Ten Tips for Ironing Shirts

Most people hate ironing, but I admit to finding a strange pleasure in it. There’s something gratifying about passing a hot iron over cloth, and seeing a wrinkled mess transform back into a smooth, familiar garment. It is, however, a chore, and like all chores, there are better and worse ways of doing things. Over the years, I’ve picked up ten practices that I think not only help speed the process, but also improve results. 

  • Dampen your shirts. Most irons are terrible at giving off steam, so before you start ironing, dampen your shirt with some water from a spray bottle (set it on mist, not stream). This will help soften up the fibers. 
  • Put damp shirts in a plastic bag. Let the water soak in and evenly distribute by rolling up your damp shirts and putting them in a plastic bag. This will also prevent the water from evaporating. I typically spray down three shirts at a time, and let them soak while I work on the others. 
  • Press down. Get the job done faster by actually pressing down on the iron. Do this to the back though, not the front, otherwise you can push in new wrinkles. 
  • Don’t crease the sleeves. Unless you’re in the military, sleeves shouldn’t be creased to the edge. So, iron right up to the edge and stop. You can also use sleeve boards. 
  • Iron the thick parts first. To avoid having to do touch-ups, iron things such as the collar, placket, and cuffs first. They’re less likely to wrinkle than the thinner, larger areas such as your shirt’s back.
  • Gently iron around buttons, snaps, and hooks. Don’t iron over them, as they can crack or melt.
  • Don’t flatten the collar. Iron your collar so that it’s flat and smooth, but don’t use your iron to actually fold it down. Instead, iron just the back of the fold, where the collar would touch the back of your neck, then use your hands to fold down the rest of the collar. 
  • Get a good ironing board. Countertop ones are small, but they don’t give you enough space to work. Foldable, four-legged ones are the business. I like ones with slightly narrower, pointy ends, so I can get to tough-to-reach places on my shirt (just under the arms can be a pain).  
  • Avoid over-ironing. Remember this bit from Seinfeld? Yes, something can be “over dry.” Iron up to the point where the last bit of moisture can evaporate after five minutes of hanging. Otherwise, you risk making the fabric shiny, brittle, or even a bit yellow with time.
  • Button everything up. If you iron in batches, button your shirts all the way up before hanging them. This will help you avoid that wavy, bacon-like placket that can result from a shirt hanging too long in your closet.   

(Video by Garra Style)

Breaking News: Waxed Cotton Jackets are Waxy
I recently ruined a brand new leather jacket, which taught me a thing or two about storage and cleaning. First, waxed cotton jackets are apparently waxy – waxy enough that you don’t want to store them uncovered and pressed up against other garments. If you do, the waxes and oils can stain other clothes. Like the sleeves above, which are connected to a lambskin leather jacket I just bought last winter, and then stupidly stored next to my Barbour Bedale. After finding the damage, I sent the jacket to RAVE FabriCARE – the best dry cleaner I know of – and asked what could be done. I learned a few things.
First, leather jackets are hard to clean. Much harder than wool sport coats. So when you’re choosing a leather jacket, think about the overall design. Something with a rugged sensibility, such as jackets from RRL or Schott, might still look fine (if not better) with a stain or two. Something from Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren Purple Label, or any of the high-end Italian brands, on the other hand, will not.
Similarly, think about the color and material. Suede is harder to clean than regular leather, and light colored materials will be harder to upkeep than anything dark. Black, of course, is the easiest to maintain.
Second, leather can react to dry cleaning in unpredictable ways. Sometimes the color can fade or bleed; sometimes the leather can lose its suppleness; sometimes the garment can shrink. Always bring your jacket to a specialist who knows what they’re doing (not someone who will just dump your jacket off at a local plant), and before dry cleaning, see if the company you’re working with can apply a topical treatment first to remove the stain. Maybe you can avoid the dry cleaning process altogether. 
Lastly, garment bags aren’t just for suits or sport coats. Waxed cotton jackets should also be bagged, particularly if you’re storing them next to other clothes. Breathable ones made from natural materials will be best – not just because waxed cotton can get a bit musty, but also because cheap synthetic materials can degrade and let off a gas that can damage clothes. RAVE FabriCARE sells some for a reasonable price of $9/ piece.
As for my jacket, RAVE applied a topical cleaner, which reduced the visibility of the staining by about 50%. We decided to save the dry cleaning for later. Meanwhile, all my waxed cotton and oilcloth jackets from now on will be bagged.   

Breaking News: Waxed Cotton Jackets are Waxy

I recently ruined a brand new leather jacket, which taught me a thing or two about storage and cleaning. First, waxed cotton jackets are apparently waxy – waxy enough that you don’t want to store them uncovered and pressed up against other garments. If you do, the waxes and oils can stain other clothes. Like the sleeves above, which are connected to a lambskin leather jacket I just bought last winter, and then stupidly stored next to my Barbour Bedale. After finding the damage, I sent the jacket to RAVE FabriCARE – the best dry cleaner I know of – and asked what could be done. I learned a few things.

First, leather jackets are hard to clean. Much harder than wool sport coats. So when you’re choosing a leather jacket, think about the overall design. Something with a rugged sensibility, such as jackets from RRL or Schott, might still look fine (if not better) with a stain or two. Something from Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren Purple Label, or any of the high-end Italian brands, on the other hand, will not.

Similarly, think about the color and material. Suede is harder to clean than regular leather, and light colored materials will be harder to upkeep than anything dark. Black, of course, is the easiest to maintain.

Second, leather can react to dry cleaning in unpredictable ways. Sometimes the color can fade or bleed; sometimes the leather can lose its suppleness; sometimes the garment can shrink. Always bring your jacket to a specialist who knows what they’re doing (not someone who will just dump your jacket off at a local plant), and before dry cleaning, see if the company you’re working with can apply a topical treatment first to remove the stain. Maybe you can avoid the dry cleaning process altogether. 

Lastly, garment bags aren’t just for suits or sport coats. Waxed cotton jackets should also be bagged, particularly if you’re storing them next to other clothes. Breathable ones made from natural materials will be best – not just because waxed cotton can get a bit musty, but also because cheap synthetic materials can degrade and let off a gas that can damage clothes. RAVE FabriCARE sells some for a reasonable price of $9/ piece.

As for my jacket, RAVE applied a topical cleaner, which reduced the visibility of the staining by about 50%. We decided to save the dry cleaning for later. Meanwhile, all my waxed cotton and oilcloth jackets from now on will be bagged.   

The Most Important Step in Storage
Every time we transition into fall or spring, I pack away the clothes I know I won’t be wearing for a while. Sweaters go into plastic bins; out-of-season shoes are moved to the back of the closet; and last season’s sport coats and outerwear are placed into garment bags and hung in a hallway closet. This not only makes room in my main closets, but it also helps protect things that won’t be worn for six months.
This only works, however, if the clothes are cleaned beforehand. The reason why we use things such as plastic bins and garment bags, of course, is because we want to protect our wools and cashmeres from moths. However, it’s not actually moths that eat our clothes; it’s their larvae. An adult moth can lay up to 200 eggs per cycle, and have a few cycles in its short lifespan. Thus, if you have a moth problem, you most likely have eggs embedded into the fibers of your clothes. If you store these clothes away with eggs in them, you might find them six months later with holes.
So, before you store anything away, I recommend doing a few things:
Dry clean anything that’s made with animal hair (wool, cashmere, camelhair, angora, etc). This is especially important if you own anything that was bought second hand. We have a useful guide on how to find a good dry cleaner, in case you don’t already have someone you rely on.
Wash any cottons or synthetic materials. Moths usually ignore these fibers, but if you’re storing stuff away, you don’t know what might have eggs.
 Vacuum the floor and shelves. This will remove any eggs and larvae that might be living in your closet. Pay particular attention to the nooks, crannies, and corners where things might be hiding.
Once you’re done cleaning and packing, you can throw a few cedar balls or satchels in with your clothes. Some argue these aren’t much of a deterrent, but they’re better than nothing. Dried lavender is also sometimes used as an alternative, but there’s not much evidence that it’s as effective as cedar. 
All of this can take a bit of time and money. I spend about a full day packing things away, and admittedly, pay a lot in dry cleaning. However, since you have to clean things anyway, you might as well do it when it counts the most. Imagine how you’d feel if you open up that garment bag six months from now and see a hole in your favorite sport coat. 
(Photo via My Messings)

The Most Important Step in Storage

Every time we transition into fall or spring, I pack away the clothes I know I won’t be wearing for a while. Sweaters go into plastic bins; out-of-season shoes are moved to the back of the closet; and last season’s sport coats and outerwear are placed into garment bags and hung in a hallway closet. This not only makes room in my main closets, but it also helps protect things that won’t be worn for six months.

This only works, however, if the clothes are cleaned beforehand. The reason why we use things such as plastic bins and garment bags, of course, is because we want to protect our wools and cashmeres from moths. However, it’s not actually moths that eat our clothes; it’s their larvae. An adult moth can lay up to 200 eggs per cycle, and have a few cycles in its short lifespan. Thus, if you have a moth problem, you most likely have eggs embedded into the fibers of your clothes. If you store these clothes away with eggs in them, you might find them six months later with holes.

So, before you store anything away, I recommend doing a few things:

  • Dry clean anything that’s made with animal hair (wool, cashmere, camelhair, angora, etc). This is especially important if you own anything that was bought second hand. We have a useful guide on how to find a good dry cleaner, in case you don’t already have someone you rely on.
  • Wash any cottons or synthetic materials. Moths usually ignore these fibers, but if you’re storing stuff away, you don’t know what might have eggs.
  •  Vacuum the floor and shelves. This will remove any eggs and larvae that might be living in your closet. Pay particular attention to the nooks, crannies, and corners where things might be hiding.
  • Once you’re done cleaning and packing, you can throw a few cedar balls or satchels in with your clothes. Some argue these aren’t much of a deterrent, but they’re better than nothing. Dried lavender is also sometimes used as an alternative, but there’s not much evidence that it’s as effective as cedar. 

All of this can take a bit of time and money. I spend about a full day packing things away, and admittedly, pay a lot in dry cleaning. However, since you have to clean things anyway, you might as well do it when it counts the most. Imagine how you’d feel if you open up that garment bag six months from now and see a hole in your favorite sport coat. 

(Photo via My Messings)

Finding a Good Dry Cleaner
With the amount of information online about clothing construction and quality, there’s surprisingly little about how to find a good dry cleaner. The quality of your cleaner, however, can really affect the life of your garments. Take your clothes to a bad operation and they can set in stains, ruin the nap on fabrics, and even take the shape out of a well-made jacket. It’s worthwhile then to figure out how to tell a good dry cleaning job from a bad one.
There are essentially two types of dry cleaning businesses. The first is known as a dry store, where the store essentially acts as a drop-off point for some remotely located central plant. For every central plant, there might be five to twenty of these “satellite” shops located throughout various neighborhoods. The second is what’s known as a package plant, where a business has their own equipment on-site, which means they actually do the dry cleaning themselves.
So how can you tell the quality of these cleaners’ work? Well, roughly speaking, a dry store is more likely to have lower quality service. Their aim typically is to control costs, increase efficiency, and turn things around as quickly as possible. If you see a really small shop with no machines besides a conveyer behind the counter, and they’re charging you $8 to clean a suit with next day service, the chances are, you’re clothes aren’t getting much consideration.
Package plants, on the other hand, tend to have better service, but you can’t assume this just because they own their own equipment. It’s useful to know a bit about the dry cleaning process so you know what things to look for and what questions to ask. For example:
Dry cleaning is good for taking out oil-based stains (such as those from lotions, salad dressings, and pizza drippings) but it can potentially set in water-based stains (such as those from juice, coffee, or even perspiration). A good dry cleaner will thus identify the types of stains you have and pre-treat them accordingly, so that damage isn’t set in through the cleaning process itself. Make sure your cleaner has a technician that does this.
Some dry cleaners also re-use their cleaning fluids, which means dirt from previous loads can be redeposited. Ask your cleaner if they use freshly purified or freshly distilled fluids with every run.
If you’re having garments pressed, you may also want to enquire if the job is done by hand or machine (though, from my experience, many places that do a machine press will still say they do it by hand). The problem with a machine press is that they’re often just blowing hot steam through a garment, which can take the shape out of a high-quality suit and ruin the seams on a low-quality jacket.
Finally, when you get your garments back, feel the fabrics. Do they feel soft, as you remember them, or a bit stiff? Many cleaners will use what’s known in the trade as sizing, which stiffens a fabric a bit so that it’s easier to press. Great for efficiency, but bad if you want to maintain the soft hand and beautiful nap on a something such as high-quality flannel wool.
Now, I’m wary of advising people to go into operations and interrogate professionals as though they know more about the business than the people running the shop. What I am advising, however, is that people learn a bit about how dry cleaning is done, just as they should learn a little about how shoes and suits are made. That way, they know what are the right questions to ask and be able to interpret answers.
For what it’s worth, the best dry cleaner I know of is RAVE FabriCARE, who is located in Arizona, but can take clothes by mail. Their prices aren’t cheap, but if you have something you really care about, or something heavily soiled, they’re certainly worth considering. Stu, who runs that operation, sat down with me last year to really explain the cleaning process, and he runs a blog where you can find much of this same information. Take the time to read through a few of his posts. They’re quite informative and can go a long way in helping you find the right cleaner for your needs. 
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Finding a Good Dry Cleaner

With the amount of information online about clothing construction and quality, there’s surprisingly little about how to find a good dry cleaner. The quality of your cleaner, however, can really affect the life of your garments. Take your clothes to a bad operation and they can set in stains, ruin the nap on fabrics, and even take the shape out of a well-made jacket. It’s worthwhile then to figure out how to tell a good dry cleaning job from a bad one.

There are essentially two types of dry cleaning businesses. The first is known as a dry store, where the store essentially acts as a drop-off point for some remotely located central plant. For every central plant, there might be five to twenty of these “satellite” shops located throughout various neighborhoods. The second is what’s known as a package plant, where a business has their own equipment on-site, which means they actually do the dry cleaning themselves.

So how can you tell the quality of these cleaners’ work? Well, roughly speaking, a dry store is more likely to have lower quality service. Their aim typically is to control costs, increase efficiency, and turn things around as quickly as possible. If you see a really small shop with no machines besides a conveyer behind the counter, and they’re charging you $8 to clean a suit with next day service, the chances are, you’re clothes aren’t getting much consideration.

Package plants, on the other hand, tend to have better service, but you can’t assume this just because they own their own equipment. It’s useful to know a bit about the dry cleaning process so you know what things to look for and what questions to ask. For example:

  • Dry cleaning is good for taking out oil-based stains (such as those from lotions, salad dressings, and pizza drippings) but it can potentially set in water-based stains (such as those from juice, coffee, or even perspiration). A good dry cleaner will thus identify the types of stains you have and pre-treat them accordingly, so that damage isn’t set in through the cleaning process itself. Make sure your cleaner has a technician that does this.
  • Some dry cleaners also re-use their cleaning fluids, which means dirt from previous loads can be redeposited. Ask your cleaner if they use freshly purified or freshly distilled fluids with every run.
  • If you’re having garments pressed, you may also want to enquire if the job is done by hand or machine (though, from my experience, many places that do a machine press will still say they do it by hand). The problem with a machine press is that they’re often just blowing hot steam through a garment, which can take the shape out of a high-quality suit and ruin the seams on a low-quality jacket.
  • Finally, when you get your garments back, feel the fabrics. Do they feel soft, as you remember them, or a bit stiff? Many cleaners will use what’s known in the trade as sizing, which stiffens a fabric a bit so that it’s easier to press. Great for efficiency, but bad if you want to maintain the soft hand and beautiful nap on a something such as high-quality flannel wool.

Now, I’m wary of advising people to go into operations and interrogate professionals as though they know more about the business than the people running the shop. What I am advising, however, is that people learn a bit about how dry cleaning is done, just as they should learn a little about how shoes and suits are made. That way, they know what are the right questions to ask and be able to interpret answers.

For what it’s worth, the best dry cleaner I know of is RAVE FabriCARE, who is located in Arizona, but can take clothes by mail. Their prices aren’t cheap, but if you have something you really care about, or something heavily soiled, they’re certainly worth considering. Stu, who runs that operation, sat down with me last year to really explain the cleaning process, and he runs a blog where you can find much of this same information. Take the time to read through a few of his posts. They’re quite informative and can go a long way in helping you find the right cleaner for your needs. 

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Dealing with Stains
Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow and you, or someone you know, will likely spill something on their best clothes, I thought I’d cover how to deal with stains.
First, note that I’m not a textile or cleaning expert. The best cleaner I know of in the United States is RAVE FabriCARE. They cleaned Jesse’s suit after he poured Lifeway Kefir all over it, and did an excellent job. Last year, just around this time, they published a post on how to deal with Thanksgiving stains. Their advice? Don’t listen to people around you. They’re likely just rehashing things that are a mixture of folklore, old wives tales, and hazy memories about something they heard a few years back. Instead, just gently blot the spill or splatter with a cotton towel or napkin. Don’t rub; don’t scrub; just blot. Then leave it alone and bring it to a quality cleaner. They don’t say who, but I’ll say it for them: RAVE FabriCARE likely to be considerably better than any professional cleaner near you (many of which are just drop off points for the same low-quality, mass cleaning companies). So, if you have something nice, send it to them.
There are good reasons to not treat things at home. Certain stains require certain cleaning methods, and if you apply the wrong one, you can set in the damage. If you insist on laundering at home, however, I thought I’d reprint the following advice from the ninth edition of J.J. Pizzuto’s Fabric Science, a textbook popularly used for textile classes in fashion and design schools. Obviously, before you take any of this advice below, consult with the care label on your garments and directions on your cleaning products.
Candle wax, paraffin: Freeze and scrape; place between paper towels or tissues and press with warm iron; place face down on paper towels and sponge with cleaning fluid or rubbing alcohol; wash.
Chocolate, cocoa: Soak in club soda or cool water with enzyme presoak; sponge with cleaning fluid and later with detergent; launder in hot water
Coffee, tea: Soak with enzyme presoak or oxygen bleach; rub with detergent; wash in hot water.
Egg: If dried, scrape with a dull knife; soak in cool water with enzyme presoak; rub with detergent; launder in hot water.
Fruits, juices: Soak with enzyme presoak; wash. If stain remains, cover with paste of oxygen bleach and a few drops of ammonia for 15 to 20 minutes. Can also try white vinegar; wash as hot as possible.
Gravy: Scrape with a dull knife; soak in enzyme presoak; treat with detergent paste and later cleaning fluid; hot wash with bleach if safe.
Grease, oil, or margarine: Scrape off all excess or apply absorbent powder (talcum or cornstarch) and brush off; pretreat with strong detergent; rinse; sponge with cleaning fluid; hot wash with extra detergent; bleach if safe.
Ice cream: Soak in enzyme presoak; rinse; rub with detergent; rinse and let dry; sponge with cleaning fluid if needed; rinse; hot wash with bleach if safe.
Milk: Soak in enzyme presoak; rinse; rub with detergent; launder.
Mustard: Spray with prewash or rub with bar soap or liquid detergent; rinse; soak in hot water and detergent; launder with bleach if safe.
Peanut butter: Saturate with mineral oil to dislodge oil particles from fibers; blot; apply cleaning fluid and blot between absorbent mats; rinse and launder.
Soft drinks: Dampen with cool water and rubbing alcohol or enzyme presoak; launder with bleach if safe; stain may appear later as a yellow area.
Tomato products: Sponge with cold water; rub with detergent; launder in hot water with bleach if safe.
Wine: Same as for fruits; sprinkle a red wine spill immediately with salt (my own note: I’ve had good luck soaking red wine spills in white wine, but I can’t say there’s any science to it)
For more stain solutions, you can check out University of Illinois Extensions’ Guide, which I posted about last year. 
(Photo by 13th Street Studio)

Dealing with Stains

Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow and you, or someone you know, will likely spill something on their best clothes, I thought I’d cover how to deal with stains.

First, note that I’m not a textile or cleaning expert. The best cleaner I know of in the United States is RAVE FabriCARE. They cleaned Jesse’s suit after he poured Lifeway Kefir all over it, and did an excellent job. Last year, just around this time, they published a post on how to deal with Thanksgiving stains. Their advice? Don’t listen to people around you. They’re likely just rehashing things that are a mixture of folklore, old wives tales, and hazy memories about something they heard a few years back. Instead, just gently blot the spill or splatter with a cotton towel or napkin. Don’t rub; don’t scrub; just blot. Then leave it alone and bring it to a quality cleaner. They don’t say who, but I’ll say it for them: RAVE FabriCARE likely to be considerably better than any professional cleaner near you (many of which are just drop off points for the same low-quality, mass cleaning companies). So, if you have something nice, send it to them.

There are good reasons to not treat things at home. Certain stains require certain cleaning methods, and if you apply the wrong one, you can set in the damage. If you insist on laundering at home, however, I thought I’d reprint the following advice from the ninth edition of J.J. Pizzuto’s Fabric Science, a textbook popularly used for textile classes in fashion and design schools. Obviously, before you take any of this advice below, consult with the care label on your garments and directions on your cleaning products.

  • Candle wax, paraffin: Freeze and scrape; place between paper towels or tissues and press with warm iron; place face down on paper towels and sponge with cleaning fluid or rubbing alcohol; wash.
  • Chocolate, cocoa: Soak in club soda or cool water with enzyme presoak; sponge with cleaning fluid and later with detergent; launder in hot water
  • Coffee, tea: Soak with enzyme presoak or oxygen bleach; rub with detergent; wash in hot water.
  • Egg: If dried, scrape with a dull knife; soak in cool water with enzyme presoak; rub with detergent; launder in hot water.
  • Fruits, juices: Soak with enzyme presoak; wash. If stain remains, cover with paste of oxygen bleach and a few drops of ammonia for 15 to 20 minutes. Can also try white vinegar; wash as hot as possible.
  • Gravy: Scrape with a dull knife; soak in enzyme presoak; treat with detergent paste and later cleaning fluid; hot wash with bleach if safe.
  • Grease, oil, or margarine: Scrape off all excess or apply absorbent powder (talcum or cornstarch) and brush off; pretreat with strong detergent; rinse; sponge with cleaning fluid; hot wash with extra detergent; bleach if safe.
  • Ice cream: Soak in enzyme presoak; rinse; rub with detergent; rinse and let dry; sponge with cleaning fluid if needed; rinse; hot wash with bleach if safe.
  • Milk: Soak in enzyme presoak; rinse; rub with detergent; launder.
  • Mustard: Spray with prewash or rub with bar soap or liquid detergent; rinse; soak in hot water and detergent; launder with bleach if safe.
  • Peanut butter: Saturate with mineral oil to dislodge oil particles from fibers; blot; apply cleaning fluid and blot between absorbent mats; rinse and launder.
  • Soft drinks: Dampen with cool water and rubbing alcohol or enzyme presoak; launder with bleach if safe; stain may appear later as a yellow area.
  • Tomato products: Sponge with cold water; rub with detergent; launder in hot water with bleach if safe.
  • Wine: Same as for fruits; sprinkle a red wine spill immediately with salt (my own note: I’ve had good luck soaking red wine spills in white wine, but I can’t say there’s any science to it)

For more stain solutions, you can check out University of Illinois Extensions’ Guide, which I posted about last year

(Photo by 13th Street Studio)

The Power of the Jiffy Steamer: Jiffy J-2000 Review
For years I’d been hearing and reading about the power of steamers, but I never quite believed what I heard. “What’s wrong with an iron?” was my usual response.
Then we moved my office into what had been the master bedroom of our place - a room with its own little bathroom. I figured since I had the space, I might as well give steamers a try.
All my research indicated that when it comes to steamers, Jiffy is king. It’s the only brand I’ve ever seen people in the know - like costumers and vintage clothing dealers - use. I read on the style fora that other steamers might get a B-, but the Jiffy was an A.
Luckily, I live in LA, the world capital of showbiz, so there are decommissioned stylist and costumer steamers freely available on Craigslist. I drove out to Mid-City Los Angeles, plunked down eighty bucks cash to a man whose wife was leaving the business, and drove home with a Jiffy J-2000. Jiffy makes a few sizes - there’s a travel version, a commercial version (the J-4000) and this one, which is for residential use.
This thing was absolutely worth the hype. I just bought a lot of 15 or 20 ties on eBay that came in one huge ball, inside a Five Guys burger box. I thought they were ruined - dry cleaning or pressing ties flattens and destroys them. Then I remembered my steamer. Ten minutes later, they were as smooth as the day I bought them.
It’s also helped me avoid the dry cleaner with other clothes. I’ve got some cotton dry-clean-only trousers that I’d much rather clean once every two or three wearings that steam beautifully in between cleanings. My wool jackets and trousers I’d prefer to subject to dry cleaning no more than once a year - now a quick brushing and steaming and they’re good as new. I even used it to help re-size a hat.
The J-2000 is big and industrial-looking. If you haven’t got a broom closet to keep it in, you might want to consider the hand-held travel version. Either way, a steamer is a remarkably useful tool, and Jiffy is the way to go.

The Power of the Jiffy Steamer: Jiffy J-2000 Review

For years I’d been hearing and reading about the power of steamers, but I never quite believed what I heard. “What’s wrong with an iron?” was my usual response.

Then we moved my office into what had been the master bedroom of our place - a room with its own little bathroom. I figured since I had the space, I might as well give steamers a try.

All my research indicated that when it comes to steamers, Jiffy is king. It’s the only brand I’ve ever seen people in the know - like costumers and vintage clothing dealers - use. I read on the style fora that other steamers might get a B-, but the Jiffy was an A.

Luckily, I live in LA, the world capital of showbiz, so there are decommissioned stylist and costumer steamers freely available on Craigslist. I drove out to Mid-City Los Angeles, plunked down eighty bucks cash to a man whose wife was leaving the business, and drove home with a Jiffy J-2000. Jiffy makes a few sizes - there’s a travel version, a commercial version (the J-4000) and this one, which is for residential use.

This thing was absolutely worth the hype. I just bought a lot of 15 or 20 ties on eBay that came in one huge ball, inside a Five Guys burger box. I thought they were ruined - dry cleaning or pressing ties flattens and destroys them. Then I remembered my steamer. Ten minutes later, they were as smooth as the day I bought them.

It’s also helped me avoid the dry cleaner with other clothes. I’ve got some cotton dry-clean-only trousers that I’d much rather clean once every two or three wearings that steam beautifully in between cleanings. My wool jackets and trousers I’d prefer to subject to dry cleaning no more than once a year - now a quick brushing and steaming and they’re good as new. I even used it to help re-size a hat.

The J-2000 is big and industrial-looking. If you haven’t got a broom closet to keep it in, you might want to consider the hand-held travel version. Either way, a steamer is a remarkably useful tool, and Jiffy is the way to go.

University of Illinois Extensions’ Stain Solutions

I was reading the Wall Street Journal’s article on underarm sweat stains and came across this excerpt

The University of Illinois Extension Stain Solutions department recommends a daunting regimen to treat a yellow underarm stain. It urges scraping off any excess material with a blunt kitchen knife, soaking the garment for 15 minutes in a quart of lukewarm water, half a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent and one tablespoon ammonia, gently rubbing from the back to loosen the stain, soaking another 15 minutes, then rinsing. 

If it doesn’t go away, soak the stain in a laundry detergent that contains enzymes for at least half an hour, then put in the washing machine. An older stain should be soaked for several hours. Then launder. If the stain remains stubborn, use chlorine beach, if safe, on white shirts and oxygen bleach on colors.

It seems like good advice to keep on hand, in addition to Jesse’s recommendation of vinegar and OxyClean, given that temperatures are about to rise. 

More importantly, I Googled around and found the University of Illinois Extensions’ stain solutions website. I’m not sure it’s a “department,” in the academic sense, but it does seem incredibly comprehensive and useful. Click here to see an index to every kind of stain solution you can imagine. You can also click here to read their general suggestions, as well as here to read a list of products you might want to have on hand in order to deal with stains. 

This might be a good thing to bookmark, and then refer to when you need it. Lord knows I prostrate in front of my washer every time my clothes get stained. It’ll probably be good to employ something a bit more scientific in the future. 

From our friends over at StyleForum, a five-step system for getting rid of stubborn stains in shirts using vinegar and Oxiclean.  This isn’t infallible, but you’d be amazed at the results.  I often will take a flier on a great thrift shirt with ring-around-the-collar, and give this a shot.  Usually I end up with a shirt that’s clean as a whistle.
How to Clean Shirts
 Soak shirt in a solution made from one gallon hot water (as hot  as it will come out of the faucet) and one cup of vinegar. Let the shirt  soak for 30 mins to 2 hours.
 Rinse shirts, and squeeze out excess water. Empty bucket and  rinse. In a cup, prepare a concentrated Oxy-Clean solution. Make sure to  use the Oxy-Clean granules that come in the tub. Make the solution  about 10 parts HOT water to one part O-C. Usually this amounts to two  scoops of O-C (using the provided scoop) per 4-6 ounces of water. You  want this to be very concentrated.
 Apply the strong solution generously to the stained areas. Place  the shirts in a bucket (so that the solution doesn’t flow away, or dry)  with the stained areas towards the bottom of the bucket so they stay  nice and covered in the solution. Allow to soak overnight. It can also  help to use an old toothbrush and scrub the stained areas every hour or  so, if you’ve got the time.
 In the morning, remove the shirts from bucket. Fill the bucket  with a gallon of hot water, and two scoops of the Oxy-Clean (basically,  follow the recipe on the package for a general cleaning solution) and  mix well. Place the shirts in the bucket, and soak for 2-24 hours. This  just helps to remove any trace of stain. You might want to stir the  shirts around with your hands after you put them in the bucket with the  weaker solution just to remove some of the stronger solution that is  still on the shirts.
 Remove, and wash/rinse in the regular cycle on your washing  machine.
Note: I find that this normally removes sweat/dirt stains from the  armpit, neck, and cuff with ease. For really strong stains, you might  have to repeat the process a few times.

From our friends over at StyleForum, a five-step system for getting rid of stubborn stains in shirts using vinegar and Oxiclean.  This isn’t infallible, but you’d be amazed at the results.  I often will take a flier on a great thrift shirt with ring-around-the-collar, and give this a shot.  Usually I end up with a shirt that’s clean as a whistle.

How to Clean Shirts

  1. Soak shirt in a solution made from one gallon hot water (as hot as it will come out of the faucet) and one cup of vinegar. Let the shirt soak for 30 mins to 2 hours.
  2. Rinse shirts, and squeeze out excess water. Empty bucket and rinse. In a cup, prepare a concentrated Oxy-Clean solution. Make sure to use the Oxy-Clean granules that come in the tub. Make the solution about 10 parts HOT water to one part O-C. Usually this amounts to two scoops of O-C (using the provided scoop) per 4-6 ounces of water. You want this to be very concentrated.
  3. Apply the strong solution generously to the stained areas. Place the shirts in a bucket (so that the solution doesn’t flow away, or dry) with the stained areas towards the bottom of the bucket so they stay nice and covered in the solution. Allow to soak overnight. It can also help to use an old toothbrush and scrub the stained areas every hour or so, if you’ve got the time.
  4. In the morning, remove the shirts from bucket. Fill the bucket with a gallon of hot water, and two scoops of the Oxy-Clean (basically, follow the recipe on the package for a general cleaning solution) and mix well. Place the shirts in the bucket, and soak for 2-24 hours. This just helps to remove any trace of stain. You might want to stir the shirts around with your hands after you put them in the bucket with the weaker solution just to remove some of the stronger solution that is still on the shirts.
  5. Remove, and wash/rinse in the regular cycle on your washing machine.

Note: I find that this normally removes sweat/dirt stains from the armpit, neck, and cuff with ease. For really strong stains, you might have to repeat the process a few times.

On the MaxFunForum, rossination asks:
Jesse, let’s talk about laundry. Do you have your shirts cleaned and pressed at the dry cleaner’s, or do you do wash (and iron) yourself? Starch or no starch? As a poor student, I don’t have the money to send my shirts out. Plus, I kind of like ironing. But I’ve been finding lately that I’m pretty unhappy with the slouchiness of my collars (even with metal stays). I’m thinking about going against my dad’s admonitions and getting some spray starch. What do you think?
I’m a public radio host, Rossination, not an oil magnate.  I wash and iron my shirts myself.
First: I’m glad to hear that you’re already in the “kind of like ironing” camp.  Ironing isn’t a lot of work, and it’s a great thing to do on Sundays while you’re watching football, or, in my case, Mondays when you’re watching The Roadshow.  (As an aside, I highly recommend spending a hundred bucks or so on a good iron.  The weight, steam and smoothness are very much worth it.)
Most cleaners use the harshest methods when washing and pressing your clothes, and should be avoided whenever possible.  There are exceptions, but they’re tough to find and expensive.  Especially if you have access to laundry in your home, there’s no reason not to launder your clothes yourself.  You care for them in a way a cleaner never will.
Starch is harsh on clothes and completely unnecessary.  Remember: your collar isn’t supposed to be like cardboard.  It’s made of fabric and is supposed to behave as such.  A collar stay is plenty to keep your collar sharp — beyond that, let them roll!

On the MaxFunForum, rossination asks:

Jesse, let’s talk about laundry. Do you have your shirts cleaned and pressed at the dry cleaner’s, or do you do wash (and iron) yourself? Starch or no starch?

As a poor student, I don’t have the money to send my shirts out. Plus, I kind of like ironing. But I’ve been finding lately that I’m pretty unhappy with the slouchiness of my collars (even with metal stays). I’m thinking about going against my dad’s admonitions and getting some spray starch. What do you think?

I’m a public radio host, Rossination, not an oil magnate.  I wash and iron my shirts myself.

First: I’m glad to hear that you’re already in the “kind of like ironing” camp.  Ironing isn’t a lot of work, and it’s a great thing to do on Sundays while you’re watching football, or, in my case, Mondays when you’re watching The Roadshow.  (As an aside, I highly recommend spending a hundred bucks or so on a good iron.  The weight, steam and smoothness are very much worth it.)

Most cleaners use the harshest methods when washing and pressing your clothes, and should be avoided whenever possible.  There are exceptions, but they’re tough to find and expensive.  Especially if you have access to laundry in your home, there’s no reason not to launder your clothes yourself.  You care for them in a way a cleaner never will.

Starch is harsh on clothes and completely unnecessary.  Remember: your collar isn’t supposed to be like cardboard.  It’s made of fabric and is supposed to behave as such.  A collar stay is plenty to keep your collar sharp — beyond that, let them roll!