Can You Use an Iron Instead of a Heat Press?

Customized presents make the perfect any occasion and all occasion gift. And who does not appreciate a well thought of present like personalized apparel - a t-shirt, an apron or even a tote bag.

A heat press machine is an ideal tool for this project. However, most heat press machines are costly, and if you are a new hobbyist or crafter, exploring cheaper alternatives, an ordinary normal iron might be more practical at this point.

can you use an iron instead of a heat press for vinyl

To differentiate, a heat press machine is like a heavy-duty commercial-grade iron that uses pressure and heat to a garment. A heat press is a very useful tool that guarantees a successful heat transfer because it can measure pressure, apply consistent pressure, dispense the exact right temperature, without pressing multiple times to get the desired output.

A normal iron works if the procedure is done correctly. This is also a fantastic and fun way to discover the many diverse uses of everyday iron.

Getting Started


1. Household iron

Make sure the iron plate is clean and free of any debris. For hard to remove stubborn stains or marks, mix two tablespoon baking soda with one tablespoon water to create a paste. Gently rub the paste on the cool iron plate and wipe off with a damp cloth.  

Make sure to remove any water in the iron reservoir of your steam iron. You may also use a regular iron without steam holes, if available. Don’t forget to leave the iron/hot plate in upright position after use.

2. Heat transfer vinyl/ iron on vinyl/iron on transfer

You can use any heat activated adhesive of your choice for this project. Either way,  ensure that your transfer design is properly weeded.

Here are some heat transfer vinyl recommendations:

PU heat transfer vinyl comes in 20 regular colors and 5 neon colors and are good to use for most garments, like tshirts, bags, caps and even pillowcases.

heat transfer vinyl
red heat transfer vinyl


Rainbow stripes heat transfer vinyl come in different color combinations, perfect for vibrant and dazzling one-of-a-kind creations.

Rainbow stripes heat transfer vinyl
Rainbow stripes heat transfer vinyl



Glow in the dark heat transfer vinyl works bright and brilliant in the dark, and just as vibrant in daylight as well.

glow in the dark heat transfer vinyl


glow in the dark heat transfer vinyl



Colorful camouflage heat transfer vinyl patterns make for a delightful and unique design for you camo inspired apparel.


camouflage heat transfer vinyl
camouflage heat transfer vinyl


Snowflakes pattern heat transfer vinyl make for perfect personalized yuletide gifts. Mix and match ang layer your projects with the different colors available.

snowflakes design heat transfer vinyl

using an iron or heat press for htv

3. Garment 

Heat transfer projects can be done on t-shirts, aprons, caps, jackets, and even pillowcases and canvas tote bags. For T-shirts, you can use the following materials:

  • cotton
  • polycotton blend
  • polyester
  • Lycra
  • Spandex

4. Ironing mat or tea towel

Use this  to protect the workspace surface. This is to be placed between the table and garment or apparel you will be using.

5. Protective sheet/carrier sheet/cover sheet 

This is used to protect the iron from burning the vinyl. You may use any of the following:

  • Parchment paper
  • Teflon sheet
  • Kraft paper
  • Multipurpose sheet


iron the fabric before placing the vinyl

Prepare your workspace

An ideal work space should be a big enough table or surface with enough space for your project materials including the iron, and preferably located near an available electric socket.

Prepare your iron

Most household irons are steam irons, but it you have an iron without holes on the plate, this would be better. The holes in steam irons make the temperature lower at the outer portion of the plate, where the holes are.

You may use cotton or linen iron settings for this project.

Prepare your garment

Before applying the iron on vinyl or heat transfer vinyl, iron the garment to remove wrinkles and moisture. Fold the garment in half to make a crease, and open the garment. The crease will act as a margin to keep your design aligned.

Press not glide

Place the heat transfer vinyl on the desired position on your garment or t shirt. Place a protective cover on top of your vinyl. Remember, we are using the iron to mimic a heat press, so best to apply heavy and firm pressure. Since we do not have a heat press timer, you can count 15 seconds before releasing pressure.

Repeat procedure until all parts of the vinyl have been pressed.  Allow the design to cool before gently peeling the clear carrier sheet.

Can you use an iron instead of a heat press on vinyl

Should you wish to reinforce the adhesion of your vinyl to the garment, you may place a protective paper on top of your design, and apply medium pressure, iron over the design.

And you’re done. Allow the garment to cool down should you decide to give it a wash.


Will any iron do for this project?

Yes, any household iron will do. A flat iron with no holes on the plate will be a better option than a steam iron.

Hot or cold peel?

This depends on the brand as not all vinyls are the same and it is best to check the instructions on the package. In the case of Teckwrap's vinyl for heat transfers, cold or cool peel practice is observed. The heat transfer vinyl or iron-on transfer applied to the t-shirt is allowed to cool down before removing the carrier sheet.

Should I put the iron setting on high?

No, a hot iron might ruin your vinyl, cotton or linen setting can do the trick. Because an iron will not match the exact setting of a heat press, best to apply pressure on the design using the middle portion of the iron where the heat of the iron is concentrated.

Moving Forward

The natural course of many serious hobbyists is eventually taking that bold step and making an investment in a heavy-duty machine, in this case, going from a home iron to using a heat press.

Even if a normal iron works fine, it has its limitations, i.e. limited to a very small pressing area, cannot disperse heat evenly, and consumes a considerable amount of time to press even just one t-shirt.

Should you wish to level up your printing hobby here are some features of a heat press:


Heat press machines have pressure indicators because some heat transfer vinyl types require specific pressure requirements, i.e. firm pressure for more specialized vinyl-like glitter vinyl and medium pressure for matte vinyl.


Using a heat press removes the guesswork in using the right press temperature for the appropriate heat transfer vinyl.

With a home iron, there is no way of knowing the exact temperature of the setting used, linen and cotton settings are mere approximations.


No need to count out loud when using a heat press. Just set the timer and you are set. Not only that, you can do something else, like prep your next t-shirt while the timer is counting down.


A normal and everyday iron can be used instead of a heat press for easy DIY vinyl projects, and to the untrained eye, no one can tell the difference between an iron pressed vinyl and heat pressed vinyl project.

Should you however consider a t-shirt business, investing in a heat press would be a wise investment. You can create top-notch tees at a fraction of the time. 

A quality press ensures that a heat transfer vinyl, regardless of type, will be pressed firmly and properly on the garment every time.

Putting vinyl is easy regardless of method, but you know the bane of poorly transferred vinyl? It’s the sight of peeling vinyl. And when this happens, our once favorite garment will now be placed at the bottom of the clothes pile, or worse, be thrown away.

You can now make an informed decision whether to use a household iron or heat press for your projects.

Regardless of what machine you use, may each project endeavor be an exciting moment in your crafting journey.

Do check out our website for more unique crafting DIY ideas you can create for different garments, for personal use or as wonderful customized any occasion gift ideas.


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