How to Iron a Dress Shirt Without Calling Your Mom

I’m not gonna lie: Dress shirts look best when they’ve been dry cleaned and professionally pressed. But unfortunately, there are occasions when you have to recycle a shirt you’ve already worn or one that you only have time to throw in the wash. Then what? You have to iron it, dude.

Luckily, it’s not rocket science. I actually know guys who kinda like ironing their shirts (weird, right?). Today I’ll walk you through a few easy steps to iron a dress shirt and save your date, job interview, or wedding – kidding! Don’t even think about ironing your wedding shirt. Your partner will kill me, and I’ll deny any part I played in you two having to split up the matching towels.

First things first … 

Pre-Game: Gather Your Supplies

There are a few things you should have on hand to keep all your clothes looking their best:

  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Water in a spray bottle
  • Spray starch

Iron

You can’t do a good job ironing without an iron (seriously, don’t even try it). Your girlfriend’s hair straightening iron can press shirt collars and cuffs in a pinch, but that’s about it. 

When choosing an iron, picking one in the center of the pack (price-wise) will usually work. However, here are a few alternatives in each price point, based on Amazon customer reviews:


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Low: BLACK+DECKER Easy Steam Compact Iron – $16.99.

Features: 3-way auto-shutoff, nonstick soleplate and spray mist

Medium: BEAUTURAL Steam Iron for Clothes – $27.95

Features: Precision thermostat dial, ceramic coated soleplate, 3-way auto-off, self-cleaning

High: CHI Steam Iron for Clothes – $99.99

Features: Titanium infused ceramic soleplate, electronic temperature control, 8′ retractable cord, 3-way auto shutoff

Ironing Board

Full-size ironing boards are easy to find in retail stores like Target and Walmart. Owning a full-size board is a small investment that will pay off in keeping you looking your best; however, there are space-saving alternatives.

Protect your board with an ironing board cover to keep it in good shape. Most new ironing boards usually come with simple covers included.

Shopping tips: 

  • This full-size board has a wall-mount storage rack, a storage tray for finished clothes (like pants), a wire rack for hanging clothes, and a safety rest for a hot iron. Whoa.
  • This foldable tabletop ironing board with iron rest folds in half for storage or travel and is great for small jobs.
  • If you don’t want an ironing board for space reasons, don’t worry. This portable ironing mat blanket lets you iron just about anywhere. Just know that ironing your shirts’ shoulders will be a bit trickier.

Water in a Spray Bottle

Ironing slightly damp clothes is best, but you can use water to simulate a barely-dry shirt if necessary. Lightly spray your shirt with water until it’s slightly damp, then iron. 

Too much water? Hang to dry or throw your shirt in the dryer for a few minutes to get it back to slightly-damp status.

Pro tip: Never press shirts with stains unless you want to make them permanent! Make sure you start with clean clothing, always.

Spray Starch

To starch or not to starch is a personal preference. However, to get crisply ironed shirts, spray starch is where it’s at. Spray each shirt section with starch just before ironing. Then, experiment with different amounts of starch to get to the level of stiffness you prefer. 

Niagara and Faultless are well-known starch brands to check out.

Now let’s get started!

Pro tip: Check your iron’s heat settings and shirt’s care instructions first before ironing anything! If in doubt, start cooler. If you use too much heat right away, you risk damaging your shirt permanently.

Step 1: Iron the Collar

Think smallest to biggest. The collar, sleeves and cuffs come first since they’re made of layers of fabric that hold their shape better once pressed.

If your iron has a steam setting, fill your iron’s reservoir with water first. Distilled water is best, but drinking water is fine too.

Pop the shirt collar against the board or surface, exterior side up. Next, press the collar firmly with the tip of the iron on medium-high heat from the collar tips to the center. After pressing the outside of the collar, flip the shirt over and repeat on the inside. 

Pro tip: Always iron collars flat! You don’t want to fold the collar and iron a crease into it. Trust me.

Step 2: Iron the Sleeves and Cuffs

  • Flatten your first sleeve against the board or surface and iron the cuff’s inside bottom edge toward the sleeve. 
  • Flip the cuff over and iron the outside of the cuff. 
  • Pull the sleeve tight along the inner seam to create a crisp fold from the cuff to the shoulder and lay on the board. 
  • Iron in long, smooth strokes.
  • Repeat with the other cuff and sleeve.

Step 3: Iron the Back

Anyone you meet will likely be paying more attention to your face than your back. Therefore, leave the front of the shirt until last to keep it as pristine as possible.

  • Unbutton the shirt and spread it flat on the ironing board, collar side toward the board’s narrow end. You’ll be ironing one half of the back at a time.
  • Slide the iron from the top of the shirt to the bottom, keeping the shirt as flat as possible. If you iron a wrinkle into the shirt, lightly spray with water or starch to press the wrinkle out.

Step 4: Iron the Shoulders & Yoke

Here’s where the narrow end of the ironing board comes in handy. 

  • Pull one shoulder over the narrow end of the ironing board.
  • Iron the shoulders and yoke, being careful not to iron wrinkles into either.

Step 5: Iron the Front and Button Placket

Almost done!

  • Iron the button placket between each button and along the edge. Don’t iron the buttons themselves, as high heat may cause buttons to crack.
  • Iron the open front of each side of the shirt, making sure to lay the front side against the board, not the front and back. Ironing the front and back together will cause wrinkles you can’t see until it’s too late.

That’s it! Enjoy your newly pressed shirt with pride – and call your mom.

Stepping out on the town? Check out our articles that’ll help level up your fashion game:


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