A clothes iron is a small hand-held appliance with a handle holding a flat, roughly triangular surface that, when heated, is used to press clothes to remove creases. It is named for the metal of which the device was historically commonly made, and the use of it is generally called ironing. Ironing works by loosening the ties between the long chains of molecules that exist in polymer fiber materials. With the heat and the weight of the ironing plate, the fibers are stretched and the fabric maintains its new shape when cool. Some materials, such as cotton, require the use of water to loosen the inter-molecular bonds. Many materials developed in the twentieth century are advertised as needing little or no ironing.
Before the introduction of electricity irons were heated by combustion, either in a fire or with some internal arrangement. An "electric flatiron" was invented by US inventor Henry W. Seeley and patented on June 6, 1882. It weighed almost 15 pounds and took a long time to heat. The UK Electricity Association is reported to have said that an electric iron with a carbon arc appeared in France in 1880, but this is considered doubtful.