How to wash your dress shirts at home
Whatever the event or special occasion, we want our best dress shirts to look and feel their best, which might make it tempting to take them to the dry cleaner. But dry cleaning dress shirts isn’t only expensive. It’s tough on fabric, weakening and breaking down clothing fibres, which leads to fraying and tearing, particularly at the seams. Industrial pressing can also loosen and break buttons and wear down fabric, while the overuse of cheap starch can lead to build-up and leave behind a dull coating. And even if you only send your shirts out to be laundered, rather than for a chemical clean, harsh mainstream detergents can still cause irreparable damage. So take shirt care into your own hands by washing at home for a fraction of the cost, and without the chemical hazards of weakened and scorched fabric.
Pretreat stains before laundering, including pit stains and ring around the collar and cuffs. Dilute some detergent in cool water, work it into the stain using a clean, wet cloth, then dab away the residue with another cloth. To treat ring around the collar, simply soak your shirt in a sink or tub of detergent for at least an hour. The longer the better, as it’s the prolonged soaking that will take care of the stain. Whatever you do, avoid chlorine bleach. It’s a combo of dead skin, body oils and product build-up that causes ring around the collar - the bleach will react with these protein stains, making them even yellower than before.
It’s always super important to check the care instructions and fabric content on your shirt’s label. After separating your shirts by colour (especially darks and lights) and material (like resilient cotton vs delicate silk), unbutton buttons to avoid putting a strain on the fabric. Remove collar stays (a.k.a. collar stiffeners) and turn your shirt inside out (especially ones with patterns). You should also pop your shirt in a mesh laundry bag to protect the fabric and buttons from damage inside the drum.
Wash resilient, everyday fabrics (like cotton and linen) on a normal cycle, with Kair’s Signature Clothing Wash, and delicates (like silk) on a delicates or hand wash cycle with Kair’s Wool, Silk & Delicates Wash. Whatever the fabric, always wash cool (>30°C), to limit fabric fading and degradation. This is especially important to prevent the placket stitching from shrinking and creating that puckered look where the buttons and buttonholes are. Consider adding a cup of distilled white vinegar in addition to detergent to target particularly strong, set-in yellowing or discolouration not removed by pretreating, and also to combat the possible development of pit stains over future wears.
Remove your shirts from the machine by the shoulders, and give them a good snapping shake to uncrumple them. Then immediately transfer them to an ironing board to press, or to a hanger to dry. For cotton shirts, iron on a medium-high heat (we would recommend 150-200ºC) while slightly damp, with the shirt turned inside out, for a crisp but smooth to touch finish. For linen shirts, use a high heat (max 200ºC), or leave the fabric in its naturally relaxed, crumpled texture. Always press inwards from the tip (points) of the collar or cuff, as the reverse will cause bunching or wrinkling. To keep your shirts wrinkle-free without an iron, try hanging them in a steamy bathroom post-shower or bath.
When hanging dress shirts to dry, position them properly to prevent stretching, and use wooden hangers (wire ones are too thin for damp shirts, will warp the fibres, and leave behind stains; plastic ones are better, but not so eco-friendly). Weather permitting, dry them outside for that hard-to-beat natural freshness (whites in the sun, brights and darks in the shade). Otherwise, hang by their bottoms on a drying rack. Avoid tumble dryers at all costs - the heat and fast spin causes fabric degradation and distortion.
Release any lingering wrinkles, and lock in scent, with a spritz of Kair’s Signature Finishing Spray. It’s also a great way to refresh your dress shirts between washes and on the go.
Follow these simple steps so your dress shirts can stay crisp and fresh wash after wash and year after year, and you can ditch the dry cleaner once and for all.