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!
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?