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Tips and tricks for ironing your best clothes

Plus the best steam irons from Consumer Reports' tests

Published: April 20, 2015 02:15 PM

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Rowenta Steamforce DW9280

With such special occasions as proms, graduations, and weddings coming up, it’s a good time for a refresher course on ironing. Your clothes will come out smoother if they’re ironed when damp, so if possible remove them from the dryer before they are fully dry. Alternatively, use the spray on your steam iron or use it as a vertical steamer as you go. The best irons in Consumer Reports’ tests have a prodigious steaming rate that’ll speed this job along.

Shirts and jackets

1. Start at the point of the collar, working toward the middle.
2. Next, iron the yoke by arranging one shoulder over the narrow end of the ironing board, then repeat the same process for the opposite shoulder.
3. Do the sleeves next, working down from the underarm. A sleeve board is a big help with ironing; you can find them at housewares stores like Bed Bath & Beyond or Target. Then open the cuffs and iron them flat.
4. Iron the back of the shirt next, slipping it over the wide end of the ironing board and shifting it as needed.
5. Iron the two halves of the front. Or if the shirt doesn’t open, slip it over the ironing board.

Pants

1. If the pants have cuffs, unfold them and brush out any loose soil.
2. Turn the waistband inside out and pull out pockets to iron them flat.
3. Iron the zipper placket.
4. On the right side, iron the waistband and the rest of the top. Repeat on the left side of the garment.
5. Put leg seams together in the middle and fold pants the long way. Lay them flat on the board, then fold back the top leg. Iron inside of the lower leg, then turn and iron the outside. Repeat with other leg.
6. Iron the two legs together (all four thicknesses at once).

Skirts

Iron from hem to waist in long strokes, but press (lift and lower) when you reach the gathers. Pleated skirts Arrange pleats on the ironing board and hold them or pin them in place. Iron from top to bottom, but not directly over the pins.

Dresses

1. Start with the lining.
2. Continue to the top of the dress as if you were ironing a blouse. A dress that doesn’t open should be pulled over the end of a board; iron both sides.
3. Lift and press underneath any collar; then press the collar itself.

Delicate fabrics

Lace, silk, and wool. Press inside out. If that’s not possible, use a dry pressing cloth. Lower and lift the iron; don’t slide it back and forth. Prevent imprinting inside detail by placing a piece of brown paper or tissue paper under folds, seams, or darts.
Sequined, beaded, or metallic fabric. Place it face down on a soft surface—such as a thick towel or two—and press on low.
Velvet. To restore the nap. hold the steam iron about an inch or two above the fabric and slowly move it around. Or hold the garment over a steaming kettle. Hang it in the bathroom and run a hot shower. Or use a fabric steamer—an appliance sold for this purpose.

Best steam irons from our tests

Rowenta Steamforce DW9280, $140
Panasonic NI-W950A, $100
Kenmore 80598, $75
T-Fal FV4495 Ultraglide, $45, CR Best Buy
Singer Expert Finish EF, $60
Rowenta Effective Comfort DW2070, $50, CR Best Buy

More choices. For more models including ironing systems, see our full steam iron Ratings and recommendations.

—Adapted from "How to clean (practically) anything" by Consumer Reports

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