Depending on the fabric, removing shiny iron marks may be impossible. On natural fibers like cotton, shiny marks may represent a repairable scorch. On polyester fabrics, however, the shiny marks indicate either flattened or melted fabric. Flattened fibers can be lifted, but melted fabric cannot be undone.
Identify Fabric Content
You must know the fabric content to identify possible solutions for the shiny iron marks. A quick check of the label will tell you right away, but if the shine is on an unlabeled piece of fabric or garment, you will have to determine what kind of fabric it is before you try to restore it.
- Cotton allows for air circulation, but polyester does not.
- Cotton fades more quickly than polyester under normal laundering conditions.
- Polyester is more durable than cotton.
- Polyester can irritate sensitive skin.
Water Test: Dampen the fabric with water and fold to crease. Cotton will hold a crease, but polyester will not. This test is not always accurate, especially when you're dealing with cotton-polyester blends. A burn test is more accurate.
Burn Test: If a small section of fabric is available to test, burning can answer your fiber question. Burning cotton smells like burning leaves, and the flame and can easily be blown out like a candle. Ashes crumble easily. Burning polyester, however, smells sweet, and the ashes can stick to other substances.
Use extreme care when burning fabric. Do it outdoors on a calm day with no wind. Put out the flame immediately after performing the test.
You can use one of several ways to remove shiny iron marks from natural fibers:
Water Plunge: When you notice shiny iron marks, plunge the fabric into cold water. Allow it to soak for 24 hours before removing and drying according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Vinegar Cloth: Dampen a clean cloth with vinegar, and dab the vinegar-soaked cloth onto the shiny marks. Follow with a clean cloth dampened with water. Continue alternating the vinegar and water until the mark disappears.
Vinegar Wash: Rewash the item, adding a small amount of vinegar to the wash cycle along with your regular detergent. Use half as much vinegar as detergent.
Steam: Hold the iron above the fabric and release steam onto the shiny marks. Steam alone may remove light marks.
Hydrogen Peroxide: Saturate a clean white cloth with hydrogen peroxide. Lay the cloth on top of the shiny iron marks; then iron over the cloth. Remove the cloth to see if the marks were lifted. If not, repeat until they are gone.
Use hydrogen peroxide on white fabrics only.
Iron the backside of the fabric to avoid shiny or scorch marks on the front of the fabric. For clothing, iron inside-out.
If you are not sure of the fiber content of a garment, test your iron on an inconspicuous area first. Try the inside of a hem to get an idea as to how the fabric will respond to ironing.
Man-made fabrics, like polyester, pose a special heat risk when ironing. The shiny marks that can develop on polyester may indicate melted fibers, a problem that cannot be corrected. However, if the fibers have just been compressed, a chance exists that you can restore them with white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.
Vinegar Steam: Saturate a clean white cloth in white vinegar and wring out the excess. Place the wrong side of the fabric face-up on the ironing board. Place the vinegar-soaked cloth on top of the area with the shiny iron marks. Hold the iron above the cloth without touching it to create steam to penetrate the fabric. Turn the fabric right-side up. Rub the shiny marks against the grain to restore the fibers.
Peroxide Wipe: Dampen a light cloth with hydrogen peroxide. Rub the cloth gently on the shiny marks and launder the fabric.
Shiny marks on fabric can also be caused by wear and age.
- Hints and Things: Sarah's Laundry Related Hints and Tips
- Versatile Vinegar: Uses and Tips
- Creative Homemaking: Tip for Removing Scorch Marks from Linen or Cotton Fabrics
- The Fabrics Network: Fabric Identification
- Difference Between: Difference between Cotton and Polyester
- Vintage Fashion Guild: Determining Fiber
Ronna Pennington, an experienced newspaper writer and editor, began writing full-time in 1989. Her professional crafting experience includes machine embroidery and applique. When she's not repainting her den or making new holiday decorations, Ronna researches and writes community histories. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and an Master of liberal arts in history.