How to wash & care for your Shirts

Be it a formal meeting or an informal date a clean, well-pressed, neat-looking shirt is almost a staple. But keeping them in the pristine condition that you bought them is not an easy job. There are many factors which are detrimental to the life span of your shirt. Here are some tips to clean your shirt to look like new.

Tips to maintain your shirt

Get the fabric right

Buying the best quality shirt is the first step to keeping it looking good for years and many many wear. Good brands always make shirts in the best quality fabrics. They always pass other quality garment criteria like sturdy stitches at the seams, fine but durable fabric – and these qualities can vary between brands. So choose your brand wisely.

And even with good brands there will be shirts with fancy weaves – these need to be treated very carefully. They look good but if you toss them into a washing machine, they will get damaged. Dry cleaning is the only option with these shirts. 

Related post : The best fabrics for shirts

Some of the shirts advertised as cotton may have some synthetic fibers which make them not as breathable as you like them to be. A lot of shirts marked linen are now a blend of synthetic fibers with linen. Nothing against them because they have some good qualities like easy maintenance, wrinkle resistance, less fading. But they are not as comfortable on the body as a fabric with only natural fibers.

washing fine shirts
Care label for Shirt made of Natural fabric

Fabrics with viscose fibers are susceptible to wear and tear faster than fine quality natural fabrics or blends (cotton, linen, silk). They should be washed in a gentler cycle in the washing machine.

how to care for shirts
Care label inside shirts

Read the care label of your shirt – that will tell you what it is made of and how it should be cared for.

Related post: How to read the care label on shirts.  

Get the fit right

How the shirt fits you is another important pointer in saying if the shirt will wear well or not – if you have a shirt that is tight on your body, you may think it is just a matter of comfort, but no. A tight fit will cause strain on the seams (depending on how tight) and also on the button stand. Positioning of watches and jewelry can cause fraying at the cuffs. Resting your elbows on a table also causes abrasion. 

Prevent stains 

It is advisable to wear a simple T-shirt or camisole underneath the shirt in order to absorb perspiration, deodorant, and perfumes.

Treat stains /Ring around the collar

how to wash white clothes

We are all familiar with the dreaded ‘ring around the collar’ on shirts. It is a build-up of oils, sweat, dry skin, pollutants, etc around the inside of the collar – on all shirts it looks yellow and even brown if the stain is set in.

The best thing is to try to prevent this. The traditional advice is to wash your neck. However, even with a clean neck, you may find these rings on your collar.

Nowadays, collar guards, mock neck undershirts and other such methods are easily available to reduce contact of the collar with the back of the neck. Multiple usages of the same shirt, without washing, can cause the ring to set in permanently.

Some suggest using talcum powder around the neck. Reducing the use of cosmetics, perfumes, and colognes around your neck can also prevent collar rings.

Removing rings at home may prove a little difficult even with all the products available that claim to remove them. If you overzealously rub to remove the stain a severely damaged collar is the result. The tricky thing behind this difficulty is that the chemical composition of each person’s sweat varies according to their body and external factors, such as the pollutants they are exposed to. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy. You could find a suitable product through trial and error.

Soak the shirt in a mild stain remover like Oxyclean overnight to remove stubborn stains (which includes the armpit stains, ring around the collar stains, food stains). You can use a soak of vinegar to make the fabric smell less. 

But your safest bet is using a dry-cleaning service.

collar of shirts
Result of overzealous brushing on the collar

If the collar is beyond redemption, but you still want to keep the shirt, because you love the fit or color or whatever, you can try a solution – that of flipping the collar to the other side. You will need to unpick the collar and turn it over and sew it back. Need some sewing chops for this. 

If the shirt is stained, it is better to deal with it as soon as you can – otherwise it can leave a permanent mark. Spot clean immediately with a wet tissue after removing the staining particle. Scrape off the solid material before rubbing. If the stain is made from protein solids (milk, blood, curd, urine, feces etc), do not use hot/warm water for the initial wash – this will set the stain. Wash it off in cold water. Greasy stains from food and other stains can be spot treated with a dot of dish washing liquid soap.

If it is a very expensive shirt you can take it to the dry cleaners. Dry cleaning uses non-aqueous solvents to remove stains and grease. This helps avoid shrinkage and fading.

Related post : Best DIY stain removers for clothes.

Wash shirts properly

Determine if you have the time and patience for hand cleaning and if you have, then hand wash. It is always better to hand clean clothes as agitation in a washing machine is one of the worst problems in the life span of a shirt. But it is not possible, mentally or physically for a lot of us. So on to the usual washing machine wash.

Some precautions can prevent the problems inherent in a machine wash.

  • Fasten all the buttons.
  • Spot clean any stains. Brush any dirt from the surface. 
  • Use a delicate cycle in your washing machine settings if the fabric of your shirt is fine. If it is made of a heavier fabric, you can choose the regular cycle.
  • If you’re using a dryer, set it to low heat.
  • Make sure you do not mix colors in your load. And if possible sort by material too.
  • And do not wash with other clothes with metal parts, embellishments that can wear the fabric of shirts.

A fabric softener can make a shirt look softer and smell wonderful. It can reduce cling so if that is a problem with your shirt material you know what to do. 

Do not keep the shirt wet

Too much of anything is still bad. Too much washing can also damage shirt fabrics. If you insist on wearing shirts multiple times before laundering you should know that this practice greatly reduces the lifespan of a shirt.

Keeping your shirt wet, be it perspiration or humidity, or plain water can cause weakening of the fabric, discoloration and mold spots. So it is a good idea to air out shirts to let it dry before you add the shirt to your laundry pile. 

Dry properly

Dress-shirts are quick to wrinkle and the wrinkles really set in firmly, if left in the washing machine. Remove the shirt from the machine/dryer immediately after the process is over. Give it a good shake. Air dry.


Related post: DIY laundry starch;  How to wash white clothes; How to wash dark clothes; How to hand wash clothes.  

Deal with wrinkles

The no-wrinkle (no-iron) finish on shirts is very convenient – no need to iron at all, looking crisp and neat always; but they have chemicals applied which is not good for health. And some of them are guaranteed for only about 12 to 25 washes, depending on the brand. Some may not like the stiff feel or the permanent stiff look of the no-iron shirts. But they do come out wrinkle-free straight from the washing machine/dryer. One who has to iron shirts every single day will know the value of these.

Iron shirts before it has completely dried. Once it is completely dry, the wrinkles are almost impossible to get out.  If you have over-dried your shirt, use a spray bottle filled with water to dampen the shirt while you iron it or use the steam function in an iron box.

No shirt will last forever. So enjoy them while they are good.

Related posts : Fabric care instructions

Frequently asked questions on Shirt care

What are the important things you should do before washing your shirt?

Some people recommend unbuttoning the buttons but some recommend buttoning them all up. I would button up to avoid the buttons getting tangled in other clothing. Definitely remove all extra things (coins, pens, old handkerchief) from the pockets. Brush away any dried up dirt. Treat stains. Turn the shirt inside out. Sort together with similar colors.

Where do you hand wash your shirt?
This is answered because many people think of washing shirts in a sink. I think it is gross and completely avoidable unless you cannot find a single bucket or basin to collect water and rinse.

Is there a quick way to loose wrinkles ?

Steam iron is the best to remove wrinlkles. If you do not have any sort of iron, much less steam iron, just hang in your shower cubicle and have a hot shower.

Which shirts can be washed in a washing machine?

If your shirt is made of synthetic fabric or synthetic blends or cotton, and linen you can clean it in a washing machine, so long as the fabric is sturdy and of good structure.

Do not wash Rayon/viscose shirt, silk shirt or loose weave shirts in the washing machine.

Updated on October 23, 2022 by Sarina Tariq

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