A Guide to Washing and Drying Dress Shirts: Best Practices
Today, we are going to pen down some of the best practices to wash and dry dress shirts without losing their signature sheen or compromising on their durability. In addition to this, we'll also discuss some proven hacks to quick-clean a button-down shirt in emergencies without subjecting it to harsh-chemical-containing cleaning solvents.
So keep reading the article to figure out the right washing and drying technique to prolong your shirt's service life, while preserving its original quality and visual appeal.
How to wash and dry a dress shirt?
As it goes with every other piece of clothes, dress shirts also come with two washing choices; wash them either at home or take them to dry cleaners. Both choices are effective and tend to provide 100% results if the task is done with the right technique. So, let's discuss each method one by one to understand their dos and don'ts in detail.
Washing and drying dress shirts at home
Start the process by checking your button-downs for rips, loose buttons, or unnoticed stains since these minor issues might get huge if not treated on time. Look over every element in detail to check whether something needs repairing or not.
Once done, unfasten all the buttons of your dress shirt, including those of cuffs and collars, remove unfused collar stays, and follow the given steps;
- Spot treatment
If your dress shirt has some stains, pretreat them with detergent or special spot-treating solutions. Besides random spots on shirts, also use the below-mentioned spot treatment technique to remove tough sweat stains which are common on areas like collars, cuffs, and armpits.
- Identify the nature of the stain; whether it's oil-based or water-based and get a stain remover accordingly.
- Apply the stain-removing solution on the stain, as per the product's description, and avoid using a large amount of it.
- After applying stain remover on the spots, either rinse it with clean water after a few minutes or throw your dress shirt in the machine and leave the rest to it.
White dress shirts usually require to be spot-treated more often since these are more prone and easier to get stained. Luckily, white shirts are also the easiest to clean as they, unlike colored clothes, can be bleached. Furthermore, apart from over the counter stain removers, other homemade reagents may also be quite effective in removing stains from white shirts such as white wine, lemon juice, white vinegar, or baking soda.
- Choosing between handwashing and machine washing
After cleaning major stains, it's time to put your shirt in the washing machine. You may also opt for handwashing if your dress shirt is made up of lightweight fabric like poplin or broadcloth. However, such fabrics also stay okay in delicate machine cycles.
On the other hand, if you have an Oxford or Pinpoint shirt, you may wash them in normal machine cycles to get them deeply cleaned. If you are still confused between handwashing and machine washing, check for the care label and act as it says.
We generally recommend washing your white or light-colored shirts in hot water while washing dark-colored shirts in cool water. However, if your shirt comes with special temperature or setting instructions, follow them.
- Choosing the right detergent
Always use delicate detergents which are free of harsh chemicals. Avoid using chlorine-based detergents as they could cause the dye to leach out.
- Using other cleaning solvents
We usually don't recommend using fabric softeners as they trap the dirt inside by making a protective coating around the fabric. However, if you still want to use them, make sure to dip your shirt in them once they are properly washed and free from all kinds of debris and stains.
Never use starch to make your dress shirt look crisp since it gets embedded into the weave, making the fabric weaker and more prone to shearing.
- Drying your dress shirts
Once the wash cycle is completed, take your shirts out of the machine as soon as possible otherwise they may develop stubborn wrinkles. After this, hang it outside in fresh air to get dried completely.
We often get the question of whether dress shirts could go in the dryer.
Our answer is a BIG NO!!!
Keep in mind that dress shirts are not designed to work well with dryers as the process involves a combination of overdying and high heat which, in turn, may cause the fabric to get burnt, shrunk, or flimsy.
Even if your shirt's care label says that it can be dried in a dryer, always opt for a less dry option to prevent wrinkling and other potential damages. The same "BIG NO" rule goes for drying your button-downs on high heat settings or under direct sunlight.
Washing and drying dress shirts at laundry/dry cleaners
It's always best to wash your dress shirts at home but in case you don't have enough time, make sure to choose a trusted dry cleaner as such companies are famous for ruining high-end dress shirts due to their negligence.
For this purpose, you may do a quick internet search or ask for recommendations from your social circle to find the top-rated services. Even then, it's better to get your older shirts laundered first to check whether the company is actually worth it or not.
One thing that's important to mention here is to always make sure you are getting your shirts laundered rather than dry-cleaned since the process of dry-cleaning might be too much for most dress shirts. Also, the process of dry cleaning doesn't make your shirt free from water-soluble stains like stains from beverages, sweat, etc.
Dry cleaning your dress shirts is suggested only if they are made up of delicate fabrics like wool or silk and have oil-based stains that can't be removed at home, using regular detergents. In this case, always make sure that you explain to your dry cleaners about all the areas and spots you want to get crystal cleaned.
Q1: How often should you wash your dress shirts?
Answer: You may wear your dress shirt several times (2-3 times) before washing them eventually, unless they are visibly stained, dirty, or it's too hot out there. However, if you have sensitive skin, experts recommend washing your dress shirts after every wear and even before wearing them for the very first time.
Q2: How many washes do dress shirts last?
Answer: It mainly depends upon the quality of the fabric and how many washes it could sustain before losing its signature sheen and crispiness. Generally, a good quality outerwear dress shirt may last 35-50 washes.
Q3: How do you keep dress shirts fresh?
Answer: To keep your button-downs in top condition, always make sure to store them away from direct sunlight, in a cool and dry place. Also, avoid drying them in dryer or high-temperature settings to make them last longer.