Caring for your Cotton Shirt

Your shirts should be laundered after each use.Perspiration and the aluminum chlorides found in antiperspirants can weaken the fibers of a shirt if left in contact with the fabric too long. Washing your shirts as soon as possible after wearing can prevent perspiration stains from setting in and will lengthen the life of your shirts.
Addressing the Laundry Problem
Many men’s retailers have been experiencing problems with laundry abuse of their customers’ shirts.
  You should be aware of some of the problems and errors in laundering, and understand how to care for a good cotton shirt.
Avoid Heat and Bleach
Cotton fabric tends to “give up” dirt, so warm (not hot) water and soap or mild detergent are enough to get a cotton shirt clean. Excessive heat in the washer or dryer will shorten the life of your shirt.
 Chlorine bleach should never be used, not even on white shirts. Bleach can turn the brightest white to yellow, and deep burgundies to pink. All sulphur-based dyes will turn pink when bleached. If garments are bleached and not rinsed properly, the chloride buildup in the fabrics can deteriorate them. Chlorine bleach can cut the life of a shirt in half.
Some Poor Laundry Practices
Some of the washing practices that are harmful include the improper use of chemicals, particularly the souring process,which occurs during the rinsing cycle. Souring is the treatment of garments in dilute acid, and its purpose is the neutralization of any alkali that is present.
 The International Fabri care Institute states that “sour cannot be eliminated from commercial laundering (due to yellowing and sticking during pressing).” However,   The International Fabri care Institute’s test results, published in their “All About Shirts” pamphlet (published in 1992, but now out of print), show “over souring, with any type of sour, would result in rapid degradation of colored yarns.”
 If souring is done improperly, it can harm the fabric.Many fine shirtings use reactive dyes because the shade range and available styling is so extensive. Some fibers that have been dyed using reactive dyes will react with sours and disintegrate in the laundry process. Improper souring can eat the stripes right out of your shirt.
 The International Fabricare Institute further states that “the results of work done by a dye manufacturer concluded that the degradation is a result of an ion exchange which takes place when the fiber reactive dyed yarn is heated in an acidic state. To prevent degradation, the pH of the fabric must not be below 6.5.” (pH is the value indicating the acidity or alkalinity of a material. A pH of 7.0 is neutral; less than 7.0 is acidic.)
 “Testing at IFI indicates that yarn degradation did not occur when shirts were laundered in a formula where the pH of the sour was controlled to no lower than 6.5.”
 In the May, 1992 Bulletin, the IFI told its members:“In an attempt to satisfy consumers, the laundry industry must modify its procedures. This modification should be made swiftly because it is feasible and economically viable.”
 There are now “pH-controlled” or “buffered” sours on the market. Request that your launderer use them to ensure that your shirts will last longer. As noted earlier, bleach is not only unnecessary, it is actually destructive to cottons, including whites.
 Just as a heavy oxford shirt can withstand a day of mountain-climbing better than a fine Sea Island cotton, different fabrics should be treated differently when laundering.
Understanding the Problem
All fabrics are made from yarns and all yarns are made from fibers. Fibers are spun into white or off-white yarn.When a fabric is a solid color it usually has been dyed in the fabric, or woven, state. For striped fabrics, the yarn is usually dyed before it is woven. The depth of dye penetration of the yarns is very important. When the yarns are woven into a fabric and exposed to wear and laundering procedures, they will begin to deteriorate or break down. If the fabric is bleached, or the color-fastness is disturbed in some other way, the tolerance of those fibers is destroyed. That’s why in time, as the fabric continues to deteriorate from this
early abuse, you may see the colored areas appear to fade or be eaten away, while some other parts of the garment remain intact.

Once a garment is abused with bleach or other chemicals, it continues to deteriorate. The weakening of the yarns may be invisible at first, but, even if the shirt is properly laundered from then on, the deterioration will continue. Fabric suppliers, such as Ezrasons Inc. and Threadtex Inc., confirm that it is impossible to tell, after the garment has been abused, whether the most recent laundry process is the culprit. The destruction could have begun long before.

Choosing a Laundry
If you’re not inclined to wash your own shirts, it is important to find a good, reputable laundry that knows how to care for them properly.
  Try to find a laundry that does the washing and pressing right on the premises. Ask questions. Find out how your shirts are being laundered. You want a laundry that does not use extremely large loads or extremely high temperatures.Make sure that they are aware that chlorine bleach and improper souring can harm your garment. Ask if they are using a “pH-controlled” or “buffered” sour.
 Remember, your laundry has the responsibility to follow the instructions on the care tag in your garment.

Wear Life Expectancy
In their “All About Shirts” pamphlet, published in 1992), The International Fabricare Institute of The Association of Professional Dry Cleaners and Launderers reports that “The Fair Claims Guide, the industry guideline, states that shirts have a two-year wear life expectancy. The number of launderings is a better measuring method. The average shirt should have a wear life of 35 to 50 washings. This will fluctuate depending on the amount of abrasion and strain placed on the shirt during wear, the fiber content, the type of fabric, and the laundering procedure.”

A shirt that is worn once a week should last approximately one year. If you have at least 12 shirts, including duplicates of your favorites, you can rotate them. This rotation is important in extending the life of your shirts.

If you must use a laundry, as most of us do, pay the extra money to have your shirts hand-done on hangers.This slight additional expense will extend the life of your shirts and pay for itself many times over. Also, remember that the less starch used, the longer the shirt will last. The heat the laundry uses when applying starch is the enemy— not the starch.
The Home Option
The safest way to maintain your shirts is to launder them at home, where you have total control.

 Machine wash warm, do not use chlorine bleach, tumble dry medium, warm iron. Wash dark colors separately.If you choose to press your own shirts, here are a few pointers:
• Make sure your iron is not too hot or it will scorch your shirt.
• Cotton should be ironed damp, so sprinkle the shirts prior to pressing, or use a can of spray starch or “Magic Sizing”. Spray each small area before ironing.
• Iron the sleeves and cuffs first, then the shoulders,followed by the yoke. Next, do the front and back, leaving the collar for last. The collar should always be ironed away from the point.
• Go back and touch up any spots that you missed.
The Compromise
Many people are unwilling or unable to iron their shirts properly.
 Consider washing your shirts at home, avoiding all harsh chemicals, bleach and excessive heat; then simply take them to the laundry to be pressed. Make a wash load of only your shirts and put them through an extra rinse to remove any harmful residue of detergents.
 Given the time and craftsmanship that is involved in the making of a fine shirt, we should do all we can to protect and prolong the life of the garment.
Cotton is a strong fabric and, with the proper care, should provide you with long-lasting, comfortable shirts.

Common Laundry Questions:
Here are some of the more commonly-asked questions at
The Shirt Store:
Q: Should I remove the plastic collar stays before laundering my shirts?
A: Yes. Washing the stays causes no harm, but pressing causes an outline of the stays to show on your collar and this may take several launderings to disappear.
Q: What is the correct way to iron a monogram on a shirt?
A: Place your iron on the monogram and iron away from it to avoid bunching the fabric around the stitching.This is the same principle you use when you avoid
pleating on a collar by ironing away from the points.
Q: How can an ink stain be removed from a shirt?
A: Spray the ink stain with hair spray (the stickier the better), or soak for a few hours in milk, and then launder as usual.
Q: How can marks from a pencil be removed from a shirt?
A: Use an eraser, then wash.
Q: What can I do if I forget my collar stays?
A: Cut substitutes from any thin, rigid material that is available, such as cardboard or a seldom-used credit card. Paper clips bent to the correct length also work.
Q: How can I get the wrinkles out of a shirt without an iron?
A: Hang the shirt in the bathroom while you shower, and leave it in the room to dry overnight.
Q: How can I get a perspiration stain out of my shirt?
A: Before laundering, soak the shirt for 24 hours in salty water.