Just Add Water

Water is water, isn’t it? Not when it comes to ironing – or should I say pressing.

Do you know the difference?

Ironing is when you use pressure and friction; when your iron glides across fabric. Pressing is when you use pressure alone; you hold your hot iron down on a section of fabric, lift the iron and place it on a new section of fabric. No gliding, which can stretch fabric or add shine.

I find the difference essential when adding fusible interfacing – you must press rather than iron, which just drags the interfacing out of place.

But back to the admittedly niche topic of water. I usually use pre-boiled water to fill my iron’s tank. Recently, I bought some scented ironing water but am already regretting it. The scent is so chemical.

There are myriad liquid options out there:

  • Water straight from the tap – use caution if living in a hard water area
  • Pre-boiled and cooled water
  • Water in a spray bottle
  • Spray starch – can leave chalky residue
  • Ironing water – smells of chemical flowers
  • Easy Iron Water
  • A damp press cloth

The list goes on and on!

Moisture can be a huge help with pressing open wool seams. Add to that a wooden clapper and you’ll have the best-pressed seams in town – see my popular Youtube video here.

Of course, there are times when you don’t want any moisture and a dry iron is best. When pressing silk, for example, which can be vulnerable to permanent water stains.

I never used to spare a thought for my iron’s water tank. And then I started sewing…

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40 Responses to Just Add Water

  1. Helena says:

    I use distilled water that I get from my hardware store (an Aladdins cave of goodies) once you have bought a bottle you can take it back to refill it for half price. I live in East Anglia so a really hard water area that furs up irons and kettles very quickly. I also use a piece of muslin as a pressing cloth.

  2. JenL says:

    I’m lazy. I’ve used tap water in my iron, a Rowenta, for about 20 years. Surprisingly, there are no problems yet. I’m guessing I will have to use a demineralized on it eventually, but so far the ease of using tap water far outpaces that little anticipated inconvenience. There’s a far amount of junk in my tap water, and so I’m not sure why some have problems and others do not.

  3. Lori says:

    Distilled water for me.

  4. shoes15 says:

    I also buy distilled water. It’s usually 99 cents a gallon in the US.

  5. peggyleah says:

    I think my Rowenta instructions said to use tap water.

  6. Ironer says:

    Living in a hard water area I used to buy ironing water. I liked the fragrance of Asda and Wilko own brand ironing water. I bought a new tumble dryer a couple of months ago and now I use the water from the condenser. Seems OK so far.

  7. Distilled water for me

  8. Beth (SunnyGal Studio) says:

    I thought you were joking about buying ironing water but reading the comments I guess it is a thing? not here – have never heard of it. and adding scent would not make me happy. I use Rowenta irons and they always say to use tap water which I have with no problems.

  9. Sandra says:

    I normally use the water directly from the tap. No problems at all, but we have the softest water here in Trondheim. In the beginning when I was not sure about the water here, I´ve used the water from our tumble dryer. You can strain it through a coffee filter to be sure that there is no fluff in there. Technically it is distilled water.
    I have heard from some Quilters, that they use Vodka instead of other pressing liquids. Since alcohol is really expensive in Norway I have never checked.

    • didyoumakethat says:

      Oh, WOW! I would not waste good vodka in my iron!! My love of sewing does not extend to that. Fascinating!

      • Victoria says:

        It’s funny, vodka is also very useful for cake decorating as it wets the icing enough to stick (or to stop colour drying out) then evaporates without leaving marks.
        Not sure I’d iron with it though…

      • Deborah Jones says:

        I’ve heard of using vodka in a spray bottle to dampen your fabric (it supposedly works like Easy Press) but not to put in the iron. I’d be afraid of catching something on fire!

      • Cathy Salt says:

        The vodka and water solution is for a spray bottle. NOT your iron.

      • didyoumakethat says:

        Thank you!

    • didyoumakethat says:

      Vodka is also used in cake decorating?! I’m going to have to go and lie down in a darkened room.

      • ellecsews says:

        I have a recipe for pastry that substitutes vodka for half the water, apparently the vodka doesn’t develop the gluten so the pastry stays light and flakey. It works very nicely. I didn’t know about cake decorating though. Interesting.

      • Victoria says:

        With the vodka? 😉
        I wouldn’t worry about it catching fire. It would need to be high proof and near an open flame.

    • Janet says:

      I use the tumble dryer water too – we have a heat pump condensing dryer. It’s a bit of a pain to get it out of the container into the iron, but it doesn’t fur up the iron as much as tap water.

      • I’m intrigued by the references to condenser water from dryers. I’ve never had a dryer that offers that open (live in the US). What a great way to recycle and save money on distilled water, to boot!

        I always use tap water, but would probably use distilled if we lived in a hard water area. Maybe I should anyway? I can’t imagine buying iron water — I go through more than an iron full of water at ever sewing session, and I’d run through it too fast.

  10. TamsinW-P says:

    I also live in east Anglia and the water here is very hard. I generally use water from a tap with a filter on it, but my M-i-L, who lives a couple of villages away, uses de-ionised water. I don’t actually know what de-ionised water is – maybe it is the same as distilled water. She also has a much fancier iron than me and doesn’t want it to clog up!

  11. Cathy Salt says:

    In Canada we have a product called Best Press. You can make your own similar product using 20 parts water to one part vodka. A very little goes a long way! You can add 1 drop of your favourite essential oil and the smell is very light and pleasing. Since vodka is made from potatoes you get the benefit of a barely noticeable starch. Great for quilting projects!

  12. I grew up with my mom using demineralised water. However, on my Rowenta it explicitely says you should use tap water… I’ve been wandering about that. Nothing bad happened to my irons so far…scaling will occur after some time but you can clean it out.

    • shaewc says:

      My Rowenta iron also specified tap water, which surprised me. Our tap water is full of minerals and leaves deposits on our shower heads, etc. And every coffee pot i have owned ends up clogged after a short time with mineral deposits even if I use a cleaner in them. So not sure why the Rowenta can survive our terrible tap water!

      • The Seamstress says:

        Same here. Shower head is so bad I’m going to have to replace it soon, but the decade-old Rowenta is just fine.

  13. Anna says:

    I don’t tend to use the water tank on my iron anymore for steam. I always use a press cloth, so I position the press cloth, spray that and iron for steam. For whatever reason, I have never had problems with water marks as long as I use a press cloth. I do this because I have never met an iron that won’t occasionally drip.

  14. I use a Brita water filter for my iron (recommended by Nancy Zieman 🙂 ) I don’t know if it makes any difference but it’s supposed to filter out impurities helping your iron last longer however, Linda Lee said you get about 2 years out of an iron no matter what you do!

    • Liara says:

      I do the same and finds it makes a huge difference. When my husband uses the iron, he fills it directly from the sink. Very quickly it will start leaving a white cruddy residue on whatever is being ironed. I’ve never had this problem with water from the Brita.

  15. jan says:

    I just dislike the task of filling my iron’s tank, so I use Mary Ellen’s Best Press but I dilute it about 3 to 1 with distilled water. Works fine for ironing clothes or working on sewing.

  16. I started using the ironing water because I saw it on offer and we are in a hard water area. The first lot was ‘linen scented’ and I really liked it, but the currently available stuff is rather pungent. It’s still a better bet than the tap water though!
    I use a vodka/water spray to deodorise some of my steampunk gear that can’t go through the wash, it’s a theatrical trick that works brilliantly.
    For pastry, I’ve always added a slug of white vinegar to savoury pastry, and lemon juice to sweet…must do the same job as my pastry is always nice and flaky.
    I love hints and tips!

  17. Kath says:

    Here in Buckinghamshire the water is hard,so I use bottled still water from Lidl at17p for 2 litres. My iron says not to use ironing water. I like the idea of using the water from the tumble drier, at the moment I use that for watering my hanging baskets. Also great tips for alternative uses for vodka. 🙂

  18. kpcsewing says:

    I have had problems with rust in the steam from my iron, I read somewhere you don’t need distilled water but filtered water. So I now use a Brita filter for my iron water. Tap water for drinking. Now no problems with rust.

  19. Karen says:

    An interesting post. I was told that water from the tumble drier (condenser type) is suitable for irons. Instead of throwing down the sink, I save it and use it in my iron. I haven’t had a problem with limescale since.

  20. Jenn says:

    I’m curious – what is the benefit of boiled and cooled water?

  21. I have heard of using tap water with a little vinegar when in hard water areas. I just used to us it straight from the tap but being in a hard water area now these tips will come in handy. I have tried ironing water from “A” big supermarket. The one that I tried just smelt like wee and I had to wash everything again as the smell just wouldn’t go. It took ages to clean out my iron to get rid of the smell. 🙂 Xx

  22. Beads and Barnacles says:

    My iron specifically states to use distilled water on the side of the iron. But thankfully living in a slightly damp house we have a constant supply of this from our dehumidifier. Before that I used to get old milk bottles full of it from my mother who had a condensing tumble dryer. I’m not sure I could put up with the smell from Ironing water as I am very sensitive to a lot of perfumed things.

  23. Jo says:

    We are in a very hard water area in Shropshire so I use the water out of the water butt outside which is lime free! Jo x

  24. LinB says:

    Straight from the tap, but not straight from the well — we use a water filter to remove sand and sediment before it gets to the taps. Have never had trouble with this well — have lived before where water had so much lime in it that you dast not put it in your iron.

  25. Sarah says:

    This was an interesting read, especially going through the comments and seeing the different options… I don’t use tap water since we live in a hard water area. I use the water from the dehumidifier… don’t know if anyone else uses it (or whether it would be the same as the water from the tumble dryer mentioned in another comment)

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