This initial article, to be followed by others on finishing techniques, outlines some of the available equipment, finishing aids and key points to look for with a view to helping those setting up a new business or replacing equipment.

While some of the best finishing and high production rates can be produced using the traditional scissor press, inexperienced staff can be trained to produce good work in less than 1/6 th of the time on ironing tables. So I will be concentrating on ironing which is now the most popular finishing system throughout the industry.

Ironing tables

The ideal table will have ironing surface steam, vacuum, variable volume air blowing, a sleeve arm and foot controls on both sides of the table (remember not all staff are right handed and others, depending on garment type may want to use the table from either side). All tables should have a good sized support tray, ideally height adjustable and a table mounted overhead light is a big advantage.


The choice is between a steam heated or or an electric steam iron. While steam heated irons are light and easy to handle and provide maximum fabric safety, their normal operating temperature is at best 110C, this is far too low for optimum finishing standards on many fabrics. Cotton textiles in particular require a temperature of 200C so a professional steam electric iron which can be operated with either hand is the best professional option. Heat settings must be adjusted as appropriate for other fibres.

Garment formers

There are numerous types/designs varying between tensioning formers, standard formers and rotor cabinet type finishers. Without doubt the best finish is produced by tensioning formers or rotor cabinet type formers designed to produce finishing temperatures in the region of 120C. Even using the best equipment, the vast majority of garments will still need additional finishing on the ironing table. Finishing is all about temperature so consider formers with a higher temperature potential.

Most types of former will come with the necessary finishing aids such as vent clips, T clips for trousers and sleeve extenders for jackets and coats.

Finishing aids

A range of finishing aids is essential if the cleaner is to produce good standards of finish on items such as ties, fur fabrics, satins, silks and some wool and heavyweight fabrics. A rod-type tie former, a Teazle (dog comb will do), a press mitt and/or mock iron (paddle) and soft medium and hard finishing brushes I consider to be essential. Sleeve plugs often produce a better standard of finish than traditional sleeve extenders and a pressers block can be useful to hold some garments in position when free steaming.

CORRECTION: In April’s Trade Secrets, gremlins got into the works and we printed a mistake. In the paragraph beginning ‘Many cleaners provide….’ It states: “If polyester is washed above 50C the temperature when rinsing must not be reduced at more than 50C per minute until it has once again been brought down to 50C.” The text highlighted in red should read ‘5C per minute’. We apologise for any confusion this might have caused.