Ironing and pressing are interchangeably used in daily life as well as in garment industry. Although both have common objective to remove crease, there is a fine line of differences between them. Understanding of correct processes is important to adopt correct option. There are several myths regarding ironing, pressing and finishing which need redressal.
We need to understand that ironing, pressing and finishing are basically a process with primary objective to remove unwanted crease from garments. Based on fabric types, garment types and time availability, different processes are used to achieve the required performance.
Ironing and pressing is same and can be used interchangeably
Ironing and pressing both can remove unwanted crease as well as impart wanted crease. However, same is being achieved differently in both processes. Although in both cases fabric is being compressed between two flat surfaces, in ironing two surfaces rub against each other while in case of pressing no rubbing takes place. Ironing is a time-consuming process while pressing is comparatively faster.
Ironing and pressing are the only means of removing crease from garment
Finishing is another way by which unwanted crease can be removed from garment. Instead of compressing the fabric against two flat surfaces, if tension is applied from two ends of the fabric, then also creases can be removed from the fabric. The role of steam remains more or less the same in all three cases – ironing, pressing and finishing. Although finishing is the fastest process amongst the three, the only shortcoming in finishing is that it can’t impart necessary crease in a garment. Form finisher and tunnel finishers use finishing principle to remove crease from garment.
Ironing poses greater risk of shining than pressing
Shining results when protruding fibres from fabric surface is aligned/flattened in regular pattern and thereby light reflection is also regular. As in case of ironing one surface moves against another, so the chances of protruding fibres being flattened/aligned is high.
Pressing is preferred for use in structured garments
Structured garments are generally three-dimensional; removing crease from three-dimensional surfaces would require one concave and another convex surface to press against each other. Moving iron on convex surface is basically ironing using different shapes of bucks, however it is difficult and time-consuming. Therefore, buck pressing is preferred for structured garments than ironing.
Finishing is preferred method of removing crease in a garment where fabric texture is important
Fabric texture is altered maximum on ironing (as iron box rubs against the fabric) and minimum on pressing (as two surfaces are only pressed against each other). Whereas finishing does not touch the fabric surface at all. Therefore, all sensitive fabrics like, corduroy, velvet, suede, etc. should preferably be finished (not ironed or pressed) to retain the original texture of fabric.
Imparting wanted crease is equally important and frequent like removal of unwanted crease
Imparting crease in a garment for aesthetic reasons is rare; except formal trousers and skirts creases are rarely required in any garment. There is common misconception that men’s shirt also requires creases; the crease line formed in shirt sleeve is incidental and unavoidable while ironing or pressing in flat table. It must be remembered that crease line formed along seam or in pleats are not wanted crease. Wanted creases are those which are formed in A-Zone of garment, either visible from front or back view of wearer (not from side) to aesthetically create different look. When shirts are finished using form finisher or tunnel finisher, no creases are formed in any place in a shirt.
Heavyweight irons impart better crease
Probably the greatest myth in garment manufacturing process and the influence is so strong among workers that some brands purposely increase weight of irons to satisfy the workers mental need. To flatten a fabric against two flat surfaces may require at most 500 grams for the stiffest fabric possible. It is the use of steam, time and temperature in combination that does the trick. It is important to remember that one parameter can’t be compensated by another; for example less temperature cannot be compensated by more weight or vice-versa. The workers background (where they have used no-steam heat induced irons for years) create a mental block in assuming that heavy weight irons create better result in removing crease.
Ironing is easiest operation and does not require any training
Probably the trickiest operation to learn and can be compared with learning driving. Industrial iron table has vacuum and plays important role. The synchronized use of vacuum, steam and moving the iron is the key for efficient and economical ironing. Ideally vacuum and steam should not be applied together, the correct sequence is vacuum for laying the garment – steaming the garment (while the vacuum is off) – ironing the garment (while the vacuum is on) – keep vacuum on (for removing the residual steam) – switch off the vacuum – take the garment off.
Without proper training, the operator tends to keep running the vacuum while steaming, this waste of steam leads to higher energy consumption.
Padding and cover cloth on a pressing machine or vacuum table does not matter
Cover cloth and padding is most important as they determine what amount of vacuum will pass through the garment, thus setting the garment. If a pad gets hard and brittle, it does not have the airflow. If the cover is full of sizing that has been transferred from garments over time then again it will not dry the garment properly and run the risk of burning out a vacuum motor.
Grid plates on presses reduces shine and impressions
Today, there are grid plates that have a thin layer of padding which acts as a wick and holds some moisture. It is like duplicating the same effect as pressing or ironing using damp cloth or sponge. In addition, the padded grid plate helps to reduce impressions.
Vacuum is not important on pressing machines because they squeeze in the crease
In any pressing operation vacuum is the key device to “set the garment”. It is more critical on a press as you have a large area that was steamed and the moisture has to be removed quickly to ensure the proper finish. If a garment has moisture then you have a wavy or rippled look.