Living Well: 6 Secrets to a Properly Ironed Shirt

June 11, 2012

Hello, Friends! I’m pretty darn excited about this week at Design Mom. I’ve got lots of fun things to share with you! Starting now, when I introduce another new column. It’s called Secrets to Living Well. Woo hoo!

Each week, Lindsey of Café Johnsonia, will be sharing a new skill, how-to, or guide to help you live a beautiful life — those little things that really up the quality quotient as you go about your day. First up, 6 Secrets to a Properly Ironed Shirt. There’s nothing like leaving the house in a freshly ironed shirt you help you feel put together!

I hope you enjoy the new column. If you have ideas you’d like to see covered, let us know in the comments! We can’t wait to hear your ideas. — kisses, Gabrielle

Throughout high school and college, I worked at a dry cleaner. Part of my job was to prepare the men’s dress shirts for laundering, and once they were laundered, to prep them for ironing.  After they were ironed, my job was then to inspect the shirts and touch them up if necessary. Needless to say, I learned a lot during those years, and today, I’m going to share the secrets I learned with you.


Secret #1: Start with a properly laundered shirt. Check the care label and follow the recommendations. Watch the temperature, because washing shirts in water that is too hot can cause the interfacing in the collar and cuffs to shrink, causing puckering and impossible wrinkling. And pay particular attention to any dirt on the cuffs or collar, or in the underarms, because ironing stains will set them permanently.

Secret #2: Heavy duty irons, though more expensive, will make a big difference in how quickly and easily you can iron. Definitely worth the investment. Save your pennies and get the best one you can afford.

Secret #3: Start with a damp (not dripping wet) shirt. Choose one that has hung to dry for a bit, or one that has been sprayed all over and left to sit in a ball for 10-15 minutes.

Press the top of the collar first, paying attention to the corners.  Pull the fabric taut if needed (or in case the interfacing did shrink). Turn the shirt over and press the underside of the collar and the strip of fabric underneath the collar.

Next press the upper back of the shirt, called the yoke. Most shirts have one central pleat under the yoke, but sometimes you’ll find a split yoke with two small pleats on each side.

After the yoke and pleat, finish the back of the shirt. Spread out the back of the shirt from the yoke to the tail, flat on the board and iron in sections.

Now it’s time for the cuffs and sleeves. I iron the outward facing side first, followed by the underside. I also like to iron the little details and pleats on the sleeve while I’m doing the cuff. Next, spread the sleeve out flat on the ironing board and make sure to line up the seam properly.

Secret #4: If there is still a crease on the sleeve from the previous ironing, use that as a guide. A double crease is terrible! Start at the top of the sleeve and work down to the cuff. Pay close attention to any pleats, spraying any stubborn wrinkles with a little more water.

Now it’s time for the front of the shirt. Start with the side of the shirt with the buttons on it. If you have a cushy ironing board cover, you can turn the shirt over and press the backside over the buttons. Otherwise, use the tip of the iron to press in between the buttons.

Some caution should be exercised with the buttons. Good quality shirts have good quality buttons that can stand up to the heat, but occasionally a button might break with the heat.

Next I like to go around the arm hole with the tip of the iron, then move along to the rest of the front panels.

Secret #5: Remember that the goal is to iron in a pattern so that you don’t undo what you’ve just done. Let the ironed part of the shirt gently drape over the opposite side of the ironing board.

Secret #6: Once the shirt has been ironed completely, it needs to hang to “cure,” as it’s called in the business. (Wow. So professional.) The shirt may still be a little damp, and that’s okay. Let it hang until it’s completely dry, being sure to button the top collar button to help the collar keep its shape.

Once you get the method down, ironing will go by quickly and the shirts will look amazing. Walking out of the house in freshly ironed shirt will do wonders for how you look and feel.

Three cheers for properly ironed shirts! Three cheers for living well!

By Lindsey of Café Johnsonia

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{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jacqueline June 11, 2012 at 9:29 am

Oh this is a great post! I’m quite miserable when it comes to ironing. In fact, my husband usually does it for the family. On second thought, maybe there is an advantage to being not so good at something ;o).

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2 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 10:34 am

Ha!

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3 Jen Daily June 11, 2012 at 10:35 pm

My husband is the ironing pro in our house as well. But then again he’s the one wearing ironed shirts, so that seems about right. I myself prefer the throw-it-in-the-dryer-on-the-steam-setting method.

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4 juliagblair June 11, 2012 at 9:43 am

It’s been a LONG time since I ironed a shirt. Maybe this is one of the traditions, like quilting, that we shouldn’t let die. I can smell and feel the freshness of a freshly, hand-ironed shirt. Wonderful! But then shirt laundry places do a great job and wash and wear shirts really are wash and wear in our family. I love reflecting on the joy of doing something special for someone you love…..and ironing his shirt by hand is a message of delight and love.

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5 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 10:35 am

What a beautiful comment. Thank you! It’s one of those nostalgic things for me, I think.

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6 Jennifer June 12, 2012 at 9:49 am

awesome! looking forward to it!

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7 Jennifer F. - American Mom in Bordeaux June 11, 2012 at 10:02 am

This is such a great post…I don’t like to iron…usually try to avoid as much as possible – but when I have to – I come through. I agree – buying a heavy duty iron makes a great difference! Thanks for the tips – I will try next time I have to iron my husband’s shirts.

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8 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 10:41 am

Thank you for the comment. :) I have to admit that I kind of dread ironing as I see the shirts pile up, but then I get started and find it so relaxing. (I’m totally a geek!)

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9 Corrie Anne June 11, 2012 at 10:13 am

I had to message my husband about this right away… that’s a skill I definitely need to learn. Excited for this series!

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10 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 10:42 am

I think you’ll love what we have in store for you. :) Thanks!

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11 Sharon @ Discovering Blog June 11, 2012 at 10:25 am

Oh, I used to iron so much, and I’m glad my mom taught me the proper way.

I’m even more glad that I have since discovered Downy Wrinkle Releaser and I also don’t buy button down shirts for myself any longer, since I could never find a pair that didn’t feel too tight in my armpits.

I can’t wait to see what’s next in this series! Cute idea!

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12 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 10:43 am

I haven’t tried that yet. I admit that we started buying a few non-iron shirts. They are much easier to touch-up. Thanks for the comment! We have some fun things coming.

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13 r8chel June 11, 2012 at 10:42 am

Gabrielle, I love when you start new columns. You always have such good ideas. :)

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14 Caitlin June 11, 2012 at 10:45 am

So you mean the $3 iron I bought from a garage sale 6 years ago as a college freshman, and that I still use, was a bad idea? What if I like the spots it leaves on my husband’s nice, white shirts?

Ha. Right.

No, honestly I’m terrible at ironing so it’s nice to have some tips. And although I hate it, I love ironing husband’s shirt while he’s in the shower – he’s always so grateful cuz he knows how much I don’t like to do it. It’s like a fresh, beautiful gift to give that really only takes a couple minutes.

Of course, there was that time I accidentally stained the shirt in the process . . . Whoops!

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15 Sheila Kaminski June 11, 2012 at 10:57 am

I use spray starch, but you don’t mention that? Also, I received a Rowenta Iron as a gift two years ago, and the plate is dirty and it spews water in big spots down the front of anything I am trying to iron. BOO!

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16 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm

My husband doesn’t like the spray starch, so I stopped using it. I did use it when I would iron shirts for myself and my dad (when I lived at home), and really liked the crispness of it. As for the iron–I’m so sorry your Rowenta does that! Have you contacted them? I clean the plate of mine with a bit of rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and it seems to work great.

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17 Lori H June 11, 2012 at 10:58 am

I look forward to the posts in this series. I enjoyed reading this one…this is how my mother taught me to iron shirts. I dislike ironing but knowing how to do it well makes it a little better :)

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18 Expat Mama in Switzerland June 11, 2012 at 10:59 am

I love this new segment! Thanks for the tips–I am useless ironing but will give your tips a try. My iron tends to spew out this yucky brown gunk onto the clothes every once in a while when I’m ironing–what to do? The iron itself looks clean so I can’t figure it out….!

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19 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Hmm…what kind of water are you using in your iron? My immediate thought is that it’s rusty inside. I have had that happen in the past with other irons I’ve used. The one in the picture has been good so far. Does it happen every time you iron? When it happened with my old iron, I would just turn off the steam function and let it iron dry. I wish I could be more help! Try contacting the manufacturer and see if they have any tips.

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20 Jenny June 11, 2012 at 11:46 am

My husband worked at a dry cleaner during high school as well : ) I sometimes think I should send his former boss a thank you note, because my husband does all our ironing. After the clear instructions in this post, I might give the ironing a go this week.

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21 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I will always be grateful for that job! I learned so much.

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22 Shannon { A Mom's Year } June 11, 2012 at 11:50 am

What a fantastic idea for a new series! Ironing is definitely great for getting you to slow down and even ponder life a little. Plus, I don’t mind doing it because after all these years I still think my husband looks HOT in a freshly ironed shirt and tie. ;-)

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23 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I know what you mean. ;)

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24 Janssen June 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm

What a fantastic new column! I’m really excited about this.

My secret to ironing is to only buy non-iron shirts :) (I still iron them but they take way less time and hold their crispness much better, I think).

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25 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Yes! We have some of those too. They make ironing a snap!

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26 Jennifer June 11, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Would love to see some tips on ironing cotton pants. I can never get the seams lined up right!

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27 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm

That is a pain! Once they’ve been creased it can be nearly impossible to get rid of the crease. I’ll see what I can do for you on that. :)

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28 Jennifer June 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Thanks!

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29 Brittany June 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Thanks for your tips! I hate ironing but since the dry cleaners is so expensive near me, I have to iron. I always wondered why women shirts are more expensive to dry clean than men shirts – any idea why? My shirt is smaller, less fabric – I’d imagine it’s easier to dry clean than my husband’s so why is it more expensive?!

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30 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 2:10 pm

I got this question all of the time when I worked at the dry cleaner. They use machines to do most of the ironing. Think: a machine for the collar, a machine for the cuffs, a machine for the sleeves, a machine for the body of the shirt, etc. Women’s shirts are much smaller and sometimes have more decorative features–like pleats, so they have to be hand-ironed. Which is a hassle for the cleaners because they work in assembly-line fashion. This was the case for the laundry side as well as the actual dry cleaning process. It’s a bummer because I really love fresh-from-the-cleaners shirts myself.

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31 Erin June 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm

How funny! I believe our methods are the same, but our order is completely opposite. I start with the sleeves and end with the collar. That’s how my mom taught me. It would feel funny to do it any other way, as I’m sure it would be for you!

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32 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm

That is funny! I’ll have to give it a try and see how it feels.

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33 Ellen W June 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm

When my husband started his new job a few months ago, we crossed over to the dark side and started sending his shirts to the dry cleaner. I don’t mind doing laundry, but hate ironing. When we got married 10 years ago, I told him this was one chore I would not do for him. This is his solution to having crisp dress shirts.

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34 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 2:12 pm

My husband prefers the cleaners only because they get them done much more quickly than I do. :)

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35 Barchbo June 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I love ironing but in the interest of time the dry cleaner has that privilege of tending to my husband’s shirts. (My work has a casual dress code so none of my shirts need ironing.) It’s so meditative!

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36 Chris June 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm

To expat mama in Switzerland

My guess is that you have water with high iron in it??? I have earned money throughout college and summer vacations (a few decades ago) ironing clothes for people, while using mountain fresh water. Not until I moved to Ohio where the water is RUSTY did I have what you described. First off, I use only store bought distilled water in my Rowenta iron. I also only put enough water in the iron that I am positive will be used by the time I’m finished ironing so no water is left over for the week.

Hope those two things help!

Oh, and to clean your iron, stores do sell a little past thing to put on the bottom, but I found that putting water in the iron and heating it on the highest setting, “steaming” it out followed by scrubbing the bottom of the iron with a wet rag while still hot did the trick.

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37 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Thank you for this wonderful information! That was one thing I forgot to add into my post. I ONLY use distilled water. Otherwise you can get a build-up of minerals inside the iron if you have high mineral content in your water.

Thanks for this comment, Chris!

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38 DeeAnna June 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I LOVE to do laundry and to iron especially. I have the professional Rowenta, and yes, it makes a huge difference. I do draw the line at ironing sheets, but I do have more than one friend that irons everything including the bed linens!

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39 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 4:37 pm

I have a friend like that too! I think she even irons underwear.

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40 how2home June 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm

I HATE folding clothes but I love to iron….how “ironic” lol. Not only you’re providing great tips but this laundry room is SO adorable! I’ve been using my steamer a lot more often than an iron. It’s quick and easy…what are your thoughts on steamers?

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41 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm

We talk about getting a steamer. They are sure handy for some things. What kind of steamer do you have? Is it one you’d recommend?

I love my laundry room. We used to live in a tiny apartment without on-site laundry facilities. When I dreamed of a having my own laundry room, it looked almost exactly like the one I have now. It was gift to find a house with such a great laundry area.

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42 Jessica June 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Ok, so I HATE ironing, but my husband likes to have his shirts ironed for work for some reason…. so I needed this! I always end up ironing new wrinkles in it I think. ;) I think part of the reason why I hate ironing is because I don’t have the best iron…might be time to invest in one!

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43 Corinne June 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm

I’m so excited for this series–there are so many things I need to learn. I really hate ironing . . . maybe knowing how to do it better will make it more tolerable.

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44 Tammie Kelley June 11, 2012 at 5:43 pm

thank you so much for sharing! I enjoy ironing (when I have time). I always struggle with the shirts and these tips are a life saver.

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45 carole June 11, 2012 at 6:29 pm

This made me smile. We are still ironers in our family (when necessary – definitely not for pleasure!). Only in the past few years have I discovered the “back end” of the ironing board and the ease it brings to ironing. (I thought it was only for sitting the iron and spray bottle on.) My husband is a ‘big and tall’ man, so the amount of fabric in his shirts makes great use of the real estate at the back of the board. The last step in my process is to iron a crease in the fold of the collar. It gives the collar a crisp edge, as opposed to a rolled edge.

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46 carole June 11, 2012 at 6:33 pm

I should add that when I said ‘we’ are ironers in our family, that meant my husband. Because he travels, he actually irons the majority of his own shirts in his hotel room, where the equipment is not always up to snuff. (And his mom has the best ironing board set up. It is nothing fancy, but the board, probably ca. 1960 is sturdy and heavy, and has a great cover and padding on it. I could iron there all day long.)

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47 Sara June 11, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Can there be a post about the how to fold a fitted sheet?

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48 Ann June 11, 2012 at 8:12 pm

What a timely post! I recently started ironing my husband’s shirt instead of sending them to cleaners to save a bit of money. I learned a number of great tips which I hope will speed up the process a bit.

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49 Bridgette June 11, 2012 at 8:59 pm

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!
Sometimes I think there is no one under the age of 50 that even owns an iron, let alone uses one!
We just got back from a trip to Costco and it seems as though people don’t feel the need to get dressed, let alone iron.

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50 Jennifer June 11, 2012 at 9:56 pm

i love the idea of this series but I honestly, I’m bummed it started off with how to iron my husband’s shirt :( I’d love to learn how to eat healthier, get more exercise, take better care of my skin, spend more quality time with my kids and especially my husband and less on how to keep a perfect house.

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51 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 12, 2012 at 8:00 am

Then stay tuned Jennifer! There’s a lot more to come. I love your suggestions. Thanks for the comment! :)

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52 Sara B May 8, 2013 at 11:33 am

Hi Jennifer,
I read you comment on how you you want to learn more about eating healthier, taking better care of your skin etc. etc. I think you would enjoy my website called eco-savy.com, its about living a healthier, more eco-friendly lifestyle.

Best,
Sara

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53 Maria @ Busy as a Bee in Paris June 12, 2012 at 4:58 am

Yay Lindsey, I’m excited to see your articles here on Design Mom! How exciting for you. P.S. Great tips! I learned how to iron a shirt at a youth activity on preparing to serve a mission when i was 12! fun memories!

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54 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 12, 2012 at 8:01 am

That is great! I remember we had an activity like that too. All the leaders brought their ironing boards and irons and we practiced. Such a great skill for a missionary!

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55 Susan June 12, 2012 at 6:55 am

Great information on ironing. I like to use sizing when I iron. It “loosens” the wrinkles but doesn’t leave the clothes stiff. I also find that it prevents the wrinkles from “coming back” in this humid climate I live in. I also like the smell (nostalgia from my childhood as my mother uses sizing as well) as do my children.

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56 Allison June 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm

LOVE this post. I am terrible at ironing. Might I be the only person who wants to know where the fabulous hanging rack/hamper/etc. came from?! That is fabulous. Like a tiny laundry room in one fell swoop!

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57 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 13, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I love, love, love my laundry room. Unfortunately I don’t know where those racks came from! We rent our house and they were in the basement laundry room when we moved in. When we move, I’m really going to miss them! I have seen similar ones–

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B001F51AMG/dothelaundry-20/

http://whalenstorage.com/category/Home%20Organization/group/Carts/Chrome%20Laundry%20Cart

http://www.stacksandstacks.com/rolling-laundry-cart-triple-sorter

I hope that helps! They really have been so helpful while doing laundry.

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58 Allison June 15, 2012 at 10:55 am

Thanks! I really like yours because it has the folding table built-in. I will have to keep my eyes peeled for something similar. :D

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59 Patricia June 19, 2012 at 7:30 am

Can you please recommend a good heavy duty iron?

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60 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) June 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I really love the irons made by Rowenta. I think I bought mine at Walmart for a good price. My grandmother and my mom both recommended Rowenta to me and it made ironing so much easier! You don’t have to buy the most expensive one, pick one in the mid-range and you’ll be fine.

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61 Judy Hays September 11, 2012 at 11:57 am

Lindsey: I enjoyed reading your ironing tips….it makes me want to go get my iron and get busy! Thanks!

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62 norm November 19, 2012 at 9:20 am

Buy a steampress instead of an iron they are not that much more than a top of the line rowenta iron and they are a lot bigger and a lot faster cutting down on ironing . I love mine especially great for sharp creases and saves time and trips to the dry cleaners

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63 Amy December 22, 2012 at 5:26 pm

My Mother taught me this years ago — back in the day !!

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64 Penny April 10, 2013 at 7:18 am

Hi,

Could you tell me once you’ve ironed a shirt with a double cuff (for cufflinks) how do you hang it. Do you let the cuffs hang normally or put the cufflinks in them?

Thank you very much

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65 Margo, Thrift at Home May 20, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Well, I hate to say that I think irons are not something where quality counts. I’ve had expensive irons and I’ve had cheap irons and they all seem to last about 2 years. I clean them, I baby them with distilled water, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference. I sew and I iron lots of our clothes, so I use my iron quite a lot. I even took one to an Amish guy to see if he could fix it, but no dice – they’re manufactured to prevent fixing in the insides to free the manufacturer from liability. sighhhh
Can’t even tell you what brand I have right now – my Rowenta lasted the typical 2 years, so I got whatever had the next-best review on amazon.

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66 Julie ayers June 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I send out my husbands shirts and spend a ton. He wants his shirts med. startched. Any tips others than the spray can?

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67 Lucy June 23, 2013 at 10:31 am

I spend alot in ironing my husband’s shirts but now i think it’s all over because i now do it myself. Thank you so much

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68 Allan Gore July 26, 2013 at 12:20 pm

I’ve been ironing my own shirts for almost 50 years. My mother taught me to always start with the back side of the collar rather than the front as suggested here. Of course, that was back when having the iron the right temperature was more difficult than it is today. The idea was to iron first on an area that would not show in case the iron was too hot and scorched the fabric.

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69 Mike August 17, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Surely you’re not suggesting a crease down the sleeve?
No sleeve should ever have a crease down the length of it, be it a shirt, a jacket, or a polo. I look at creases in mens shirt sleeves and wonder just how much of a hurry they were in.
Never ever !

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70 Rachel September 20, 2013 at 8:24 am

I read this back when it was originally posted and wanted to say that it has been so helpful! I have been using this method (primarily the order of items to iron) ever since with great success! Thank you!

A suggestion for a future post: ironing pants. I have the hardest time with the creases in the legs (one screw up and there are multiple creases that I can never seem to get right again!) and with how to iron the top section, with all the pockets underneath creating odd patterns. I would love any suggestions if you have a chance.

Thanks again!

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71 Mike C May 19, 2014 at 1:18 am

Oreck makes a fantastic iron. Mine has a cordless option, I don’t remember the model #…great steam as well.

If you fold the shirt at the seam below the yoke and are careful not to bunch up the pleats, you get a head start on the back and can iron down the front and it makes the collar stick straight up from the ironing board and out of the way. For sure, button the top button then skip every other button for a couple buttons to hang up. My mom taught me and it’s actually something I really enjoy. Thanks for the article!

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72 Valentina August 25, 2014 at 12:14 am

Great tips, thank you so much! I’ve just started my new life together with my partner, and since I’m still looking for a job I like to iron his shirts, too. Thanks to your post, I think the result is pretty good :)
Though, I still leave a crease on the sleeve… how can I change this? I mean, I iron one side, then the other one, so inevitably once he wears the shirt, a crease is visible on the edge of the two sides.. any tips on how to avoid this? Thanks!! :)

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73 Jane Shaw September 10, 2014 at 2:29 pm

When I was around nine years of age my father paid me five cents to iron a work shirt of his, and ten cents for a dress shirt. A great way to learn industry and make some money for penny candy! My father died at age 98 in 2004, and I still remember the many lessons he provided, large and small; among them: work hard and pay attention to detail. I certainly know my way around an ironing board and found your shirt-ironing technique almost exactly like mine. Thank you for this article, which brought me a flood of memories.

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