Wardrobe Basics: Keeping Your Shirts Clean (especially your whites)

“They get so dirty around the collar and cuffs and I usually end up spilling something on them.” This this is the retort I get sometimes when I ask people why they get such cheap dress shirts. I empathize with the above statement. There is nothing worse then ponying up the cash and getting a brand new custom white shirt, only to have it looking dingy a couple of months later. I have some white dress shirts that I should part with that I bought earlier on in my life when I did not know a lot about cleaning and taking care of clothes. They have become sullied around the collar and cuffs, have some tomato soup stains around the placket and have turned greenish grey in the arm put areas. They are not terrible, and have now been relegated to work and play wear, but I could have saved them! If I only knew then what I know now.

Now, I know many people that read this will be sending their shirts out to get cleaned – I am not at this point in my life yet :( DO NOT STOP READING. There can be a lot of things that you can do to preserve the life of your dress shirts besides just washing them. The following is a helpful list of tips & tricks that I have found will help extend the life of your dress shirts measurably and take very little time and money.

  1. Spray your collar and cuffs after wearing: This is one that takes about 5 seconds and can help noticeably. Simply buy yourself a plastic spray bottle and make sure it is set to the spray, not stream, and fill it up with water. Upon removing your shirt from your body, simply spray the collar and cuffs liberally. That's it. By doing this, you will be inhibiting the dirt and oil from your body from setting in the fabric. Even if you send your shirts out to be cleaned, this will help reduce the 'ring around the collar'.
  2. Use a 'stain bar': Many companies out there make a soap that is specifically designed to cuff and collar dirt and grim. If you get really bad grim around your neck, this will be a lifesaver and a shirt life-extender. To find a couple simply do a Google search for 'cuff and collar soap' or look in the laundry aisle the next time you are at the grocery store. It is like any other other soap, you simply build up a lather and apply. I usually use a hand brush on the collar to really work it in and the throw it in the laundry. That simple. Now, I have sensitive skin and I have yet to have a problem.
  3. Don't wear antiperspirant: Now, I am not telling you to go out smelling bad. It would defeat the purpose of dressing well, only to smell terrible. I am just saying not to use antiperspirant. Though I have never really looked in to the reason why (I think I read somewhere that it has to do with the metals in them), but I can tell you from experience, antiperspirant will ruin the armpits of shirts in no time – especially on white shirts. So what do I suggest? Use a deodorant. If you are prone to sweating, consider wearing lighter suits made of more breathable fabrics and also look in to getting suits that have a half or buggy lining. That will help cut down on the sweating without ruining your shirts.
  4. Buy a Tide to Go stick: This one has been a saviour from me. Now, I am by no means a slob, but accidents do happen. I bought one of those and have left in my car (I usually drive everywhere, but you may want to keep it in your work bag, briefcase, or office). I have spilt many a meal, or mistaken my shirt for a piece of paper, and this little miracle have mitigated the damage. It costs about $6, and I guarantee, it will save you at least one shirt at a point in your life.
  5. Spot clean your white shirts: Now, you really shouldn't bleach your white shirts, unless it is a case of you will loose it either way. Bleach is extremely harsh on the fabrics of your shirts and can cause them to yellow over time. However, for the odd accident that the Tide to Go cannot take care of on a white shirt, try spot bleaching it before you wash it. What I do is take 1 part bleach and 4-5 parts warm water in a container and mix them together. Then I dunk the affected part of the shirt in the mixture for about 30 seconds then throw it in the laundry with the rest of your whites. You will be amazed at what stains this can take out.
  6. Wash your shirts!!!! This one seems like a no-brainer, but do not try to get too many wears out of your dress shirts. If it is a white shirt, it should be washed after each wear. You may be able to get away with wearing darker colour dress shirts more than once, but doing so with a white shirt will grind the dirt and grime in and make it impossible to get clean.

From my own experience, I have found that the above will add a tonne of longevity to your dress shirts. This will free up cash in the future so you can maybe get some custom made ones from Lipson ;)

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