Love that crisp “new shirt” feeling of a freshly laundered and pressed dress shirt you just picked up from the laundry service?

Sending your shirts out to be cleaned saves time, we know. But if you’d like to save a little money and have more control over the process -- and if your shirt doesn’t have a “Dry Clean Only” warning -- you can achieve the same results at home if you follow the correct procedures.

Below, we’ll answer some important questions about the cleaning of dress shirts, then we’ll show you a few easy steps for getting the job done right, courtesy of Sean Busch, Puracy’s co-founder and resident cleaning expert. And even though the steps are simple, you’ll want to follow them carefully, especially if you have custom-tailored or monogrammed shirts that required a larger initial investment.

Do Dress Shirts Need to Be Washed After Every Use?

If you’re wondering whether you can wear your dress shirt again without washing it -- that’s up to you. It really depends on how long you wore the shirt or whether you got anything on it while you were wearing it.

If you only wore your dress shirt for a short time, and it doesn’t smell and isn’t stained, then you can put it right back on the hanger or even freshen it up with the iron or garment steamer.

Dry Cleaning Dress Shirts vs. Washing Them at Home

For the best guidance on this issue, you’ll want to check the care tag inside the shirt:

  • If the tag clearly states “Dry Clean Only,” don’t mess with that. Take it to the dry cleaner. (And if you don’t like spending money to have your shirts dry cleaned, read the care tag before purchasing your next dress shirt.)
  • If the tag says “Dry Cleaning Recommended,” it means that’s the shirt-maker’s suggestion, and it’s up to you whether you follow it.
  • If the tag gives machine-washing instructions, then it’s a “wash and wear” shirt that can be easily laundered at home according to the steps below.
  • If your shirt doesn’t have a care tag or the tag is unreadable, you can call the manufacturer and ask.

Sean’s tip: “If your shirt absolutely must be dry cleaned, seek out a “green” dry cleaner that uses eco-friendly cleaning methods. A green dry cleaner won’t use the solvent perchloroethylene (“perc”), a chemical that’s considered a health and environmental hazard by the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Best Way to Remove Stains from a White Dress Shirt

Clean white shirt with Puracy Stain Remover

It seems to be a law of nature -- if you’re wearing a white dress shirt while eating spaghetti or drinking red wine (or both), you’re probably going to see a few red spots on your shirt at the end of the day.

Even if you don’t spill anything on your dress shirt, certain areas of it are going to get the most wear during the life of the shirt, and they need special attention. Dress shirts rub against your neck, around the cuffs, and in the underarm area, leaving behind dead skin cells, sweat, and odors.

For stain removal and regular care of the areas that get the most wear, Sean recommends Puracy Natural Stain Remover. It’s formulated with all six plant-based enzymes that break down hundreds of types of stains.

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Step #1 -- Pretreat stains and areas of wear with Puracy Natural Stain Remover.

Step #2 -- For stubborn stains, agitate the area by rubbing the fabric together vigorously with two hands. This works the enzymes into the fabric’s fibers, loosening the stain’s particles. (Did you know that our bodies have two types of sweat glands? To learn more, and for more details about removing pit stains, read How to Easily Remove Pit Stains & Discoloration from Sweat.)

Step #3 -- Let the shirt sit for at least an hour to let the enzymes do their job. If your shirt is wool or linen, wait no longer than an hour, Sean says. Otherwise, you can just toss your pretreated shirt into the laundry basket until laundry day, even if that’s a week away. The enzymes become inert after they’re finished working on the stain.

Step #4 -- Proceed with “Easy Steps to Washing Dress Shirts” below.

Step #5 -- Repeat. Stubborn stains sometimes require multiple treatments. If your stain isn’t fully removed after your first wash cycle, then don’t throw it in the dryer. Instead, you should first repeat steps #1-4 above until the stain is gone.

Sean’s tip: “Keep a 4-ounce bottle of Puracy Natural Stain Remover near your laundry basket. Pretreat areas of concern on your shirt as soon as you take it off, then toss the garment in your laundry basket and wash it hours, or even days, later.”

Easy Steps to Washing Dress Shirts

Step #1 -- Pretreat with Puracy Natural Stain Remover if necessary (see above).

Step #2 -- Wash in your machine using Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent. The natural, biodegradable formula, made with four plant-based enzymes, is suitable for sensitive skin and allergy sufferers. Choose Free & Clear, our unscented detergent, or Fresh Linen, which imparts a subtle scent of freshness onto clothing.  

  • Wash like materials and colors together.
  • Use the permanent press or delicate cycle.
  • Use the low-spin setting.
  • Set the machine for an extra rinse cycle, especially if you pretreated with stain remover.
  • Use cold or warm water.

Step #3 -- Dry the shirts as instructed below.

Sean’s tip: “The temperature of cold tap water varies greatly depending on where you live and the season. Although the enzymes in Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent do work in cold water, you don’t want it to be too cold. You should aim for between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Can I Put Dress Shirts in the Dryer?

Heat alone does not shrink shirts, Sean says. It’s the combination of high heat and overdrying that can not only shrink shirts but also burn or otherwise damage the fabric.

Follow these tips for drying dress shirts:

  • Always consult the instructions on the shirt’s care tag.
  • Use the dryer’s permanent press cycle.
  • Use the “less dry” option.
  • Remove the shirt from the dryer when it’s still slightly damp, then take it right to the ironing board. The iron will help the shirt finish drying, and the dampness will create steam that helps get out any wrinkles.

You can also skip the drying and hang the slightly damp shirts on non-wire hangers; just leave space between the shirts for proper air-drying.

How to Avoid Locking in Stains

Stains can seem to be permanently “locked in” if you launder them incorrectly and then overdry them in the dryer. However, Puracy Natural Stain Remover is guaranteed to be the most powerful laundry stain remover on the market. The six plant-based enzymes break down hundreds of types of stains, even those that seem to be set into the fabric.

Tips for Reducing Wrinkles

If you follow the proper drying directions above, your shirts should be wrinkle-free and ready to wear, because overdrying is one of the culprits that often causes wrinkles in the first place. Remove your shirts from the dryer while they’re still damp, then iron immediately or let them air-dry on hangers.

Sean also suggests paying close attention to the shirts you’re buying, and always purchasing the ones meant for your body type. For instance, if you’re tall and slender, choose shirts with a slim cut. That way, there’s no excess fabric and therefore less opportunity for the fabric to bunch up and create the wrinkles while you’re wearing it.

Now that you know how to effectively launder your dress shirts at home, just think of all the money you’ll save on dry cleaning -- you’ll probably want to spend it on more nice dress shirts. Keep Puracy Natural Stain Remover and Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent on hand, always follow the directions above (and on the care tag), and your favorite shirts will last for years.