Americans re-discovering ironing to cut expenses

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The National Dry-cleaning Association reports a 20 percent decline in business since last September, likely due to the fact that Americans are breaking out their ironing boards in full force, taking a do-it-yourself attitude toward getting the wrinkles out.

But getting that crisp, dry-cleaned look may seem daunting to many of us. While mom made it look easy in the good old days, whipping out a perfectly pressed shirt with beautiful creases in under a few minutes, the fact is it's not something that comes as instinctive as we might like. There are rules about temperature settings, tips on techniques and other directions, and knowing all of them could be the difference between looking sharp and having the charred silhouette of an iron on the back of your shirt.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is setting the iron to the wrong temperature level. If the fabric is a blend, the temperature should be set on the lowest levels, and if need be, you should use the lowest temperature first and test it on an inside seam. When ironing several items, sort them by temperature, ironing the garments that need the lowest setting first. (Irons heat up faster than they cool down, and if you do need to go from a high to low setting, wait five minutes for the iron to reach the lower temperature.)

To make your garments look like they've just come from the dry-cleaners, experts offer these ironing tips:

*Before you iron. If possible, take clothes out of the dryer slightly damp. Ironing this way is easier on the wrist and provides crisper results

*Collar. Start out with the underside of the collar, gently pulling and stretching the fabric, working from each point to the center.

*Yoke. (The area of the shirt that rests on your shoulders.) Place one shoulder over the narrow end of the board, ironing from the center out. Repeat on the other shoulder.

*Cuffs. Iron the inside of the cuffs first then the outside.

*Sleeves. Iron one sleeve at a time, ironing the outside, or the cuff-opening side, of the sleeves first, and then the inside. Repeat on the other side.

*Body. Begin by ironing the front panels; be careful and iron around the buttons, not over them. Complete by ironing the back panel. Give the collar another once over, check for any creases and wrinkles you may have missed.

And don't forget to unplug the iron after the work is done.