After a long day of work, the last thing on your mind is making sure you hang up your dress shirt so it doesn’t get wrinkled. Instead, you toss it on a chair, and kick back on the couch. But if you’re like most men, you don’t own an endless supply of dress shirts, and you aren’t about to hit up the dry cleaner every other day. The only thing left to do: iron. This doesn’t mean laying a shirt on your bed and tackling the most prominent wrinkles. A dress shirt is not just any old shirt; there are many details to get right, from the collar to the cuffs.
For a run-down of exactly what to do, we tapped menswear stylist Joe Ottaway for expert tips on fast, effective ironing.
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What You Need:
Avoid irons under $20. “Invest in a high quality iron. It may mean spending a little more, but will be a sound investment for the future, and keep your clothes looking as good as new,” says Ottaway.
You also want to purchase an iron that has high heat capability. “I can’t stress the importance of a heat monitor on a iron,” notes Ottaway. “This enables maximum results when wanting a crease-free and sharp looking shirt, and it will save time on ironing as well.”
Choose an iron that has a quality steam delivery system. According to Ottaway, “a high-powered hot steam can sometimes be just as effective as ironing.” Look for the irons that have plenty of holes on the bottom—a sign the appliance has a good steaming function.
The Ironing Board
When choosing an ironing board, you don’t need an expensive one, but you should choose one that’s sturdy. “Price isn’t an issue, but my biggest tip would be to put a very thick towel on the board and use it as a pad for the shirt,” suggests Ottaway.
Don’t forget to add water to the iron. A lot of people think they can iron without it, but adding water equals more steam.
If your iron doesn’t have a steam function (which ideally, it does) use a spray bottle to disperse water over your shirt while ironing.
You can also use spray starch for an extra crisp look. “A can of spray starch can make a huge difference to the quality of the end product—and add a clean and fresh smell.” But be careful: Too much can make your shirt feel like a synthetic plastic bag.
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How to Iron:
Iron your collar first. Pop it, and start with the underside and iron from one side to the other. Then, flip the shirt over and do the same on the outside of the collar.
“The cuffs of a shirt are most prone to dirt, so ensure the cuffs are totally clean before ironing, as the heat can turn everyday stains into stubborn ones.” Then, unbutton your cuffs and lay them out flat. Iron the inside of the cuff first, then the outside so you can move all the wrinkles to the edges of the fabric. Most importantly, don’t iron over the buttons.
Start with the side of the shirt that has the buttons and move your iron around the button area. Work from the top of the shoulder downward. Repeat on the other side.
“Iron the back of the shirt inside out, and always apply maximum pressure for a short period of time,” says Ottaway. Start at the top and slowly slide the iron down to the bottom.
The sleeves are the trickiest, so Ottaway recommends saving them for last. The key to ironing sleeves is to be sure that they are laying flat before you apply the iron. Ottaway also suggests investing in a sleeve board to make things a bit easier. Take the sleeve by the seam and lay the whole sleeve flat on the board. Start ironing at the top of the sleeve and work your way down to the cuff. Then, turn the sleeve over and iron the back of it. Repeat this process for the other sleeve.
Finally, place the shirt on a hanger and put it in you closet so you don’t have to re-do all that hard work when it’s time to wear it.
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