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How to Seal Iron-on Shirt Transfers

Updated July 20, 2017

While iron-on shirt transfers offer a fun and easy way to decorate fabrics yourself, these decals do not always last for a long time. Because the decals attach to fabric with a type of glue, iron-on transfers have a tendency to peel or disintegrate if cared for improperly. But with just a little care in their application, and proper treatment afterward, your iron-on image can last as long as the shirt it's affixed to.

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  1. Preheat the iron to its hottest setting. Empty the iron's water chamber to make sure no steam is used while you iron, as steam will ruin the seal of the glue to the shirt.

  2. Place the pillow case on the bench and iron it smooth. Use a low bench instead of an ironing board to give you more leverage and pressure while ironing on the decal. This will help seal the transfer.

  3. Place the shirt on top of the pillow case and iron the shirt smooth.

  4. Place the transfer image onto the shirt, image side down. If you have printed the image yourself, make sure that it has been mirrored, so that it displays correctly after being ironed on.

  5. Iron the back of the transfer, pressing down very firmly. Move the iron up and down the transfer, overhanging the edges by half of the iron's surface area.

  6. Iron up and down for 90 seconds, going over the entire transfer twice. Then iron from side to side in the same manner for another 90 seconds.

  7. Let the transfer cool for about two minutes before removing the protective paper covering of the iron-on decal. Do not iron directly on the image.

  8. Turn the shirt inside out and wash it in cold water with a mild detergent.

  9. Hang the shirt to dry. A low dryer setting may be used, but even low temperatures risk melting the glue and causing the iron-on transfer to peel.

  10. Cover the image with a sheet of waxed paper before ironing, checking frequently to make sure the wax doesn't melt onto the shirt. Set the iron to a lower temperature to prevent the waxed paper from melting.

  11. Tip

    For extra protection against peeling, you can sew a border around the entire transfer image either with a machine or by hand.


    Hot irons can cause severe burns, so always use irons with caution.

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Things You'll Need

  • Pillow case
  • Bench

About the Author

Leah Noble

Based in Seattle, Leah Noble has been writing instructional articles since 2010. Previously a teacher, Noble has been writing and teaching unpublished "how to" information for many years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in art studio with a minor in English from the University of California at Davis.

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