How to Wash a Dress Shirt

by Kimbry Parker
Dress shirts can be washed at home in your washing machine.

Dress shirts can be washed at home in your washing machine.

The dress shirts hanging in your closet may be made from synthetic fabrics like polyester or rayon, or from natural fabrics like cotton or silk. No matter what the fabric, it’s important to wash your dress shirts correctly to keep the fabric intact. While many people assume dress shirts must be dry cleaned, notes that dry cleaning clothing too frequently can weaken or discolor the fabric over time. Instead of taking your dress shirts to the cleaners, wash them at home; but use the right methods to prevent laundering mishaps.

Machine Wash

Take out collar stays in the collars of your shirts. Fasten the buttons on the shirts and apply a laundry pretreatment product to any stains.

Set your washing machine to the appropriate settings. Use cold water for dark-colored shirts and hot water for white or light-colored shirts. Set the machine to a regular wash cycle unless otherwise noted on the care label and add the recommended amount of detergent according to the label’s instructions.

Put your dress shirts in the washer. Let the shirts go through a complete cycle.

Remove the shirts from the washer as soon as the cycle has finished. Hang your dress shirts on wooden clothes hangers to air dry.

Hand Wash

Fill a clean tub or sink with water. Use cold water for dark-colored clothing and hot water for light-colored and white clothing.

Add laundry detergent to the water according to the label’s measuring instructions. Mix the detergent and water with your hands.

Place the dress shirts into the water. Move the shirts around in the water for a few minutes to wash them.

Drain the soapy water from the tub or sink and fill it with clean, cool water. Swish around the shirts until all the soap residue is gone.

Remove the shirts from the water and squeeze them gently without wringing them. Roll each shirt into a clean white bath towel to remove the excess water. Hang the shirts to dry.

Items you will need

  • Laundry detergent
  • Wooden clothes hangers
  • Bath towels


  • Check the fabric label on your dress shirts. If the shirt is labeled “Dry Clean,” it’s usually safe to wash it at home, but if it says “Dry Clean Only,” it’s necessary to take it to a professional.
  • Air-drying is recommended for dress shirts to prevent shrinkage. If you choose to dry your shirts in the dryer, use low heat and take the shirts out while they’re still damp. If you plan to iron your shirts, do so while they’re slightly damp, whether you air-dried or machine-dried them.

About the Author

Kimbry Parker has been writing since 1998 and has published content on various websites. Parker has experience writing on a variety of topics such as health, parenting, home improvement and decorating. She is a graduate of Purdue University with a Bachelor of Arts in organizational communication.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images