How To Wash Dress Shirts

When you’re young, jeans and a t-shirt are perfectly acceptable attire, but as you grow up and onward, looking your best becomes something most adults aspire to. There is just something about having a pulled together look that will not only have others seeing you at your best, it can also help lift your self confidence. Who wouldn’t want that? 
High quality dress shirts should look crisp and clean, but they don’t last forever. Caring for them properly will help keep them looking new much longer. Overwashing damages fibers and ages your shirts prematurely, and unless your work involves a lot of blood, sweat, or tears, you can probably wear them more than once between washes. Washing less often will extend the lifespan of your shirts. 

How to Keep Your Dress Shirts Sharp

Keeping your dress shirts clean and sharp can take time and elbow grease – or not – depending on the method you choose. Here are three methods and plenty of tips to help minimize your laundry work.

  1. Professional Wash and Press
  2. DIY: Wash and Press Dress Shirts at Home
  3. Spot Clean and Steam
  4. How To Maximize Dress Shirt Life
  5. How To Iron Your Dress Shirts

Professional Wash and Press

Taking your shirts to the dry cleaners doesn’t necessarily mean they are getting dry cleaned, more than likely they are being washed and pressed. Costing around $2.99/shirt, this cleaning method is fairly cheap and easy and keeps them looking great. 

Commercial cleaners wash the shirts as you would at home, in a machine with detergent. After the spin cycle they put the shirts onto an industrial press, which closes over the shirt and press irons, removing all remaining moisture. This leaves your dress shirts looking crisp, clean, and neatly pressed.

If you’re in one of our service areas, you don’t even have to research cleaners near you. We’ll pick up your dress shirts for free, have them cleaned, and deliver them to your home or office for no additional cost over cleaning. Clean clothes at your convenience – no need to waste your lunch hour or your Saturday dropping off and picking up…or worse, doing laundry.

Wash and Press Dress Shirts at Home

DIY: Wash and Press Dress Shirts at Home

If you have a washing machine at home, this method is convenient, inexpensive, and gives you control over treating stains, protecting buttons, and keeping collars in check.

What you’ll need:

  • High quality detergent with no chlorine, like Tide, OxiClean, or Woolite
  • Pre-treater
  • Washing machine
  • Quality hangers
  • Iron and ironing board

Steps to Wash Your Dress Shirt at Home

1. Prepare the Shirt

Making sure your shirts are ready to go into the wash is just as important as washing them, here’s what you’ll need to do to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Buttons and stays

Before you wash, unbutton all buttons, including cuff collar buttons. Remove collar stays if it has them and put them in a safe place. This helps protect your fabric and buttons from damage. 

Pre-treat problem areas

  • Stains – Pretreat stains by carefully working a bit of detergent into them with a toothbrush, or spot clean with a stain remover stick/pen. Make sure the stain is completely gone. Consult our ultimate stain removal guide for how to deal with different types of stains. If you just can’t get a stain out, take it to a professional dry cleaner for a last-ditch attempt.
  • CollarsRing around the collar stains are common, the result of a buildup of sweat and oil from your skin. First remove oily grease with a dish detergent like Dawn so you can reach the actual stain underneath it. Wet the shirt then work dish soap to the stained collar and let it soak for about an hour. Once the grease is gone use a stain remover such as Oxiclean or Shout to get the yellow out.
  • Cuffs Pre-treat stains on cuffs as soon as possible. The longer the stain remains in the fabric, the more difficult it will be to remove it. Coldwater alone may be enough to remove some stains, so try soaking the garment in cold water for at least 30 minutes before going to the next step. If the stain remains after soaking, Work liquid laundry detergent, bar soap or shampoo into the stain to loosen it, then leave the soap on the stain and let it soak for at least 2 hours. 
  • Underarm stains  – This is where Oxiclean matters. Fill a sink with warm water and mix it with one scoop of OxiClean. Submerge your stained shirt in the sink and soak for an hour…or overnight if the stain is really bad. 

Finally, turn your dress shirt inside out before washing.  

2. Machine Wash

To minimize wear on dress shirts wash them using the delicate cycle. If the shirt is made from a piece of heavy fabric or is particularly dirty, you can use the normal cycle. Dark colored shirts that you don’t want to fade should be washed with cold water, all light shirts in warm. Use a high quality detergent, like Woolite Complete or Tide. Cheap detergents cost you more in the long run since they usually don’t get the job done the first time. Be sure not to use any detergents or cleaners that are chlorine based. These will cause discoloration of many shirt fabrics. Wash the shirts in the washing machine as usual, and then let the spin cycle wring most of the water out of the garment. Do not dry.

3. Remove From Washer and Hang

Remove your shirts from the washer immediately after the spin cycle ends. Hold them by the shoulders and snap them to loosen wrinkles, then hang them on plastic or wooden hangers to dry. Hanging wet shirts on wire hangers can damage the fibers and rust can stain the fabric so it’s best to avoid them altogether. 

If you have to use the dryer, make sure all stains are completely gone – heat sets stains. Remove your shirts from the dryer while they are still slightly damp and then hang them in a ventilated area to help keep them crisp. 

Spot Clean and Steam

If you spend most of your day in an office, chances are your dress shirts don’t need to be washed every time you wear them. You may be able to freshen them up and wear them a couple of times before washing. If you’re traveling with dress clothes and you don’t know where to find a dry cleaner in a different city, a portable steamer is invaluable to stay sharp.This method is pretty simple:

Steps to Spot Clean and Steam Your Dress Shirt

  1. Go over the shirt thoroughly with a lint roller to remove hair, skin flakes, and debris.
  2. Use a spot treatment to remove any small stains. Be sure to check collars, cuffs and underarms for sweat stains. 
  3. Hang on a plastic or wood hanger in a ventilated area.
  4. Use a steamer to remove wrinkles and odors.
  5. Iron if necessary.

After you wear them a few times, your dress shirts will look dingy and unkempt. When it’s time to make your shirts look like new again, hit the pickup button on your laundry app. We’ll take care of the rest.

How To Maximize Dress Shirt Life

  • Leaving white shirts in the hamper for too long is a no-no. Sweat and other body effluvia will settle deep in the fibers, leaving yellow stains that are difficult to remove. If you can’t wash right away, at least treat the underarms, collars, and cuffs.
  • Washing your dress shirts inside a mesh washing bag helps protect buttons from damage.
  • Unless you’re washing towels, hot water is almost always a bad idea. Warm will do the trick and it won’t set stains or damage the fabric.
  • Bleach may make white cotton shirts super white, but it will also break down the fibers and shorten the life of your clothes, and it yellows some fabric blends. Use it sparingly and only as a last resort to save a dingy white shirt.
  • When you take a garment to the dry cleaner, be sure to tell them about any stains. Otherwise, they may miss the stain, apply heat, and inadvertently make the stain permanent.

Ironing Your Dress Shirt

Ironing Your Dress Shirt

To keep your dress shirts looking their best, you’ll need to break out your iron and ironing board. Ironing shirts right out of the washer will get you the best result. There’s no need to let them dry first. 

Starch is entirely a matter of choice. A light spritz on each section as you work will help keep your shirt crisp.

Steps to Properly Iron Your Dress Shirts

  1. First, iron the back of the collar, working from the points toward the center. There’s often a bit of extra material in the collar to allow stretch. This method will keep creases from forming.
  2. Flatten the cuff of the sleeve on the ironing board. Regardless of whether you wear button cuffs or French cuffs, pressing these first will make ironing the sleeve easier.
  3. Work on the sleeves next. Lay the seam of the sleeve flat across the ironing board. Use your hands to smooth the material out first, then use the iron. Use the tip of the iron near the cuff first, then work back toward the shoulder. If you want a crease down the sleeve, carefully press the edge of the sleeve.
  4. The back of your dress shirt is next. Take your time around the pleat on the back. Start by ironing under the pleats, then do the top of the pleats. Iron the rest of the back, repositioning the shirt as needed. 
  5. Afterward, transition to the shoulders. Place the narrow end of the ironing board into one of the sleeves. This will allow a flat place across the yoke (upper shoulder) portion of the shirt. Repeat with the other shoulder.
  6. Flip the shirt over and work on the front. If there’s a pocket, iron from the sides to the center like with the collar to avoid creasing. Use the point of the iron to press the fabric between each button. Work gently so that the thread holding each button in place is not broken.
  7. Lastly, work on the front of the collar, ironing from the points to the center as you did on the back of the collar. 
  8. Replace the stays and your shirt is fresh, clean, and pressed.

Note: If your shirt is made from a no-wrinkle fabric, you may be able to skip the ironing. Your shirt won’t be quite as crisp, but it will be unwrinkled. Try a steamer to remove any post-dryer wrinkles that settle in.

Washing and ironing your own shirts is tedious and time consuming. And unless you are very good at ironing, you might wind up looking less than professional. It’s up to you to decide whether your time is worth more than the cost of professional launder and press. If you decide you have things you’d rather do, contact us. We’ll take care of the laundry, and you can do whatever makes you happy.