Picture this Friday night scenario. You’ve just been contacted through your Bumble app for a date. You want to look your best, but she has requested meeting for dinner in an hour.
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A cursory glance at the dress shirts hanging in your closet isn’t inspiring confidence. You haven’t been to the cleaners in months. Panic time? Not if you follow our ultimate guide to ironing a dress shirt.
Presumably, because you’re a refined male, you already have the requisite ironing board and a good iron. Time is of the essence, so let’s get started.
How to Wash a Dress Shirt to Reduce Wrinkles
As the first line of defense, how you wash and dry your shirt cuts down on the number of wrinkles – and also decreases ironing time. Here, take some notes from the dry cleaners. Wash it based on its material composition, and then press it while it’s still damp. Leave the dryer for your jeans and chinos.
1. Look at the Care Tag
Generally, you can easily wash certain fabrics at home, regardless of what the care tag says. Others? Leave them in the pile for the cleaners. For a quick breakdown:
- Polyester, spandex, and nylon: They’re all machine washable, but leave them to air dry afterwards.
- Cotton and linen: Also machine washable, but keep the cycle on cold and air dry once it’s complete.
- Wool, silk, rayon, and viscose: Some of these can be hand-washed, while viscose should be reserved for the cleaners.
2. Prep and Wash
Pretreat your dress shirts for any stains – and don’t forget the collar and cuffs. From here:
- Use cold water by default. It prevents the stitching from shrinking, and the placket and collar from sticking to the material.
- If you’re someone who sweats, add an enzyme-based cleaner to get rid of those dreaded yellow spots.
- Consider a fabric softener to further lessen wrinkles and prevent static cling.
- Never overload the machine. Your clothes will get squished together, which then results in even more creasing and wrinkling.
- Never run your dress shirts through the dryer. Instead, take them out, and grabbing them by the shoulders, snap and shake them to remove as many wrinkles as you can.
- After, place them on a hanger to air dry, or iron them right away. Never let your shirts sit in the washing machine.
3. Properly Dry Your Dress Shirts
As we just mentioned, avoid the dryer, as it can fade your dress shirts and wear the fabric with time. Instead, hang them up to air dry or press them right away.
If you’ll be hanging them first, make sure you have a thicker plastic or wooden hanger on hand. These both offer a bit more body, so your shirt hangs appropriately. Wire hangers, rather, are slightly too thin, and because your shirt doesn’t get the space it needs to breathe, the fibers start to warp. Plus, after repeat dryings, the metal begins to rust, and these spots will end up marring your shirt’s shoulders.
Or, if you’re going straight into the press stage, skip the hanger entirely, and drape the shirt on the ironing board. The heat immediately dries the fabric, leaving a clean, wrinkle-free appearance.
How to Properly Iron a Dress Shirt
Once the shirt’s lying on your ironing board, what then? Although plenty of methods exist, here’s one of the best – and most efficient – ways to iron a dress shirt.
1. Flatten the Yoke and Collar
The yoke is the panel of the dress shirt that rests just above your shoulder blades. After you set the iron temp to medium heat for 100-percent cottons, hit this section first and give a good, firm press on the collar to keep it flat. If you’re using the steam option on your iron, make sure it’s a good mist – not just dripping water onto the shirt.
2. Flip Over for Panel Work
Ironing the front panels of a dress shirt should be the easiest part, but here’s a pro tip. If you’re ironing a dress shirt that has a pocket (and a cool logo!), maneuver your iron from the bottom up and onto the pocket itself. Otherwise, you risk catching the fabric and ironing a wrinkle into it.
3. Don’t Forget About the Placket
The placket of the dress shirt includes the narrow strips of fabric hosting the buttons and buttonholes. It can be a tricky exercise, but maneuver the very tip of the iron around each button and make sure both sides are properly flattened for a good center seam when buttoned. Use the steam feature on your iron for this stage.
4. Roll Reversal
Roll the shirt onto its back and get ready to tackle the largest continuous part of the dress shirt fabric. A good place to begin is below the yoke by first following the contours of the box pleat. Also, pay careful attention to the tail section at the very bottom. This is important if you’re going for the “untucked” look.
5. Cuff Those Sleeves
Ironing the sleeves can be the trickiest part of the entire process, so be patient. You’ll need to maneuver the sleeves flat, paying careful attention to the tapered creases as the shirt reaches the cuff. Begin the ironing by flattening the cuff on each sleeve. Then proceed to work the folds in the crease, ending with ironing up the sleeve to the shoulder.
6. Hang It Up
When you’re finished, be sure to place the dress shirt on a sturdy clothes hanger, buttoning the top two buttons. A gentleman always looks sharp, and having wrinkle-free garments is an easy and affordable way to look your best.
How to Iron a Dress Shirt Fast
Unfortunately, time’s not always on your side. You woke up late, and you’ve got to rush to make it into the office. Or, you have a flight to catch and need to get out the door and drive to the airport. In all cases, smooth out the wrinkles with this fast, time-saving method:
1. Start with the Collar
After you’ve sprayed the iron, pop the shirt’s collar, so that it lies flat on the ironing board. Start from the inside, and do a few passes. After, turn it over, and iron the outside.
2. Do the Cuffs
We’re covering your shirt’s most visible spots, and cuffs frequently get overlooked. Here, unbuttoned them, before starting on the outside. Avoid ironing over the buttons as you swipe from the middle on out.
3. Iron the Front
On the note of visibility, you can get by with a slightly wrinkled back, especially if you’ll be sporting a blazer or bomber the rest of the day. The front? Not so much. In this case, lay the shirt’s front flat on the square end of the ironing board, and swipe downward. Pay close attention to the placket: Add a bit more pressure without directly ironing over the buttons.
4. Go Through the Sleeves
While these will presumably be covered up, a quick once-over never hurt. Lay each flat on the ironing board, and smooth them out from the shoulder to the cuff.
5. Go Over the Back
But don’t waste too much time – you’ve got places to be. Also using the ironing board’s square end lay it open, and starting from the inside, do a few passes with light pressure.
By this point, the shirt should be de-wrinkled enough to button up and tuck into your chinos.
How to Fold a Dress Shirt to Reduce Wrinkling
Not everyone has the space to hang their dress shirts up. That doesn’t mean, however, you have to put up with a high degree of wrinkling – especially after you’ve gone through all these washing and ironing steps. Instead, after your shirt has dried:
1. Lay the shirt down on an even, flat surface.
2. Fold the body vertically; both arms should be overlapping.
3. Now, fold it horizontally, before flattening out the shirt.
If space is a concern, start by:
1. Laying the shirt flat from the front.
2. Fold the sleeves behind.
3. Fold the shirt over vertically.
4. Fold it horizontally, before smoothing it out.