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How to Iron and Steam Your Clothes the Right Way

Tips and tricks to getting your clothes wrinkle-free.

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Clothes can get wrinkled easily whether straight from the laundry, cramped in a drawer or fished out of a pile sitting on your chair. You could certainly go out into the world with a rumpled shirt and you’d not be faulted for it, but if you’d rather keep some measure of order in your wardrobe, you can get it done with either an iron or a clothes steamer.

It’s easy enough to use either, so we’re going to walk you through each.

How to Iron Your Clothes

An iron is helpful for a number of situations, especially for dress shirts and pants where you need to press pleats and creases. Compared to a steamer, irons allow for more control and precision. You’ll also want to use an iron over a steamer for heavier fabrics like denim or thick canvas, too.

There are some downsides, however. Irons take up more space since you need an ironing board. And because an iron has direct contact with the garment, you run the risk of scorching your favorite shirt just before an important meeting. That said, you can achieve a crisp garment with the proper technique.

Tools

Iron: Obviously, you’ll need the right tool for the job. Irons with more holes are more effective at distributing steam. Many irons today will include adjustable heat settings with helpful guides for each fabric. Heavier irons are also better at smoothing out the wrinkles since they require less pressure from you to smooth out the wrinkles.

1200 Watt Mid-size Anti-Drip Non-Stick Soleplate Iron by Sunbeam $25 $17

Professional Grade 1700W Steam Iron for Clothes by PurSteam $30

Everlast DW7180 Anti-Calc Steam Iron by Rowenta $100

Ironing Board: Though compact — tabletop ironing boards are convenient — you actually sacrifice the space you need to maneuver around the garment. Old-fashioned standup ironing boards allow the clothes to hang away from you, rather than draping onto a tabletop. We like ironing boards with iron trays since they’ll keep the board from being scorched.

Tabletop Ironing Board by Honey Can Do$23

Ironing Board w/ Steam Iron Rest by Brabantia $108

Spray Bottle: It’s easier to get out the wrinkles with clothes that are a bit damp. And, you can use it to mist your plants or spray misbehaving cats, too.

Empty Amber Glass Spray Bottles by Sally’s Organics $20 (two-pack)

Instructions

Step 1: Set Up Find a spot near an outlet and with enough space to navigate easily. Try to avoid plugging in your iron in a high-traffic area to reduce the risk of an accidental wire trip.

Step 2: Prep your tools Make sure that both the iron and the ironing board are clean, void of any dirt and starch. These can potentially stain your clothes as you iron them. If you’re ironing multiple clothes, organize them according to the recommended heat setting on the label, from coolest to hottest. It’s faster for an iron to heat up than it is to cool down, so ironing your clothes from coolest to hottest will save you time. Plus, you’re less likely to burn your clothes if you start cooler.

Step 3: Prep your clothes The easiest time to iron your clothes is right after you launder them. You want to iron clothes that are clean so that you don’t bake in existing stains, and a freshly laundered garment has fewer wrinkles to iron out.

Step 4: Lay your garment Lay your garment on the ironing board length-wise and with the wrong side of the fabric facing up. Ironing tends to give fabrics a sheen which is generally undesirable, which is why ironing is better done on the wrong side of the fabric. It also helps keep the texture of certain fabrics like corduroy.

Step 5: Smooth out the garment With your hands, smooth the fabric flat to get rid of any ripples before you place the iron on the garment. This way, you avoid accidentally ironing over a ripple and putting in a crease.

Step 6: Spray your garment It’s easier to iron clothes that are slightly damp because the water molecules penetrate the cloth’s fibers and soften them as the water vaporizes. Using a spray bottle, you can mist your clothes to ease the process. Be sure not to drench your clothes, otherwise, you’ll be spending more time drying them than ironing out wrinkles.

Step 7: Press As you press, keep the iron moving and don’t linger in any one area for too long, to avoid scorching the fabric. Do not iron directly over any buttons or zippers. Instead, iron them on the wrong side of the fabric. For button-up shirts, unbutton the placket, cuffs and collar to more easily press them flat. For trousers with a center crease, make sure you line up the center carefully. It’s helpful to place the trousers on its side, with the inseam and outseam lined up directly on top of each other. In between garments, make sure your iron sits upright. Never leave your iron sitting face down while it’s turned on.

Step 8: Hang Once you’re done, place the garment on a proper hanger immediately. If you plan on wearing the garment right away, try to let it hang for about 10 minutes or so. It’s still a bit moist right after ironing, and is still more prone to wrinkling, so it’s best to let it settle, if you have the time.

Step 9: Pack Up Let the iron fully cool before storing it away. If your ironing board has starch or somehow becomes soiled in the process, take off the protective cover and launder it before your next ironing session.

How to Steam Your Clothes

Steamers are extremely versatile and are the preferred tool for retail workers and stylists. Steamers work by boiling water in a tank which directs the steam through a steam head. The steam is dispersed through the fibers of the clothes, loosening them and ridding the fabric of wrinkles.

Though steamers are generally much bulkier than conventional irons, they actually take up less space since there’s no need for an ironing board, nor a spray bottle and starch. Steamers are also safer for clothes since there’s no direct contact, so you’re much less likely to damage your clothes. However, if you need to set creases or pleats, a steamer isn’t the best tool.

Tools

Steamer: Handheld steamers are great for their small footprint, but cumbersome if you need to steam a handful of clothes. Steamers with separate tanks and an integrated pole for hanging the clothes makes the process so much easier. Plus, the larger water tank means you won’t have to refill as often.

Steamer for Clothes with Pump Steam Technology by Beautural $40 $35

Garment Steamer by PurSteam $83 $65

Vivio Professional Garment Steamer by Reliable $219

Hanger: Some steamers come with their own valets, but others do not and you shouldn’t just hang your clothes on a hook, or the pole of the steamer.

Wood Suit Hangers with Clip by Bed Bath & Beyond $8 (four-pack)

Instructions

Step 1: Make sure your clothes are clean Like ironing your clothes, steaming out your clothes only to find they’re splotched with French’s kinda negates the whole thing. You won’t necessarily bake in any stains like you would with an iron, but it’s annoying nonetheless.

Step 2: Hang your clothes Steaming requires your clothes to be hung and works with the help of gravity. If your clothes steamer comes with its own valet, adjust it to the appropriate height.

Step 3: Prep your steamer Fill the tank with water and secure it to the steamer. Be careful not to overfill the tank, too. Turn on the steamer and wait until steam is emitted through the head, or if your steamer has a trigger, pull the trigger to emit the steam. Once the steamer has come up to a boil and is steaming, it’s advantageous to let the steamer run for few moments. Oftentimes, steamers will begin their vape session by sputtering large drops of water and it’s better to get those out of the way instead of onto your clothes.

Step 4: Steam Because steam rises, it’s helpful to run the steam head from underneath the fabric, pulling it taut as you go. Steam the garment from top to bottom and in sections. Heavier fabrics will take more time than lighter fabrics.

Step 5: Let the garment rest Once you’ve steamed the garment of all its wrinkles, it’s important to let it hang before wearing. Not only is the garment hot (especially the buttons and zippers), but it’s also damp from all the vapor it’s just experienced. Leave it hanging so it can cool off and dry.

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