Ironing clothes, a skill once thought essential, is becoming a lost art with permanent press fabrics and dry cleaners on every corner.
But if you are alarmed at the cost of dry cleaning your clothes, ironing is an excellent way to save money. It’s easy with a little practice to achieve that “just-pressed” look, and slipping into a shirt or blouse fragrant with recent ironing is one of life’s small luxuries.
Some people, like myself, loathe ironing. If you find you are one of them, decide which is easier: ironing an occasional shirt or pair of pants or carving out an hour or so to devote to the task, after which you might reward yourself with something pleasant. Other folks find ironing soothing and therapeutic. Try setting up the ironing board in front of the television or listening to music as you work. Just don’t get so absorbed in the entertainment that you lose focus on the iron, which requires your attention at all times.
Here are some tips to get you started.
- Buy an ironing board that fits your lifestyle. If space is at a premium, consider a fold-up ironing board that mounts on the back of a door. You can iron on a kitchen counter if you have to, but it’s trickier, and extra precautions must be taken, such as first lying down a tablecloth folded to a quarter inch thickness to prevent damaging the surface of your counter. Towels can also be used.
- You can reduce the amount of things you need to iron by paying some attention to the laundering stage. Don’t overload your washer and dryer, for instance, which balls up clothing and increases wrinkling. Do hang up your dry clothes as soon as they finish drying, which will shake out many if not most wrinkles. Sweaters that must be washed on gentle cycle and then dried flat can be tossed in the dryer on gentle cycle when they are almost dry, which can often eliminate the need for ironing.
- Don’t iron clothing that isn’t clean, as the heat will set the stain for good.
- Try not to iron clothing right before you wear it, but instead let it hang for a few hours to “set” the crispness. Freshly ironed clothes that are worn or packed immediately after ironing tend to wrinkle easily.
- Read labels in your clothing and use the appropriate setting on your iron. First iron clothing requiring the least heat and then move to garments requiring a higher setting.
- Practice on a handkerchief or old sheet if you are intimidated by ironing and are concerned you might ruin something. To avoid scorching, use smooth, constant strokes and do not let the iron rest on any one spot for too long.
- To iron a shirt, start with the collar, using the point of the iron to smooth the smallest details. Then move to the cuffs and sleeves. Rolling a small towel and inserting it into cuff area will allow a smoother finish. Finally, iron the large areas, perhaps starting with the back and moving toward the front. To keep clothes from re-wrinkling, always move the ironed sections away from you.
- To iron pants, start with the waistband, again using the pointed end of the iron. Slip the waist opening of the pants over the end of the ironing board and iron the seat and then the front, taking care around the zipper—again, use the point of the iron if necessary. Then remove the pants from the iron and fold the pant legs along the crease you desire, ironing first one side of the leg and then the other, beginning at the wide part and moving down to the hem or cuff.
- For an extra crisp look, use spray starch, spraying fabric lightly in small sections as you go, from a distance of about 10 inches. Ironing clothing inside out will prevent unwanted ironing “sheen.”
- You can try this trick for greater efficiency: Slide aluminum foil under the pad that covers your ironing board. The reflected heat will allow you to iron both sides of the fabric at once.
- Using distilled water for the steam iron often prevents mineral build-up. If your iron is spitting out chalky white particles, use a cotton swab dipped in vinegar to clean the holes on the soleplate. On occasion you should fill the water well with a solution of half water and half vinegar, let the iron steam for three or four minutes, then drain the iron for an hour. Repeat process with water only before using iron again on clothing.
- Certain fabrics are best left to a professional dry cleaner. Linen is notoriously difficult to iron well, and silk can damage easily.