Starch, Irons and Ironing Boards – Oh My!

I know it is an unpopular chore but I don’t mind ironing. There is something almost zen about gliding a hot iron over a piece of fabric and watching the wrinkles disappear in its wake.

But, I will freely admit, I did not always feel this way. In fact, I have a hazy memory of me and Melissa frantically trying to get wrinkles out my suit vest (don’t judge – it was the 1990’s) with a curling iron right before I walked on stage for a performance.

My distaste for the task continued until I became a stay-at-home mom. Even before we were married, we planned that I would stay home with our children. Jon’s mom had nearly completed her doctoral studies in medieval history when she quit to have her first child. My own mom went back to work when I went to school. But as a teacher, her schedule paralleled my own.

So, we each grew up having Mom at home. We both loved it and wanted to do it in our own family. Our one agreement was that we would need to tighten the purse strings to try to make up for the loss of income. Although, as a Catholic school teacher, I was not a huge household contributor in the first place.

Helping the Household Budget

One of the first things I did to save money was laundering and ironing Jon’s shirts. Before he got a job working from home, he needed to wear a suit and tie to work everyday. At the time, our dry cleaner charged $2.50 per shirt. That’s $12.50 per week. Taking out 2 weeks of vacation, that left us with about $625.00 for shirts a year! That was nearly my take-home pay for two weeks teaching Catholic school. On shirts!

dry cleaners

As I got settled into mommyhood, I went to the store, bought a can of spray starch and got started. But the beginning of this undertaking was rough. First, I was using the iron and ironing board Jon had before we got married. And it was the same set he had in college. Secondly, I had no idea how to iron a shirt!

Before she went back to work, my mom used to iron my dad’s shirts as well as a bunch of other clothing. (Did we have a lot more wrinkles in the 70’s?) I was allowed to help by ironing my dad’s handkerchiefs. (Yet another 70’s throwback.) But that was the extent of my ironing experience.

I gradually developed some ironing “style” but it quickly became apparent that the Emmert Wolf quote is true: A man is only as good as his tools. So, I got new tools.

The Proper Ironing Tools

First thing to go was the can of spray starch. I started with the same brand in a non-aerosol can. It was about $13.00 for less than a quart of liquid. Then I got to thinking. Why not buy the half gallon for roughly the same amount of money and mix it myself? So I did.

A bottle of Purex Sta-Flo Concentrated Liquid Starch now lasts me a few years! For under $12.00. That’s less than one week of dry cleaning!

Next, I needed to get a better ironing board. One might have thought I’d go for the iron. But the foam layer of our ironing board had started to degrade. Every so often, I’d find I had ironed a little mesh pattern into the shirt.

With its little iron rack and spot for hangers, this was the ironing board of my dreams. But I didn’t go here first, though it is what I use now and would highly recommend.

First I purchased the Mabel Home T-Leg Adjustable Height Ironing Board.

I liked the T-bar legs instead of the four. It was much more sturdy. And it was nicely padded! Finally, the mesh imprints were gone. This ironing board served me well. I upgraded last year because I was sewing more frequently and wanted a better board.

Then it was on to a new iron. I’ll admit it. I should have purchased a new iron sooner than I did. But I was stuck in the headspace that the iron didn’t matter as much. Ah, how wrong I was.

I purchased this Black & Decker iron in 2017. I have the blue model. If memory serves, the grey wasn’t an option at the time. This iron is fantastic!

  • The steam function is much more than just an “on-off” like my old iron.
  • The soleplate (the flat part that comes in contact with what you’re ironing) is stainless steel making it easier to clean than the non-stick iron I used to have.
  • The water doesn’t dribble out. My old iron constantly leaked.
  • The automatic shut-off beeps. Sometimes I step away from the iron knowing it will turn off by itself. When it beeps, it reminds me to go back and keep ironing!

The last piece of equipment I needed was storage and this little guy was perfect.

It holds the T-bar style as well as the four-footed boards. And it has a place for the starch, iron and a box of shirt stays!

Saving Money

So, let’s do some math. At “press time”:
Liquid Starch – $11.95
Iron – $44.99
Ironing Board Holder – $17.99
Ironing Board – $52.95
And for you-know-whats and giggles, let’s just add in the souped-up ironing board I have now – $104.88
Grand Total – $232.76

That is nearly ⅓ of what we paid for dry cleaned shirts IN ONE YEAR! That, my friends, is a budget-friendly decision worth doing!

Do you need ironing tips? Maybe some videos about ironing techniques? Let us know in the comments.

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