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What is the point of ironing your clothes?

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I spent my life being told to wear ironed clothes. Be neat. Be tidy.

My mother irons everything; towels, sheets, underwear, even flannels.

But, why?

I wanted to know whether ironing did any good, and this is how I tried to find out.

 
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Step 1: Hypothesis

Picture of Hypothesis

Despite my mother's obsessive application of the iron, I suspect that ironing shortens the life of a garment, with the heat, moisture and friction of ironing damaging the fibres.

This should result in changes in the fibres, visible at high magnification.

Image source

Step 2: Secondary Evidence & Preliminary Research

I contacted a number of steam iron manufacturers via their websites, and asked whether ironing has any material benefit beyond improving the appearance.

Unfortunately, typing weeks after designing this experiment, no replies were forthcoming*. This leads me to suspect that my hypothesis is correct...

I did find other people who questioned the need for ironing,  but nobody seems to have actively examined it.

As far as I can tell, ironing was invented as, and continues to be, a purely social contrivance. 



*If I ever receive any communications from steam-iron manufacturers, I will edit them into this step.

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wilgubeast2 months ago

I love this experiment and the contextual ads that Google serves alongside it.

Kiteman (author)  wilgubeast2 months ago

Hehe, I had to log out and switch off adblock, but that *is* funny!

Teachable15 days ago

Good job. On a related note, if you take t shirts, blue jeans, and some other types of clothes out of the dryer (on a heated cycle) as soon as they're done, and put them on a hanger immediately, they're pretty wrinkle free without any need to iron since they've been steamed from the dryer heat. It might help to take them out before the dryer goes through the cool down part of the cycle.

bajablue1 month ago

Iron is a four letter word! ;-)

Kiteman (author)  bajablue1 month ago

Haha!

Triclaw1 month ago

I read the comments on this and it seems to angered the dry cleaners cult( beware of their stiff collars )

Kiteman (author)  Triclaw1 month ago

LOL!

Luziviech1 month ago

Hey dude,

for tailoring an iron with steam is essential to make things even, to reinforce fabrics with fusible interfacing or to distort planar fabric parts into round ones (for example the shoulder seams of sleaves).

I'd suggest you to get a book for taylorship apprentices. I dunno, if they provide information about how ironing changes fibres, but i once had a look into such a book and i can remember that there was pretty much information about about fibres themselves.

Kiteman (author)  Luziviech1 month ago

I was investigating day-to-day ironing, not the manufacture of garments.

georion1 month ago

""As far as I can tell, ironing was invented as, and continues to be, a purely social contrivance. ""

i dont fold clothes or roll socks any more

i hang tee shirts and shirts and long pants promptly on hangers-everything else gose into 10 gallon tubs(shorts get folded in have and piled up-when i get around to them) towels store easiest when folded so they win !! glad you took this on and shared it .

Kiteman (author)  georion1 month ago

Thank you!

Feynmaniac2 months ago

I love this 'ible :) !

I've seen many critiques about this experiment's conclusion and I think it all comes from the fact that the experiment should be conducted on a tee-shirt's lifespan (which is too long to fit into the contest, must be the reason why the experiment's conclusion is prematured) and that we can't really answer anything before. I think we should carry it on =D !

Btw I'd like to submit a complementary question :

"What is the point of shaving ?" ;)

Jack-Passion.jpg
Kiteman (author)  Feynmaniac2 months ago

Thanks - I think I might have gotten better results if I'd thought of this a year earlier (nine months before the contest was announced...).

If anybody wants to take this further, I'll happily add extra steps to include their results.

agnostica2 months ago

ironing kill bacteria and insect's eggs

Kiteman (author)  agnostica2 months ago

That's what the washing stage is for, surely?

agnostica Kiteman2 months ago
it's complementary

That is one great Information. Thank you so much Kiteman :)

Kiteman (author)  Tarun Upadhyaya2 months ago

You're welcome.

bondogmom2 months ago

Since you have been so obtuse that you have contacted me 3 times about your effort and my comment, I will preface this with the following: You received many critical responses. I know that INSTRUCTABLES has a "be nice" policy and I truly enjoy all the intelligent and creative people. The best I can do to be nice is to say, your time consuming efforts would make a WONDERFUL 8th grade science project.

Kiteman (author)  bondogmom2 months ago

Sorry, but I have never contacted you, and, as far as I remember, this is only the second time I have ever replied to one of your comments.

Perhaps you are getting confused by other replies in the same thread?

dcj22 months ago

ummm, I'm not really sure I follow the logic of your conclusion "there is no actual point to ironing". Your original hypothesis was that ironing causes damage. If that proved true, ironing should be discouraged. After the experiments (kudos on sound scientific method, btw) failed to reveal damage, you seem to change to "ironing doesn't improve anything" and you therefore also discourage it. If the resulting conclusion is the same regardless of the test results, then it seems the experiment itself was pointless.

bondogmom dcj22 months ago

I agree. Trying to find a scientific reason to look like a lazy wrinkled mess is pointless and I'm sorry I wasted my time reading this INSTRUCTABLE.

Kiteman (author)  bondogmom2 months ago

I am puzzled by this very negative attitude - an experiment with a result is useful, even if that result is not headline making.

I had a hypothesis, I tested it, the hypothesis was found wanting, I suggested ways of moving forward. That's how real science works.

dcj2 Kiteman2 months ago

Meaning no disrespect, but the negative response you're getting is not for the Instructable itself, but for the blatant disregard of the scientific method.

Poll 1000 people and ask "What is the point (aka the intended result) of ironing clothes?" Unless they're off their meds, I suggest at least 99% would say "The point of ironing is to remove wrinkles." Your hypothesis proposes that ironing is pointless, in other words, ironing doesn't remove wrinkles. Your experiment does absolutely nothing to prove or disprove that proposition, instead veering of on some vaguely related but ultimately irrelevant examination of fabric damage. The experiment itself and your methodology are sound, but ultimately a waste of time with respect to the original hypothesis. And yet at the end, you claim that your hypothesis has been supported!? Balderdash! The only way your exercise as a whole holds any merit is if you're claiming that the point of ironing is to damage fabric, to which I again say, Balderdash!

Either A) change your Hypothesis to match the test (eg, ironing clothes damages the fabric), B) change the experiment to actually test the hypothesis (ironing does or does not remove wrinkles), or C) demonstrate that most reasonable people iron their clothes with the intent to damage them.

Kiteman (author)  dcj22 months ago

Ah, I see the issue.

You are mistaking the populist title for the hypothesis, without actually reading the step entitled "Hypothesis".

Kiteman (author)  dcj22 months ago

No, it proved that ironing has no effects. Any activity with no effect is pointless.

dcj2 Kiteman2 months ago

It certainly DOES have the intended effect, that of removing wrinkles. If your experiment had shown that is doesn't remove wrinkle, then yes it would be pointless. But you didn't test for the efficacy of wrinkle removal, you tested for damage to the fabric.

Your hypothesis in Step 1 states that you expect there to be damage to the fibers, therefore making ironing is a bad thing (ie, pointless). Your experiment shows *no* damage, so the logical conclusion should be that ironing is *not* a bad thing). Yet you still come to the conclusion that it's pointless.

This is a simple IF-THEN-ELSE condition: IF ironing damages fabric THEN it is pointless ELSE it is not pointless. But your conclusion follows IF ironing damages fabric THEN removing wrinkle is pointless ELSE ironing is still pointless anyway. That makes no sense. It sounds to me like you just have a deeply ingrained aversion to ironing, and on that point good Sir, I am 100% with you! :)

tayzzmom2 months ago

My theory has always been that if it doesn't show, it doesn't need ironing! If you're wearing a jacket over your shirt, you only need to iron the front of your shirt, and maybe the collar. But you don't need to iron the back and the sleeves. Of course, you have to remember to NOT remove your jacket....lol. 8-) (This from a harried mother of 7, who had to use every shortcut available)

tcarney572 months ago

Very interesting experiment. I've never heard of any reason to iron clothing other than appearance, so I'm not surprised by your results. Though I've never considered the wear-and-tear that might come from ironing, I do know that tumble drying them (high or low heat) shortens the life of pretty-much everything. It's too bad, because tumble drying can very often make ironing unnecessary except for the compulsive. But the big wad of lint that needs to be removed from the filter every time is good evidence that something is lost in the process.

On the other hand, air-drying the clothing, either to save energy or the clothing, usually leaves a garment that needs at least a little iron touch-up to be presentable. If the clothing is cotton, it's almost a certainty. It's true that the cloths iron uses some energy, and an interesting experiment would be to carefully measure how much per garment compared to an electric or gas dryer.

Some kinds of fabrics are more prone to the "short wrinkle" that comes from air drying, and some are also better in terms of the "long wrinkle" that results from wearing clothing for more than a hour or so. Esthetically, it's the short wrinkle I often want to iron out, though my standards in that regard have lowered over the decades.

hasselhoph2 months ago

There's a very good reason to iron your clothes if you live in Africa:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordylobia_anthropoph...

Jump down to the Public Health and Prevention Strategies section.

All those jungle explorers wear nice crisp khakis.

Janolucero2 months ago

Wow, i never think on some like this, but is true we are slaves of ironing all the shirts for the entire week, to look "cool"

great experiment :D

PRO DR MR BOB2 months ago

i dont iron my closes i just wear them for a bit then the wrikles just come out

I don't iron my clothes. As soon as I fasten my seat belt, they are creased, so why bother?
PrimoWorks2 months ago

So the takeaway of this experiment is: Nope! You still don't have a legitimate reason to disobey mom. ;)
For the record, I HATE ironing and was hoping I could have a scientific reason not to. :P

LinnetNC2 months ago

There *IS* a reason to iron if you sew your own clothing or alter your ready-made your clothing - it sets in any stitching you make. Seams, hems, what have you. It's almost a requirement when stitching seams. And if you alter your clothing it establishes the modification and makes it permenant.

patman012 months ago

I think the whole point of ironing is to actually to smoothen out creases.

Maybe the hypothesis should have been 'Ironing damages fabric used for White Cotton Undershirts' with the conclusion that it doesn't

debzam patman012 months ago

Yip, that's what I got out of it. The iron does JUST what it was invented to do. This "experiment" proved that no shirt was harmed in the making of this instructable.

debzam patman012 months ago

Yip, that's what I got out of it. The iron does JUST what it was invented to do. This "experiment" proved that no shirt was harmed in the making of this instructable.

debzam patman012 months ago

Yip, that's what I got out of it. The iron does JUST what it was invented to do. This "experiment" proved that no shirt was harmed in the making of this instructable.

debzam patman012 months ago

Yip, that's what I got out of it. The iron does JUST what it was invented to do. This "experiment" proved that no shirt was harmed in the making of this instructable.

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