The Dude Society

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How To Iron A Dress Shirt Correctly

It might be a basic task, but every dude needs to know how to iron a shirt. If possible, he should know how to iron a shirt well.

I hand-wash, hang-dry, and iron all my own dress shirts. I decided to go this route because I was sick of scorched fabric, poor pressing, and  broken buttons from the dry cleaner. Plus, at $5-$6 bucks a pop, you can really save some cash. To me, the money is much less important than knowing my clothes will be treated properly.

This topic has been covered elsewhere before, but novelty has often been the primary focus rather than the useful information you really need. So, here is a primer on how to iron a dress shirt.

Get Yourself a Good Iron and Board

First of all, you should get yourself a great iron. Will a cheaper iron do the job? Yes, but a better one will make your life easier.

My personal iron, the Velocity V95 by Reliable, is pictured below. This model has since been replaced by the V100, but they are nearly identical. You can get the V100 on amazon for $139.

This iron has one primary feature that makes it better than most others. It generates steam no matter the selected plate temperature. Your traditional “steam iron” relies on selecting a high temperature setting in order for the iron to generate steam. This means, if you want steam, your iron needs to be really hot and that simply isn’t safe for many types of fabric (they can burn or melt).

On the contrary, with the Reliable V95/V100, you can iron a shirt on the lowest temperature setting but with as much steam as you want. 100% cotton is generally safe to iron at high temperature, but anything with synthetic fiber (polyester, spandex, lycra, etc) in it needs to be treated with more caution, as it can burn or melt. You might be saying “Why would I be ironing spandex??”, however many dress and sport shirts contain some percentage of the materials listed.

The Reliable V95/V100 has four temperature settings, plus separate controls for the steam, all on a cool, back-lit, digital display. If a gadget has extra buttons or a screen, instead of switches and knobs, that always gets a few points in my book.

In terms of an ironing board, I only have two important tips for you:

  1. If the width of the board closely matches the width of your shirts it will make your job way easier. So, don’t try to save a couple bucks by getting some tiny ass ironing board.
  2. Ironing boards tend to include really cheap pads on them. Under the pad, typically, is metal in a honeycomb pattern. The metal absorbs heat and can transfer it back to your garment. If you use too much pressure on a cheap ironing board pad, you can end up with a visible honeycomb pattern on your clothing. So, spending a few bucks on an upgraded pad to replace (or go on top of) the included one is a wise investment.

General Shirt Ironing Strategy

Temperature: You’re always better off starting with a lower temperature and increasing if need be. My iron has heat settings 1 (lowest) thru 4 (highest). I iron all my shirts on setting 2, with the steam turned on. As I mentioned above, synthetic materials (especially when dark colors) should be ironed at a low temperature. If you set it too high, you can actually melt the fabric and it will become shiny looking and will essentially be ruined. (Some minor fabric shine can be fixed with vinegar and a tooth brush… but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that)

Motion: You never want to let your iron sit still on the fabric for more than a second or two. If the iron is on, and touching the fabric, it should be moving.

Sequence: My strategy, that I shall now impart to you, is to iron the sturdiest parts of the shirt first, as they are least likely to get messed up as you continue ironing. Also, the way the shirt will sit on the board determines the best order for ironing. My preferred ironing sequence is: collar, cuffs, yoke, sleeves, fronts, and back. If timing allows, letting each section of the shirt cool down before moving on to the next will yield better results.

In the photos below, I am ironing a 100% cotton, white theory dress shirt.

1) The Collar

Lay the whole collar flat against your board, as shown above. Using the front tip of the iron, iron out all the wrinkles in smooth motions. Depending how your shirt is stitched, you can adjust the direction you move the iron as to not cause any ripples or creases in the collar.

Since I iron with the steam on at all times, I never find the need to iron both sides of the collar (front and back). I just iron the front, visible area, and leave it at that.

2) The Cuffs

Next, unbutton all the cuff buttons (and remove any cuff links), and flatten out the cuff on the ironing board. Similarly to the collar, use the front tip of the iron to remove the wrinkles in the cuff. Use care when going around the buttons in the cuff.

Repeat on the second cuff.

3) The Yoke (piece of fabric across shoulders)

Firstly, the yoke is the piece of fabric behind the collar that runs across your shoulders. The size of the yoke will vary from shirt to shirt. For example, the yoke in the shirt pictured is larger than the one on a more basic shirt from Express. The more significant the yoke, the more important it is to iron separately.

Your ability to place the yoke totally flat on your board will depend on the shape of the shirt and the board. It is perfectly fine to do the yolk in two phases, one side then the other. You can line up the shoulder end of the yoke with the narrow tip of the board and get it as flat as possible.

Again, use the tip of the iron to smooth out the wrinkles in the yoke. If you wrinkle other panels of the shirt in the process of ironing the yoke, it’s ok, you’re going to be ironing them later.

3) The Sleeves

The sleeves are next, and a bit more tricky because you need to take a moment to line up each sleeve properly on the board before you iron it.

Place the sleeve face-down on the board, so that the button flap near the cuff is facing upward. You want to the sleeve totally flat on the board, using the seams on the top and bottom as guides. If you get the sleeve totally flat, and use steam, you can usually iron the front and back in one pass without needing to turn the sleeve over.

Ironing the majority of the sleeve is pretty easy. Ironing down by the buttons and cuff is a bit tougher. Some shirts have pleats by the cuff, so exactly how you iron them varies. In general, you’ll use the very tip of the iron to smooth out as much of the fabric as possible while working around any pleats and buttons.

4) The Front(s)

We are coming down the home stretch… Next come the front panels of the shirt.

You’re going to lay each panel of the shirt on the board as flat as possible. It’s ok if you need to shift it to get the job done, but the less shifting required, the less touching up you’ll need to do.

The left side, without buttons, is quite easy to iron. Long, smooth motions with the iron should do most of the work. Extra attention is usually needed where the front meets the collar and sleeve. These areas near seems have a tendency to ripple, so do the best you can. With practice, it will get easier and quicker.

The right side, where the buttons are, requires a little more time to iron between each button using the tip of the iron. Buttons aside, the same rules apply as the left side of the shirt.

Aside from the collar, the front panels are typically the most visible when you’re wearing the shirt, so take a little extra time to make sure everything looks the way you want it.

5) The Back

Almost done. We’ve reached the back of the shirt.

Lay the back of the shirt on your board, with the collar of the shirt at the pointed end of the board. Unless your shirt is small and your ironing board huge, you’re going to need to do this is 2 or 3 sections.

The back of the shirt is really easy to iron. Again, mind the areas around the sleeve seems. Use the tip of the iron to smooth out any small winkles.

Depending on the shirt, there will likely be a center pleat or side pleats along the seam where the back meets the yolk. Use the very tip of the iron to remove the wrinkles but leave the shape of the pleat intact. This area of the shirt is usually the most prone to being pressed poorly at the cleaners.

And, You’re Done!

There you have it, you’re ironed your first shirt.

Some opt to iron a crease into the collar fold, but I just fold it by hand to get a more natural, rolled look.

Now, hang it up on a wooden hanger, fasten the top few buttons, and let it chill out for a bit.

About the author

Jamie is the Founder of The Dude Society and a New York City based web designer & developer. He really likes telling people how to think, act, and dress.

All articles by Jamie »

26 Responses to “How To Iron A Dress Shirt Correctly”

  1. Simple Dude says:

    Great article… I have become fairly adept at ironing dress shirts, although I hate ironing on a level equal to my hatred for shaving. Maybe an ironing tutorial for dress pants could be next? I know those seem easier then shirts, but they always give me trouble.

    • Jamie says:

      Good idea.

      If they are wool pants, like for a suit, getting a pants press is a great option for pressing between cleanings. As is a garment steamer. I own both, so maybe I will do a post about those.

      More casual pants like khakis or chinos, those are more often ironed on a board. Since the fabric is thicker than a shirt, you will often need a lot of steam and/or a water spray bottle to iron them well.

    • Richard says:

      My Mother used to do ironing for a living, she taught me; to never iron the Collar show material, iron the back of the collar, then fold over and iron the inside of the collar fold. This is prevent wear and scorch along the seams of the collar.
      Also when ironing the sleeves, cuff buttons facing and press along the seam. with double cuffs, unfold completely and iron out the full sleeve, the fold back and press the folded cuff.
      The order I was taught; was press the inside of the front panels (less risk of staining the show fabric), back , sleeves, yoke and finally collar.

      • Jamie says:

        That is a good idea with the collar, however that does depend on the shirt. A shirt that is cotton is far less prone to scorch… that typically happens with synthetics. If you do it carefully, ironing the outside of the collar isn't a problem.

  2. Donnie R. Gayfield says:

    I'm 58 and was taught to iron by my mother when I was 11. She taught me to iron a shirt in the exact way that you describe above. Over time her ironing, cooking and washing lessons have proven to be indispensable as I don't necessarily need to depend on anyone else to do these chores for me.

  3. ALIDS says:

    I iron all my shits on setting 2

    Might want to check your spelling

  4. Katie Hoffman says:

    I'm not even a guy and I needed this. Thanks. :)

  5. DaveJ says:

    Jamie:
    Seems mostly should be seams in this context.
    Great article! I just sent it to my daughters with an offer of pay per shirt.
    DaveJ

  6. SGforMen says:

    I love your website Jamie. I am one of the rare college students know how to iron my clothes. Your article gives good advises things that dudes need to know in order to become successful.
    Thanks,
    SGLforMen

  7. @muteboy says:

    Great article, thank you. I would add another tip about ironing boards – don't cheap out. If you get a $100+ iron, then get a flimsy ironing board, you'll regret it every time you use it. Make it a sturdy quality one.

  8. Liz Jones says:

    I iron for my husband every morning and your step-by-step looks much like every day of my week. The only thing I might suggest is getting a nice, biodegradable spray starch for those days when you want to look extra crisp (or are ironing a particularly stubborn garment). I may have to share this with my husband for those rare instances when he's forced to handle his own pressing. Thanks!

  9. Jason says:

    Great post! One thing I do is iron the button side of the shirt inside out to protect the buttons. Ironing over them and around them can wear them down after awhile, but if you iron on the inside the heat is not direct and your iron doesn't push them around. Thanks for this very helpful post. I just found this site from ManMade and am glad I did!

    • Jamie says:

      Speaking for myself, I iron around the buttons, not over them. Ironing the back is one tactic, but it could be impression of scorch marks around where the button is pushing upward on the fabric.

  10. Jonathen says:

    I LOVE this post! I'm a 15 year old kid who is starting to take an interest in this sort of thing. I recently bought an iron, but it is worthless. I was wondering if you knew of any other really good irons in the $50-80 range. Also, if you could direct me to where I might find a nice wide ironing board, it would be greatly appreciated!

    • Jamie says:

      You don't have to spend a lot on a board. The important part is mostly the cover. So, you can put a better cover on a cheaper board if you want (that's what I did). On a cheap board the cover is very thing, so the metal under the cover can actually heat and then burn your fabric from the back. Sometimes with a cheap board you'll end up seeing a honeycomb pattern scortched into your clothes (some fabrics are more susceptible to this). I got my board and cover at Bed Bath and Beyond. You can probably also find a nice Rowenta board on amazon.

  11. BUDDY JEANS says:

    THANK YOU FOR THIS. I AM A CONSTRUCTION WORKER. I BUILD CUSTOM HOMES. SO I DECIDED THAT I WANT A WIFE AND KIDS , A FAMILY, SO THIS WEEKEND I THREW OUT ALL MY JEANS AND T-SHIRTS. WENT OUT GOT FOUR SUITES AND TIES. TWO ALL LEATHER DRESS SHOES. AND ONE OF THOUGHS BAGS YOU TRAVEL AND HANG UP SUITES. SO NOW I AM DOING THE LAUNDRY. I JUST FINISHED DOING THE SHIRTS. I JUST PUT IN THE JACKETS IN THE WASH AND NEXT THE PANTS. SO ALL NIGHT I AM GOING TO BE PRACTICING IRONING. I WANT TO LOOK GREAT AND TURN HEADS, I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU TOOK THE TIME TO TEACH ME HOW TO IRON. I WANT TO LOOK GOOD.

  12. Jubal Cane says:

    very good article I just dumped my old Iron & got abetter one, went back to Ironng my shirts as described & iam very satisfied Gunna look Good this W/end'..As a Male Exec i am very concious about my appearace Even casually. Now its time to get @ the Dress jeans Thank you for your informative article

  13. Oldskule says:

    I have a few silk and rayon shirts….I use a three foot square piece of linen to cover the shirt before ironing them. that eliminates the iron touching the shirt and therefore adds the to life of the shirt….and no 'shine'

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