How to Wash a T-Shirt: Maintain Your Shirts for Longer!

Find out how to properly wash your cotton and polyester t-shirts to make sure you are able to maintain their look, size, quality, and fit, for the longest period of time possible.

How to Wash a T-Shirt

Cotton & Polyester

Turn your t-shirt inside out before you place it into the washing machine, to protect the fibers and colors on the outer surface of the shirt. Place the shirt into the washing machine and add laundry detergent. Adjust the settings on the washing machine to delicate, as well as to cold water. Run the wash cycle and dry your shirt appropriately once finished. 

This is  How to Wash a T-Shirt: Maintain Your Shirts for Longer

Welcome to our guide on how to wash your t-shirt. Below, we will teach you how to make t-shirts last longer, how to wash shirts by hand, how to wash printed shirts and the overall care you need to give during the whole process.

Using the proper methods to wash your t-shirt can help to maintain the look and feel your shirt for a much longer period of time. This will allow you to save money and enjoy your favorite shirts for longer. 

Most t-shirts are made from cotton or polyester blends, which means that they must be washed in cold water to not shrink your t-shirt, damage, or melt it. Learn how to wash cotton t-shirts with our steps below.

Avoid using the dryer on tumble dry high when attempting to dry your shirts. Use the tumble dry low setting on your dryer, or choose to air dry your t-shirts instead. 

To properly press your t-shirts, use the lowest heat setting possible on your iron before you apply it to the surface of the garment. Both cotton and polyester are non-resistant to heat, which means that an iron that is too hot could potentially do damage to your t-shirt. Learn more on polyester, read can you shrink polyester?

Use our detailed guide to learn how to wash a t-shirt properly!

How to Wash a T-Shirt

The high majority of t-shirts are light and made from either 100% cotton, a cotton blend, a polyester blend, or a cotton polyester blend. All of these fabrics should be washed in cold water to avoid shrinkage, melting, or damage to the fibers. 

Machine washing is the most convenient way to wash your t-shirt, but hand washing is the most gentle way.

If you read this and decide you don’t want to chance ruining your shirt, you can take your shirt to the dry cleaners instead. These people are professionals and have dealt with 1,000,000’s of shirts. Learn how long a dry cleaner takes and how much a dry cleaner costs per t-shirt.

Follow our guides on “How to Wash” your specific piece of clothing. To make your clothes last as long as possible, treat each one separately when it comes to washing and clothing care.

Be sure to wash your t-shirts with like coloured clothing. Wash white clothes with other white clothes, wash dark clothes with other dark clothes and wash coloured clothes with same types of colours.

Find our step-by-step instructions for both machine washing as well as hand washing t-shirts, below. 

1. How to Wash T-Shirts in Washing Machine

1. Sort your laundry

Begin by making sure that you are washing your t-shirt together with other similar types of clothing. Sort your laundry according to texture, weight, fabric, and color.

this is a photo of dirty laundry sorted between darks and whites

2. Turn the t-shirt inside out

Next, turn the t-shirt inside out. Turning your shirt inside out will help to protect the garment’s outer surface as well as any printed patterns or designs

This is a photo of Tall Paul turning the t-shirt inside out to wash it

3. Add laundry detergent

Place your t-shirt into the washing machine and add the appropriate amount of laundry detergent. Check the instructions on the detergent container, and be sure to add only the recommended amount or less. Do not overpour the detergent.

This is a photo of tall paul adding laundry detergent to the wash

4. Adjust settings

Adjust your washing machine to the delicate or gentle setting and wash with cold water. The high majority of t-shirts are made from either cotton or polyester, which means that they need to be washed in cold water in order to maintain their shape, size, and quality.  Hot water will shrink the fabric.

5. Push start

Push start on the washing machine (how long does a washer take?).

this is a photo of tall paul pushing start on the washing machine

6. Remove & dry

Once the cycle is completed, remove the t-shirt from the washing machine and dry it in the dryer or let air dry. Air dry your t-shirt if you are worried about it shrinking.

This is a photo of a t-shirt in the dryer

2. How to Wash T-Shirts by hand

Hand washing is the most gentle way to wash your t-shirt, and if you have a particularly delicate, important, or expensive t-shirt, then you may choose to hand wash instead of using the machine.

1. Fill basin with water

Fill a basin with cool to lukewarm water, no hotter than 88°F/30°C.

2. Add liquid laundry detergent

This is a photo of tall paul adding liquid laundry detergent to a basin filled with water

3. Turn t-shirt inside out

Turn the t-shirt inside out so the liquid detergent does not set into the fabric leaving stains on the outside of your t-shirt.

This is a photo of Tall Paul turning his t-shirt inside out

4. Submerge the t-shirt

Submerge the t-shirt in the water and allow it to soak for 3 to 5 minutes.

This is a photo of the t-shirt being submerged in water filled with laundry detergent

5. Agitate the t-shirt

Once 3 to 5 minutes has passed, use your hands to agitate the t-shirt for another 2 to 4 minutes or until the shirt has been cleaned appropriately.

This is a photo of Tall Paul agitating his t-shirt in soapy water

6. Remove and rinse

Once completed, remove the shirt from the basin and rinse under cold water until all the soap has been removed and the water runs clear.

7. Remove excess water

Squeeze the excess water out of the shirt, or use an absorbent towel to roll the shirt.

This is a photo of tall paul removing excess water from his t-shirt

8. Dry t-shirt

Put your t-shirt into the dryer or hang it up on a clothing line or drying rack to dry.

This is a photo of a washed t-shirt drying on a coat hanger outside

How to Dry a T-Shirt

If you want to maintain the look, fit, and feel of your t-shirt for a much longer period of time, then it is recommended that you air dry your shirts instead of using a dryer. Cotton as well as polyester fabric will both react negatively if they are placed into the dryer on high heat settings. Clothing made from cotton will shrink, while polyester garments will lose their fit and quality over time if dried in the dryer using tumble dry medium or tumble dry high.

If you are using the dryer to dry your t-shirt, then adjust the settings to air dry or tumble dry low before you begin and understand how long a dryer takes. If you are able to naturally dry your t-shirts without using the dryer, then hang, lay flat, dry flat, or line dry your shirts in a clean, cool place with moderate temperatures. 

Avoid using the dryer to prolong the useful life of your cotton and polyester t-shirts. A dryer gets hot … how hot does a dryer get?

Air drying is a much more gentle way to dry your clothes than tumble drying is. 

How to Iron a T-Shirt

When ironing your t-shirts, it is important to use the iron on low heat settings so that you don’t burn, shrink, or damage your clothes. Follow the instructions below in order to properly dry your 100% cotton, or cotton/polyester blended t-shirts. 

  1. Turn the t-shirt inside out so that you can iron from the backside and protect the front side of the fabric. 
  2. Lay the shirt flat on an ironing board.
  3. Turn the iron on and adjust to the low heat setting possible.
  4. For ultra delicate t-shirts you may want to use a spray bottle to add moisture to the fabric before ironing, or cover the wrinkled area with a press cloth so that you do not need to apply the iron directly to the fabric. 
  5. Gently and smoothly slide the iron over the surface of the t-shirt. 
  6. Continue until your t-shirt is completely wrinkle free and allow to dry. 

How to Wash T-Shirts FAQ

Wash your t-shirts together with other clothing of the same texture, fabric, or color. Turn the t-shirt inside out and place it into the washing machine. Add a few drops of liquid detergent and adjust the settings to delicate and cold water. Press start to run the cycle, and dry appropriately once finished. 

Use cold water to wash your shirts and use the correct laundry detergent, and there will be no risk of ruining them. The only way to ruin shirts is to wash them in hot water, or to use bleach or other inappropriate cleaners while cleaning in the washing machine. 

Cotton and polyester shirts can be washed in the washing machine using the delicate and cold water settings. Turn your t-shirt inside out before placing it into the washing machine, and use gentle washing detergent. 

Turn the t-shirt inside out and wash it with similar types of garments. Place the shirt into the washing machine and add a few drops of laundry detergent. Adjust the settings on the washing machine to cold water and delicate, and push start. Once the cycle is complete, take your shirt to a clean cool place to hang or lay flat to dry. 

Written and reviewed by:
Tall Paul
Tall Paul
I am 6'7 (203cm) / 235lb (106 kg) model and ex-athlete. Since I was a teen I had trouble finding clothes. I was too tall for off the rack and was too lean for Big & Tall.

Get Men's Fashion Tips