Perfecting your closet is tough. But once you’ve found your perfect aesthetic, the next step is keeping your clothes in tip-top shape to cut the perfect silhouette. Getting just the right combination of washing, drying, and de-wrinkling processes will help your clothes make the right impression, but it’ll help them last longer, too. Having clean and pressed clothing ready at any moment stretches the length of each item’s lifespan — and you’ll look darn good while you’re at it.
Get clean and pressed clothing, starting with your washer
All clothes need regular washing and pressing, so begin your cleaning process by reading your clothing tags. Take note of which items need special; many items nowadays recommend a delicate wash cycle in cold water, and may dry best lying flat. Be sure to separate your whites and colours every time you do your laundry to keep your whites nice and bright. Group soft, light colours (such as light beige and super-soft baby blues) in with your whites, and vivid hues as their own category or in with your darks.
If you’re on the market for a new washer and dryer, make sure to choose a high-efficiency model that suits your lifestyle. Front-loading washing machines are a great choice for something that will be gentle on your clothes and minimize water usage, while something like the extra-quiet LG High Efficiency Front Load Steam Washer is great for condo living. (New models like this one hook up to your smartphone, and steam washing is thorough without adding undue stress to your fabrics.)
High-spec washers can be confusing for the less technologically-inclined, however, so I recommend starting your journey to clean and pressed clothing with a simpler washer if you’re not a fan of digital displays. This set from Amana is a great place to start looking. Simple features can be particularly helpful in living spaces where different people will be using the washer and dryer; for instance, in an Airbnb or a setting where someone is coming in and doing homecare.
Once you have your washer and dryer set up and your colours sorted, pretreat any stained items of clothing and pick your laundry detergent. Liquids are best for greasy stains, like kitchen spills, while powdered detergents are often better at washing things like muddied soccer uniforms. Add your detergent (always first!), then toss your clothes in loosely. For maximum efficiency, use warm water for towels and sheets, cold water for brights and delicates, and hot water only for whites and colourfast clothes.
How to dry items to get clean and pressed clothing
Once your clothes come out of the wash, you have three options: toss them in the dryer, hang to dry, or do a combination of the two. I always like to hang-dry my clothes to extend their lifespan and minimize my energy usage, but sometimes (especially in small apartments!) it can be difficult to do so.
Dryers are great because they get your clothes dry quickly, and can help minimize wrinkles. To do so, make sure to use the Permanent Press setting on your dryer and remove your clothes as soon as possible to prevent them from re-wrinkling themselves as they cool in a heap. Make sure to check the labels on your clothes before tossing them into the dryer, however, especially if they’ve been washed in warm or cold water — many cottons and wools will shrink or lose their shape in the heat of the dryer.
If you have a wrinkled item of clothing and don’t have the time to iron it, many steam dryers now have a Steam Fresh (or similar) function. It serves the same purpose as tossing a dress shirt into the dryer with a damp towel for ten minutes before a meeting: it’ll steam out the item and relax the wrinkles. Steam dryers can also sanitize dry, non-washable items like pillows or hats, so they provide a lot of flexibility!
If you’re drying on a clothes rack, try to lie out your clothes as flat as possible. Make sure anything that’s extra delicate gets laid out flat across the top, but for everything else, simply smooth out the wrinkles as you hang — don’t leave them bunched up and they should dry relatively flat. For items like bedsheets and towels, I recommend putting them in the dryer for at least 15 minutes with a dryer sheet to cut down on static, and then hanging them to dry the rest of the way. This allows you to save on energy costs without sacrificing the feel of your linens.
Best Buy has a great selection of dryers which can be accessed online.
Ironing, pressing, and steaming: What’s the difference?
When it comes to a professional wardrobe (and textiles around the house, like bedskirts and drapes), your clothes will often need a little aftercare. Pressing, ironing, and steaming are all different ways to get rid of any wrinkles in your fabrics, and each is best suited to a different type of material.
Ironing is the most common of wrinkle-banishing methods, but it involves a handheld press and requires an ironing board. This method is great for the buyer on a budget or for those who like a really crisp press. Make sure to choose a steam/dry iron with a non-stick coated finish or a stainless steal soleplate. Follow the guide on your iron to choose the right temperature for your fabric (always err on the side of caution with fabric blends), and turn on the steam function for stubborn wrinkles or quick wrinkle fixes.
Pressing is mainly used by professionals. When truly pressing an item of fabric, steam presses use a physical press to achieve a professional look. For dry-cleaner-perfect results, steam presses offer an at-home solution using two non-stick pressing plates, but it’s important to note that fabric presses take up a lot of room. They’re also pretty costly (ranging around $400-$600 for an introductory model), and are best for large, un-detailed pieces of fabric, such as sheets or tablecloths.
Finally, steaming is an option that is on the rise (and rising still). While they’re pricier than your typical iron, garment steamers have replaced the common iron in many homes. No ironing board is required, and they can easily be used on items such as suits, bedding, and draperies. You can even use steamers to freshen your mattress or car upholstery, but keep in mind that steaming requires more passes than an iron. It also don’t offer the same sharp, crisp pleating that comes easily with an iron. Just remember that steaming is a moist process, unlike dry cleaning, and should never be used on dry clean only items or on fabrics with dyes that could run!
Getting clean and pressed clothing starts with your washer and dryer, but it’s a holistic process. I personally think you can’t have enough options in the home: there are always situations where an iron is better than a steamer, and vice-versa!
For casual de-wrinkling, a steamer is a great, fuss-free option to use at home, while an iron is a better choice for getting those super-sharp pleats in your clothing. And for any step in the process, if you’re not sure about a certain fabric, default to a cooler temperature just in case.