Iron On vs. Sew On Patch – What Are the Differences?

Last Updated on February 28, 2024

Discover Iron On vs. Sew On Patch: Patches are a fantastic way to flair your clothing, bags, or accessories. But when it comes to attaching them, should you go for an iron-on or sew-on patch?

Patches have been a popular fashion accessory for decades, and with the rise of customization and personalization, they’re back in style. However, with the variety of available patch types, knowing which one to choose can take time and effort.

Iron On vs. Sew On Patch
Image Source: Instructables, ShutterStock, Canva

There are a few factors to consider when deciding between iron-on and sew-on patches. Each method has its pros and cons, ultimately depending on your preference and the item you’re attaching the patch to. Here, we’ll explore the differences between iron-on and sew-on patches to help you make an informed decision.

What is the main difference between iron-on and sew-on patches?

The main difference between iron-on and sew-on patches lies in their attachment methods. Iron-on patches have a layer of glue on the backside, activated by heat, while sew-on patches feature a simple fabric and thread design without any adhesive or plastic backing.

Iron On vs. Sew On Patch – Comparison

Understanding the difference between these two options can help you make an informed choice based on your preferences and the type of patch you have. In this article, we’ll explore the characteristics of iron-on and sew-on patches to help you decide which method suits you best.

Iron-On Patches

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Iron-on patches are popular due to their convenience and ease of application. These patches come with a layer of adhesive on the backside, which is activated by the heat of an iron. This adhesive is usually a glue-like substance that bonds the patch to the fabric. Here’s how the process works:

  • Heat the iron: Before applying the patch, make sure your iron is set to the appropriate temperature, as mentioned in the patch instructions. Typically, a cotton or medium heat setting works well.
  • Position the patch: Place the patch on the desired location of the fabric, adhesive side down. It’s essential to ensure that the patch is correctly aligned before proceeding.
  • Apply heat and pressure: Once the patch is in place, cover it with a thin cloth or parchment paper to protect the fabric’s surface. Then, press the hot iron firmly on top of the patch, applying steady pressure. Move the iron around to distribute heat evenly.
  • Allow it to cool: After ironing, let the patch cool completely before handling or wearing the garment. This step allows the adhesive to set and bond effectively.

Iron-on patches offer several advantages. They are relatively quick to apply, and there’s no need for sewing skills or additional materials. Moreover, they tend to have a smooth and flat appearance since no visible stitches exist.

However, it should be noted that iron-on patches may only be suited for certain textiles.

Delicate fabrics or those that cannot withstand heat may not be compatible with this attachment method. Iron-on patches are less durable than sew-on patches and can loosen or peel over time if washed frequently or worn heavily.

Sew-On Patches

Image Source: Instructables

If you prefer a more traditional and secure method, sew-on patches might be the right choice for you. Sew-on patches typically feature a simple design made of fabric and thread, with no adhesive or plastic along the back. Here’s how to attach a sew-on patch:

  • Gather your materials: To sew on a patch, you’ll need a needle, thread, and a thimble (optional). Choose a thread color that complements the patch and the fabric.
  • Position the patch: Place the patch in the desired location and hold it in place with pins or temporary fabric adhesive. Make sure it’s aligned correctly.
  • Start stitching: Thread your needle and make a knot at the end. Insert the needle from the underside of the fabric, coming up through the patch’s edge. Sew along the patch’s perimeter using small, evenly-spaced stitches. Make sure to sew through both the patch and the fabric.
  • Secure the thread: Once you’ve sewn all around the patch, make a knot on the underside of the fabric to secure the thread. Trim any excess thread.

Sew-on patches offer a sturdy and long-lasting attachment. They suit various fabric types and withstand regular washing and wear. Additionally, sew-on patches allow for more customization, as you can use different stitching techniques or thread colors to enhance the patch’s design.

However, sewing on patches can be time-consuming, especially if you have multiple patches or intricate designs to attach. It also

Can you sew on an iron-on patch?

Yes, you can sew on an iron-on patch. Despite the difference in their intended attachment methods, iron-on patches can still be sewn onto fabric if desired. The adhesive layer on the back of an iron-on patch is not typically designed to withstand stitching, but sewing through the patch can provide additional security and durability.

Do sew-on patches stay on?

Sew-on patches are generally known for their superior durability and longevity compared to iron-on patches. When sewn properly, they tend to stay on securely for a longer period of time.

The act of sewing the patch onto the fabric creates a strong and permanent bond that can withstand regular washing and wear. Unlike iron-on patches, sew-on patches are not affected by the number of washes and can remain securely attached for the lifetime of the garment or accessory.

If you’re looking for a patch attachment method that offers maximum permanence, sewing is the way to go. By stitching the patch onto the fabric, you can ensure that it stays firmly in place, even with frequent use and laundering. So if you want a patch that will stand the test of time, opting for sew-on patches is a reliable choice.

How long does an iron-on patch last?

iron-on patch

The lifespan of an iron-on patch can vary depending on several factors, including the type of patch and the care it receives. Here’s a general idea of how long different types of iron-on patches can last:

  • Traditional Iron-On Patches: Traditional iron-on patches, which have a layer of adhesive on the backside, can last between two and three years with proper maintenance. This duration assumes the patch is applied correctly and the adhesive remains intact. Regular wear and washing can gradually weaken the adhesive, so it’s important to follow the care instructions provided by the patch manufacturer.
  • Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) Patches: HTV patches are made from a special vinyl material that transfers heat onto the fabric. These patches typically last between one and two years with similar care as traditional iron-on patches. However, the durability of HTV patches may be influenced by factors such as the quality of the vinyl used, the application process, and the frequency of laundering. It’s advisable to follow the specific care guidelines the patch manufacturer provides.
  • Iron-On Patches with Adhesive Backing: Some iron-on patches may come with a backing that features adhesive rather than a traditional adhesive layer on the patch itself. These patches usually have a shorter lifespan compared to traditional iron-on patches and HTV patches. Iron-on patches with adhesive backing will generally last between six to 12 months. Over time, the adhesive may weaken or deteriorate, making the patch less secure on the fabric. It’s important to consider this when choosing the type of patch and managing your expectations regarding its longevity.

It’s worth noting that the lifespan of an iron-on patch can be influenced by factors such as the quality of the patch materials, the fabric type it’s applied to, the frequency of washing and drying, and the overall care and maintenance it receives.

To maximize the lifespan of your iron-on patch, it’s recommended to follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer, including washing the garment inside out, using gentle cycles and low heat settings, and avoiding harsh chemicals or abrasive washing techniques.


To wrap up our exploration of iron-on versus sew-on patches, it’s clear that each method offers its own set of advantages and considerations. Iron-on patches provide convenience and ease of application, with a simple process of heat activation that can quickly transform a garment or accessory.

However, they may not offer the same level of durability as sew-on patches and can potentially peel or loosen over time, particularly with frequent laundering or heavy use.

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