A dress shirt is a must-have item for every man’s closet. Whether you’re putting it on for a formal event or just to the office, it always looks sharp and stylish.

Like any other piece of clothing, a dress shirt needs to be properly cared for in order to stay looking its best. Whether it’s a custom made dress shirt (click here and check the best custom dress shirts on the market) or something you picked up off the rack, a little kindness and attention will go a long way in keeping it looking great.

Caring for your shirt


There are generally three areas you need to focus on when caring for a dress shirt: washing, removing stains, and ironing. We shall explore each of these in a bit more detail.

Washing your dress shirt

This is the most straightforward part, as you can either do a hand wash or a machine wash. If you’re going to machine wash, then simply put it on a delicate cycle with cold water and mild detergent. You’ll need to take off the collar stays first, and then pop the shirt in a mesh bag to protect it.

If you’re going to hand wash, then do so in cold water, especially for dark-colored shirts. Use a gentle detergent and avoid scrubbing too hard, as this can scathe the fabric. Let the shirt soak for about 20 minutes before rinsing off.

Once the cycle is finished, take the shirt out of the machine and shake it to release any wrinkles. Then, hang it up on a clothesline or hanger to air dry.

Should you use a drier, take the shirt out before it is completely dry, ideally when it’s still streaming. This is often the trick to release wrinkles when you don’t have an iron box.

While most custom made shirts are supposed to be hand-washed, there are two ways around this, in case you insist on machine washing. Placing the shirt in a mesh bag will reduce the wear and tear that the shirt would otherwise experience from agitation.

Another workaround is utilizing the hand wash mode on your washer. This cycle is usually gentle enough for dress shirts.

Apart from machine and hand washing, dry cleaning is always an option. However, this is a double-sided sword as it’s hard on the fabric and still bites deep into your pockets. If you hold your custom made dress shirts as dearly as I do, you should consider sticking to hand washing.

Removing stains from your dress shirt


The best way to remove a stain is to act quickly, as the sooner you treat it, the easier it will be to get rid of. However, the location of the stain determines the most effective removal method.

Generally, a dress shirt sustains stains in three areas, i.e. armpits, collar, and cuffs. Armpit stains come from sweat and deodorant, while collar and cuff stains are usually from makeup or oils.

1. Treating armpit stains

Armpit stains are some of the most common dress shirt stains, and they’re also some of the hardest to get rid of. The best way to remove them is to soak the shirt in vinegar for 30 minutes, then wash it as you would normally do.

If the stain is still visible, you can try scrubbing it with a paste made from baking soda and water.

2. Treating collar and cuff stains


Collar and cuff stains are usually from makeup or oils, and they can be treated with a bit of shaving cream. Simply apply the shaving cream to the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before washing it off.

If the shaving cream doesn’t do the trick, then you can try using vinegar or lemon juice. Soak a cotton ball in either vinegar or lemon juice and rub it on the stain. Let it sit for a few minutes before washing it as normal.

If neither vinegar/lemon juice nor baking powder seems to work, try undiluted detergent or an oxygen-based stain remover. Apply the stain remover or detergent on the stained parts and brush lightly, then let the shirt stay overnight before washing.

Oxygen-based stain remover calls for soaking before you can wash off the dress shirt.

Bleach is also good with stains, but only on white shirts.

3. Treating greasy stains

Greasy stains can be treated with cornstarch, which will absorb the grease. Simply sprinkle cornstarch on the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before brushing it off.

If the cornstarch doesn’t do the trick, a concentrated detergent solution might. Mix one part detergent with four parts water and apply it to the stain. Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it off.

Ironing your dress shirt


Ironing is the most tedious part of dress shirt care, but it’s also the most important. While there are wrinkle-free material dress shirts, cotton and linen dress shirts need to be ironed before wearing.

The best way to iron a dress shirt is to start with the collar, moving on to the yoke, sleeves, and then cuffs. Finish off with the back and front panels and finally the placket.

When ironing dress shirts, set the heat level to the lowest, and iron while the shirt is still damp. If the shirt is dry, spritz it lightly with water.

Also, avoid ironing over the buttons. Instead, iron around them.

Once you’re done, hang the dress shirt on a wooden clothes hanger to cool and let the fabric settle.

General dress shirt maintenance tips

In addition to the above, there are a few general dress shirt maintenance tips that will help keep your dress shirt looking its best:

  • Always hang your dress shirt on a hanger that’s not wider than the dress shirt’s shoulders. This will help keep the dress shirt’s shape.
  • Attend to stains as soon as possible. Waiting too long will make it more difficult to get the stain off.
  • When stored, dress shirts should be fully buttoned and hung on a hanger. If you’re going to be storing dress shirts for an extended period of time, wrap them in acid-free tissue paper first.
  • Get dress shirts dry-cleaned only when absolutely necessary. Dry-cleaning is harsh on dress shirts and can cause the fabric to break down over time. If you must dry-clean dress shirts, take them to a professional who specializes in dress shirt care.
  • Avoid dryers. The heat from a dryer can damage dress shirt fabric and cause the shirt to shrink.

Final word

Caring for a dress shirt doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little time and effort, you can keep your dress shirt looking its best for years to come.