How to Iron a Shirt

Last update February 15, 2019
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Ironing is a day-to-day chore and people are somehow expected to just know perfectly what to do. Obviously, that isn’t always the case and plenty of men seem to have trouble smoothing their shirts, which leaves them walking around in wrinkled apparel. Today, we’ll take a look at the tricks that you can use to keep your clothes neat and your chores complete.

Learning How to Iron a Shirt

A Smooth Men's Shirt

If you look at the bigger picture, the process of ironing a shirt to smooth out every single crease isn’t too dissimilar from doing the same to other clothes. While dress shirts might be made of a wider variety of materials, they’re still smoothed as easily as a t-shirt or a hoodie. But then you have to account for the collar and the cuffs and a bunch of other crannies, all of which require your attention. You need to remember that you might have to starch a shirt collar or calibrate your clothes iron to prevent damage to more delicate fabrics. Everything has to go perfectly if you want a crease-free shirt and that’s why we’re going to reveal all of our tips and tricks.

Picking the Correct Iron for You

Use Steam Iron for Delicate Fabrics

There aren’t that many types of clothes irons so it shouldn’t be too hard to learn them and make sure you never misuse one. If you have delicate fabrics that you want to iron correctly, you’re going to need to choose one of the many steam irons on the market. These can be used to soften the fabric and keep the temperature down so you don’t damage the threads. They are great for shirts because they are more effective at smoothing wrinkles and creases.

Alternatively, if you prefer convenience, you might like cordless irons. Their movement is unrestricted by cables and thus they’re easier to maneuver to get out all wrinkles out of a shirt. They have to be recharged, though, so maybe not the best choice if you’re forgetful. Regardless of which iron type you pick, we certainly recommend investing into a travel iron as well. These lightweight appliances are designed specifically so you can keep your clothes looking presentable even when you’re out on the road, be it for business or pleasure. However, they’re a bit less powerful and not as impressive in terms of smoothing quality so try to find the absolute best one if you’re looking to keep your shirts in good condition. And while we can’t say that ironing boards matter just as much, we still recommend picking one out thoroughly as well as its height and steadiness are important for comfortable ironing. After all, you might spend up to an hour standing in front of one, not exactly something you want to go cheap on. You can even get one that’s easy to put away and doesn’t take much storage space. Those that prefer to keep things compact should look at door ironing boards.

Fabric Matters

Ironing Cotton Can Be Hard

There are plenty of fabric options for a men’s dress shirt. Some of them are more delicate and some don’t require any special care but, like it or not, they all have a few different rulesets to follow. You can keep track of your iron’s indicators to make sure they’re at the right temperature for the fabric. Always check the label on your shirt to see what it says as some of them can be helpful and describe the rules of ironing that particular item. Some shirts can’t be ironed at all or only ironed at relatively low temperatures, making this less a precaution and more of a necessity. So make sure to check if there’s a cotton setting on the iron you’re using or if you can dial down the temperature to make it appropriate for the material. That’s one of the reasons why we don’t recommend getting a cheap steam iron as a poorly-made appliance will just end up damaging your clothes.

Ironing Cotton Shirts

Use a Steam Iron

Before you even turn the iron on, go ahead and wet the shirt slightly. Not soaking wet, mind you, just get it a bit damp. The heat will get the water out while also smoothing the fabric more effectively. Also, never ever iron a cotton shirt in circles, only move the iron down from the collar to the tails. This type of movement is more efficient and gets wrinkles out quickly without leaving annoying creases.

Ironing Polyester Shirts

Take Care of Polyester

Okay, never-ever-ever iron a polyester shirt, at least not directly. Not even with the lowest heat setting on, not even using just the tip. The sole should only be touching the fabric through some sort of conduit. Try putting a thin layer between them, something like a cloth or a handkerchief should be enough to keep most of the heat off while still allowing you to smooth out the creases. While there’s likely no dedicated setting for polyester on your iron, just keep in mind that the temperature needs to be lower than you may initially think, pretty much just go as low as the iron gets without turning off.

Ironing Linen Shirts

Most Delicate of Fabrics

This type of men’s dress shirt requires a steam iron or, at the very least, a spray bottle filled with warm water. Gently spray some mist on the shirt, make sure it’s spread out evenly or you will just end up with a soaked cuff or two. Unlike some other fabrics, linen needs to be damp on both sides before you start ironing so it should only be smoother on a board, where the wet clothing won’t leave any stains. Also, before you begin, turn the apparel inside out to prevent damage to the outer layers. Set the iron to a low temperature and start ironing carefully in long motions, preferably not circular.

Ironing Burn-Out Fabric Shirts

Taking Care of Devore

There’s remarkably little information available about ironing devore (also known as burnout) and that’s because it’s not the kind of fabric that should even be actually ironed. Keep the appliance about an inch away from the clothing and spray the shirt with some steam and then smooth out the wrinkles manually. If that fails and some persistent crease refuses to leave the shirt, put a thick layer of protection between the iron and the apparel and gently try to smooth it. This kind of fabric requires a lot of care and prepping before you can take a clothes iron to it.

Ironing Pima Fabric Shirts

Iron Gently, Lots of Steam

Well, pima is pretty much just an extremely fancy type of cotton so most of the rules that apply to that fabric are in full effect here. In fact, just take any of the tips for cotton and do everything twice as cautiously. Because a cotton shirt may be pricey but a pima one is both expensive and incredibly durable if cared for correctly. This is the type of material that you need to cherish and always treat with the utmost respect.

Ironing Rayon Shirts

The Process of Ironing Rayon Is Unique

Okay, remember all the tips we gave for the other fabric types? Forget those, rayon is a whole new beast. Yes, it still needs to be turned inside out but that’s where the similarities end. First off, don’t use any steam, not even a little bit. We don’t care if you’ve got the fanciest iron out there, steam will wreak havoc on rayon and it’s not worth it. Instead, set your iron to a low temperature and gently begin to smooth the shirt. Now, don’t go too hard or hold the iron on the fabric for too long. Use quick but light sweeping movements instead of the traditional long motions. That way your shirt won’t get stretched and no damage will be done. Yes, rayon is quite a demanding material.

Ironing Slub Shirts

Kind of Like Ironing Cotton

Again, this is pretty much a variation of cotton and the instructions for this one are quite the same. However, it’s a rougher, more textured type of fabric so you don’t necessarily have to be as gentle with it. Just keep that temperature low and use a bit of steam and you’re good to go.

Shirt Ironing Is Not so Hard

Your Main Ironing Tools

While there’s not a universal best way to iron a shirt, there are certainly a few basic methods that you should stick to if you want your clothes to look presentable. Let’s take it step by step, taking a basic button-down shirt as our example. Before you start ironing away, you’ll need two main tools: a good clothes iron and an ironing board. Get a well-built model, maybe even on the heavier side because this board is decidedly not something you want to tip over. Next, take a thorough look at what the label on your shirt says. There may be some additional instructions beyond which temperature to use and whether steam should be applied. Then turn the shirt inside out and spread it out carefully. The less wrinkles there are to start with, the easier your task, right?

Take Your Time and Spray

You could also keep the shirt right side up but turning it out ends up guaranteeing a crisper finish. We’d go as far as saying that this is a necessity if you plan on attending a formal event. Now wet the shirt slightly and don’t use cold water. Put your iron on a low setting and start ironing. The first thing you should work on is the collar. Pop it and carefully work your way all around it starting on the lower part. Since the collar is a bit small, you might end up with a wrinkle or two no matter how hard you try. In that case, push those down with the tip of your iron, lowering them to the side that won’t be visible to those around you.

Smoothing the Cuffs

Next, time to work on the cuffs (we’ll get to the shirt itself, promise). Unbutton them and spread the fabric out as much as possible. Iron around the buttons, never on them, and use your fingers to stretch out the material. This time you have to get all wrinkles out, there’s no pushing them away.

Smoothing a Shirt

And now for the main course, time to iron the shirt itself. We recommend starting with the front as it’s the tougher part due to the buttons. Once again, avoid them and smooth the area around them using only the tip of the iron. Put extra care into the sleeves and the chest area as those are the parts that wrinkle most. They’re also the ones that most people will look at simply by reflex. Try to put something stiff into the sleeves so they’ll be easier to work on.

There’s not that much to ironing the back as you simply have to make sure the shirt is flat and that you’re doing long movements lengthwise. Unless something goes terribly wrong, you’ll likely end up with a pretty fine-looking shirt! Once that’s all done - hang the shirt up carefully and let it dry out fully and then inspect it to see if you’ve missed anything.

A Few Final Tips

Quick Ironing Tips
  • Don’t ever put a dirty shirt on your ironing board, you’ll just hammer the stains into the fabric.
  • Always double-check the temperature, some shirt fabrics burn up at the slightest mistake.
  • Make sure your iron’s water tank is full before you start ironing, you shouldn’t interrupt the process for small things like that.
  • If you’re struggling and don’t know how to iron a collared shirt without leaving a bunch of wrinkles on the collar, either practice that one part separately or get collarless shirts (that are very much in right now!).
  • Try to do several shirts at once as the prep process is lengthy and you’ll save time by doing loads instead of single shirts.
  • There’s no shame in resorting to dry cleaning from time to time, especially if you’ve tried to smooth your shirt and failed.
  • If you don’t have a board to prop up your sleeve while you’re ironing it, a rolled-up t-shirt or towel will do. Obviously, if you’re going for a t-shirt, choose one that you have yet to iron.