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Caring for your Cotton Shirt

If you are like any other individual on this planet, you love your shirts and you should know how to take care of them. Your shirts should be laundered after each use. Perspiration and the aluminium chlorides found in antiperspirants(deodorant sprays, perfumes) can weaken the fibers of a shirt if left in contact with the fabric too long.

Many retailer’s face the problems with laundry abuse of their customer’s shirts. You should be aware of some of the problems and errors in laundering, and understanding how to care for a good cotton shirt.

caring cotton shirt

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Avoid Heat and Bleachtemperature-100

Cotton Fabric will usually rid itself of dirt easily, so warm(not hot) water and soap or mild detergent are enough to get a cotton shirt clean. Excessive heat in the washer or dryer will shorten the life of your shirt.

Chlorine bleach should never be used, not even on white shir ts! Bleach can turn the brightest white to yellow, and deep burgundies to pink. All sulphur-based dyes will turn pink when bleached. If garments are bleached and not rinsed properly, the chloribleachde buildup in the fabrics can deteriorate them. Chlorine bleach can cut the life of a shirt in half.

Understanding the problem

Once a garment is abused with bleach or other chemicals, it continues to deteriorate. The weakening of the yarns may be invisible at first, but even if the shirt is properly laundered from then on, the deterioration will continue.

All fabrics are made from yarns and all yarns are made from fibers. Fibers are spun into white and off-white yarn. When a fabric is a solid color it usually has been dyed in the fabric, or woven, state. For striped fabrics the yarn is usually dyed before it is woven. The depth of eye penetration of the yarns is very important. When the yarns are woven into a fabric and exposed to wear and laundering procedures, they will begin to deteriorate or break down. If the fabric is bleached, or the color-fastness is disturbed in some other way, the tolerance of those fibers is destroyed. That’s why in time, as the fabric continues to deteriorate from this early abuse, you may see the colored areas appear to fade or be eaten away, while some other parts of the garment remain intact.

Choosing a Laundry


If you are not inclined to wash your own shirts, it is important to find a good, reputable laundry that knows how to care for them properly.

Try to find a laundry that does the washing and pressing right on the premises. Ask questions. Find out how your shirts are being laundered. You want a laundry that does not use extremely large loads or extremely high temperatures. Make sure they are aware that chlorine bleach and improper souring can harm your garment. Ask if they are using a “pH-controlled” or “buffered” sour.

Remember, your laundry has the responsibility to follow the instructions on the care tag in your garment.

Wear Life Expectancy

The average shirt should have a wear life of approximately 35 to 50 washings. This will fluctuate depending on the amount of abrasion and strain placed on the shirt during wear, the fiber content, the type of fabric and the laundering procedure.

A shirt that is worn once a week should last approximately one year. If you have at least 12 shirts, including duplicates of your favorites, you can rotate them. This rotation is important in extending the life of your shirts.

Also remember, the less starch used, the longer the shirt will last. The heat the laundry uses when applying starch is the enemy, not the starch.

Doing it at Home

The safest way to maintain your shirts is to launder them at home, where you have total control.

Machine wash warm, do not use chlorine bleach, tumble dry medium, warm iron. Wash dark colors separately.

If you choose to press your own shirts, here are a few pointers:iron

  • Make sure your iron is not too hot or it will scorch your shirt.
  • Cotton should be ironed damp, so sprinkle the shirts prior to pressing, or use a can of spray starch. Spray each small area before ironing.
  • Iron the sleeves and cuff first, then the shoulders, followed by the yoke. Next, do the front and back, leaving the collar for the last. The collar should always be ironed away from the point.
  • Go back and touch up any spots that you missed.

The Compromise

Many people are unwilling or unable to iron their shirts properly.

Consider washing your shirts at home, avoiding harsh chemicals, bleach and excessive heat, then simply take them to the laundry to get pressed. Make a wash load of only your shirts and put them through the extra rinse to remove any harmful residue of detergents.

Given the time and craftsmanship that is involved in making of a fine shirt, we should all do what we can to protect and prolong the life of the garment.

Cotton is a strong fabric and with the proper care, should provide you with long-lasting, comfortable shirts.

Interesting Questions Regarding Shirt Care

Here are some of the more commonly-asked questions we’ve been asked over time, with regard to cotton shirts:

Q: Should I remove the plastic collar stays before laundering my shirts?

A: Yes. Washing the stays causes no harm, but pressing causes an outline of the stays to show on your collar and this may take several laundering cycles to disappear.

Q: What is the correct way to iron a monogram on a shirt?

A: Place your iron on the monogram and iron away from it to avoid bunching the fabric around the stitching. This is the same principle use use when you avoid pleating on a collar by ironing away from the points.

Q: How can an ink stain be removed from a shirt?

A: Spray the ink stain with hair spray (the stickier the better) or soak for a few hours in milk and then launder as usual.

Q: How can marks from a pencil be removed from a shirt?

A: Use an eraser, then wash.

Q: What can I do if I forget my collar stays?

A: Cut substitutes from any thin, rigid material that is available, such as a cardboard or a seldom-used credit card. Paper clips bent to the correct length also work.

Q: How can I get the wrinkles out of a shirt without an iron?

A: Hang the shirt in the bathroom while you shower and leave it in the room to dry overnight.

Q: How can I get a perspiration stain out of my shirt?

A: Before laundering, soak the shirt for 24 hours in salty water.