How to Iron Pants

Lots of people shy away from ironing dress pants, either as a standalone dress or as part of a suit, because they’re afraid the iron might “shine” the wool and ruin the whole plant, or they believe that creating a sharp, smooth crease down the front and back of the legs is impossible.

Beyond this, the way product designers tailor your trousers is such that you will most times be ironing two layers of cloth (the pant leg), unlike a shirt that mostly involves ironing a single layer, except for the sleeves.

These aspects of ironing your dress present an additional level of challenge, but they are, without a doubt, handled easily by learning the correct techniques.

How To Iron Pants Step by Step

Iron Pants Step by Step

Start the procedures by preparing your ironing equipment, like ironing your shirts. Make sure your pants and ironing machine are clean. Set your iron to the proper setting. I recommend you start with temperature level 3 for wool pants and set it a bit higher for cotton pants and even higher for linen.

Ensure you fill your iron with distilled water if you have “hard tap water”. This prevents limescale from forming inside the iron and later coming out onto your pants in the form of white flakes when you use the steam.

1. Start with the Pants Top

Start with the top area of your pants, the rise, and the waist; these parts of your trouser require similar techniques, just as ironing the upper portions of a shirt. Since there aren’t long stretches of fabric, you’ll be through with it in the shortest possible time.

Shove a ham into your pants and place the curved areas of the rise and waist over it, moving the fabric as you press. If you are worried that the iron may create an unsightly shine on wool trousers, make use of a pressing cloth between the iron and your pants.

If you don’t have a tailor’s ham close to you, use a sleeve board or just a regular ironing surface.

The lack of extensive surface area at the top of your pants guarantees that you won’t actually be able to move the iron back and forth, which is a good thing. It’ll prepare you to make small movements, pressing down with the iron and swiftly lifting it afterward to move it around instead of dragging it along your trouser surface, which can cause more wrinkling.

2. Pants Legs: Making a Crease

The legs of dress pants are tricky because you have to create a sharp, smooth crease up the center of the leg at the front and back to give it an accurate finish. Something that comes up, particularly when pressing your cotton pants, is whether or not to create a front crease at all.

The answer really depends on whether they came along with a crease when you bought them, and it also depends on the formality of the pants.

Casual chinos trousers will have a completely flat front view, while those that are formal enough to be worn with a sports coat should have a crease to match.

Using a clapper

 ironing board

The major challenges are ensuring the crease is perfectly lined in the middle of the leg, and assuming you’ve previously had a crease there, stick to that and don’t try to create a different one.

Many ironing handbooks you’ll find online speak of the ironing procedures like you are creating a crease from scratch, but that is not the case most of the time. You will just be reestablishing and refreshing the initial one.

On the other hand, with cotton dress trousers, the crease may fade over time, or you may lose it. In that case, it may be easier to press the front side of your trouser legs flat and start a completely new crease rather than attempting to restore it.

After laying the legs smoothly on your ironing board (with the use of your two fingers) pick the bottom leg and locate the top and bottom center seam inside the opening of the pant leg. Always try not to do the two legs simultaneously as this would mean pressing four layers of fabric simultaneously, which will not yield good results.

Line up the two center seams gently on your ironing board and press the hem area at the front of the leg firmly against the board to set the start of the crease.

The Trousers’ Look After Ironing

Next, position the same center seams inside the top of the pants. Doing this will guarantee the leg is straight and that the crease you create will be right at the center of the leg.

Press the top edge of the pant’s front side as high up as you desire the crease to go, and then iron it systematically up or down the front edge, again being cautious not to drag the iron (this can cause wrinkles).

If you have a wooden tailor’s clapper and want to have some fun with the process, thump it down on and along the crease you have just created to make it extra crisp. Repeat the whole process with the crease at the backside of the leg.

Expert recommends that it’s important not to sweep the pressing iron in a back and forth swing with wool trousers; this is not just to avoid keeping your crease straight and creating new wrinkles but also to steer clear of shining the wool, especially navy blue wool. 

When you think about it, that sweeping motion is comparable to what you would do when polishing or buffing shoes, so it makes total sense that it might shine your wool too.

Instead, press with some force in one spot, lift and drag the iron slightly to another spot. Pressing your trousers this way, and even better, using a pressing cloth-like hem, will eliminate the risk of a shiny trouser surface.

3. To Steam or Not To Steam Pants?

Cloth Steamer to Steam Pants

In spite of the overall benefits of steam in the ironing process, it is not an ideal practice when pressing trouser legs. Wool is more resistant to wrinkling than materials made from cotton, so your pants don’t need as much steam as your shirts, particularly when you are pressing the legs.

If you put in a lot of steam, the top layer of cloth right below the iron will look great, but there will still be some moisture at the bottom layer, leaving it wrinkled and puckered.

If you turn the surface over and try to fix the problem with more pressing and steaming, the other side will be puckered too, which means you’re stuck in a never-ending cycle. The issue here is that you’re steaming through more than one layer of cloth.


As you can see from the whole process, you need to consider some considerations when pressing pants as opposed to shirts. However, once you get the trick on how easy it is to avoid shining your wool or cotton trousers and that you can create a professional-looking crease, you’ll have the confidence to move on to ironing your suit jackets.

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