Cotton is notorious for wrinkles. New drapes that were folded and packaged may have wrinkles that are deeply set and prove difficult to remove. It may only be possible to decrease them, but by using a few drapery-makers' tricks and tools, you should be able to decrease them enough so they are much less noticeable.
Check the wattage of your iron. A medium-priced domestic iron is typically 800 watts; a top-of-the-line domestic iron is about 1,400 watts. You need high steam heat, over a sustained time, to remove these wrinkles. Expressing steam from an iron will cause it to cool, and water may drip from the steam vent holes as the iron reheats to temperature. For this reason, higher-wattage irons that reach temperature quicker and hold it longer are preferable. Some irons will function in the vertical position, and have a steam-burst feature particularly suited to removing wrinkles from drapes.
Read the drapery label for fabric content. If they are 100-percent cotton, set the iron heat to cotton. If there are other fibers in the drapes, test the iron temperature on a small area first. Reduce the heat setting if the iron sticks to the fabric. Check the fabric for water-spotting by allowing several drops of water to soak into the fabric. If a noticeable spot shows when the drape is dry, steaming the drapes will produce watermarks, and only a dry iron should be used; otherwise, set the iron for continuous steam.
Consider the possibility of shrinkage where the steam from the ironing path contacts the drapes. To avoid this, preshrink the whole drape by hanging it in the bathroom while the shower is running. The drapes need to become noticeably damp to the touch for shrinkage to occur. Hang the damp drapes on their curtain rod and gently tug at the bottom hem to pull them straight. Allow the drapes to dry before continuing to the ironing process if necessary.
Place the drapes in the dryer with a damp towel on a low heat cycle for several minutes, as an alternative to steaming in the bathroom. Your dryer probably has a cycle that says "fluff." Use that setting; otherwise, use the "damp dry," "wrinkle release" or low heat setting. The drapes need to tumble easily. If they are more than 50 inches wide, a domestic dryer is too small for free tumbling to occur.
Spray the wrinkled locations of the hanging drapes with a solution of one tablespoon of vinegar to one cup of warm water. With one hand behind the drape and one hand on the front, try smoothing the wrinkles out from top to bottom.
Make a mini handheld ironing board to use with an iron on hanging drapes. Cover one wide side of a 16-inch piece of 1-by-6 board with quilt batting and staple cotton broadcloth over the batting. Screw a small handle onto the other side. Hold the mini ironing board behind the drapes, as they are hanging, and iron from the front.
Iron the drapes on a flat surface as a last resort. It is very difficult to keep cotton wrinkle free if the drapes are moved while being ironed. Prepare an ironing surface that is as wide as the drape is long. When ironing, complete one section, from the top of the drape to the hem, and let it cool. Reposition the drape and iron the new section. Continue across the width of the drape. Do not drag the iron along the fabric; this may stretch the fabric under the iron. Place the iron on the fabric, count to five, lift the iron, move it to the next location, put it back on the fabric and count to five; continue this process along each section.
Place tinfoil on the ironing surface, and the drapes on the tinfoil. When ironing on each drape, the foil will reflect the heat back into the drape, effectively ironing it from both sides. This method works well, but produces a lot of moisture if the steam setting is used. Excess steam from the iron -- steam that is not immediately absorbed into the drape -- passes through the fabric. Placing foil under the drape will cause the excess stem to condense on the foil. This moisture will be absorbed back into the fabric, from the underside, creating more dampness in the drape. The iron heat, reflected back from the foil, will act on this dampness, increasing the temperature and creating the effect of ironing from both sides. This is why this is a particularly effective ironing technique.
Do not use fabric softener and water as a wrinkle remover. Fabric softener may contain oils that will stain drapery fabric.