Last updated November 9, 2023.
Quite a few years ago, when we lived in a small house, I let go of my ironing board in favor of an ironing mat. I thought this was the most clever invention for people living small or with limited space. Now that I’m still using it 7 years later and living in a slightly bigger house, I figured it was time I featured it here.
About the portable ironing mat
I purchased my ironing mat on Amazon, and while that specific one is no longer available, there are many similar mats online. It measures approximately 33″ x 19″, is foldable, and has two strong magnets on both ends to hold it securely to the washer or dryer. Several brands say these are safe to use on surfaces other than metal by using a towel underneath. I store it with the iron under the sink in the laundry room. It is several layers thick and has a quilted surface on both sides, made to withstand high heat. Like any ironing board, though, never leave the iron unattended.
Quilting and Crafting
I am an amateur quilter and crafter striving for a minimalist lifestyle, and I am able to use this mat for all but the largest of projects. For large projects, such as a queen-sized quilt, I borrow an ironing board – there’s no need to own one for the once every 5 years or more that I need a regular-sized board. I’ve used the mat for basic ironing and mending, small sewing projects, making lap and twin-sized quilts, and doing other crafts with my son. Honestly, I loved my mat, so much so that as I mentioned, I decided it was something I should feature on my website.
But as I sat down to write this post, I made a grim and eye-opening discovery. Beth Terry at myplasticfreelife.com wrote a post about replacing her “possibly toxic” tabletop ironing board and she mentioned that many ironing board covers and mats are coated with tetrafluoroethylene, a family of chemicals better known as Teflon. Once I researched it further, I confirmed that the ironing mat I’ve been using and loving for years was likely toxic.
Do not buy one of these ironing mats. See below for the best alternative.
All versions of this chemical non-stick coating have the potential to be very toxic to human health. Teflon in its various forms (PTFE, PFOAs, PFAS, PFOS, PFBS, etc.) is known to cause a variety of illnesses in humans and is a known carcinogen. Products coated with it can off-gas at high temperatures, so ironing on it is unsafe.
It turns out that many ironing board covers and ironing mats are coated with a version of these chemicals. I was so disappointed to learn this about my mat because I do love it. When I searched my purchase history on Amazon, I realized that I ordered and began using this during my pregnancy. I did not know many of the things I know now about unsafe toxins and chemicals in our everyday products, so needless to say this terrifies me! Did I expose my baby to these chemicals?
“Nowadays, most irons and ironing board covers are coated with tetrafluoroethylene plastic, better known as Teflon. Given that heating plastic makes it outgas its toxic fumes, irons and ironing board covers seem odd places to put it, particularly since a non-stick finish is not even necessary for the task.” -Debra Lynn Dadd, author of Toxic-Free
Wool Pressing Mat
Once I was aware of the potential dangers of a Teflon-coated ironing mat, I began seeking a safe, non-toxic, chemical-free alternative. I also wanted the alternative to be small and easy to store. After reading research other bloggers have done, it turns out wool pressing or ironing mats are the best options. Many quilters swear by the wool mats and indicate that they are better because they reduce ironing time and grip the fabric well. There are many of these for sale online but look for certain aspects: make sure it is 100% wool, sustainably sourced, and cruelty-free, and ask the seller to not ship it in plastic! I recommend searching “wool ironing mat” or “wool pressing mat” online and reading multiple reviews from sewists and quilters. Make sure to read the comments too as there are usually additional tidbits of information there.
I plan to buy one of these in the near future, and I will update this post when I do! If you’ve had any experience with wool pressing mats or other ironing mats, please let me know in the comments below! Thank you for reading, and please subscribe. Happy ironing!
Article, “DIY Plastic-Free Ironing Board Cover and Natural Wool Pad,” Myplasticfreelife.com, December 26, 2016.
Article, “An Honest Review of Wool Pressing Mats,” SuzyQuilts.com, accessed November 4, 2020.
Video, “Wool Pressing Mats: What is all the HYPE about?” Sparrow Quilt Company, January 12, 2019.