Growing up, I spent hours watching my grandmother, a slave to the iron. She would iron my father’s business shirts between other household tasks and even found the time to iron my school uniforms. Looking back today I realize that she not only took pride in how we looked, but she simply loved the task for many different reasons. Perhaps it was the joy of doing this as well or better than most dry-cleaners, or just that we appreciated it and could feel the love that went into her caring about the clothing we wore. Now that I’m all grown up and have a home of my own, I am reminded of my grandmother’s love of ironing and honor her memory with every stroke.

I kept my ironing ability a secret from my friends for many years. Yes, I was a closet ironer. I had to come out! One day my neighbor appeared at my door ready to travel in a poorly ironed white blouse. I heard my grandmother’s voice inside my head; you can’t go out in that shirt. It’s not ironed. It looks terrible!

Because real friends can tell each other the truth without repercussions, I told my friend how awful it looked but that I would be happy to iron it for her. I knew I was giving away my secret but that day I came clean. I pressed the hell out of that shirt as if my life depended on it. My secret was out! I can iron and darn well at that! Once I was busted, however, that was it. She now asks me to iron all her complicated items. But I don’t mind. I have a sweet deal. She cooks endless amounts of food for me with a moments notice, and I iron for her with that same dedication and devotion. It’s a perfect exchange.

Most people have a love/hate relationship with this chore. It takes time and energy, neither of which are in abundance in today’s busy families. Even with the wrinkle-free fabrics that are now available, ironing will never disappear. You might delay the chore, but eventually the pile will win. So if you want your clothes to have a finished look but don’t have the ironing skills or the time, follow these basic ironing tips. You’ll gain confidence in your ironing ability and your appearance. And remember, nothing says confidence like a crisply ironed shirt.

The Shirt:

Ironing always begins in the washer and dryer. Your washer and dryer can work to eliminate wrinkles before you even plug in the iron. Refer to garment labels for specific washing care and drying instructions. Start with an extra-wide ironing board for that professional look. Although this might be more expensive, it will last you a lifetime. For shirts and pants, the first step is to fill the iron with water before plugging in. This works best if you will be using the steam setting on cottons or linens. I absolutely love the Rowenta iron – this is the iron of choice with all my friends and because it’s a Rowenta iron it does not require distilled water. The weight is perfect and it provides the best results. Buy one today! Set your iron to the required set temperature, taking into account the fabric of the article you are ironing. Linen and 10 percent cotton take a high setting; wools and cotton blends call for medium heat; polyester, rayon, silk, acetate and acrylic all require a low heat setting. To know whether the iron is hot enough, fleck some water onto its metal surface. If it sizzles, test your iron on a small area to make sure you don’t have the setting too high – this will damage and or discolor the fabric. Not a good thing.

Prior to beginning, if the article of clothing is extremely creased, spray some distilled water from a water bottle onto the fabric. If you are ironing a shirt, use spray starch for that fresh “just back from the dry-cleaners” look. Otherwise, you should iron articles once completely dry. I like to iron the back of the shirt first, and then the front, hanging the shirt over the board to extend one front panel of the shirt flat, keeping the collar at the narrower end of the board. Iron from shoulder to shirttail. Rotate the shirt over the board so you iron the front next, working your way around each button. Take your time!

Iron the sleeves after smoothing them flat to avoid creases. Do the backs of the sleeves first, working your way around to the front next. Do not iron over the edges of your sleeve, keep away and continue to rotate the sleeve, avoiding the edge. This will guarantee that you don’t have creases on the sleeve.

Lastly, iron the back collar first, then the front, taking care to iron in the edges a little at a time to avoid any unnecessary creases. Finish with opening the cuffs fully. Iron inside first, then outside.

The pants:

Although you might not think so, all pants, aside from jeans, require ironing. Lay pants lengthwise along the ironing board with both legs together and line up any preexisting creases. Take the hem of the top pant leg and bring toward the waist, folding the top leg away from the bottom leg. Iron the inside seem (hem to crotch) of the lower leg. Turn your pants over and repeat for the other leg. Once finished smooth out both legs and iron the outside leg giving extra attention to the existing crease. Repeat for the other leg.

Linens and things: 

I have been known to listen to music, and even enjoy a MARtini while ironing my linen napkins. For me this passes the time and makes it more enjoyable. Whether cocktail or dinner napkins they’re easy and simple to do. In my home I almost never use paper napkins and encourage my guests to use the cotton or linen napkins. I wash them and place them in the dryer and remove them just before they completely dry. I will stack them so they will be waiting for me to iron.

Some things to keep in mind: 

An iron and an ironing board are an investment in your wardrobe– don’t cheap out. Never iron something that’s stained, as ironing an article that has not been washed first could make the stain more permanent.

Hang ironed items immediately to avoid wrinkling.

Avoid ironing when small children are near, and never ever leave a hot iron unattended.

Use a clean mustard squeeze bottle to fill your steam iron with water. This is an easy way to not spill the water.

Store your clothing properly by hanging and folding your clothes. Yes, this is what our mothers have been telling us for years. You should always put away clothing as soon as you take it off.

We’re all pretty busy these days, between work, our social calendars and all those errands we have to run. This might explain why dry-cleaners are so popular! I’m no exception to that, but I can iron my shirts or pants and anything else in a pinch. I enjoy the process and have had many great times ironing a recently dry-cleaned shirt that I wore for only a couple of hours. So I leave you with this “Ò ironing can be fun if you choose to find the time to enjoy it. I learned from the best and for that I’m truly grateful. My question to you is: Now that I have taught you “Ò who is teaching our next generation?

And there you have it.