heat press vs iron

Heat press vs Iron: Which one is better?

You must have all of the necessary tools for quality printing so that the operation can be completed successfully. Among all the essentials, a heat press machine is at the top of the list. It has a primary role in transferring the print to your substrate, regardless of the material, size, or shape.

Can we use an iron instead of a heat press machine?

This heat press vs iron comparison explains when you should and shouldn’t use Iron.

The main difference between an iron and a heat press is that household iron is small and specifically designed for pressing the clothes. Hence, you have no control over the pressure. In comparison, a heat press machine is specifically designed to transfer the designs. It is bigger and offers more control over temperature, time, and pressure.

Once you have shifted the design to transfer paper, it is time to benefit from a quality-made heat press. With adequate heat and pressure, the heat press machine will get the print on your shirt from the transfer paper. The process is typically mess-free and hassle-free.

For a smooth task, you must purchase a premium-quality pressing machine. Or else, you will get blurry, unclear, smudged, or low-quality prints. It provides high-resolution printed design quality. 

A multipurpose heat press makes your task a lot easier. It enabled the designs to be printed on a variety of fabrics. It creates permanent prints by utilizing heat as a source of energy.

Can we use an iron instead of a heat press machine?

Up to a certain extent, the answer is YES!

If you need to do some crafting but don’t have a heat press or cannot buy one, feel free to use a household iron. After all, everyone owns an iron. Without a doubt, a heat press makes your job easier and faster, but an iron can also produce good print quality.

Although you need to be extra careful. It means irons are useful for many tasks other than removing wrinkles. It can precisely adhere iron-on.

Undoubtedly, iron comes in handy because of its practical design and affordable rates. Typically, you can use iron for applying inkjet heat transfer papers and heat transfer vinyl, even a few plastisol transfers.

Advantages of using an iron instead of a heat press?

  1. Comparatively cheaper, making irons more pocket friendly. You can even create a small heat press by using iron.
  2. Very portable
  3. Feasibility and practicality as they are made easy to maneuver and maintain
  4. You don’t have to spend money because you must have one at home already
  5. Straightforward layouts with enough safety features
  6. Simple controls and settings
  7. It tends to have a quicker heat uptime
  8. Irons are compact, offering easy storage
  9. A low-cost solution for beginner-level crafters
  10. Minimal learning curve


  1. The uneven temperature throughout the plate surface letting the design stick, loosen up or scorch the garment due to hot and cold spots
  2. Inadequate or no pressure provided. But that is not all! You cannot even lock the pressure. it all depends on your power (as hard you press manually)
  3. Smaller pressing area asking the user to move the iron repetitively for shifting entire design
  4. As it stays upright, it might cause accidental burns
  5. Imprecise temp, pressure, and timer settings
  6. Not suitable for completing medium to large projects
  7. Usually lacks a built-in digital timer
  8. Incompatible for printing on multi-layered items
Iron for heat transfer
Source: Shopee

Top 7 Reasons a Heat Press is Better than an Iron

1) Saves time

A heat press is a time-saving tool that comes with an advanced digital timer. These timers let you set the time, so your vinyl transfer machine will work for the exact duration required for getting professional results. It can help you save tons of time by cutting down the procedure to seconds. And, you can use your saved time for multi-tasking rather than standing at an ironing board.

Average time for heat pressing: 14-16 seconds

 Average ironing time: 90-120 seconds

2) Proper temperature

With a quality heat press, you will never face temperature problems. First, you will completely control setting temperature or heat intensity (high, medium, low) depending on your project. Second, it ensures even heat distribution throughout the platen. The temperature uniformity is its strongest suit.

It gives you the ideal temperature for each fabric, minimizing the risks of scorching. No more guesswork!

3) Proper pressure

Apart from temperature, it offers sufficient and even pressures during printing. This pressure regularity couples with heat for a baseline amount of time. In iron, you can neither measure the pressure as it is manual nor set a pressure because it has no knobs.

Having adequate pressure lets the transfer stay for a longer time, withstanding multiple washing. No matter if the material requires light, medium, or firm pressure, a heat press will allow you to set it accurately. It has a primary role in glitter or vinyl adherence and peeling.

4) Large pressing area

It goes without saying, but heat presses have a larger surface area as they come with larger plates for substrates to be placed. Their massive heating area allows you to swap out large designs in a single pass. The larger the footprint, the more efficient the printing will be.

You can find heat presses in various sizes, but every piece will still be larger than iron. The size facilitates every stage of heat transfer.

5) No holes like stream irons

The heat press machine is enclosed, and the platens don’t have any holes like steam irons. But, when heat transfer is done through a heat press, you don’t have to worry about holes. Those holes let the pressure and heat dissipate, causing an imbalance in temperature and pressure in the irons.

Best irons for Heat press

6) No scorching

Say no to scorching!

Irons can cause burns due to uneven heat or overheating. This problem is put to an end with a heat press. Due to even heat distribution, there are no chances of burn, scorch, or mark. No matter how firmly you press, the garment will stay safe as the heating and pressure are consistent.

7) Quality results

If you have used iron for heat printing, all you need is 7 or more washes, and the design will deteriorate in quality. But with heat-press, the design will stay new and crisp, unfaded, and fresh even after more than ten washes.

Press machines ensure high-quality print and maximum durability. It shows the overall customer satisfaction. Furthermore, you can use a heat press for professional products.

iron vs heat press machine
Source: Swing Design


Does an iron work just as good as a heat press?

An iron can work as a mini heat press. We can say yes depending on its ability to heat up quickly, transfer design smoothly, and be feasible to use. But in terms of quality, even temperature and pressure distribution, timer settings, and print durability, we can say no. A heat press is more efficient, provides reliable printing, and saves time.

Is the Cricut heat press better than iron?

In certain aspects, the Cricut heat press is better than iron. For instance, the Cricut heat press has a larger heating surface, offers timer settings, and allows you to have complete control over heat and pressure levels. It provides the convenience of use and matchless durability in printing quality.

How long do I heat press iron on?

For HTV, 10-15 seconds sounds perfect. These 15 seconds of pressing will neither scorch and burn nor fail to stick to the print.

Can I use an iron instead of a heat press for infusible ink?

No, because under any circumstances, an iron will fail to work with Infusible Ink. Because first, an iron fails to get hot enough as required for pressing the Infusible Ink. And second, you need to keep the heat source steady and very still.

Can you use a heat press for iron-on transfers?

Yes, you can. In fact, it will be a better option to go with for professional results. For transferring the print onto the selected fabric, feel free to use a heat press machine.


The only difference between Iron and a heat press machine is quality. With a heat press, you will be able to achieve perfect printing in less time. As a result, you will be able to get more customers. Hence, more profit.

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Additional Questions

Does a heat press perform better than an iron?

Indeed, a heat press holds a distinct edge over an iron, primarily because of its consistency in pressure application. Both heat and pressure work hand in hand to make HTV stick to fabric successfully. It’s the heat that does most of the work, but without proper pressure for a specific period, the process remains incomplete. In my experience, a heat press provides a more professional and longer-lasting result compared to an iron. Its ability to maintain uniform heat distribution and pressure considerably increases the quality of the print, making it the preferred choice of professionals. **Consistency in pressure application** is what sets a heat press apart from a simple iron.

Why does a Cricut press surpass an iron?

The Cricut EasyPress 2 is an innovative combination of a heat press’s speed and an iron’s handiness, making it superior to the traditional iron. The device is designed for maximum utility- you simply adjust the settings for time and heat, and allow the machine to take over while you apply gentle pressure. Being available in different sizes, it caters to varied needs and applications. I recall a time when I was working on a bulk project requiring precise heat and pressure. The Cricut EasyPress 2 came as a lifesaver with its easy settings and made the task much simpler. The **blend of speed and convenience** is what makes the Cricut press a better choice than an iron.

Are iron-on and heat press identical?

While both the Iron-on and heat press utilize heat and pressure to imprint images onto the fabric, there are a few significant distinguishing factors between the two. Iron-on is a unique, lightweight paper applied in a single layer, whereas HTV is an option that works better for larger designs, and a heat press is usually recommended for its application. I remember once experimenting with both on different projects. The Iron-on was perfect for small, simple work, but for larger and more intricate designs, HTV with a heat press came to the rescue. It’s safe to say that **HTV is often a better choice for larger designs**, mainly when used with a heat press.

Does a mini heat press outperform an iron?

Although the Cricut EasyPress Mini appears akin to a mini iron, it holds much more value and is in fact much superior in several aspects. The device offers a uniform heat distribution compared to an iron and can reach higher temperatures. These features make it an ideal tool for any heat-transfer project. I purchased a Cricut EasyPress Mini for my craft business and was astounded by its performance. The results were far superior to those achieved by regular irons, and ever since, it’s been my go-to gadget for all heat-transfer projects. The ability to produce **higher temperatures and more even heat** significantly elevates the mini heat press over an iron.

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