I Am Iron Man
January 15, 2009 3:41 PM   Subscribe

How do I iron a shirt?

It's about time I grew up and figured out how to iron a shirt properly.

I've always done it, of course, but half-assed jobs, just a quick swipe with the iron to flatten the most vulgar creases, maybe stop the points of the collars from rolling skywards.

But that's not enough any more. I've been watching a lot of Mad Men and by god I demand that my shirts be razor-sharp. I saw an article about ironing in a men's mag a while back, and it was great, complete with clear pictures and idiot-proof instructions.

I've had a dig around online but haven't found anything that suits my purposes. I don't want videos, just a handy step-by-step guide (with art if possible!) on how to get my shirts crisp and crinkle-free. Any general ironing tips would also be greatly appreciated.

Please hope!
posted by turgid dahlia to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
It depends on the fabric. Cotton can go high temp, etc. - the settings should be on your iron.

Ok, now here's how you do it: Ironing!.

And have a hanger ready to keep your masterpiece perfect.

Now if you're nervous about it or you are ironing tshirts with a pattern and you don't want to risk burning, you can put a bedsheet or pillowcase between the shirt and the iron for practice.

Oh yes, look into starching your shirts too. It keeps them crisp.
posted by HolyWood at 3:52 PM on January 15, 2009

I'm a big fan of the "how to" website video jug. Here is their video on the matter.
posted by cazoo at 3:53 PM on January 15, 2009

I found this really helpful.
posted by teamparka at 4:05 PM on January 15, 2009

You will not get a razor-sharp shirt from most standard cottons without starch. Alternatively, do not dry your shirts completely in the dryer - take them out damp. Then dry-iron them as opposed to steam-ironing a dry shirt. That will work better. But adding starch will work better yet.

* I am not a starch user and the stuff kind of scares me frankly. A cleaner will do shirts for not much money if you're a single guy which is what all the single guys I know do.
posted by GuyZero at 4:07 PM on January 15, 2009

Best answer: Depends on how big you are (size of your shirts).
Also, old shirts will never get crisp, so maybe buy some new shirts every once in a while.
Simplest way to iron, quickly, but still get good results?

Modern Guy Method: Use the wrong end of the ironing board.
1) Stand at square end of ironing board, put buttonhole section of shirt on board, facing up/out as if the board was going to wear the shirt. Iron at high heat with steam on until flat.
(All of your shirts are cotton and can take high heat and steam. Also, you and your shirts are fairly square, so that using the square end of the board produces several nice flat sections.)
2) Turn shirt, so that right shoulder & back of shirt are on board. Iron.
3) Repeat with other two "quarters" of shirt.
4) Lay sleeves flat on board. Iron.
5) Use pointy end of board to touch up yoke (top shoulder parts) and collar area.
6) Put on shirt right away. Warm clean freshly ironed shirt feels nice, doesn't get wringled again in the closet.

1965 Guy Method: Send shirts to laundry or throw at wife who's addicted to tranquilizers. Demand starch. Spend hours getting hair properly oiled. Keep an extra ironed shirt in your desk, so that when you get sick on yourself, or you end up covered in your secretary's makeup, you can change before taking the train home to Connecticut.

But really, if you want well-ironed shirts, you'll either spend a lot of time developing ironing skillz, or paying a (often very) few bucks a week to have the laundry/dry cleaners give you a box of freshly laundered, ironed, folded shirts each week when you drop of that week's bag of your dirty rumpled ones.
posted by bartleby at 4:08 PM on January 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

I use bartleby's method, but for steps 1 through 3, I turn the shirt inside-out so the iron will be on the side facing my skin. That avoids any visible marks that may be left by the ironing process. Sleeves are done in the normal method so the crease comes out right.
posted by rocket88 at 4:14 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ah, yes, per rocket88's note about ironing marks:
Ironing dirty shirts, shirts with soap or other residue in/on them, or synthetic shirts at too high a heat will get your soleplate dirty, and that stuff will leave marks on your shirt. Also, if you have hard water, the minerals will build up as rust and gunk in your iron. Use distilled water or fill your iron with water from a Brita or other filter and this shouldn't be a problem.

Clean the metal part (soleplate) of your iron every once in a while. No rust or black marks, which will end up on your shirt. (You can buy soleplate cleaner, which is a tube of goop. Put some goop on an old piece of towel, get iron its hottest, and iron the goopy towel until your soleplate is nice and clean. This is why I use an iron with a stainless steel soleplate instead of teflon, etc. Gets nice and smooth and shiny.)
posted by bartleby at 4:35 PM on January 15, 2009

Another important point: take all of those cheapie polyester-mix shirts you may have been buying at Lowes!, put them in a bag and donate them to Vinnies.
Now, go to your savings account, ransack it, and buy decent 100% cotton shirts that fit you well. You're always going to get creasy untidiness if your shirts are too big or too long anywhere.
This is a good previous ask for shirt-buying.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:39 PM on January 15, 2009

Response by poster: Fiasco, yeah, I've been buying up big on some really nice shirts from Politix and Pierucci and Eton, which is why I want to keep them looking good. Actually the Eton ones are completely crease-resistant and never need ironing, a great investment.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:08 PM on January 15, 2009

I've graduated to the pointy end of the board, per bartleby's answer, and the only other difference in my method is that I prefer to iron the collar/yoke and sleeves before the rest of the shirt. Reason being after I'd finish the other way there'd be creases and wrinkles from moving the shirt around while ironing the appendages. This way, the sleeves wind up with the random wrinkles (they're gonna get wrinkled as soon as I scratch my head anyway) and the body of the shirt is fresh when the whole shirt's finished.
posted by carsonb at 5:09 PM on January 15, 2009

Best answer: Here's a tip that made my daily ironings a whole lot easier. When you're ironing the front half with the buttons, use a towel. Take a clean towel and fold it in half, lay it on the ironing board. Position the shirt so that the buttons are facing down into the towel. Iron over the buttons. This way, the buttons sink down into the towel and you don't have to spend time ironing around them from the front side. Works for the cuffs, too.
posted by misozaki at 8:45 PM on January 15, 2009

I always spray shirts all over with a spray bottle of water, fold and roll them up tightly, stacked (several at a time) in a plastic garbage bag, also tightly closed and rolled. Leave for at least an hour. Shirts end up evenly dampened. Iron them per any of the above methods...works better than steam, for me. Hang immediately, with top button buttoned up. Stunning.

And yes, all cotton, all the time. If you don't have time for the rolling and leaving, you can spray as you go...but the former method is, as I mentioned, stunning.
posted by mumstheword at 8:57 PM on January 15, 2009

i also use bartleby's modern guy method, but always on the pointy end of the board.

a tip or two to add:

the less creased your shirt is in the first place, the less ironing is required. to this end, drying your shirts on the line (as opposed to in a dryer) & hung on coathangers is ideal. aside from the snappy creases on the sleeves, shirts dried this way will be adequate for most situations - they're hardly any more crumpled than they'd get anyway just by rolling up your cuffs or sitting on the bus or train.

further to the above: if you shower before heading out, hang the shirt on a hanger in the bathroom. make sure things get hot & steamy. the steam itself has a further "ironing" effect, so a shirt dried as above, then steamed like this is even better.

if you like, you can then iron the shirt on top of this already quite decent preparation. the steam from the shower will have impregnated the shirt, eliminating the need for steam or spray from the iron.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:31 PM on January 15, 2009

2nding UbuRoivas "hang it in the bathroom whilst you're showering" method. This also works well for suits that are a bit wrinkled, and that you don't have time to get dry-cleaned.
posted by flutable at 11:32 PM on January 15, 2009

I'm in the "send it to a dry cleaner" camp, unless you're in a pinch and realize you're out of shirts. They do much, much better work than I can do, and for less than $2 a shirt, it's worth it to me. Keep an eye out for environmentally-friendly dry cleaners though; the old methods use some pretty toxic stuff.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:22 PM on January 16, 2009

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