Getting the Wrinkles Out

On the glamour scale of personal maintenance, ironing a work shirt ranks right between flossing teeth and unloading the dishwasher. It's a task that gives a person far too much time to question the path their life is taking.

Ironing, in general, has gotten easier over the years with the invention of drip-dry clothes and steam irons and neighborhood dry cleaners that will do the work for you.

In a brief spate of fashion sensibility in the late 1970s, wrinkles were actually incorporated into garments to give them a rumpled "let the creases fall where they may" look. But, because looking crisp and band-box fresh has never gone completely out of vogue, ironing will always remain a necessary evil.

For all the people who have to iron their shirts or the shirts of loved ones, there are ways of performing the chore efficiently and in a relatively painless manner. With a little practice, ironing a shirt can become as natural as sewing on a button. You will know you have arrived when you are ready to tackle an accordion-pleated skirt.

Ironing Essentials

Ironing board with heat-resistant pad

Steam iron, or dry iron with spray bottle filled with water

Spray bottle filled with starch

Iron-Friendly Fabrics

In the ironing world, 100% cotton is a life sentence. Choose shirts that are a blend of cotton and synthetic fibers. In selecting a blend, look for fabrics that contain more natural fiber than synthetic. Good choices: 70/30, 60/40 or 55/45 ratio of cotton to synthetic.

If ironing a shirt with a blend of several fibers, adjust iron to most delicate setting.

Extra Crispy

Spray starch used before ironing gives shirts a crisp, professional look. Best method: Spray starch on shirt, let soak in for a few seconds before ironing so material has time to absorb starch. Alternative: Before ironing, mist shirt with water so it's slightly damp.

Moment of Truth

Your mother has left town, the dry cleaner on the corner went out of business, you have a job interview tomorrow and you found your only clean shirt wadded up in the bottom of a dresser drawer. What to do? Follow this nine-step formula to produce a wrinkle-free shirt.

1. Turn up collar of unbuttoned shirt and lay it face up on ironing board.

2. Start with collar, ironing from points to center.

3. Iron around and behind buttonholes and buttons.

4. Turn shirt over and iron back of collar, yoke, and back of shirt.

5. Fit shoulders of shirt onto end of ironing board and iron them.

6. Iron inside and outside the cuffs.

7. For sleeves, first run iron along underseams and then iron from the tops of sleeves down into the gathers at the cuff and back up toward the shoulder.

8. Iron front right side.

9. Iron front left side.

Source: "Personal Style," by James Wagenvoord

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