Monday, January 6, 2014

The Easiest and Quickest Way to Iron a Shirt

The perfectly ironed shirt.

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite chore to do around the house is washing my family's laundry and if that was the only thing I had to do at home in order to keep it running, I would be happy.  Many people have told me that loving laundry is a sickness.  I prefer to look at it as a blessing.  I have done so much laundry in my life from the time I was very young up to now that if I hadn't grown to love it, it might not ever be done at my house.  I love the challenge of getting out stains and making clothing look new again which is what should happen when you wash your clothes.  I love it!

What I do not love is ironing. I like to get it done as quickly as possible so that I can move on to something else.  In fact, I do everything I can to make sure that I don't spend a lot of time hovering over an ironing board but when I do have to tackle this unpleasant task, I know the proper and the quickest way to get the job done.

Now what I am about to say will sound really strange but it is absolutely true.  Although I do not enjoy ironing and I don't like to spend a lot of time doing it, I have fond memories of learning how to iron. When I was about 8 years old my dad taught my older sister and I how to properly iron a shirt.  I remember standing in the kitchen and watching as he lowered the ironing board to our height and talked about the importance of safety while using an iron.  He also talked about how we should take care of our clothes and gave us tips on things we could do to make sure that our clothes always looked good. Step by step he showed us how to iron a shirt and then let us each try to iron a little bit by ourselves.  Great memory!  And yes, every time I iron, I think of my dad.

I have seen many tutorials and lots of articles on how to iron a shirt and most people seem to have some very valid points and tips but I must tell you, my way is better.  Wink, wink!  This process is a combination of steps that I learned from my dad as well as some tips from Martha Stewart and others.  I wanted to have a quick and easy way to iron a shirt without it becoming a drudgery, since I have had to iron so many in my lifetime.  I refuse to take things to the cleaners, unless the label says so, and even then I have been known to try alternate ways of dry cleaning some items.  I am sure that my local dry cleaner is very nice but I do try to stay away from that place.

If you follow the steps in the correct order I have outlined below, the result will be a shirt that looks like it was professionally dry cleaned, while saving you time and money! Who wouldn't want that?  Following this process should only take you about 7 - 8 minutes per shirt once you have mastered it.  Here are the steps:

The ironing board and ironing board cover.  It is important to have a sturdy ironing board and most boards are, unless you have had it for a long time and it is rusty and wobbly and in that case you should invest in a new inexpensive one.  You can find a very inexpensive one at Walmart   for around $15.00. Don't spend a lot of money on the ironing board as that isn't your most important tool for this job.

You should also pay attention to your ironing board cover and make sure that you have a thick one so that you are not pressing directly on the metal board.  When you are ironing over certain parts of a shirt like the buttons, they press into the pad rather than pushing back on the metal board, which pushes the buttons into your iron and makes for a not-so-smooth ironing surface.  If you don't have a thick cover and don't want to purchase a new one, just lay a regular terry bath towel over your ironing board and it will do the same thing. You could also put the towel under your board cover (I have done this) and it works just as good.  Just make sure it is a clean towel!

Using the square end of the ironing board allows you to iron more of the surface of the shirt and limits the amount of times you need to move it.

The best way to position your ironing board.  Most people use the pointed side of the ironing board to iron shirts and I am here to tell you that using that end makes the process take longer.  Using the pointed side causes you to have to move the shirt around more because you won't be able to iron as much of the surface of the shirt on this end of the board.  The square side of the board allows you to iron larger sections of the shirt at one time.  Again, the point is to get this job done fast - especially if you have several shirts to iron so take my advice and as hard as it may be, turn the board around so that the square end is the end you use to iron your shirts.  You will be glad you did.

You don't need an expensive, fancy iron but it is preferable that it be slightly heavy and have the option to set it on a high temperature.

What kind of iron is best?  There are many great irons on the market and you don't need to spend a lot of money on one.  It is more preferable to have an iron that is a little more on the heavy side so that you don't have to exert a lot of energy pressing hard on the iron to make sure that you are getting all the wrinkles out. If you have a pile of clothing to iron it makes the job much easier if you have a heavier iron but if you want to build muscles in your arms while you are ironing, then go ahead and use a light weight iron.  The most  important criteria for a good iron is that it gets really hot or you will be ironing forever. Yuck.

I have the basic Rowenta iron that I have had for about 20 years and I love it.  It has ironed more of my husbands dress shirts than I care to tell and many, many other things as well. Again, it is the bottom of the line Rowenta because I don't like to spend a lot of money on such things but it is a well made iron and has served me well.

Setting your iron on a low steam setting will help to give your fabric more ease of movement while ironing.

Set the iron on low steam but high temperature.  Even if you are going to be using starch, it is good to turn your iron on low steam and a high temperature.  Most dress shirts are either 100% cotton or some sort of a combination of fabrics.  Make sure to read the labels on all clothing before ironing!  Setting the iron on low steam and high temperature will help to loosen up the fibers in the shirt to keep it flexible while you are stretching and gently pulling on the material to shape the shirt.  Most dress shirts are cotton or a combination of another fabric and cotton so it is alright to use steam.  If you do use starch, don't use too much - nobody wants to be around a person who crackles when they move.

  Lightly spraying your shirt loosens the fibers.

Spray the shirt w/water.  Spraying the shirt with water before pressing helps to loosen up the fibers of the material so that it is a little more flexible.  When you dry dress shirts in the dryer, especially cotton shirts, the fibers tend to tighten up so spraying lightly with water makes ironing easier.  You should let it sit or hang for a couple of minutes after spraying before you start iron. Be careful not to get your shirt too wet though as that increases your ironing time - and nobody wants that for you.

I'm sure you are laughing that I have actually labeled my ironing water bottle but it is truly a necessity in my house.  Unless I want it to end up in some craft, painting, garage or basement project area of the house, it has to be labeled.  

Ironing the back of the collar before you iron the front gives you a more flat surface.  Always iron the back first as the front is more important.

Iron the back of the collar.  The collar of the shirt is the most important part as it is what people look at when they are looking at your face!  You should take your time and be careful when pressing the collar so that you don't get any wrinkles or creases in the wrong place. Again, with cotton shirts, especially 100% cotton shirts, this can be tricky so take your time on this step.  Iron the back of the collar first and while pressing down with the iron on one end of the collar, pull gently on the opposite end with your other hand to make sure that it is pulled taught enough to keep the material on the opposite side flat with no wrinkles while you are pressing.

Look how nice this looks!

Iron the front of the collar.  Flip the shirt over and iron the front of the collar (this is the part of the collar that is on the inside of the shirt where the tag is) or the part of the collar that everyone will see.  If you don't like to use starch, consider using at least just a spray here so that your collar looks crisp and new.  Again, when people are looking at you, they are going to notice your collar no matter how great the rest of your clothing looks. Make sure your collar looks good!

As with the back, make sure that once you place the iron down on one end of the collar that you pull taught but not hard on the other end so that you pull the material flat to keep from getting any wrinkles.  If you do, just spray the wrinkle with additional starch and re iron that part.

Fold the collar down and gently press.  This step is important as it gives your collar a nice crease but you don't want to press down hard with the iron so that the collar crease is pointy. This will make the collar look unnatural.  You should only put enough pressure on the collar here to make the crease obvious but not sharp.

This is how you place your shirt on the ironing board to press the shoulders or yoke.

Iron the yoke of the shirt.  No one will see the yoke of your collar (the shoulder area) unless you take your jacket off but it is still an important part of your shirt.  If it is not laying flat it can affect the way the rest of the shirt hangs or lays so make sure that you pay attention to it as well. Take a look at the picture above to see how I position the shirt on the ironing board and then shift the shirt to the other shoulder to press that side.  This is one of the reasons it is much better to use the square side of the ironing board - you are able to iron more of the surface of the shirt before having to move it again.

If you are ironing french cuffs, iron the outside first.

Iron the cuffs.  Whether your shirt has French Cuffs or not, you should iron the cuffs of your shirt.  This is another part of your shirt that people will see peeking out from your jacket or sweater so it should look crisp.

Here is one other spot where you should consider using starch if you don't already use it. It doesn't take much but it makes your cuffs look so much crisper and cleaner when they are starched.  Just a little spray and you will be set.  Pull taught on the cuff on one end while you are pressing on the other end with the iron and move toward your hand - moving it of course when you get close so that you don't burn yourself.  If you need to pull a little one direction to make sure that the cuff is being ironed and you aren't ironing wrinkles into the cuffs.

Line your sleeve up so that the seam that runs from the armpit to the cuff is creased.

Iron the sleeve.  The sleeves are pretty straightforward and easy to do.  Flatten them out on your ironing board making sure that the seam underneath the arm has a nice crease in it and that the crease that will rest on top of the arm area is also crisp.  Press the entire sleeve including the stitching in the shoulder area.  

Iron the other cuff and then sleeve.  Follow the instructions above.

This is how your shirt should look after pressing on high - without starch!  If it doesn't, feel free to use a little.

Iron the right front side of the shirt.  Start with the right front side of the shirt (If you had the shirt on it would be the side that would lay across the right side of your body) and gently press the whole section on the front, ironing between the buttons if this side of your shirt has buttons.  Be careful of the buttons.  Some of the more economical shirts have buttons made of plastic and they can melt on your iron or become mis-shaped.  This usually won't happen unless you put the iron right on top of the buttons and leave it but you never know.  It could happen.

If your shirt has this type of a bad, pull on the neck of the shirt while ironing these creases.  It will help to have them fall in a natural way while pressing.

Iron the back.  Just roll the shirt from the front section you just ironed to the back and iron the first half. When you are done with that, shift the shirt and iron the second half.  Make sure that when you are ironing each section that you are ironing all the way up to the yoke so that you have a smooth back and shoulder area.

After you iron this section, you are done!  Make sure you take time here so that it looks as nice as the first section.

The last section to iron.  Iron the left side front section making sure that it looks similar to the other side. You wouldn't want to look sharp and pressed on one side and half way done on the other.  I have seen it before, believe me.

You now know how to properly and quickly iron a dress shirt.  Your mother would be proud!

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