7 Reasons a Heat Press is Better than an Iron

7 Reasons Why a Heat Press is Better than an Iron

Most of us do our first heat transfers with an iron.  The first transfer I did was an iron-on image that I purchased from my local craft store to do for my daughter.  I remember setting the iron up and placing the transfer on a white t-shirt.  It was an exciting moment.  To my amazement, it worked!  The image transferred with the iron and the t-shirt lasted my daughter a few years.

Ironing on transfers is a fantastic and fun way to start doing heat transfers.  They're easy to do and a low cost way to play around and test several things out.  It wouldn’t be wise to suddenly buy a heat press machine before testing whether you like the process first!

If you know that making your own heat transfers and t-shirts is for you, then you should ask yourself, “Is a heat press better than an iron?"  Whether you’re thinking of starting a t-shirt business, or wanting a press to simply make gifts for your family and friends, then this post will explain why a heat press is better than a household iron.

A successful heat transfer is all about having the right time, temperature, and pressure.  Those are the three main factors which influence whether or not your heat transfer will adhere or peel.  We’ll start looking at those 3 main reasons why a heat press is better than an iron, then I will explain 4 other important reasons.

Let’s get started…


Heat press machines have digital timers that are set so the press will have the exact time needed.  Each manufacturer of vinyl products will specify the right amount of time for their vinyl.

HTV Instructions

You may ask…why is a heat press timer a good thing?

  • With the timer set, you can do something else while the press is counting down (e.g., set up the next shirt).
  • You don’t have to make a racket counting down like I used to do… 15, 14, 13, 12…
  • You get the exact time correct each time

 Set Your Time

Set Your Time According to Your Heat Transfer Vinyl


Most household irons can get up to a temperature of around 400°F.  This is hot enough for most HTV, but the problem with irons is that you usually don’t know what temperature it’s set to.  Say for example your transfer requires a press temperature of 345°F which would not be unusual, but can you actually set the temperature of your iron for that exact setting?  No, unfortunately you just have to turn it on and stick the dial to somewhere between cotton and linen.Setting the right temperature for heat transfer vinyl is hard on an iron

Most heat press machines reach temperatures between 450-500°F.  This is hot enough for any heat transfer that you are likely to do in the home.  You can set the temperature and not worry about it!

But setting the correct temperature for heat transfer vinyl is easy with a heat press 

But setting the correct temperature for heat transfer vinyl is easy with a heat press


Pressure is so important when applying transfers to a shirt.  It can mean the difference between a shirt lasting 6 months, or lasting many years.  It means the difference between properly adhered vinyl and peeling vinyl.

The level of pressure a transfer requires is specified by the manufacturer, just like the time and temperature.  Pressure is usually measured from light or soft to hard or firm.

For example:

  • A Easy Weed vinyl requires medium pressure
  • Glitter HTV requires firm pressure

It is hard to measure pressure when you are pressing with an iron.  All you can do is press down firmly and hope for the best!  To be honest, it’s not difficult and works out most of the time, but it’s just not as good.  There’s no denying that you are able to get better and more consistent pressure with a heat press than with an iron.

Controlling pressure on a heat press is easy and helps create great heat transfer vinyl projects


    Steam irons have holes in the hot plate which will affect the pressure. 

    Holes in the iron can cause problems with heat transfer vinyl

    When you are doing a heat transfer with a steam iron, the area under the steam holes is not being pressed down.  Usually, you will end up pressing multiple times over an iron-on transfer which mitigates this to some extent.


    Irons have a very small pressing area.  Maybe the size of an iron plate is 5x3 inches, and that’s at the wide end.  This means you have to do most heat transfers in stages. 

    Irons can be too small to easily apply heat transfer vinyl

    A heat press covers more of the heat transfer vinyl project

    Don’t get me wrong, it works, but it’s not ideal.  Heat press machines have a much larger pressing area (the standard size is 15x15 inches).  You will also have a much more professional result with a heat press.


    It is much easier to burn, scorch, or mark your garments when you are pressing with an iron.  Irons were not designed to do heat transfers.  They weren’t made to be firmly pressed down upon a garment, so if you go overboard on the time, it will damage your project.

     Irons can easily scorch heat transfer vinyl projects


      If you are selling custom made apparel then you should invest in getting a heat press!  Your customers will be far more confident that they are receiving a quality product if it was made using a heat press.  They will be much more satisfied getting a t-shirt that was pressed with a heat press than with an iron because it will last much longer and look much better, and that is what your customers want.  Quality in your product is what your customers will buy.


      There you have it-- seven reasons why a heat press is better than an iron!

      Heat press machines are also very affordable these days.  You're going to have to spend a bit of money for a decent one, but it’s not going to destroy your bank account. You can see one we recommend here!

      Also, if you're able to make beautiful apparel for sale and gifts, it will pay for itself in no time. You won’t regret your investment and your customers and friends will thank you for the top notch tees!

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