|Shirts are made to be worn, not worshiped. This means they get dirty. However, with proper care, a high quality dress shirt will last you a long time and continue to look awesome. There are various ways to clean a dress shirt: wash and press at the cleaners, dry-clean at the cleaners, and washing it yourself in the washing machine and then ironing it. Here we explain the pro's and con's of each.
The Cleaners: "Wash and Press"
This is our first choice. It's relatively cheap ($1-3/shirt) and easy (no need to iron the dress shirt). And it keeps the shirts looking great. At most cleaners, what this process involves is:
1. Wash your shirt in a washing machine using water and detergent.
2. Remove most of the water from the shirt with the spin cycle.
3. Put damp shirt in a shirt press that simultaneously dries the garment and makes it wrinkle free.
This method of cleaning may produce a tiny amount of shrinkage, but nothing too severe.
The Cleaners: "Dry clean"
You can also take your shirt to the cleaners and ask them to dry clean it. This will not damage the shirt and will minimize shrinkage, but there are a couple downsides. The first is that it can be expensive - usually over $5/shirt. Another is that water soluble stains such as perspiration are not removed. Dry cleaning solvents contain very little to no water so perspiration is pretty much left untouched, washing is actually better for removing water soluble stains like sweat. It's best to dry clean your shirt if it has an oil based stain on it. Oils that go through the laundering and pressing process look terrible. Always mention any spots or stains on your garments to the cleaner when dropping off clothes.
How to Wash a Dress Shirt at Home
To wash your shirt at home, you can use your washing machine and detergent. If the shirt is light color or white, use a hot wash. If the shirt is darker stick to cold water. Once the shirt has been washed and gone through the spin cycle, you'll need to dry and press it. We recommend avoiding the dryer and letting the shirt air dry on a hanger, although (depending on the size of your house) this is not always practical. If you must put the shirt in a dryer, avoid high heat or over-drying the shirt. Use the dryer to get most of the moisture out of the shirt, and then iron the shirt immediately to remove the rest of the moisture and any wrinkles at the same time.
A few other tips to keep in mind:
*Always remove the collar stays from the collar before washing and ironing. If you don't they will get warped causing the dress shirt collar to not point straight.
*Don't leave dirty white shirts in the hamper for too long before washing. This can lead to premature yellowing of the collar band caused by sweat and oils from your neck.
*Don't count on your cleaner to find and remove stains from your shirt. If you know you got a spot of marinara on your placket, or a drop of coffee on your sleeve, point it out to the cleaner so that they can spot clean it.