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Men's Style Blog

Do You Know How to Actually Iron a Business Shirt?

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Section: Tailoring and Clothing Maintenance - Blog

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Making a good first impression is a must in today's competitive business environment, and attention to detail gives you an edge. While a wrinkled business shirt is noticed by most and may make a negative impression, well- pressed clothes announces to the world you are a man of discipline and order. Unbelievably, you can iron a shirt in less than five minutes using the following techniques.

Let’s start by choosing the best iron.

Choosing a Quality Iron

A well-build soleplate identifies the quality iron. Soleplates can be made of:

  • Stainless steel
  • Ceramic
  • Non-stick materials
  • Coated aluminum

According to Consumer Reports, stainless steel or ceramic soleplates perform better and glide easier than those made from non-stick materials or coated aluminum, which means your ironed clothes will look better and your job will be faster and easier if you choose one of the former.

High Heat Capability

Most consumer irons consume power from 420 watts to 1800 watts. The higher the wattage, the quicker the iron will heat. In terms of benefits to you, rememberbusiness shirt fabrics like cotton and linen need higher heats to remove the wrinkles, so a hotter iron can reduce the ironing time significantly. Additionally, the iron's capacity to produce steam relies on the temperature of the soleplate. The higher the temperature of the soleplate, the steadier the steam produced.

Steam Delivery System

Steam breathes life into fabrics because the hot moisture smooths out the wrinkles with minimal effort by distributing heat evenly across the garment's fibers. Higher-end steam irons feature over 300 holes to deliver a clean, uniform mist. A good steam iron can also be used indirectly on wools and other delicate fabrics, which saves you money by cutting down on dry cleaning costs.

Size and Weight

Don't equate price with quality. Expensive irons made from lightweight materials are not better in terms of performance. These are typically designed to accommodate the needs of those who suffer from arthritis or are sensitive to weight differences.

Travel Irons

Hotels or motels offering expensive in-house cleaning services can quickly drain your expense account. You can save time and money by packing a travel iron and doing your own ironing. To make a substitute ironing board in a pinch, place a towel on a flat surface (like the bed).

The Ironing Board

Choose a study model with a top that you're comfortable ironing on. If you are on a tight budget, buy a sturdy old ironing board and cover it with a pad. If you like, try putting aluminum foil beneath the ironing board cover to reflect the iron's heat back on itself. This simulates ironing from both sides. However, use this tip with caution since the higher heat could cause you to burn your clothes.

Spray Bottles

Avoid re-using a bottle that previously contained a cleaning agent. A quality spray bottle will spray water evenly over your shirt to prepare it for ironing. This step is critical if your iron does not have a steam function.


Hard water may contain unwanted particles or high mineral concentrations so avoid using it for ironing as it can damage the iron. It may also leave marks on the shirt fabrics, and these stains can be hard to remove. However, some minerals in the water can help water vaporise better when it comes into contact with the soleplate. Use drinking water for ironing your clothes unless the manufacturer of your iron specifies the use of distilled water.

DIY Ironing Aids

In a pinch, you can make a quick ironing board pad from a light coloured cotton towel. You can also use rolled, used inside sleeves as a makeshift sleeve board.

Spray Starch

Use starch in moderation and in accordance with the iron manufacturer’s specifications. Using too much starch can make a cotton shirt feel unbreathable - like wearing a plastic bag. To make your own starch solution, mix one tablespoon of cornstarch into two cups of water. Put this in a different spray bottle and lightly mist the fabric before ironing.

How to Iron a Shirt

These instructions are based on ironing cotton business shirts with an iron setting of 5-6.


Turn the shirt inside out, iron the inside first, and then, iron the outside.

Check the shirt label for fabric content and any special instructions by the manufacturer. In general, shirts made from cotton or cotton blends can withstand high temperatures, but polyester shirt fabrics are more sensitive to heat. If you're unsure, start with a low setting. Gradually increase the temperature setting when you see the shirt responding to the heat of the iron.

For best results, shirts should be moist – not soaking wet. This enables you to dry iron without having to worry about your iron's steam function. Mist dry shirts with the solution in the spray bottle; conversely, you can pull the shirts out of the washing machine and iron them as is.

To make your ironing tasks quick and easy, set up the ironing board near a power outlet close to your wardrobe. Fill the iron with water and set it to the correct heat setting. Keep all your ironing equipment together, as far as possible, to minimize your effort and maximize your time.

  • When the iron is ready to use, start by ironing the collar first. The collar is the most visible part of the shirt as it frames the face – especially when worn with men's suits or a sports jacket - so you want to make sure it looks perfect.
  • Pop the shirt collar up and iron the underside. Slowly, press the iron from one point to the other. If any wrinkles appear, press them towards the bottom where they will not be as visible. Flip the shirt over and repeat the process on the outside of the collar.
  • Cuffs are next, as they receive a lot of attention when worn with jackets. Unbutton the shirt cuff, including the gauntlet button, and spread it out flat. Iron the inside of the cuff and then move to the outside. Smooth the wrinkles toward the edges. Iron around the buttons and on the other side of the buttons, but never iron over the buttons as it may leave a mark. Open French cuffs completely before ironing.
  • Now it’s time to iron the shirt front. Start on the side with buttons; carefully work the iron tip around the button area. Again, never iron over the buttons. Move up to the top of the shoulder and work your way down the shirt. Repeat on the other side. If the shirt has a placket, press the material beneath with the tip of the iron before moving to the top. Focus on the front placket and areas near the collar as these are high visibility areas.
  • Move to the back of the shirt now. Lay the shirt flat on the board. Position one of the sleeve heads into the square edge of the ironing board. This keeps half the back of the shirt in a good position for ironing. Thereafter, you only need to slide the shirt over, to iron the other half. Start at the top with the back shoulder area and slowly slide the iron downwards. If the garment has a centre box pleat, iron around it.
  • Lastly, iron the sleeves. The key to ironing the sleeves is to smooth the fabric flat before you apply the iron. Take a sleeve by the seam and lay it flat on the ironing board. Once you have formed a single crease line, start ironing at the top where the sleeve is sewn onto the shirt. Slowly, move downwards to the cuff. Turn the sleeve over and iron. Repeat this for the other sleeve. If you would prefer your shirt sleeve without a crease, insert a rolled-up towel into the sleeve. This way, you can iron the sleeve without leaving a crease mark.
  • Inspect the shirt and spot iron it as necessary. Place the shirt on a hanger in your wardrobe.

Insider Secrets for Ironing Success

Here's some little known tips and tricks of the trade to make ironing a breeze:

  • Use lower settings on the iron if you're unsure about the shirt's fibre. You can always increase the temperature setting, but you cannot reverse damage to fabric.
  • Never iron a dirty shirt because you will set the stains, which makes it more difficult to remove them.

Cleaning Your Iron for Better Performance

Using tap water in your iron eventually leads to a build-up of mineral deposits. You will notice this when your steam output slows down. Cleaning the iron regularly prevents this. Here's the method:

  • Pour a solution of 1-part water and 1-part white vinegar into the water reservoir.
  • Heat the iron and let it steam for a few minutes.
  • Unplug it and place it soleplate down on a heat resistant dish to drain.
  • If steam output is not optimal, repeat this process with water only in the reservoir.
  • Finally, rinse and refill with bottled drinking water or non-hard tap water.

Quick Ironing Tips

Iron your shirts in batches. More time is spent on preparing the clothes and the iron than in ironing the shirts.

Start with garments that need the lowest temperature before ironing cotton or linen garments that need high temperatures. It takes an iron longer to cool down than to heat up, hence it makes sense to iron the garments needing lowest temperatures first.

If you use a clothes dryer, pull shirts out before they are completely dry or hang them straight from the washing machine and let them air dry somewhat before ironing. This reduces the need for moisture or steam when ironing and makes your garments last longer.


For those emergency situations when you do not have time to iron, pop your shirt in the dryer along with a moist (not wet) wash cloth or hand towel. Amazingly, five minutes of dryer heat combined with the moisture from the towel will smooth out the wrinkles and refresh the garment.

If you are going to pack your shirts for a week's travel, iron them after you arrive rather than before packing them.

If you are using a questionable iron that might leave marks, turn the shirt inside out and only iron the inside portions. The difference is negligible and any marks will not be visible.

If you fear the ironing board cover or pad may leave marks on your shirts or you can feel the metal underneath, cover the top of the ironing board with a cotton towel.

Choose an iron with an auto-shutoff to avoid the risk of fire.

Use the iron at its highest setting to produce steam. Any other setting could cause the iron to drip.

Always empty the water from the iron while the iron is hot. This reduces the moisture in the water compartment.

More information about men's business shirts and tailor made suits is available at our website or you can pop by our Sydney showroom and look for yourself at the various options.

Original idea for article from Antonio Centeno, author of the internet's most actionable men's style guide. We recommend a read!

Image Credits © Katarzyna Bialasiewicz | Dreamstime.com © Braniffman | Dreamstime.com © Andrey Popov | Dreamstime.com


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