How to Wash Dress Shirts

Posted by Harry Cederbaum on


How To Wash Dress Shirts

Dress shirts are THE staple of the professional wardrobe. Tucked in, tucked out, under a jacket—the modern professional style is all about the shirt. However, there is a debate raging about how to  properly care for dress shirts. New dress shirts continue to appear on the market, combining innovative fabrics and cool designs. And while the evolution of style and the emergence of the non-iron shirt is really exciting, dress shirts continue to wear out prematurely.

So what’s the best method to properly wash dress shirts?

 

Cleaning Confusion:

There are many ways to  wash dress shirts. Old school folks get it done by hand, while most folks simply put them in the washing machine.. Each method has pros and cons. Different types of dress shirts require different care techniques. Some must be pre-treated, others have collar stays or require delicate processing. Stains can be a nightmare. What to do?  When is the best time to use cold water or warm water? Is the spin cycle essential? What about bleach? It’s confusing!

So I’m going to check out the best ways to wash dress shirts - but first a little entertainment with a brief history of how the modern dress shirt came to be.

 

White Collar/Blue Collar:

The birth of the dress shirt began in Europe in the 17th century. Originally, shirts were a type of undergarment, designed to protect expensive coats and jackets from perspiration and dirt. They quickly began to take on a life of their own, and become a status symbol for the wealthy. White cotton dress shirts would easily become dirty. Wearing a clean dress shirt indicated you had enough money to have them washed on a regular basis. This is part of the "white collar" vs "blue collar"story. Makes sense, right?

Today, dress shirts come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. They are still difficult to clean. Life might not get in the way, but life will definitely get on your shirt. Sweat, dirt, stains, and smoke all affect the shelf life of a dress shirt, as does wearing a decent undershirt. Follow these rules when washing dress shirts and they will feel like new.

 

Hands On. How To Hand Wash Dress Shirts:

Washing by hand can be time-consuming. It is, nevertheless, one of the most effective ways to clean dress shirts. Good washing also helps increase dress shirt longevity.

Before starting the process, make sure to unfasten all of the buttons. Also, remove the collar stays.

Pre-treat any stains that have appeared, using a stain remover or spot cleaning stuff. To remove sweat stains, soak a dress shirt in a mixture of cold water and white vinegar for 30 minutes. This helps to break down the stain.  Afterwards, loosen the stain by rubbing it back and forth with your fingers. It works!

To ensure the dress shirt really gets clean, soak it in water with a quality detergent. Once the shirt is cleaned, rinse it under cold water to remove additional soap. Lay the shirt flat and roll it in a towel to extract additional moisture. Once the water has been absorbed, hang the dress shirt on a hanger, and let it air dry.

Washing by hand takes a lot more time, but it's a great way to take care of dress shirts. This is especially true if they are 100% cotton or any kind of wool blend.

How To Machine Wash Your Dress Shirts:

Washing dress shirts in a machine is a great way to save time and money.  Be sure and  read the care instructions on your shirt label, know the type of material the shirt is made from, and be careful with drying temperatures. Drying is the principal place where shrinkage happens.

Shrinkage is a common thing. Most dress shirts will shrink up to 3% after a few washes. But anything more than this, and it’s probably a good time to buy new dress shirts before they have reached the end of their life cycle.

Before washing  dress shirts, follow the same steps for hand washing. Make sure to undo buttons, remove collar stays, and pre-treat stains. This is a good habit to develop regardless of the washing style.

If a dress shirt is made of a finer fabric, check carefully to set the washing machine on a delicate cycle. Darker fabrics should be washed in cold water. White dress shirts need to be cleaned in warm or hot water with light colors. Don't mix the two! You will save time, but you will increase the risk of your colors bleeding onto your whites, causing discoloration. Another shirt bites the dust.

White shirts should be washed as quickly as possible after they are worn. The longer they sit out, the more time body oils and sweat have to absorb into the shirt fabric, turning it yellow.

Make sure to select a spin cycle that removes most of the water from the shirt before the load is done. Remove it quickly after the cycle is finished to avoid wrinkles setting into the shirt.

 

Now That They’re Clean...How to Dry Your Dress Shirts:

The best way is to hang the shirts is on sturdy plastic hangers. Do not put them in the dryer. Some people even dry shirts outside on clotheslines when weather permits.

If you choose to put your dress shirts in the dryer, make sure to check the heat setting. Avoid high heat! High temperatures cause shrinking. Set the dryer to a low heat, tumble dry setting. A pro tip is to remove the dress shirts while they are still damp, instead of letting them become completely dry. Use plastic or wood hangers and let them air dry to allow gravity to eliminate wrinkles. Generally, you won't need to iron, and they'll be ready to wear - especially if they are made of a performance fabric.

To Clean or Not to Clean:

Sometimes it's not possible to wash shirts well at home. Most dry cleaners will do a "wash and clean," washing your shirts and then sending them through an industrial shirt press. This is a cost-effective and time-saving way to keep dress shirts clean. But do not rely on a dry cleaner to remove stains.

 

Addressing Dress Shirts:

There are several options to choose from when it comes to washing dress shirts. Whichever method you decide on is not the most important thing. What matters most is choosing to care for your dress shirts, so you can look and feel your best every time you put one on. Of course, the best way to look great is to wearTwillory.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Harry Cederbaum

COO of Twillory