How to Wash Dress Shirts in the Washing Machine

A dress shirt always looks best when it’s been properly washed and dried. However, dry-cleaning or professional laundering is expensive. Fortunately, you can wash most dress shirts in a normal washing machine at home. You only need to make some slight adjustments between washing standard and delicate dress shirts. This saves tons of money and keeps your shirts looking fresh.


[Edit]Prepping the Shirt

  1. Check the care label to confirm the shirt is machine-washable. Most dress shirts are cotton, linen, or polyester. These materials are all machine-washable, but double check the care label to confirm that it’s okay to put the shirt in the washing machine. If the label says “Machine Wash” or has a symbol with a bucket filled with water, go ahead with putting it in the machine.[1]
    Wash Dress Shirts in the Washing Machine Step 1.jpg
    • If you see a bucket with an X over it, or the words “Dry Clean Only” or “Do Not Wash,” then bring the shirt to the dry cleaners. Usually, wool and silk aren’t machine-washable.
    • You might also see “Hand Wash Only” on the label. In this case, hand wash the shirt instead of putting it in the machine.
  2. Divide the white and colored shirts to prevent staining. If you’re washing multiple shirts, separate out the white ones. This prevents the colors from bleeding together and staining the white ones.[2]
    Wash Dress Shirts in the Washing Machine Step 2.jpg
    • If a white shirt has thin colored stripes, wash it with the whites. If a colored shirt has white stripes, wash it with the colors.
  3. Separate shirts made of silk, wool, cashmere, or other delicate materials. Fragile materials like these need a different wash cycle than other more durable materials. If any of your dress shirts are made of delicate material, separate them from the other shirts and run them in a different load.[3]
    Wash Dress Shirts in the Washing Machine Step 3.jpg
    • If you aren't sure what your shirt is made of, check the care label. If it says "Delicate," then separate it out.
  4. Unbutton all the buttons on the shirt. Buttons can get snagged on the inside of the washing machine and damage the shirt. Make sure they’re all unbuttoned before you wash it.[4]

    • Remember all the little buttons on the sleeves. Some shirts also have buttons around the collar.
  5. Pretreat any stains on the shirt. Check the shirt for any stains. If you find any, wet them with cold water. Then, rub a spoonful of detergent onto each stain. Let the detergent soak in for 5 minutes before washing the shirt.[5]

    • You can also buy stain-removing pens or sprays to pretreat the shirt.
    • Also check the other side of the fabric for stains. It may have soaked through.
  6. Turn the shirt inside out before washing it. This helps remove any armpit and deodorant stains from the inside of the shirt. Remember to pull the sleeves as well so the entire shirt is inside out.[6]

[Edit]Loading the Shirt into the Machine

  1. Set the machine to cold water. Warm water can make colors bleed and stain your other clothes. Make sure your washing machine is on its cold setting before starting it.[7]
    Wash Dress Shirts in the Washing Machine Step 7.jpg
    • Most modern washing machines use cold water as their standard setting. This may be your machine’s default as well.
    • Both standard and delicate shirts require cold water, so don't adjust the temperature for different shirts.
  2. Load your normal detergent before putting the shirt in. In most cases, your dress shirts don’t need any special detergent. Use the same amount and type you usually do, and pour it into the machine before loading the clothes.[8]

    • If you’re washing a plain white shirt, use detergent with bleach in it. Otherwise, make sure the detergent is bleach-free.[9]
  3. Place delicate shirts in a washer bag to prevent them from tearing. This is a mesh bag that's perfect for delicate items. It allows the water and detergent to clean the shirts while protecting them from getting caught on anything. Load your shirts made of silk, wool, cashmere, or other delicate materials into a bag before putting them in the machine.[10]

    • Don't overload the bags. Follow the instructions for how many items each bag can fit.
    • Washer bags are available online or from home goods stores.
  4. Run the machine on the normal cycle for standard dress shirts. Shirts made of polyester, linen, nylon, or cotton usually don’t need any special setting. Set the cycle to normal and let it run until the load is finished.[11]
    Wash Dress Shirts in the Washing Machine Step 10.jpg
    • Do not wash delicate shirts on the normal cycle.
  5. Set the machine to delicate for fragile materials. Shirts made of delicate materials could get ruined with the machine on the normal setting. Instead, set it to the delicate cycle. Then place the washer bag into the machine and let the cycle run completely.[12]
    Wash Dress Shirts in the Washing Machine Step 11.jpg
    • Remember to consult the care tag if you aren't sure what material your shirt is made of. If it's marked "Delicate," then run it on the delicate cycle.

[Edit]Drying the Shirt

  1. Shake the shirt out immediately after you remove it. As soon as the cycle is finished, take the dress shirt out. Hold it firmly by the collar and gently shake it a few times. This gets out all the crumples and avoids wrinkling when the shirt dries.[13]

    • Don’t leave your clothes in the washing machine after the cycle is done. They’ll get wrinkled and musty. Take them out right away.
  2. Turn the shirt right-side out. Since you washed the shirt inside-out, reverse it again so the right side is facing out. Letting the shirt dry inside out might cause more wrinkling.[14]

  3. Press the shirt while it’s still wet. Lay the shirt down flat on an ironing board. For the crispest results, use a hot iron on a low steam setting. Move the iron quickly to avoid damaging the shirt.[15]

    • If you’re not experienced with ironing, set the iron to a high steam setting. This won’t give you the crispest result, but it avoids damaging the shirt.
    • If you don’t have time to iron the shirt right away while it’s still wet, use a spray bottle and lightly wet the shirt before you iron it for better results.[16]
    • Ironing is optional. If you prefer, you can skip it and just let the shirt airdry.
  4. Hang the shirt on a plastic hanger to dry. Take a wide plastic hanger and put the shirt onto it. Button the shift so it stays in place. Then, hang the shirt and let it airdry.[17]
    Wash Dress Shirts in the Washing Machine Step 15.jpg
    • Don’t use wire or thin plastic hangers. These could distort the fabric.



  • Avoid putting dress shirts in the dryer. Not only do dress shirts look crisper if they’re air dried, but you’ll also avoid wear and tear by keeping them out of the dryer.


[Edit]Quick Summary