Dress shirts, especially white ones, seem to collect dirt and stains quicker than other types of clothing. Dress shirts are especially prone to sweat stains as they are often worn under heavy clothing. 

Washing dress shirts can be a pain, but it doesn’t have to be! There are plenty of options for washing dress shirts that are quick, easy, and effective. 

The method you choose to wash your dress shirt with, will depend on your situation. Sweat stains are best removed with water, which means in this case you should be using the washing machine at home. 

If you have grease and oil stains on your dress shirt then it is better for you to take your shirt to the dry cleaners. 

If your dress shirt is made from a delicate material, then hand washing is the most gentle way to clean it. 

Table of Contents

  • Fastest way to wash a dress shirt: Wash with your hands
  • Best way to wash a dress shirt: Take to dry cleaners
  • Best way to wash a dress shirt at home: With a washing machine
How To Wash Dress Shirts

Continue reading to find out more information on how to wash dress shirts. 

If your dress shirts are wrinkled or creased after washing, make sure to learn how to properly iron a dress shirt

How To Wash Dress Shirts

Total Time: 2 hrs 30 min

Cost: $0.53

  • Buy Tide Pods for $55

Supplies & Tools

  • Laundry detergent
  • Washing machine
This is a photo of a washing machine to wash dress shirts
Washing machine
Laundry detergent

1. Sort your dress shirts

Sort your laundry so that you are washing similar items together (dark clothes, colored clothes, white clothes.) Wash your dress shirts with other dress shirts made from a similar fabric, and with a similar color.

this is a photo of sorted dress shirts before being washed

2. Unbutton the dress shirt

Prepare the dress shirt by completely unbuttoning the front placket as well as the cuffs and collar.

this is a photo of a dress shirt unbuttoned before it can be washed

3. Pre-treat stains on the dress shirt

Pre-treat stains before placing the shirt in the wash. Treat stains that may be too severe to be removed by the washing machine.

this is a photo of a dress shirts being pre treated for stains before wash

4. Add detergent to the wash

Place the dress shirt into the washing machine and add high quality liquid laundry detergent. Be cautious of the color as well as the material of your dress shirt before choosing the right detergent to use.

this is a photo of a dress shirt with detergent on it in the wash

5. Wash the dress shirt on delicate

Adjust the settings on the washing machine to gentle/delicate. If the shirt is made from a thicker fabric or has severe stains or sweat marks, you may choose to use the normal setting.

this is a photo of the washing being turned to delicate so a dress shirt can be washed

6. Wash with cold water always

Wash with cold water. Hot water shrinks clothes and makes dark colors bleed.

this is a photo of a washing machine turned to cold water to wash a dress shirt

7. Take out right away and dry

Once the spin cycle is finished (how long does a washer take?), remove the shirt from the washing machine and air dry by hanging (line dry) or laying flat (dry flat) on a drying rack. Avoid the dryer and its tumble dry settings when caring for your dress shirts.

this is a photo of a dress shirt hanging to dry after being washed

How To Hand Wash Dress Shirts

Total Time: 1 hr 50 min

Cost: $0.53

  • Buy Tide Pods for $55

If you have dress shirts made from expensive or delicate fabrics, then washing them by hand may be the best choice. Follow the instructions below in order to hand wash your dress shirts properly.

1. Fill container with lukewarm water for dress shirt

Fill a container with lukewarm water. You can use a plastic tub, kitchen sink, bathtub or anything else that will hold enough water.

this is a photo of a sink being filled with lukewarm water to wash a dress shirt

2. Add liquid detergent to the water before dress shirt

Add your liquid detergent to the lukewarm water. If you do not have a liquid detergent bottle, you can break open a tide pod instead. This is not the most effective use of a tide pod, because it was made for a full load of laundry, however its cheaper than buying a new liquid soap for one time use.

this is a photo of tall paul squeezing a tide pod into lukewarm water to wash a dress shirt

3. Unbutton the dress shirt before hand washing

Completely unbutton the dress shirt before adding it to the soapy water.

this is a photo of tall paul unbuttoning a dress shirt to be hand washed

4. Submerge the dress shirt in the soapy water

Submerge the dress shirt in the soapy water, and let soak for 5 to 10 minutes.

this is a photo of tall paul submerging a dress shirt into soapy water

5. Agitate the dress shirt with your hands

Use your hands to agitate the dress shirt in the soapy water for 2-3 minutes. This will help loosen the dirt particles trapped in the fabric.

this is a photo of tall paul agitating a dress shirt in soapy water to wash it

6. Rinse the dress shirt under cool tap water

Rinse the dress shirt under cool tap water until all the soap has been removed and the water runs clear once passing through the dress shirt.

this is a photo of tall paul rinsing a dress shirt under cool water after being washed

7. Roll the wet dress shirt in a clean towel

Lay the shirt evenly on an absorbent towel and roll it up like a sushi roll. Gently apply pressure on the roll to remove excess water from the shirt.

this is a photo of a wet dress shirt rolled into a clean towel to dry it more

8. Let the hand washed dress shirt air dry

Air dry by hanging or laying flat on an indoor drying rack.  Even if you know how to use a dryer, I highly suggest you don’t. You will shrink the dress shirt if you dry it in a drying machine.

this is a photo of a hand washed dress shirt hanging to dry

Professional Laundry And Dry Cleaning

Taking your dress shirt to the dry cleaner or professional cleaner is very convenient, but also comes with its advantages as well as its disadvantages. 

One of the best options is to get a wash and press for your shirt from a professional cleaner. During a wash and press, your dress shirt will first be machine washed. The shirt will also be put through a spin cycle to remove most of the moisture, before being put into an industrial press that removes moisture and irons the shirt simultaneously. 

Press and wash is a good option because it uses water, which is helpful for removing perspiration based stains and marks, which are a common issue for cotton dress shirts. 

Dry cleaning, as opposed to a wash and press, uses very little water which means perspiration based stains will be difficult to remove. Dry cleaning is however great at getting out oil based stains. So if your shirt is suffering from sweat stains, a wash and press is the best option. If your shirt has oil or grease stains, then get it dry cleaned. 

Professional laundry services can also be expensive, so if you have a lot of shirts to wash on a limited budget, you may just want to use a washing machine and clean the shirts yourself. 

Talk to your local laundry professional to find out which treatment is best for the issues you are currently facing. Read more into how long does dry cleaner take and how much does cleaning cost.

To help avoid making too many trips to the dry cleaners, learn how to hang a dress shirt correctly. This will help to keep your shirt wrinkle free and in wearable condition. 

Can you put dress shirts in the dryer?

Air dry dress shirts by hanging or laying flat on an indoor drying rack. Try to avoid using the dryer when drying your dress shirts. If you insist on using the dryer for your dress shirts, be sure to use the air dry or tumble dry low setting.

FAQ

Use the delicate and cold water setting to wash dress shirts in the washing machine. Unbutton the shirt completely around the front placket, collar, and cuffs. Use a high quality liquid detergent and air dry your dress shirt once the wash cycle is finished. 

Use the delicate and cold water setting to wash formal shirts in the washing machine. Unbutton the shirt completely around the front placket, collar, and cuffs. Use a high quality liquid detergent and air dry your dress shirt once the wash cycle is finished. 

Yes, it is crucial that you unbutton dress shirts when washing. This ensures that they don’t get caught or twisted while in the wash. Unbutton your front placket, as well as the cuffs and collar on your dress shirt. 

It is best to air dry dress shirts by hanging or laying flat to dry. If you must use a dryer, be sure to use the air dry and tumble dry low settings.