How to Iron a Shirt
You'll never iron without a terry cloth towel again.
Just like most laundry-related chores, ironing can be a finicky business. How hot should the iron be? Does a steamer work as well as a traditional iron? How quickly do you have to move in order to avoid scorching the fabric? It's enough to scare you away from the task altogether. Don't be afraid of pressing your favorite shirts at home, though—with the help of Martha's tried-and-true technique, plus some tips from Luxi Jin, the CEO of the contemporary women's clothing brand Lucy Paris, you can iron a shirt to perfection, no dry cleaner needed.
Martha's cardinal rule is to start with a well-laundered and damp shirt. It'll make the chore of pressing out any stubborn wrinkles a whole lot easier. Another key step: spreading a terry cloth towel over your ironing board. The padding helps avoid additional creasing. Jin says to iron almost all fabrics from the inside out, but if you absolutely have to iron from the outside, cover the buttons with the towel to prevent them from melting.
Starting with the sleeves, work from the cuffs to the armhole seam and make quick strokes with your iron, applying steady pressure as you go. Remember that it's important to work quickly so you don't burn the fabric. Repeat with the other cuff and sleeve. If the shirt has a yoke (a panel of fabric across the upper back), push the iron horizontally, moving parallel to the stitching. The rest of the back can be ironed in a vertical direction from the yoke to the bottom of the shirt. Then, iron the inside of the front tab of the shirt. Don't forget to iron the pocket from the inside, too. Repeat everything on the other side.
The last step is to iron the collar. Start on the underside first. Dampen it with a bit of laundry sizing and press across with your iron. (Martha doesn't use laundry starch but she does use sizing, which helps achieve a perfect press without the stiffness of starch). Turn it over and iron across the other side. Lastly, fold the collar neatly down and iron across the stitching. If, at any point, you have trouble with a wrinkle, hit it with a burst of moisture from the steam function or your spritzing bottle. Again, water is your best friend when you're working on getting that perfect finish. Once you are done, place the shirt on a hanger, buttoning only the top button to keep it in place.
Jin recommends cleaning your iron every few months to prevent it from transferring any rust or minerals onto your clothing. Mix two tablespoons of baking soda into a tablespoon of water, and apply the mixture to the iron. Wipe it off with a damp cloth, then clean the vents with a wet cotton swab. If that doesn't do the trick, fill the steam reservoir with distilled water, release a large amount of steam, and pass it across a dry towel. This will help to dissolve and pull out any clogs in the vents.