Dear Og, what is the secret of ironing?

Despite the possible embarrassment of posting this next to “People who haven’t learned a simple skill”…

Ironing. It looks easy–throw your shirt onto the ironing board, wave the hot magic stick over it, and voila, wrinkle-free and ready to wear.

If only that were the case. I only now have this new chore, because of my summer job–and having run out of clean shirts to wear. The actual physical act of ironing is by no means difficult; the heat to use is stated right on the thing. But two questions remain:

  1. When do you use steam–and how much? And how come I can shoot a stream of water about four feet in *front of me with the other button?

  2. More importantly, how the heck do you get the material flat on the board? I consider myself to have good spatial, geometric skills–but manipulating the weirdly shaped fabric flat onto the board, so you can actually accomplish something, is seemingly beyond me. Sure, it’s easy enough to do the back and perhaps the very front panels, but as for the shoulders and pit area, the task seems insurmountable. Or if the shirts have those funny creases in the back, it’s literally impossible to get the whole back of the shirt flat on the board. :smack:

So what’s the secret? I beg you all.

Steam is for cottons. Cotton wrinkles worse than other fabrics and if it’s thin, the wrinkles will come back after you iron them out. The water stream is for heavier fabrics that the steam won’t penetrate.

Some clothing has to be ironed in sections. For shirts, you can use the small end of the ironing board to put sleeves over, if they’re big enough. Collars, you open fully and iron flat on both sides. Then you can do the flat sections.

Oh, and also if you have a really stubborn wrinkle or a crease in the fabric, you can zap it with the water stream.

Og no iron. What you think Og? Og wrinkle. Og drip. Drip-dry.

Practice, practice, practice. I used to get up and iron my husband’s uniforms every morning for him until we made enough money for us to send them out to a laundry. So glad we’re divorced.

I’m sure that website, how2, will have an ironing section, but basically start with the right front of the shirt.( I’m lucky to have a unique ironing board…if you have a standard one, it helps to use the square end of the board, not the pointy end.) Pull that side of the shirt onto the board so that the collar end is at the end, the button placket runs down the middle of the board, and the side seam runs along the edge. Smooth out as much as possible and iron, using steam as needed. You may have to fidget the shirt around a bit to get at the area around the collar.

Slide the shirt so that more of the underarm seam area is flat on the board and iron that area. Ignore sleeves for now. You’ve now ironed the front right and side and a bit of the back. Repeat for the left side front, but sliding it over the board towards you.

Now take the shirt and fold it horizontally along that seam that runs across your shoulder blades. Lay this double layer of fabric on the board with the collar sitting up on top, and the fold toward you. You’re just ironing that back panel, around the collar to the shoulder seams.

Next, slide the back of the shirt over the end of the board (by using the square end you get a wider surface to work on) and iron the large center area of the back. (If you want the three fancy creases, start with the center one and fold shirt accordingly.)

Take shirt of the board and hold by sleeve. Lay sleeve lengthwise on the board as smoothly as possible. The rest dangles off the side. Press the double layer of the sleeve. Use steam. Makes a nice crease. Repeat for other sleeve. Cuffs get a little touchup.

Finally, lay just the collar on the board (shirt dangling off between you and board) and iron the collar.

Hang or wear.


I recommend the book Home Comforts. It has pictures. Also good tips on how to properly fold clothes, as well as many other household maintenance tasks. I would (and do) recommend it to anyone.

I never iron without some kind of spray starch. This is my favorite brand, it should be in the same row as the laundry detergent. It cements in the ironing so that wrinkles don’t return and you can just skip the whole steam/spray thing altogether. That site also has some hints and tips for ironing which might be helpful, but I havn’t read it m’self.


Here’s what I do: get all your shirts that may need ironing and wash them together; make sure that it’s a small to medium load. Use as much fabric softener as you can get away with. As soon as they’re done get them in a dryer as fast as possible. As soon as they are done in the dryer hang them up on coat hangers as fast as possible. If there are any wrinkles in the fabric they’ll only be very small ones and they should take care of themselves if you leave the shirt(s) hanging for any length of time.

I only have to iron if someone else does my laundry nowadays and I’ve got a job that requires a clean white crease free button down shirt every day.

“Niagara Spray Starch. Slowly I turned…”–Museum of Comedy Gods

A fairly decent iron’ll help too. I was amazed when I bought my own iron for college after having used my mom’s for so long.

I find if my shirt comes out of the dryer wrinkled, it’ll smooth out after three or four months hanging in the closet. At least enough to wear.

Divide the shirt up into parts and keep it slightly damp.

Yoke first
The back of shirt
Then each side of the front
Then sleeves and cuffs
Then collar

Or at least that’s how I do it when I can’t get a shirt to the laundry.

Downy Wrinkle Releaser

There’s a reason God invented dry cleaners…

I hate ironing shirts.

Using a spray bottle of water to dampen the shirt really helps. I prefer it to using the iron’s steam system.