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Iron or Steam? Caring for Linen, Silk and Rayon

Posted on | November 4, 2009 | No Comments

Deciding whether or not to iron something can be an important decision. Some fabrics are okay to iron while others can only be steamed. Different fabrics require different care and it’s best not to guess. Care instructions on tags must be followed exactly to avoid major mishaps. Some garments do not have care instructions, so use this guide as a tool for determining what you think may be best for your garments.

Linen is actually made from the flax plant and is more durable than silks. It needs to be ironed and not steamed. Steaming will not remove all of the wrinkles. When ironing, it is easiest to do it when the item is damp. You can still use steam from your iron to keep it damp. Starting from dry is harder, even when you use steam. Take care of any decorations by placing them face down on a towel. Iron them on the wrong side with gentle pressure and low heat. If you want your linens to be crisp, use starch. If you want them softer, use sizing. For a shinier look, iron both sides of the fabric.

Silk is very easily burned, misshapen or stretched when ironing. Steaming is highly preferred with silks. Your dryer may have a steam setting, you can hang it in the bathroom with the shower on hot, or you can use a garment steamer. Hang your silk items on wide clothes hangers to ensure that they keep their shape.

If you want to iron your silks, check your iron for a silk setting. This should be the lowest setting. You will need to turn the steam up to high and work quickly, only ironing the wrong side of the fabric with the right side face down on a towel. Don’t stay in one area for very long or you can easily damage the silk. Keep in mind that ironing silk can sometimes change the sheen or texture of the fabric, so you will want to test an inconspicuous area before you begin.

Rayon is sometimes hard to care for because it is a synthetic and comes in a lot of different forms. Two different items can say “rayon” on the tag, look the same, and require totally different care. It is important to follow care instructions for each individual rayon garment. If you’re not sure what the care instructions are, treat it like it is the most delicate form of rayon. Ironing with steam can cause the dyes to run away from wet spots, ruining the garment. Don’t use steam unless the tag says that it is okay. You can use your iron on its lowest setting, or a synthetic setting, with no steam. Turn the garment inside out and iron face down on a towel or ironing cloth. Like silk, you should move quickly and don’t hang around in one spot for too long. Hang your rayon garments on clothes hangers to cool as soon as you are done ironing.

About the Author: Ellen Hamm is on the staff of Everything Hangers, a leading online resource for the highest quality clothes hangers. Learn more about our high end hangers at Everything Hangers.

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