Rumpled clothes are an unfortunate fact of life, but before you put that red-hot iron to that new silk blouse, take a minute to school yourself in Garment Care 101.

Read on to see which types of fabrics are best hand-steamed and which actually do benefit from hot metal.



Cotton poplin: There’s no easy way around a workday button-down. It’s best pressed with an iron (and even a little spray starch). Using a medium-high heat, start with the collars, cuffs and sleeves before moving on to the body. Finish by sliding the tip of the iron between the buttons.

Linen: This natural fiber crumples at the slightest touch and requires heavy-duty heat to get out any creases. Use the highest heat setting and a little elbow grease. Just make sure to immediately smooth over any dribbles of water (from the steamer tank) so you aren’t left with water stains. (It’s true--linen holds spots.)

Denim, chambray or khaki: This goes for jeans, pants, skirts, jackets, tops, anything. Because these sturdy fabrics (usually pure cotton) can withstand high heat, it’s easy to take an iron to them to quickly remove any residual wrinkles from the dryer cycle. But if they have touches of Lycra in the mix, beware of burning. In that case, a close steam it is.



Silk: Steaming works best on delicates because nothing (except the heat) comes into contact with the fabric. Just be sure to hold your steamer several inches from the blouse or dress to avoid all-out dampening.

Wool: Save a ton on dry cleaning by giving your chunky fall sweaters a quick steam before putting them back into seasonal rotation. Run the steamer over your sweaters for a couple of minutes to get that fresh-from-the-cleaners look and spritz a fabric freshener for good measure.

Rayon and polyester: Metal irons can easily damage these synthetic fabrics, but a few quick swipes with the steamer and you’ll be wrinkle-free without scorching the sensitive fibers.

Suede and leather: Leave high-maintenance materials to the professionals.

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