Don’t ruin your clothes.

By Alicia Brunker
Updated December 28, 2017
Woman Ironing
Credit: Maskot/Getty Images

Whether you're in a pinch for time or want to save some cash, skipping the dry cleaners in favor of pressing your wrinkled garments at home can be a liberating experience—if you know what you're doing. While it may seem easy enough to lay your clothes flat on a board and crank up the iron's heat setting, there is a lot more to consider than what initially meets the eye.

As Gwen Whiting and Lindsey J. Boyd, co-founders of eco-friendly fabric cleaning retailer The Laundress, point out, not all garments are created equal, which means you must read the care label before the wrinkle-zapping can begin. If not, you may lose that lucky pair of trousers. "Not reading the care label carefully can result in ironing fabrics that are not meant to be pressed, causing irreparable heat damage, such as melting, scorching, or burning," they warn.

When reading the fine print, determine if the item is made from natural (cotton, silk, linen) or synthetic materials. The latter should be carefully steamed with a steam iron rather than pressed. "We have seen a synthetic item literally melt right under the iron," exclaim Whiting and Boyd.

A few supplies to keep handy, include a spray bottle filled with water to dampen dry fabrics, as well as starch, which will add structure. "Moisture helps smooth out stubborn wrinkles," Whiting and Boyd explain. "On the other hand, starch is key to achieving a crisp finish, especially with cotton dress shirts, sheets, and table linens."