First, the ironing.

Get the temperature right. For table cloths and dish cloths made from linen or cotton, high temperatures are a MUST.

But you also need to give the iron time to get to the correct temperature. Otherwise, the crinkles will return. So leave the iron on for a few minutes before you do the ironing.

I have also learnt to keep a damp cloth on hand to dab at the less-than-smooth bits and I will iron over them again, if needed.

A bit of water helps to smoothen fabrics, as do those spray-on starches. But do wipe the floor around the ironing board to get rid of any liquid to prevent someone from slipping from it.

After ironing, you will need to take care of your equipment, if you want smooth cloths the next time.

I use distilled or, at the least, filtered water to fill the steam chamber and steam out the remaining water from the iron after each use.

To clean the vents, I pour white vinegar into the chamber and turn the steamer up high. Then, I will flush the chamber with water to rid it of deposits.

To keep the sole plate clean, rub it with a paste made from water and baking soda and let it set for a minute before wiping it off with a damp cloth.

As for the stains, change the cloths regularly so that the stains never get to set.

I wash my table cloths immediately after a meal, checking first for stains, which I treat with a pre-wash stain remover before sending it to the wash.

As for the dish cloths, which are cleaned every other day, I soak them in a stain-removing powder in the sink before I wash them.

The other advantage of this is that it leaves the sink sparkling clean, conveniently dealing with yet another of my kitchen pet peeves.

(First published in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times)