The Ultimate Guide on How to Take Care of Your Dress Shirts

A polished dress shirt speaks volumes. Your attire and appearance leave first and lasting impressions on others, which can impact your career prospects, social and personal relationships and your overall confidence. 

To achieve a professional, well-dressed look, you need to show your dress shirts some T.L.C. Whether you’re sporting a $25 or $250 button-up, taking care of your dress shirts will preserve their lifespan, save money and help you put your best foot forward. 

This guide covers everything you need to know about how to take care of your dress shirts, including washing, drying, ironing, hanging and more. We’ll also share tips to extend the lifespan of your dress shirts and keep them looking good as new. 

How to Take Care of Your Dress Shirts

  1. How to Wash Dress Shirts
  2. How to Dry Dress Shirts
  3. How to Iron and Remove Wrinkles from Dress Shirts
  4. How to Hang and Store Dress Shirts
  5. How to Remove Stains from Dress Shirts
  6. Other Tips to Extend the Lifespan of Your Dress Shirts

How to Wash Dress Shirts

When it comes to washing your dress shirts, you have a couple options. Always read the care label before you proceed. 

Machine-Washing Your Dress Shirts 

You can wash most dress shirts in the laundry machine — as long they’re made of cotton.

Unbutton all closures and pre-treat or spot clean any stubborn stains before machine-washing. Run the delicate cycle with hot water for light-colored shirts. Use cold water for dark-colored shirts.

It’s best to invest in high-quality detergents (Woolite is a solid choice) to prevent fading or discoloration (low-quality detergents may contain chlorine, which fades shirts much faster).

Lastly, don’t stop the wash cycle early. Allow the spin cycle to wring out as much excess water as possible before drying the shirts. 

Dry-Cleaning Your Dress Shirts 

All delicate, non-cotton materials like silk or wool should be dry-cleaned.

Cotton dress shirts aren’t actually dry-cleaned at the cleaners. Instead, they’re machine washed, then pressed and dried using an industrial presser.

The wash-and-press method is relatively inexpensive, so it’s a good alternative if you’re not comfortable washing your shirts at home or don’t have time. But consistent trips to the cleaners can add up and become costly over time.

We recommend getting the most wear out of these shirts before you head to the cleaners, since dry-cleaning can be upwards of $5 per shirt. (An undershirt is the best way to get multiple wears out of your dress shirt.)

Constant dry-cleaning and pressing can damage shirts. Ask for your shirts to be hand-pressed, if possible. On rare occasions, buttons can break, or the material can stretch out, so make sure to find a dry cleaner you trust. 

Hand-Washing Your Dress Shirts 

Hand-washing dress shirts is time-consuming. Unless your shirt explicitly states “hand-wash only,” you’ll likely get the same results with a delicate machine-wash cycle. 

How to Dry Dress Shirts

Employ extra caution when drying your dress shirts. After washing, dress shirts will be damp, crumpled and fragile, so it’s important to dry them properly. 

Hang-Drying Your Dress Shirts 

We strongly recommend air-drying your dress shirts. Air-drying prevents shrinkage and wrinkles — it’s imperative to the care process.

Use a durable hanger to air-dry your shirts in a well-ventilated space and eliminate any excess water before hanging.

Machine-Drying Your Dress Shirts 

Dryers can damage dress shirts, especially on high heat. If you must use a dryer, set it at low to medium heat to lessen the possibility of shrinkage.

It’s okay to put your shirt in the dryer for a few minutes to get rid of the initial moisture, then hang-dry to remove remaining moisture and reduce wrinkles. 

How to Iron and Remove Wrinkles from Dress Shirts

Don’t skimp on your iron – cheaply-made irons often have uneven soleplates, which can damage your shirts.

Make sure your iron has a water reservoir (if it doesn’t, a water mister also works fine). Your shirts should be damp (but not wet) prior to ironing. Use the lowest setting possible.

To properly iron dress shirts, keep these tips in mind: 

  1. Start with the sleeves: Sleeves tend to be trickiest. It helps to get them out of the way first and it will prevent creases once you start moving the shirt around the ironing board. 
  2. Iron the back: Pay extra attention to the pleats. 
  3. Iron the front: If there’s a pocket, iron from the sides toward the center. 
  4. Save the collar for last: Again, work from the sides toward the center. 

How to Hang and Store Dress Shirts

Dress shirts should be hung as soon as you’re done drying and ironing them. (Trust us, you won’t want to iron the same shirt twice.)

You should also invest in quality hangers – wood hangers are best for dress shirts, but thick plastic hangers also do the job. Avoid flimsy wire hangers as they’re less durable and bend easily, which can alter the shape and fit of your shirt.

Allow room for ventilation and hang dress shirts one to two inches apart in your closet. 

How to Remove Stains from Dress Shirts

Stains are a pain. Removing sweat stains or other types of stains zaps your time, energy and money (and sometimes you still end up throwing the shirt away after all that effort).

Here are some of our favorite formulas for removing sweat stains from dress shirts:

  • Dish soap and hydrogen peroxide
  • Oxi-Clean
  • Aspirin and hot water
  • White vinegar and warm water
  • Lemon and table salt

Learn more about treating and preventing sweat stains.

Or, if you’re struggling to oust deodorant marks or stains, check out this resource.

Other Tips to Extend the Lifespan of Your Dress Shirts

Launder Less 

If your shirts aren’t noticeably dirty or stained, consider skipping a wash.

Washers, dryers and dry-cleaning presses can do a number on your shirts. With each cycle, the fibers and colors in your clothing deteriorate, which is why they look less new and more faded each time you launder them. 

Be Prepared 

Make sure you have these basics on hand: a lint roller, a simple sewing kit and a stain remover pen (like Tide To Go).

These essentials can go a long way. Knowing how to patch up a tiny hole or replace a button extends your clothing’s lifespan and saves you a trip to the tailor. You’ll also want to keep a stain remover pen close by to instantly remove food and drink mishaps from clothing. 

Remove Plastic Bags from Dry-Cleaned Items 

Take off those plastic bags as soon as you get home from the dry-cleaners. Leaving them on too long traps humidity and causes your shirts to mildew or turn yellow. Your dress shirts need to breathe, too! 

See our other tips on how to get the most mileage out of your dress shirt.

Wear Deodorant (Not Antiperspirant) 

Ditch the antiperspirant and opt for deodorant instead. Antiperspirants are aluminum-based and can leave yellow stains that are hard to remove. These stains are caused by the aluminum in antiperspirant mixing with the proteins in your sweat.

Check out the best deodorants that prevent armpit sweat stains.

Invest in a Sweat Proof Undershirt 

If you want to get the most wear out of every dress shirt you own, you need to properly care for them and protect them – by wearing a sweat proof undershirt.

Thompson Tee’s sweat proof undershirts offer ultimate protection from sweat stains and odor while providing a reliable barrier between your dress shirts and your skin.

Thompson Tees are patented with Hydro-Shield sweat proof technology designed to prevent perspiration from reaching outer layers of clothing. You’ll never again have to throw away another dress shirt that’s been ruined by sweat stains.

Show some love and care for your dress shirts by shielding them with a sweat proof undershirt. Try Thompson Tee risk-free today.

Lawrence Hunt

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