The Proper Technique for Ironing a Dress Shirt


A dirty little secret about the dry cleaner, although they might be ultra-convenient, they wreak havoc on your clothing. Extreme chemicals, high temperatures can dramatically shorten the life of your Sunday’s best. Avoid them at all cost, unless of course you’re at your best friend’s bachelor party, and you've had the unfortunate run in with Daisy the stripper, think twice before sending your clothing off to the dry cleaner. Do yourself a favor, save yourself a few bucks, and launder your shirts in the comfort of your own home. Now of course there are exceptions to every rule. For example your Dinner Jacket, Blazer or Suit, just be mindful of the number of times you subject your fine clothing to the harshness of the cleaners. 

Firstly, let’s define what makes a fine dress shirt…

  • Ensure the shirt is 100% cotton as it is soft on the skin and to the touch. No uncomfortable stiffness or itchiness of polyester.
  • Look for higher quality buttons, less standard plastic and more mother-of-pearl.
  • Look for a collar that has enough stiffness to stand tall when unbuttoned and worn with a blazer or suit jacket.
  • Ensure when picking striped or patterned shirts, the seams align perfectly with the print.
  • Look for gussets, which are triangular pieces of fabric sewn into the bottom of the side seam. They not only add function, but a bit of style if your shirt becomes untucked.
  • Smaller, higher-cut armholes look better and more dapper, and allow for isolated arm movement. This will prevent your shirt from becoming a huge mess and becoming untucked.

Step 1: Prepare for Perfection

Do not use the dryer on your finer dress shirts. Laundering your own clothing is all about care, so ensure you take the time to prep and do it correctly. For best results, start with a slightly damp shirt, to do this simply hangs after you have taken it out of the washing machine. Let it sit for about 30 minutes before ironing. Set your iron to the cotton setting and let it warm up.

Step 2: Start with the Collar

Flip the collar up and lay it facedown on your ironing board. Start by ironing the back of the collar, starting with the center and moving out towards the tips. Repeat by turning the collar over.

Step 3: Move to the Yoke

WTF is the yoke of a shirt? The Yoke is where the collar meets the arm and body of the shirt. Drape one shoulder over the narrow end of the board and iron the shoulder piece from the yoke to the center of the back. Don’t forget the other shoulder.

Step 4: Address the Cuffs and the Sleeves

The most straight forward and appropriate method is to unbutton the cuff and pull it over the narrow end of the board. Simply iron the cuff, removing and rotating it to each side. With your hand, spread and smooth any overlapping fabric before ironing.

Step 5: Iron the Back

The part you will never see but what everyone else will see while wearing, so pay it some attention. Drape the shirt over the board, and align the side seam with the edge of the board. Iron as much as the shirt as possible, then shift the shirt accordingly. Ensuring the side seam is always aligned with the opposite board edge.

Step 6: Finish with the Front Panels

The final step, but the most important, so pay attention here. Drape one of the front panels across the ironing board, ensuring the collar is at the narrow end of the board. Also ensure the side seam is running along the edge of the board. Once you have ironed one side adjust the shirt so that the narrow end of the board is in the armhole for better access to the top few buttons. Repeat for the other side. Remember to always leave the largest areas for last (front and back) as this will reduce the risk of recreasing the shirt.    

Ironing Tips

  1. Invest in a good iron. Take a look at Rowenta, they have heft, warm quickly and have accurate and responsive temperature control, they also generate great steam.
  2. If you have hard water, you may want to consider filling your iron with distilled water. The minerals in the water can cause a buildup in your iron and eventually on your clothing. A quick and efficient test to determine if you have hard ward is to fill a plastic bottle of water about halfway. Add ten drops of dishwashing liquid. Shake well. If you see foam building immediately, your water is not overly hard. But, if you instead see curd-like, soapy film on top of the water you probably have hard water.
  3. For stubborn creases or wrinkles, use steam rather than water. Steam will deploy moisture and heat at the same time and easily passes through the shirt rather than saturating it.
  4. Lining your ironing board with aluminum foil beneath its fabric cover will reflect heat back into the shirt. Effectively ironing it from both sides.

And that’s it. Six simple and direct steps on properly ironing your dress shirts, did we miss anything?


Source: The Forgetful Gentleman Thirty Ways to Turn Good Intentions into Action by Nathan Tan

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