So recently whenever I've been ironing my shirts for work I have found that when I do the collar of cuffs, the iron will sometimes leave a brown stain, almost as if it is burning the shirts. I don't believe that is would be burning them as it is only the cuffs and collars that suffer this fate but the rest of the shirt is fine.
Just before / when it leaves the mark the iron seems to become 'sticky', ie. not gliding over the shirt surface as easily as it normally does. (I don't know if that is key but thought it might be worth mentioning).

Now I don't know whether this is because the iron is dirty or a different reason but I am looking for handy / easy ways to:

  • Clean the iron
  • Remove the marks from the shirts
  • Prevent this from happening in the future

If anyone else has experienced this I would very much like to here how you sorted it (preferably not by getting a new iron).

  • Are you using a steam iron and if so, do you use distilled water or tapwater?
    – Bamboo
    Jan 15, 2015 at 14:25
  • 1
    Are you using starch? (not just for these shirts, but for anything, where starch may be accumulating on the iron?)
    – TIO Begs
    Jan 15, 2015 at 14:44
  • @Bamboo Tap Water for the iron
    – MrPhooky
    Jan 15, 2015 at 16:01
  • @Geobits - Not that I know of, someone else may but not to my knowledge
    – MrPhooky
    Jan 15, 2015 at 16:02
  • @elliotdawes - it might pay to descale the iron, but what you're describing doesn't sound too much like scale deposits, these leave sort of nasty brown streaks. I reckon you're leaving the iron on the collar edge too long, or the temperature's too high. I've certainly done what you describe by trying to eradicate creases above the collar edge, meaning the tips of the collars are exposed for too long to the heat, and being thicker there, are higher and in closer contact with the iron.
    – Bamboo
    Jan 15, 2015 at 17:35

4 Answers 4


The stain you see on your shirts likely are not burns of the textile but discoloured remnants of skin oil or sweat which were insufficiently cleaned by your machine, especially after your textiles could not be cleaned at high temperatures.

To remove these stains, and to prevent this to happen in the future, collars and cuffs may need a special pre-treatment before putting them into the washing machine.

  • gently rub in liquid washing lotion to collar and cuff before washing.
  • apply some drops of dishwashing fluid or shampoo (with your finger) to the stains.
  • use bleach only if your shirt was plain white.
  • bile (ox gall) soap applied before washing will efficiently remove not only oil but also proteins left on the shirt.

All these may help to prevent staining but may be less efficient in removing them. This very much depends on the detailed compositions of the stains (predominatly oil, more sweat, nicotin stains, ...) so we will have to try out what method works best.

From my own experience I had best results by using a liquid bile soap preparation.

  • Wow. When the pile of clothes starts smelling, I just throw it into the magic machine, close it and press Go. Oct 13, 2015 at 6:04
  • @GrasDouble How do your clothes smell without a nose? Do you mean stink?
    – Stan
    Jun 26, 2016 at 16:59

The "sticky" clue makes me think that these are not 100% cotton shirts, but instead polyester or poly/cotton blend. That stickiness is a sign that you have your heat too high or you are moving too slow.

Synthetic fabrics cannot stand high heat like 100% cotton can. To press synthetics and blends, you should use a different technique than on cotton. One way is to only back off the heat slightly and to work quickly, not keeping the hot iron over any one spot too long. Another technique would be to back off the heat more and push the iron slower. This way takes more patience and is not as productive, but it is the safer of the two choices for preventing damage.


I seem to have similar issues when I starch them. I've been experimenting with lowering the iron temp to avoid melting the starch. Another option, if it seems to be more prevalent on lighter color shirts, try ironing them inside out.


A pressing cloth may be useful. It will protect from scorching if heat is too high or clothing is not fully clean (stubborn oils around cuffs and collars or deodorant residues). It will also provide protection from an iron with plate that is not fully clean of starch and previously scorched fabric or that has issues with dirty water/steam from reservoir. They make special cloth for this of various designs, but I have used cheap 100% cotton white dish drying cloths for this. Dampening the dish cloth slightly can also be a way to steam press but is not entirely fool proof.

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