How To Wash A Dress Shirt

With the right care, a high quality dress shirt can last for several years and continue to look great.

We source high-quality, four-season and curated fabrics from textile markets and mills throughout Europe. All of our fabrics are 100% organic material. Sons Of Savile does not produce shirts made with non-iron, or chemically treated, fabrics.

Method 1: “Wash and press” at the cleaners

Wash and press is the “normal” way to clean dress shirts when you take them to the cleaners. (Don’t be too confused by this. Even though you take your shirt to the “dry-cleaners”, they are most likely doing wash and press unless you are expressly asking them to dry clean ). This is our first choice. At around $1.50/shirt, this cleaning method is relatively cheap and easy and it keeps the shirts looking great. At most cleaners, here’s what the process involves:

  1. They wash your shirt in a normal washing machine using water and detergent.
  2. They remove most of the water from the shirt with the spin cycle in the washing machine.
  3. They pull the damp shirt onto an industrial shirt press that closes over the shirt and simultaneously irons the garment while removing all of the moisture.
Method 2: Wash the shirt yourself at home

If you don’t trust your dry cleaner, or if you’d just like a little more control over how your shirts are washed, you may want to wash your dress shirts at home. We really like this option, but to do so properly requires a bit of time and care on your part. Follow these steps for optimal results:

  1. Start by preparing the dress shirt. Unbutton all of the buttons, including cuff buttons and any collar buttons. Remove any collar stays if it has them and put them in a safe place.
  2. Pre-treat any stains by carefully working a little detergent into them, or better yet spot-cleaning them with a stain remover pen.
  3. Set up your washing machine: To minimize wear on a fine or lightweight dress shirt, use the Delicate cycle. If the shirt is made from a heavier duty fabric, or is particularly dirty you may opt for the Normal cycle. Whites and light colors can use hot water. Dark colored shirts that you don’t want to fade should be washed with cold water. Take care not to include other laundry items with bold colors that may bleed into your shirts.
  4. Use a high quality detergent, such as Woolite Complete, that is appropriate to the color of the shirt. Be sure not to use any detergents or cleaners that are chlorine based as these will cause discoloration to many shirt fabrics.
  5. Wash the shirts in the washing machine, and then let the spin cycle wring most of the water out of the garment.
  6. The shirts will be tightly crumpled in the washing machine so you’ll want to remove them promptly before these intense wrinkles will dry into the shirt. Hang the shirts up or lay them out so that they can air dry. Be careful about hanging the shirts on a sharp hanger or with tight clothespins as this can distort the fabric or leave a mark on the shirt.
  7. Next you’ll want to iron the shirts. You don’t need to wait for the shirts to be completely dry to begin this step, but they should be mostly dry.
Question: Is it ok to dry shirts in the dryer?

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. If you dry your shirts completely in the dryer you’ll find the shirt a bit harder to iron perfectly, and they will likely shrink beyond Sons f Savile’s calculated shrinkage allowances.

How To Iron A Dress Shirt

To keep your dress shirts looking their best, you’ll need to have them pressed. We usually suggest sending them to the cleaner, but if that’s not possible you’re going to need to know how to iron a dress shirt yourself. There are many ways to do this effectively, but here we’ll break down our method step by step.

We source high-quality, four-season and curated fabrics from textile markets and mills throughout Europe. All of our fabrics are 100% organic material. Sons Of Savile does not produce shirts made with non-iron, or chemically treated, fabrics.

Step 1: Get the right equipment

You’re going to need an iron. Preferably the iron lets you pour water in (for steam), and better yet it has one of those slippery teflon coated bottoms. If the iron can’t spray water out the front you will want a spay bottle of some type that can spray a fine mist. You’ll also need an ironing board; any will do - from a little ironing board you can set on a small dining room table to a nice big fold out ironing board you can setup in your living room. Whatever works!

Step 2: Get Setup

Setup your ironing board in a comfortable place where you’ll be able to spread the shirt out without wrinkling it all over again. If you’re planning to iron several shirts in a row make sure you can see the television from this angle. Plug the iron in and turn the dial to point to “cotton” or whatever the hottest setting is.

Step 3: Iron the back of the shirt

We advocate starting with the back of the shirt because this is going to get wrinkled as soon as you put it on and sit down anyways. Unbutton the shirt completely, and spread it out over the ironing board. Put the dress shirt on the board so that the narrow end of the board is going into the back of the shoulder of the shirt and the edge of the ironing board is along the side of the shirt. With moderate pressure, slide the iron down the shirt top to bottom, being careful that you keep the shirt flat and don’t actually iron wrinkles into the garment. Use a little steam or spray some water on any wrinkles that aren’t going away easily. Once you’ve done one side of the back, slide the shirt over and do the other side just the same.

Step 4: Iron the sleeves

Iron the sleeves (one at a time). Lay the sleeve long ways on the ironing board and carefully flatten the sleeve with your hands such that it folds along the hem on the bottom of the sleeve. Starting from around the arm pit area, iron toward the cuff and away from the bottom hem. It’s optional to iron in a crease on the top of the sleeve, but if you do this crease should be straight. If you don’t want a crease, just iron close to the top but not over it. Repeat on the other sleeve.

Step 5: Iron the top part of the shirt front and yoke

This is the most tricky part to get right but also the most visible since it’s right up by your neck and head. For this area you’re going to want to use the narrow pointy side of the ironing board. Pull one shoulder of the shirt over this part of the ironing board such that you have a clear view of one side of the yoke and the front of the shirt just below the yoke. The collar should be sticking up straight and curving around in a circle. Spray this area down to be damp and iron carefully around the curve of the collar.

Step 6: Iron the collar

Now we do the collar. Take out the removable collar stays from the shirt collar (don’t lose them). Button down collars won’t have collar stays, but you’ll need to unbutton the little buttons that hold the collar down. Unfold the collar so that it is “popped” and lay it flat on the ironing board with the back facing up. Spray the collar down with a good amount of water and give it ~30 seconds to soak in. Iron from the middle of the collar outwards all the way to the tips of the collar points. Because the collar is a thicker, stiffer piece of material you may need to press slightly harder than you would for the rest of the shirt. When you’re done, put the collar stays back in the collar and fold the collar down again. If you want you can also fold the collar down and iron in a bit of a crease at the front of the collar so that it will angle down sharply. You won’t be able to iron this crease all the way around since the collar is designed to curve, but a little bit of a crease at the front can make things look a bit sharper.

Step 7: Iron the front

Finally, do the front of the shirt. Hopefully, by now you’ve got the hang of it. Do one side at a time. Be careful of the buttons. Make sure the front placket is not folded over in a way it shouldn’t be. Use the point of the iron to get in the areas up around the front of the collar. If the dress shirt has a pocket, this can be tricky. You can be trickier. As you push the iron down on one side you can pull gently on the other to keep things tight and straight.

Question: Should I use starch when the shirt is pressed?

While many people do like to have their shirts starched, our suggestion is to avoid starch completely. While starch can help a broadcloth or oxford shirt appear more crisp it can also cause shirts to wear out prematurely. When the starch material gets embedded in the shirt fibers it acts like a million little knives that break down the fibers over time.

How to remove a stain from a white shirt

In the unfortunate event that you get spill some wine or spaghetti sauce on your shirt, some quick action could minimize any stains that result.

  1. With a brush or comb, carefully swipe or lift away any large pieces such that you don’t smear them worse into the garment.
  2. Immediately treat the stain with water or stain remover solvent. The sooner the better. If you can’t get your hands on a stain remover pen, we recommend a Tide Pen, try dishwashing detergent, lemon juice, vinegar, or seltzer water.
  3. Dab solvents on the stain with a light touch. Pressure can force the stain deeper into the fibers of the garment.
  4. Rinse and repeat.