How To Really Iron A Shirt

There are all sorts of ways to be frugal with your life. You can make your own laundry detergent, cut your own hair, shop at yard sales, of grow your own vegetables. All are great ideas! Another thing you can do is stop using the cleaners to take care of your laundry and ironing. Yikes! Did he say IRONING?

Ironing a shirt isn’t the difficult process many claim. If you’ve seen the prices ($3+/each and up), you can only imagine how much money you can save each month by doing it yourself. I usually iron about 5 shirts at a time so I have a full week’s worth of shirts available. Of course, this is also a great way to use a “carrot” for your kid’s allowance!

Equipment you’ll need:

  1. Iron. Don’t cheap out here. Buy a very good quality iron that’s a powerful steam producer. Steam is your friend when ironing a shirt. Also, buy one with an automatic shutoff. You’ll be glad you did when you get 60 miles from home and you cannot remember if you turned the iron off.
  2. Ironing board. Get a sturdy ironing board with a good pad. Tip: buy one at a yard sale and then buy a new pad!
  3. Starch or “sizing.” If you like starch in your shirts, you’ll need a good spray can of this stuff.

Getting started:
1. Always read and follow the “proper care label” in your clothing before ironing. Read it again just to be sure. Some articles of clothing require special care and must be ironed in certain ways with specific temperatures to avoid damage.

2. Turn the iron on and let it warm up. Irons take a few minutes to reach proper temperature so give it time to heat up to the level your article of clothing requires.

3. If you’re ironing a shirt like the one in the picture, always start with one that is freshly laundered.

Place it on a hanger, button the top button and spray starch (lightly or heavily depending on your preference) on the entire shirt. Allow the starch to penetrate the fabric for about 30 to 45 seconds. Starch that isn’t allowed to penetrate the fabric will produce flakes that look like dandruff. Not cool.

4. Iron the collar first. I always start with the back side of the collar and when it comes to the starch, I put the spurs to it! Allow this additional starch to penetrate and then, starting with one corner, begin pressing the collar with one hand while pulling the collar gently with the other hand. This gentle pulling action will prevent wrinkles from appearing on the fabric as the iron is pushed across it. Flip the shirt over and iron the side of the collar that will be visible, taking care to press out any wrinkles that may have mysteriously appeared.

5. Iron the cuffs next. I always press mine flat, but some people prefer to iron theirs while buttoned. It’s your choice but take your time. The cuffs always drive me crazy.

6. Next, I always iron the yoke (shoulders) by sliding the shirt over the pointed end of the ironing board. Some shirts will allow me to press both shoulders, but with others I have to iron one shoulder at a time. I think it’s just how the shirt is cut. Take your time and hit the “extra steam” button if you need to.

7. Iron the sleeves next and here, I really take my time to insure I get a good crease in the sleeves. Sometimes I spray additional starch to help the crease last all day.

8. Next, move to the back. I slide the shirt over the square end of the ironing board and usually have to do this section in two passes. Don’t avoid the seams. Iron those as well.

9. Turn the shirt over and iron the right side of the front. Make sure you iron between all the front buttons, but avoid placing the iron directly on them. Buttons can melt. Trust me. Not good.

10. Iron the left side of the front. Usually the front pocket is here and I like it to be extra crisp. Pay attention to the part of the shirt where button holes are located. Skip this section and the whole shirt looks bad.

So, collar, cuffs, shoulders, sleeves, back, front. What’s so significant about the order? By ironing shirts in this order, you don’t wrinkle up the larger sections while trying to get to the smaller sections.


  • Use the pulling action I mentioned anytime you see the fabric wrinkling as the iron is moved across it. But be very gentle and don’t stretch your clothes.
  • Always allow the starch to penetrate the fabric before ironing.
  • Always use heat and steam settings that are appropriate for the type of fabric you’re ironing.
  • If your iron doesn’t have a water filter (good ones do), always use distilled water purchased at any grocery store. It will prevent the build-up of minerals found in tap water. These minerals can clog up your iron’s steam vents.
  • It’s a good idea to empty the iron of all water if you don’t plan to use it often. Excess water can cause rust and then spray it out on your clothes the next time you use the iron.
  • You may need to iron the inside of the fabric as well as the outside. It can produce a neater, smoother look. Iron the inside of the fabric first to eliminate additional wrinkles while ironing the outside.
  • Some articles of clothing cannot be touched directly with an iron and you’ll have to press them with a piece of fabric on top of them.
  • Some screen printed shirts MUST be ironed inside out AND with a thin towel over the print.
  • Never leave the iron to do something else unless you remove it from the clothing and turn it off. Also, never allow the iron to sit on the clothing in one place for too long unless you like that toasty color and iron shape permanently embedded on your clothing.
  • Always turn your iron off when you’re finished using it, even if it DOES have an automatic shutoff. For good measure, I always unplug it as well. Some people put their iron on top of their stove while it cools so little hands don’t get burned if it falls off the ironing board.
  • NEVER iron anything using the floor as your ironing board. The high temperatures will melt your nylon carpet. Trust me. I have personal experience.
  • If your spray starch nozzle gets clogged, soak it for a few minutes in some very hot water, then use a push pin or toothpick to insure that the nozzle is clear.

I know some people will claim that anything that takes time away from their other income producing activities is a net drain on their time and income so they don’t have time to iron. I agree. But please show me someone who is actively producing income 100% of the time. Use time that you aren’t actively producing income to iron a few shirts and you can save $65 or more each month to invest in some other way. ($65/month at 8% over 35 years is almost $150,000) Heck, iron a few shirts while you’re busy watching a brain numbing TV show and at least you’ll be producing something during that time! Be sure and invest the money though! THAT’S the key.

Don’t get caught up in the myth that “I make $25/hour at my job so I’ll pay someone $15/hour to iron my shirts.” This only makes sense if ironing actually does take time away from significant income producing opportunities. But, just for good measure, don’t iron your shirts at work unless you actually work for a dry cleaner!

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