How to wash, iron and care for your dress shirts in 3 steps

Shirt laundry service for dress shirts - Cosmobutler

Every time I travel to London I’m excited to visit Jermyn Street, London’s holy grail for bespoke dress shirts, just south of Piccadilly Circus. After having the pleasure of choosing your fabric (try Sea Island cotton) and selecting your pattern from a number of sample-books, you meet one of the Master Shirtmakers who will take over a dozen body measurements to ensure the perfect fit for your body. The shirt will be designed to match the contours of your shoulders, your preference for cuffs and collars, your arm length, as well as your habits of watch wearing.

The pleasure of wearing a bespoke shirt can only be described by someone who after wearing bespoke shirts, is asked to wear a normal, off the shelf shirt again: it will be too tight or wide, the sleeves will be too long or too short and it will feel awkward. A bespoke shirt feels like a second skin. A very comfortable and stylish expression of your personality and style.

How to care for your dress shirt - Cosmobutler garment care

To ensure your favourite shirts are well cared for keep in mind 3 things, suggested by Master Shirtmakers Turnbull & Asser. At Cosmobutler we care for shirts and blouses according to the following criteria, to make sure our garments receive the care they deserve. Shirts are washed, not dry-cleaned, to ensure their longevity and our personal peace of mind:

1. Washing

  • Before washing undo all buttons, this will lessen the strain on the stitches holding the buttons on to the shirt.

  • Also remember to remove the collar stiffeners before washing. This will avoid uneven wear on the points of the collar. It also means you won’t have to search in the bottom of the drum, or amongst the rest of the wash, should they fall out. Certainly remove all collar stays before sending shirts to the dry-cleaners; otherwise you might never see them again!

  • Turn all shirts inside-out. This both protects the Mother of Pearl buttons from chipping on the steel drum and allows the cleaning agents direct access to underarms stains.

  • Wash in water at a temperature of 40ºC to 60ºC (104ºF to 140ºF) taking care to read the garment washing instructions for directions to the contrary.

2. Ironing

  • A pure cotton shirt is best ironed while still slightly damp from the wash. This is much easier than using a fine spray to dampen it once it has already dried. However, a fine spray might still be required if the shirt has dried-out unevenly.

  • In general lay the part of the shirt about to be pressed on a sturdy flat ironing board, using a dry iron (no steam) press the fabric until dry and crease free. Remember to set the iron’s temperature dial to ‘cotton’. Ensure that you do not iron over the garment label as this is not made from cotton and may be damaged when using the ‘cotton’ setting.

  • The general order to ironing a shirt is: collar, cuffs, sleeves, yokes (shoulders), front panels and ending with the back panel. Then finally revisit any part of the shirt that may have creased while ironing.

  • The collar should be damp on both sides. Firstly, iron the back of the collar and band until relatively flat and dry. You may need to pull gently at one end of the collar as you are pressing. Next, turn the collar over and repeat the procedure, ironing from the collar point to the centre, this will minimise unsightly creasing on the collar edge. Try not to use too much pressure when ironing the collar tips; these are the part most susceptible to wear when ironing.

  • Never iron a collar with the collar stays inserted. This will cause serious wear to the cloth on the points of the collar.

  • Cuffs should always be ironed unbuttoned or unfolded and in a similar fashion to the collar (i.e. both sides). Ironing a double cuff in the folded position can lead to lines and splitting over time. Again, try not to exert too much pressure when ironing over the cuff points or edges.

  • Iron from the top of the sleeve down to the cuff, creating a crease if desired.

  • Finally iron the two front panels and then the back of the shirt. The shirt should be unbuttoned at all times when ironing.

  • The perennial question is whether one needs to iron both sides of a shirt. The answer is best discovered by personal experimentation. Although a good heat reflective ironing board cover should only require you to iron both sides of the collars and cuffs, which by their nature are the thickest parts of the garment.

  • Finally once ironed slip the shirt onto a hanger, fasten the top button, and leave it to air. This will allow the final vestige of moisture to evaporate and minimise creasing.

3. Shrinkage

Cotton shirts made of the finest quality natural fabrics tend to shrink slightly when washed a few times. For this reason Master Shirtmakers make their collars larger (about 1.25 cm) than the shirt’s stated size. After a few washes shrinkage across the chest will be around 1.25 cm, whilst shrinkage in the sleeve length will be up to 2.2 cm. Shrinkage in shirt fabric tends to be slightly greater along its length than across its width.

The above tips result from my frustration with local laundries and dry-cleaners. It was heart breaking to have my sea island shirts returned stiff like paper, badly ironed and shrunk.

[Images via Jermyn St. AssociationLe Parvenue]