here’s how:

  1. Empty your reservoir completely.
  2. Now combine ¼ cup distilled white vinegar and ¾ cup of distilled water and refill your reservoir.
  3. Then set your iron to full steam and glide it back and forth over an old towel until the reservoir chamber is empty.
  4. And if your iron has a spray setting, spray until there is no more discoloured water.

Repeat steps 2 to 4 as needed until all mineral residue is history.

Of course, if you were to use a simple 99-cent spray bottle as I recommended earlier and forget about your iron’s steam feature, you will avoid all this nonsense!

Oily Gunk

And if for some reason oily gunk mysteriously ends up on your soleplate, here’s what to try:

  1. Unplug your iron and leave it until it is COLD.
  2. Dampen a clean cloth with undiluted distilled white vinegar and wipe the soleplate.
  3. Then, finish up by wiping dry with a cloth dampened with plain water.

Ironing Board

full size ironing board

Of course, once you’ve got a nice heavy iron and your spray bottle, you need an ironing board.

I can hear you saying, “Janine, I got this one covered. I’ve got an ironing board somewhere.”

And I want you to hear me saying back, “Not so fast.”

In the beginning, I suppose it is OK to use whatever you have because you have it.

But if you really fall in love with sewing, then invest in a quality ironing board that has the following features:

  • It is full-size.
  • It is adjustable to sitting and standing height.
  • It is sturdy.
    It is nicely padded. (Add more cotton batting if you need to.)
  • Its cover is 100% quality cotton.

I love my Polder Delux Ironing Station. It is easy to adjust the height and it feels solid.

And I am especially partial to having a home to place my hot iron as I press.

Ironing Boards: The Size of It

Why so much fuss over an ironing board?

Because you will spend as much time in front of your ironing board as you do stitching in front of your sewing machine. So make it a nice place to be.

However, with that being said, don’t do like I did, and buy one of those extra wide ironing boards. It seemed like a good idea. It looked so promising.

But eventually the truth was revealed:

It was not only unnecessary but very frustrating, especially if you are an average size woman (or sewing for little girls).

Because if you try to press fitted garments, sleeves, or little dresses on a too wide ironing board, it isn’t going to happen. I tried, so I know.

Mini Ironing Board

As for mini ironing boards may seem like a good choice if you live in a small space.

But I find them annoying as hell. You press one area, move on to the next area, and the first area you pressed is getting creased again.

Even if space is an issue, my recommendation is to buy yourself a full-size ironing board and find it a home somewhere.

What About Ironing Mats?

Some sewists recommend pressing pads if lack of space is an issue.

Don’t. I tried one.

I. Hated. That. Stupid. Mat.

First, some are pricey for what they are. Yes, I am looking at you Clover 7805 Deluxe Take & Press Mat.

And two, you can’t press one area of your garment without re-wrinkling the previously pressed area. Frustrating.

Ironing Board Covers

Ideally, you want one made of 100% cotton. This will allow you to iron at high temperatures without scorching.

Whatever you do, avoid Teflon-coated ironing board covers.

Teflon reflects heat back into your fabric, which can result in ugly shine, distortion, textural changes, and makes fusing interfacing difficult. I don’t have time for this sort of nonsense and neither do you.

Oh, and Teflon covers are so fugly. Just sayin’.

Pressing Cloths

100% silk organza pressing cloth

Pressing cloths are not optional. Period.

They live to do ONE thing: Protect your dreamy fabrics from the uglies–scorch and shine.

You can buy pressing cloths that are ready made.

Or, you can make them yourself, by cutting 12×12 squares of plain, unbleached muslin, cotton batiste, or silk organza. Make sure to staystitch and pink all four edges to prevent unraveling.

I love a 100% silk organza pressing cloth because it is transparent. This feature comes in very handy when you are pressing fusible interfacing.

Other great options include a white, cotton men’s handkerchief or even parchment paper.

Lint Roller

scotch brite tear-away lint roller

While you’re buying your ironing tools, go ahead and pick up a lint roller. It is cheap and great for quickly cleaning up pesky pieces of threads that insist on clinging to your ironing board or dress in progress.

I like Scotch-Brite Lint Roller.

Optional Honorable Mentions

A tailor’s ham, a seam roll, and a clapper are commonly recommended pressing tools.

Honestly, this is all a bit too much for me. I don’t have a seam roll or a clapper.

Here’s what you need to know about these pressing tools…

Tailor’s Ham

two-sided tailor's ham

But I do have a tailor’s ham. It molds fabric to add shape to a garment.

I use mine to press darts, princess seams, and sleeve caps. In other words, this tool adds shape to garment pieces.

A tailor’s ham has two sides: one side is wool and the other side is cotton.

The cotton side is for fabrics that require a high temperature when pressing. And the wool side is for fabrics that require a lower temperature setting.

When you use your tailor’s ham, you should use a pressing motion, not a gliding motion. That is, use a gentle up and down motion, please.

Sew easy tip: You can roll up a lush hand towel and secure both ends with thick rubber bands as a substitute for a DIY seam roll.

Seam Roll

wooden spoon: diy seam roll

You use a seam roll to press straight seams.

Now, you can buy a seam roll.

Or, you can use the handle of a wooden spoon as a tiny seam roll to press seam allowances open.


The clapper is a very interesting looking pressing tool. Honestly, it looks rather medieval.

It is made from unfinished hardwood so that it can absorb moisture from your iron, resulting in flat, crisp seams, creases, and pleats. And no fugly shine!

Basically, you (1) give your seam, crease, or pleat a burst of steam, (2) lift your iron, (3) clap your clapper over the just pressed area and apply even pressure.

You can buy one. But I’m still unconvinced of its value.

The End

So for love of sewing, get yourself a good iron—and a good iron is a heavy iron.

Ignore your iron’s water chamber and use a 99 cent spray bottle from Walmart or the Dollar Store. You’ll keep your sanity.

And buy yourself a sturdy, adjustable, full-size ironing board. Make your pressing station a pleasant place to be.

And remember…

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn how to press like a pro!

RELATED: Click HERE learn the other essential tools and supplies you need to sew insanely pretty dresses!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn The 14 Commandments of Sewing

RELATED: Click HERE if you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies!

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