How To Iron A Shirt

Dress to impress by knowing how to iron a shirt, with and without heat.

You have one chance to make a first impression. You can get a good haircut, spritz a lovely aftershave, and have the trendiest outfit. But if you don’t know how to iron a shirt, it says that you don’t know how to present yourself.

With these fool-proof tips on ironing a shirt, you will come across sophisticated and put together. So, whether you’re going on a first date, going for a job interview, or just hanging out with friends, take a few minutes to iron your shirt properly.

How to Iron a Shirt Easily

  1. Use a steam iron.
  2. Read the shirt’s label to know which setting to use.
  3. Spray the shirt with water.
  4. Lie flat on ironing board.

What Order to Iron a Shirt:

  1. The back of the collar.
  2. The cuffs.
  3. The sleeves.
  4. The back.
  5. The shoulders.
  6. The front and placket.
  7. The front of the collar.

The Benefits of Ironing Your Shirt

The best part about ironing is watching TV in the background. But there are other benefits as well.

  • Your shirt looks better: Since first impressions are everything, the appearance of your shirt comes as the first benefit. Smoothing out the wrinkles gives your shirt a fresh, clean, and unworn look.
  • You kill germs: Ironing is an important step to doing laundry because it kills germs. The heat from the iron can kill bacteria, specifically fungi and thermophilic bacteria.
  • Battle shrinkage: Have you ever taken your shirt out of the dryer to find it is half the size it used to be? Ironing won’t bring it back to the way it was, but it will help. Even if you don’t think a shirt has shrunk, ironing it can battle the shrinkage you can’t see.
  • You save money: Ultimately, ironing saves you money. One, because you have to replace your clothes less often. Two, because you don’t need to take it to a professional.

What You Need

To properly iron your shirts, this is what you’ll need:

An Iron

The best iron to buy is a steam iron. They are easier to use and more effective. Do your research before buying an iron to make sure it’s right for the type of shirts you usually wear.

Once you have your iron, make sure that it’s clean. The last thing you need is to steam dirt into your lovely white shirt.

If it isn’t clean, mix together ¾ cup of distilled water and ¼ cup distilled white vinegar. Put it into the reservoir and steam iron a clean cloth to wash out your iron.

An Ironing Board

It’s important to invest in an ironing board. I’ve seen my husband iron straight onto our kitchen counters, which is never a pretty sight for my eyes, or the back of his white shirt. We have multiple ironing boards, so I’m not sure what his aim is, but don’t follow in his footsteps!

Make sure to get an ironing board with lots of padding so it lasts for a long time.

A Clean Shirt

If you iron a shirt that’s dirty or sporting stains, you could set the stains, so make sure you have a clean shirt.

To prevent as many wrinkles as possible, take it out of the tumble dryer as soon as the cycle has finished.


You will need to fill the iron with water. If you have access to distilled water, a lot of irons will recommend mixing a solution of one part water and one part distilled water. Check what your specific iron says before adding the water.

How To Iron A Shirt

We’ll take you through the steps so you become an expert in ironing shirts. Once you get the hang of it, it only takes a couple of minutes to do this step.

Using The Iron

Before you turn the iron on, you need to check your shirt’s label instructions. Each shirt will have different requirements when it comes to washing, drying, and ironing. Make sure you check this to take the best care of your clothes.

Iron symbols

You’ll notice symbols on the label. This is what they mean:

  • One dot: Steam ironing may be a risk. Iron at a cool setting instead.
  • Two dots: Use iron on a warm setting.
  • Three dots: Use iron on a hot setting.
  • Cross through iron symbol: Do not iron.

Different materials have various requirements, so always check before doing something you’ll regret.

Ironing A Cotton Shirt

Iron a cotton shirt while the shirt is still slightly damp. If it’s already dry, spritz it with some water first. Use high heat when ironing a cotton shirt, to smooth out the wrinkles.

Make sure you iron lengthwise and not in circular motions.

For thin shirts, you might only need to iron one side of the shirt. If the fabric is thicker, iron both sides.

Ironing A Cotton Blend Shirt

Use low heat and steam for a cotton blend shirt. Turn the shirt inside out and place a press cloth between the iron and the fabric to avoid iron marks and shine.

Ironing Polyester Shirts

Polyester is heat-sensitive, so it’s important to use low heat (1). To safely iron a polyester shirt, use a press cloth or handkerchief to avoid direct contact between the iron and shirt.

Start at the top of the shirt and work your way down. If you slightly dampen the shirt, it’s easier to smooth out any wrinkles.

Ironing Linen Shirts

Iron linen shirts inside out. Get out your handy press cloth or handkerchief again to prevent iron marks and shine. Iron linen shirts while they’re still damp, or spritz with water beforehand.

Now that you understand the techniques for different fabrics, it’s time to break it down step by step.

1. Spray The Shirt

Spraying shirt before ironing

We’ve already mentioned the importance of ironing clothes while they’re still damp, but make sure to spray them first. If they’re already a bit damp from their wash, skip this step. It’s easier to iron out creases if the fabric is damp.

2. Undo All Buttons

Iron on shirt with buttons undone

Undo all the buttons on the shirt, including the cuffs.

3. Back Of The Collar

Ironing the collar on a shirt

The first place to iron is the back of the collar. Open it flat and start at the edges.

Work your way into the middle. Iron both sides. When finished, turn the collar and run the iron over it once more to smooth out any more wrinkles.

4. The Cuffs

Ironing the cuffs of a shirt

Open the cuffs flat and as you did with the collar, work from the outside in. Repeat on the other side.

Be careful around the buttons. They don’t need ironing, obviously.

5. The Sleeves

Ironing the sleeves of a shirt

Lie out the sleeves and smooth with your hand before ironing. Start with the tip of the iron at the cuffs and work backwards up to the shoulders. Repeat on both sides of both sleeves.

6. The Back

Ironing the back of a shirt

If your shirt has any pleats, you need to be extra careful with this step. Work your way under the pleats before ironing over them. Iron the rest of the back of the shirt.

You’ll need to move the shirt around the ironing board to cover every inch. If you have stubborn creases, spritz with water. Some irons have a spritz setting built into them.

7. The Yoke

Ironing the yoke of a shirt

The yoke is the back and shoulder part of your shirts. Start from one shoulder and iron towards the middle. Turn the shirt around and repeat on the other shoulder.

8. The Front And Placket

Ironing the front of a shirt

You’re probably learning a lot of new words today. Yoke and now placket? The placket is the part where the buttons and buttonholes are.

Again, be gentle around those buttons. We don’t want them popping off.

The placket is an important part of the shirt, so it’s necessary to iron it so it looks crisp and fresh. Iron the placket first, pinching and pulling the bottom of the shirt to make your job easier.

Iron the rest of the front as you have been, lengthways and not in circular motions.

Pro Tip

If you have a front pocket, iron from the outside moving into the middle.

9. The Front Of The Collar

Ironing the front of a collar of a shirt

The back of the collar is smooth, but it’s time to iron the front. Use the same technique as you did for the back of the collar, working from the edges into the middle.

Why Do Shirts Wrinkle After Ironing?

You might notice you iron a shirt, but it still wrinkles. The main tip to prevent this annoying problem is to hang up your shirts immediately after ironing.

If your shirt was slightly damp before you started ironing, it still needs time to finish drying. Hang it up so it stays wrinkle-free while it finishes drying.

How To Iron A Shirt Without Heat?

If your shirt’s label has one dot, you can use the cool setting to iron your clothes.

However, if it says not to iron at all, how in the world are you supposed to get those wrinkles out now?

Well, there are many ways to smooth out a shirt without an iron.

  • Tumble dry: If the shirt can tumble dry, spritz it slightly and toss it in the dryer on a low or medium heat for 15 or 20 minutes. This should remove stubborn wrinkles!
  • Distilled white vinegar: Mix together one part vinegar and three parts water. Spray lightly on the wrinkled shirt and let it air dry.
  • Use the shower: Hang your shirt up in the bathroom, turn the shower on hot, and close the door — the steam will smooth out the wrinkles. Let the shirt hang for ten minutes. This method won’t work as well as an iron, but it’s a good way to remove wrinkles without direct heat.
  • Blow dry: Use a hairdryer to iron a shirt. Hold it a few inches away from your shirt and blow hot air onto the fabric.
  • Press your clothes with your mattress: First, lay your shirt on a flat surface and smooth wrinkles out by hand. Roll the shirt tightly up, like a burrito. Then put it underneath your mattress for half an hour to press the shirt and get rid of wrinkles.

Is Steaming Better Than Ironing?

Steaming is easier than ironing, but it doesn’t work into the nooks and crannies like ironing does. If you’re in a hurry, you could opt for steaming, but if you’re dressing to impress, iron your shirt.

However, steaming is a good option if you can’t iron the shirt. It’s unlikely to damage your shirt, so it’s a good choice if your shirt’s label says not to iron. Steaming also works on items you can’t iron such as curtains, mattresses, pillows, carpets, and more.

Both an iron and a steamer are good purchases, but they are best used for different purposes.

Pro Tips for Ironing Your Shirt

  • Straighten your ironing board: There’s nothing worse than ironing creases into your shirt because your ironing board is uneven. Get the board straight and your shirt flat before ironing.
  • Iron shirts while they’re damp: You can skip drying your clothes completely. Take them straight from the washing machine to the ironing board. You’ll get a crisp look with this tip if you hang it up while it finishes drying to avoid further creases.
  • Save time with tinfoil: You can put a piece of tinfoil under your shirt to save time. The heat will reflect off the tinfoil and essentially iron both sides at once.
  • Check for stains: Before you iron, check for stains. The heat from your iron can permanently set a stain, therefore ruining your shirt.
  • Lint roll clothes: Before ironing, lint roll your shirt so you don’t press dust or lint into the fabric with the iron.
  • Iron inside out: When possible, always iron a shirt inside out. If you do end up with a scorch mark, it’s better on the inside of the shirt than on the outside where everyone can see it. Ironing inside out is especially important for dark-colored clothes because it prevents iron shine marks on the front of your shirt.
  • Spray starch: For the most professional finish, use small amounts of starch spray. Do this occasionally and only on the collars and cuffs. Starch stiffens fibers, making the shirt less flexible which can damage the shirt over time (2).
  • Take care of your iron: When you purchase an iron, you’re doing it to save money instead of taking your shirts to the dry-cleaners. Continue saving money by taking care of your iron. Always empty leftover water from the reservoir to avoid scale to build up.
  • Keep your iron clean: As well as avoiding scale build-up, it’s important to keep your iron clean so you don’t ruin your shirts. Run a damp cloth over the iron to remove any residue before using it. Rub a beeswax candle over the plate and rub it off to clean the iron thoroughly.
  • Iron in batches: It’s tempting to iron on the basis of when you wear the shirt, but you’ll save time by ironing in batches. Plus, you’ll get into the swing of it so that you all your shirts look uniform. Make sure you hang them up immediately after ironing to prevent more wrinkles.

Dress To Impress

Now that you know how to iron a shirt, you can always dress to impress. Once you get the hang of ironing shirts, you’ll be able to smooth out the most stubborn of wrinkles in only a couple of minutes.

Until you get used to the process, you may want to print out these tips and keep them with your ironing board so you have pristine shirts every time.

Headshot of Beth McCallum

About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a 20-something freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!