While it may be convenient to drop your shirts off at the cleaners, it can also be costly. Washing and ironing your shirts yourself not only saves money, but can also extend the life of your shirts. Here are a few helpful tips.
Start With The Right Equipment
As with any job, having the right equipment is essential. Of course, you'll need a quality iron. A spray bottle of water is also a handy thing to keep close by. If you like your shirts starched, keep another spray bottle with a mixture of liquid starch and water nearby. An ironing board is useful, but not absolutely necessary. In a pinch, you can iron right on a table. Just put down a towel and a sheet first.
On a dress shirt, the collar is probably the most important element. It's where your tie is knotted, and it frames the face, making it the most prominent feature. You want to make sure that it's sharp. Start at the tips and move the iron inward. This will help avoid creating a wrinkle at the edge of the collar. Apply steam and pressure, leaning down on the shirt, rather than simply waving the iron around over it.
The yoke is the piece that spans the shoulders. Lay this flat and press down. Don't worry if you create a crease across the back, you can flatten that out later.
Start by laying the sleeve flat on your board, with the underarm seam in a clean line. For an old school look, press a tight crease in the sleeve opposite the seam. If you don't like a crease, simply don't press too hard at the folded edge. Next lay the cuff out flat and press hard, moving from the edge inward as you did with the collar.
The Body of The Shirt
Next, position a section of the shirt body on the corner of your board and press flat. Press tight down across the seams for a clean look. As you finish one section, rotate the shirt around. If the shirt is very wrinkled, dampen each section with a spray bottle first. Work all the way around until the shirt is done, paying special attention to detailed areas, such as the pocket, rear pleat, and around buttons. Use the irons point to get into tight spots.
Hang It Up
As soon as you're done, put the shirt on a hanger and close the top button. Set it aside someplace where it won't be mashed between other clothes until it's time to wear it. People often think it's a good idea to iron a bunch of shirts at once, but if you're going to pack them in a closet afterwards they'll only get creased. It's usually better to do them one at a time as needed.
The Right Wash
Before you can iron your shirts, you need to wash them properly. Wash dress shirts in a separate load on the gentle cycle, and hang to dry on hangers with the collar buttons closed. Do not put them in the dryer, as this will wear them out and possibly shrink them. For tough dirt, try treating spots with dish detergent prior to washing.