Learn the proper way to iron a shirt:
Ironing is less of an art than it used to be. Today, fashion rules accommodate wrinkles, recognizing that pure linen and pure cotton will get wrinkled one way or the other. Other fabrics need no ironing to look crisp and ready to wear. Dry cleaners provide laundry and ironing for washable items at reasonable rates.
For the purpose of this lesson, we will assume that the shirt is a 100-percent cotton, standard dress shirt - not button-down, not tux, not that favorite rayon number with the never-seen-in-nature palm trees. (One learning-experience at a time is enough.)
1. A clean, dry shirt needs to be dampened before ironing, even if you own a steam-iron. Use a spray bottle or flick water with your fingers, roll the shirt in a clean dish towel and set aside for 10 to 30 minutes. The dish towel will feel slightly damp. Bath towels work, too, though they tend to stay dry on the outside.
2. Fill the iron with distilled water for steam (you will use the steam setting on only as needed). Set iron at, or just below, the cotton setting.
3. Unroll the shirt, and turn it inside-out. This is the step that separates the women from the girls. Ironing all the double-fabric surfaces (the collar, yoke, cuff and seams) on the back side first will give the front-side surfaces the smooth finish you expect from a professional.
4. Beginning with the button placket (the front piece of the shirt with the buttons), iron all double-fabric surfaces on the back side. Move from the button-placket side to the button-hole side. Along the way, remember the backs of the cuffs, the sleeve seams and side seams. As you move the shirt along the board, check for a pocket, which also needs back-side pressing. If you encounter any dry spots, activate the steam setting long enough to press them. When you've finished your back-side work, the shirt should still feel slightly damp or steamy.
5. Turn the shirt right-side out. Starting again with the front button-placket, work your way across the body of the shirt, saving the sleeves, cuffs, yoke and collar for last. Remember that when ironing the sleeves, the iron used for most shirt parts in a commercial laundry looks like a large waffle iron. To copy their technique, fold shirt sleeves flat at the inner seam. Iron them like that; do not let the crease you form extend past the shoulder-seam. Iron the shoulder yoke round on the small end of the ironing board without creases.
6. Almost done and down to the pretty parts. Open the cuffs and iron them flat. Give an extra press to the buttonhole side of the front. Save your last love for the collar. Iron flat, immediately moving the shirt to a hanger. Button the top button to hold the collar shape.
When you're finished, your shirt will be crisp, dry and smooth. You've saved the day or the dinner or the romance. Enjoy that wonderful just-ironed smell floating through the room, and the fact that now you know how to iron a shirt.
There are several factors to weigh when deciding to use polishes and waxes on furniture and other wooden objects. One critical factor is that the ingredients in commercial polishes and cleaning products are rarely disclosed. Moreover, these ingredients can be, and frequently are, changed without warning or notification. These ingredients may be harmless or harmful to the furniture (and to you) and you have no way of knowing in advance.
Polishing products are available in three forms: aerosol (spray); liquid; and semisolid. Here is a quick look at their benefits and drawbacks:
AEROSOLS (Spray Polishes): Aerosols are convenient. However, they have been among the worst offenders in introducing silicone oils and other contaminants onto furniture. In addition, they may contain solvents that attack varnishes and lacquers. While some of the "dusting" aerosols appear to be benign when applied to a cloth and not the piece of furniture, the result is similar to using a damp, clean dust cloth.
LIQUIDS: Like aerosols, liquid polishes are easy to use. There are two primary forms of commercial liquid products for "furniture care": emulsion cleaner or polishes and "oil type" polishes. Emulsion polishes are waxes, oils, detergents, organic solvents, and other materials suspended in water for ease of application. These products can be extremely powerful cleaners that leave a desirable sheen on the surface. However, the visual effect usually diminishes as the liquid dries. Moreover, like aerosols, emulsion polishes can introduce contaminants onto the furniture, but because they are liquids they place much more volume than sprays on the furniture surface.
Oil polishes are even more troublesome. Much like emulsion polishes, oil polishes can be a complex blend of ingredients including oils, waxes, perfumes, colorants, "cleaners," and organic solvents. They can render extremely pleasing surfaces and are used frequently as final finishes by themselves. However, oils used as polishes or cleaners can be very damaging.
- Nondrying oils (paraffin, mineral, and "lemon oil," which is usually mineral oil with colorants and perfumes added) tend to be more benign than drying oils, but even so some oil remains as a liquid on (or in) the object. Dust and other airborne contaminants readily stick to wet surfaces, especially oils. But nondrying oils don't undergo chemical reactions or directly damage the furniture.
- Drying oils, on the other hand, such as linseed, tung, or walnut oil, are a different matter altogether. These materials solidify, or "dry" through a chemical reaction with the air called oxidation. Over time this reaction makes them increasingly difficult to remove. Their permanence is fine if the oil is employed as the finish, but not good if it is used as a maintenance polish. By itself, having a polish that is difficult to remove would be an irritating but not an insurmountable problem. Unfortunately, as drying oils age they tend to yellow and in the presence of acids they are chromogenic (become Colored), turning a dark, muddy brown or opaque black.
- Traditionally, cleaning and polishing concoctions comprised of linseed oil, turpentine, beeswax, and vinegar (acetic acid) were widely used even in the museum field until recently. They turned out to be a disaster waiting to happen. The results of their use are readily apparent to even the casual observer: a thick incrustation of chocolate-colored goo that is neither hard enough to be durable nor soft enough to wipe off easily. The furniture is left with an unsightly coating that is very difficult to remove without damaging the underlying surface.
SEMISOLIDS: By virtually any measure semisolid polishes are the least damaging to wooden objects. Frequently called "paste waxes," these products are actually a very concentrated solution of waxes. Provided the ingredients do not include undesirable contaminants like silicone or high concentrations of damaging organic solvents such as alcohol, xylene, or toluene, paste waxes are an excellent polish for the surfaces of most wooden objets. Because waxes are exceedingly stable and don't cause many of the problems inherent in the previously mentioned polishes, they are the material of choice for furniture conservators and other caretakers of furniture and wooden objects. But paste waxes have their faults too: unfortunately, they require the most active contact with the surface of the furniture, and also need the most physical labor for proper application. Buffing out a wax polish can be very hard work, and in general, the better quality the wax, the harder the buffing that is needed. However, the results and benefits to the furniture are worth the extra effort. Fortunately, as the most durable and stable polishing material, paste wax needs to be applied much less often than aerosols or liquids. Ideally, wax polishing should be conducted no more than twice a year for areas of extremely heavy wear (desktops, chair arms, etc.) and once every three or four years for table and chair legs, cabinets, and similar areas. If a surface can no longer be buffed to the sheen appropriate for a waxed surface, it is likely that the wax has worn off. In that case, apply another light coat of wax to the affected area in accordance with the product instructions. Wax that is applied too frequently or improperly can build-up and cause an unsightly surface. When the wax is used correctly, however, the solvent content of the new wax will "clean off" any previous wax remaining on the surface and will simply integrate the old into the new.
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