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An ironing board pad is a thick, heatproof cover containing felt padding. The purpose of the ironing board pad is to allow garments to be ironed smooth without any lines or marks from the ironing board showing through. The construction of the ironing board pad also allows steam to pass through when a steam iron is being used on a garment.
The early ironing boards were often made of wood. This caused some clothes to be snagged by small splinters as they were being placed on and removed from the ironing board. By placing an ironing board pad on the board, the thickness of the pad prevented any splinters from coming through and snagging the garments. The heat-resistant coating of the ironing board pad's outer layer reflects the heat from the iron back through the garment and makes ironing much easier.
With the advent of the steam iron, the ironing board pad needed to aid in preventing the steam vapor from forming puddles underneath the outer layer, which could stain clothes. The addition of a felt-like material layered under the heatproof outer cover proved to be the answer. The ironing board cover typically has strings running around its perimeter to allow the pad to be fitted tightly to the ironing board. As steam is released from the iron, it passes through the garment and the ironing board pad and dissipates in the atmosphere underneath the ironing board. Many modern metal ironing boards have a mesh top, so the ironing board pad must be thick enough to prevent the mesh pattern from being transposed onto the garment being ironed.
The materials used to make an ironing board cover are durable enough that the only maintenance required is occasionally using a damp cloth to wipe the cover down. Starch is often burned on or built up on the pad's surface, requiring it to be gently wiped away. For heavy build-ups or severe burns, it is often possible to place a hot iron on top of a damp cloth and set the combination on top of the troubled area. A few moments of the heated rag will typically allow the stain to be wiped free of the pad.
When shopping for a pad for an ironing board, users should be sure to read the label to ascertain the fireproof rating of the cover. Not all pads are fireproof, and the less expensive pads often turn brittle after only minor use. The thickness of the pad typically determines its long-term usefulness and worth.