Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How to Iron a Shirt

Thanks to my blogger friend, Chantal, at CALM Homemaking 1950s Style, I have recently learned that I have been ironing incorrectly my entire life! As a self-taught ironer (we'll pretend that "ironer" is a word, here so I can avoid writing "person who irons" 50 blue-million times...), I thought I was doing pretty good to just iron--period. Not because it's hard, but because it is a respectable, but dying art.  After reading her post about ironing, I decided to look into it further and to do a little research on using liquid starch (which I have always been curious about, but somewhat intimidated by). 

Not much has changed...
As long as I've been married (going on 7 yrs. now), I have always taken pride in  ironing my husband's work clothes into as neat a condition I possibly could...or so I thought.  I have always used a lot of steam, (a good ironing practice) and used spray starch (also a great ironing aid).  I just never knew I had been using the wrong technique the whole time!  I thought I was doing pretty well, until I discovered I was doing the entire process backwards.  (All of this, by the way, concerns the ironing of a dress shirt.)

To summarize my previous, self-taught (and incorrect) ironing ritual, I used to:
     1) iron the front of the shirt, with the bulk of it hanging towards me;
     2) work around the body and around the shirt, back to the front;   
     3) iron the sleeves and
     4) iron the collar. 

I often found by the time I had finished the collar, placed it on a hanger, and held up my accomplishment to admire, that, alas--there were already some determined wrinkles trying to re-establish themselves on the front--where I had very first ironed!   This was always a mystery to me, as I would have to re-iron this section (and if you've ever done this, you know that it's very difficult to iron only one little section and not disturb any other...)  Then, last week I came across Chantal's post about how she had been doing the exact same thing; and thus my ironing revolution began. Since I have been so impressed by the fruits of my newly-acquired, proper, ironing technique, I was inspired to share what I learned, in hopes that someone else might benefit from my newly-discovered information.

How to Iron a Shirt (Correctly):

1) Start with the inside of the collar

2) Iron the outside of the collar.

3) Iron the sleeves, starting on the back side, then doing the front.

 4) Iron the front, starting with the bulk of it hanging away from your body.

5) Iron the body of the shirt, pulling the fabric towards you as you work back around to the front.

6) Finish by ironing the other side of the front (bulk of shirt should be hanging towards you).
Hang on a rack and button top and middle buttons to prevent wrinkling.
As always, make sure to follow heat settings on care tags, and use plenty of steam. Always keep the iron moving over the fabric, and it is a good practice to use spray starch.  Even if you don't care about the extra body or wrinkle-resistance it provides, it actually speeds the process of ironing as it somehow helps the iron to glide more easily over the fabric.
A few of a housewife's secret weapons

About liquid starch: 
As a vintage-loving housewife, I love the idea of "starching" things.  I don't just sounds nice and refreshing...(strange; I know. Haha!) But truthfully, you can usually tell when a garment   has been starched; it has a much nicer, cleaner-looking presentation.  I have always used spray starch, but it hasn't been until recently that I have also been using liquid starch (which you add to the rinse cycle of your wash).  Now, unlike many people in the 50s, I'm not going to take it so far as to starch my underwear, and--yes--they really did that!!  It seems that starch has earned a reputation as a slapstick staple in the movies: you know the bit--husband does laundry; husband uses starch...wife's soft, silk stockings end up a rigormortis-like, cardboard cutout.  But contrary to this caricatured depiction, starch can actually be an iron-er's best friend. Not only does it make the actual process of ironing easier, but it also adds body to the fabric, helps repel stains, and helps keep fabric looking fresh all day due it's magic-like, wrinkle-resisting powers. (And did I mention it makes ironing easier and faster...!?) 

In Conclusion: 
If you iron, and you haven't ever used spray starch, try it! You will be really surprised at what a difference it makes! If you already use spray starch, and like it, you might also like the extra benefits of using liquid starch as well.  (By the way: It's not expensive; I got mine at Wal-Mart for less than $3/ can even make your own at home if you are industrious like that!)

If you try it, let me know what you think! Happy homemaking! =)


  1. This makes me glad that my husband wears jeans to work! I have a strict no-iron policy, because I do 12-14 loads of laundry a week, and I'd never get through it; but if it were just my husband and I, I'd probably iron his dress shirts. I also love the idea of starch! For myself; nothing that can't be taken out with a spin in the dryer bothers me; a few hours juggling a baby on my hip leaves me wrinkled anyway! Thank goodness for no-wrinkle fabrics!

  2. I have used the liquid starch to make my own starch (1/2 liquid starch, 1/2 water) because it is more economical and using my own spray bottle prevents the big droplets of starch that comes from the commercial spray bottles.

    But I had NO IDEA that you could starch your clothes in the washer. I might have to give that a try some time. (o:

  3. Hi Liana, I used to use the starch spray as well but ny husband had alway complained about it being to stif, that is why I switch to the in wash type and now he actually likes it, I love that I was not the only one who ironed the whole thing backwards too. Great post too thanks for the mention.

  4. As the wife of a husband who wears shirt and tie to work everyday, ironing is a big part of laundry for me; and you can imagine how pleased I was to find out I was doing it correctly! Thanks for the post! I have always used spray starch and am sad to say I never knew liquid starch existed. I will be checking on that during my next trip to the store.

    Also, to A Quiet, Gracious Life, I may have to steal your spray bottle idea... I love it! :)

  5. The liquid starch you buy can be mixed with water in a spray bottle as A Quiet, Gracious Life mentioned, or poured directly into the rinse water of a wash cycle. The bottle actually says that it will replace 7 cans of spray starch! So I'm definitely going to try that one since it is so much cheaper! Also, I have read online that you can make your own with a cornstarch/water mixture...but I don't know if I'm brave enough to try that one...



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