By nature, I’m a terrible ironer. It’s a patience thing, I don’t enjoy it so I rush and end up with crease-filled clothing that requires strategic layering to make wearable. It wasn’t until we started Power Of My People last year that I finally, by necessity, began to figure this whole ironing thing out. So, besides starting your own shirting company, I’d like to share some of the know-how and time cutting tricks I’ve picked up when it comes to ironing shirts.
A little disclaimer before we begin - These tips are aimed towards casual or dress-casual cotton shirts, not business shirts. There will be no starching involved. The goal is to iron your favourite everyday button-up as quickly as possible, resulting in an appearance of overall put-togetherness. We are not high-maintenance here!
Let’s get started, shall we?
First, and so importantly - you need to wash your shirts with all buttons done up and collars and cuffs sitting correctly. If you throw your shirt into the washing machine with rolled sleeves, buttons open etc, that’s how it’s going to come out. Think of the shirt buttons as a seatbelt - when done up, it’s going to help your shirt keep its shape during the washing process. After it comes out of the wash, hang it to dry. Let gravity help you minimize the amount of wrinkles so you’ll have less to iron. No need to un-button to get your shirt on the hanger, just shimmy it up from the bottom hem opening and guide the hanger through the neck opening. easy as (buying ready-made) pie.
Here’s a helpful tip - don’t keep your ironing stuff in the equivalent of a booby-trapped tomb in your apartment. If you’re anything like me, you iron your shirts while getting dressed in the morning, in other words, 15 minutes before you have to head out the door. If I have to play reverse Tetris to get to my ironing stuff, it’s not going to happen. Keep your board in a place that’s convenient for you to cut your prep time drastically.
Time to make things happen. Plug in your iron, fill it with water, turn on the steam settings and adjust the temperature according to the care label in your shirt. While that’s heating up, slip your shirt through the tapered end of your ironing board, keeping all buttons done up. Flatten the shirt using sweeping motions with your hands. I start with the front placket on the centre of the board so I know where I need to finish. Begin to slide the iron across your shirt, using your free hand to gently pull upwards from the collar to keep the fabric taut as you go.
Cover all areas that are on the board, don’t worry too much about the shoulders. Since you hung your shirt to dry, they shouldn’t need much attention. Once you’re happy with that section, rotate your shirt away from you and repeat the process.
When you get to the back - don’t iron directly on top of the back yoke pleats. This will cause a crease that will be impossible to match on each side. Instead, use your free hand to keep the shirt taut by pulling upwards from the collar and iron around the pleats. Keep rotating and ironing your shirt until you get back to the front where you started.
Now for the sleeves. This can be the most challenging part of ironing a shirt since you need to press two layers of fabric at the same time. The key is to use those sweeping hand motions to flatten both layers before you iron. Spend some time feeling for any folds on the under layer of the sleeve - it will take way more time to iron out a crease you make than to flatten out the sleeve. Once you're satisfied, glide the iron down the middle of the sleeve, again using your free hand to pull it taut from the cuff. I can’t stress enough how much this helps. Don’t iron the folded edges of the sleeve, you don’t need to and you’ll just end up with a crease down the centre of your arm.
Use the same technique for ironing around, rather than on, your cuff pleat as you did for the pleats on the back yoke. If they need it, slip your iron inside the cuff and press it from the inside.
Once you've pressed the front and back of both sleeves, unbutton the centre front placket.
At this time you could choose to press the centre front placket (the side with the buttonholes) if it’s looking wrinkled. Usually it looks good enough for me so I tend to skip this part. You could also hit the shoulder seam as well but if it looks ok, keep going.
Holding the edges of the collar stand, open the shirt with the inside facing up and place your shirt on the board. press the collar and collar stand while once again, using your free hand to keep it taut.
Lastly, fold the collar back to where it sits and fasten the collar stand button. Place your hanger through the neck of the shirt (if you’re not wearing your shirt immediately) and fasten the rest of the buttons.
Ta-daaaaa! An ironed shirt!
This whole process only takes me a few minutes to do these days. If you’re an ironing novice, it may take a little longer at first (especially those sleeves) but this technique is as foolproof as it gets and you’ll soon be banging out shirts in 5 minutes, no problem.
A couple more tips for those of you who are particularly low-maintenance. A no-brainer, but when you take your shirt off at the end of the day, hang it up. You may not need to iron your shirt before each wear if you take the 10 seconds to hang it up. All of our shirts have a loop sewn in the back neck which I use to hook them to my wardrobe door, taking even less time.
Lastly, some cotton shirts need less ironing than others. Poplins or other low-textured weaves tend to show wrinkles more than brushed or textured cottons. Same goes for light colours (more visible) and dark colours (less visible). The easiest cotton shirts to care for are brushed fabrics with heather weaves, like The Explorer or The Guide. The heather colouring disguises wrinkles the best - I usually only press the collar of mine after washing and then they’re good to go!
Any questions? Do you have a request for any particular shirt-related knowledge? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy (and fast) ironing!
Cofounder, Power Of My People
** I’m using this Rowenta iron in the images/gifs above. We bought it last year and it’s a great iron. I particularly appreciate the extra pointy tip, which comes in handy while developing our prototypes, and the easy self clean setting which I should definitely use more frequently. **