The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

December 26, 2016

DIY Plastic-Free Ironing Board Cover and Natural Wool Pad

Last November, I decided it was time to get rid of the small, ratty, and possibly toxic table-top ironing board we’d been using for years.  And by we, I mean Michael.  Still haunted by memories of ironing my dad’s shirts in the dank basement laundry room while the crickets chirped and imaginary mice scurried from corner to corner, I avoid ironing as much as possible.  Michael, on the other hand, irons his work shirts every week, and I wanted him to have a nice, full-sized board with a non-toxic pad and cover, but I didn’t want to spend a ton of money.

Getting an Ironing Board for FREE

Knowing that I was going to be starting a year of buying nothing new, I decided to look for a secondhand ironing board.  I posted an ad on Nextdoor, a social network for neighbors to stay in touch about what’s happening in the hood, asking if anyone had an ironing board they didn’t want.

I would have been happy to pay for it, but one of my kind neighbors offered me their old one for free!  I just had to lug it home before work one morning.  The joints are a little rusty and squeaky, something I’ve been meaning to deal with since we got it over a year ago, but it’s sturdy and Michael doesn’t complain, so honestly, I’ll probably never get around to getting the squeak out.  Free is free, right?

Looking for a Plastic-Free Pad

My next task was to find a pad that wasn’t made from synthetic materials (i.e. plastic) and didn’t contain toxic flame retardants.  Here’s where I was willing to spend a bit of money.  After some Googling, I settled on Sonoma Wool Company’s 100% pure wool ironing board pad from locally-raised sheep in Sonoma County, CA.  Wool is naturally flame-retardant, and this pad is thick and sturdy.

The pad comes as a rectangle.  You trim it yourself to fit your ironing board.

My cats had fun with the trimmings.

DIY Ironing Board Cover

Did you know that many ironing board covers are coated with perfluorocarbons?  According to consumer advocate Debra Lynn Dadd in her book Toxic-Free:

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. Tetrafluoroethylene fumes can be irritating to eyes, nose, and throat, and can cause breathing difficulties.

After shelling out some green for the pad, I decided to get crafty with the cover.  Googling some more, I found instructions on the Frugal Family Times website for how to make a simple ironing board cover.  The author uses an old curtain for her cover.  I decided to go to Goodwill and pick out a secondhand 100% cotton sheet.  I took my friend Mark with me since he would be helping me sew the cover.

See, I don’t really sew.  But Mark has a sewing machine and knows how to use it.  In fact, he’s been making really cute reusable bags and backpacks and posting them on his Facebook page.  So, we carried the sheet back to his house to get to work.

Having accidentally purchased a fitted sheet, we first sat on the floor with seam rippers and ripped out the elastic.  Little did we know then that that elastic would come in very handy later in the process.

Then, Mark got out his ironing board and ironed the wrinkles out of the fabric.  I suppose it’s ironic to need to use an ironing board to iron an ironing board cover that you haven’t made yet.

Then, we spread the sheet out on the floor, laid Mark’s ironing board on top of it (his is the same size as mine), and traced around the ironing board with a fabric marking pencil 3-1/2 inches out from the side of the board.

I cut out the ironing board shape with scissors.  (Sorry that the colors keep changing in these photos.  It was dark in Mark’s apartment, and my camera went a little nutty apparently.)

Mark turned down the edges 1/2 inch and ironed down the seam.  (More ironing irony.)

Then he turned down the edges another 1 inch, ironed again, and then pinned them down.

This wide seam is what we’ll use to draw the string through.  Mark went around the seams twice to make sure they would be secure.   IMPORTANT:  Leave a small opening somewhere along the seam.  You’ll need it for running string through later.

After all the seams were sewn, I brought my ironing board-shaped sheet home.  The remaining step would be to get some string and run it through the tube we created with the seams.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough heavy string for this project.  And then I remembered:  the leftover elastic from the sheet!  I attached a safety pin to it and ran it through the seams.

The safety pin is under my thumb in this picture.  Just scrunch and pull and scrunch and pull until it’s all the way around.

Then, I put the cover on the ironing board, pulled the elastic taut, and used the same safety pin to attach the ends together under the ironing board.  I tucked the rest of the elastic inside the ironing board cover.

And voila!  All finished!

Saving Money

Even though I got the ironing board free and the sheet dirt cheap at Goodwill, I still paid a pretty penny for the pad. $59.95 to be exact.  Checking Amazon tonight, I see a combination 100% cotton cover with wool pad for a lot less.  The listing doesn’t say where the wool comes from or where the products are manufactured.  But it does say that both pad and cover are “untreated & chemical free.”  Notwithstanding the fact that EVERYTHING in the universe is made from chemicals, and therefore “chemical-free” is a meaningless term, I think what they mean is that the cotton and wool do not contain flame retardants or perfluorochemicals.

It was worth it to me to know where the wool came from and support a local business, but I recognize that not everyone would be willing to pay as much as I did for an ironing board pad.  Or to spend time making a cover.  Do you think this one is a good alternative?


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6 years ago

That’s pretty awesome. I do want to say that you can get the squeaks out of the frame with nontoxic products. Biokleen makes a soy lube that’s every bit as useful as WD-40, without the fumes. You can also use oil (a good way to use up refined oils you stopped eating years ago) but it collects dust and will need to be cleaned and redone once or twice a year. If it’s wood rubbing against wood, use the stub of an old candle and rub the wax on (then move the wood to distribute, repeat a couple dozen times…works great on windows by the way).

6 years ago

I don’t have the place for an ironing board like that. I was thinking of doing one myself to put on the washing machine. I’ll need to design my own though because the DIYs that I found on internet don’t fit what I have in mind.

Green Bag Lady Teresa
6 years ago

Hey Beth, I did a post similar to this a few years back:

I did buy this wool pad:

Next time you need a new cover, let me know and I’ll make and send you and organic cotton one. :)

Baby C
6 years ago

I never had the need to get an ironing board. I rarely iron, but when I do, I use my granite tabletop counters in the kitchen (heat resistant) and put one of my bath towels folded in half (moisture resistant) as a cushion. No need for an ironing board and saves up space in our condo.

Kathy G
6 years ago

Good job repurposing that (probably plastic-containing) elastic! I need a new ironing board for the three times a year something needs to be pressed around here, but every time I see the prices the thrift stores want I keep looking.

6 years ago

I recently replaced an ironing board cover using an old mattress pad and sheet. The sheet is all cotton. I’m not sure what the pad was made of, but it’s better than the falling apart foam sheet it replaced.

6 years ago

As a quilter I’ve converted an entire table into an ironing surface. I used layers of leftover cotton batting. Batting may be cheaper than the wool pad if you ever need to replace it.

Judith C
6 years ago

Thanks for the info on the wool pad. I have my Mom’s wood ironing board that she received as a wedding gift in 1951. I love it but the pad is probably needing to be replaced.