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How to wash dress shirts

Whether you regularly wear dress shirts for work or only for special occasions, caring for them and keeping them in good condition is important. With the proper care, dress shirts can last for years. Read this guide to learn about how to wash dress shirts in a washing machine and by hand.

Person placing shirts in the washing machine Person placing shirts in the washing machine

What is the best detergent to use on dress shirts?

Always refer to your garment’s care tag before washing. Use a high-quality detergent that is appropriate for the fabric type and color of the shirt.

Clothing washing in the washing machine Clothing washing in the washing machine

How to wash dress shirts in a washing machine

How to wash dress shirts in the washing machine will differ slightly depending on their fabric and color. Be sure to first refer to your garment’s care tag to ensure that the shirt is machine washable and follow any directions provided. Use the steps below as an overview to care for your dress shirts and help keep them looking like new.

What you’ll need

  • High-quality laundry detergent

  • Washing machine

  • Stain pretreater (optional)

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Step 1: Prepare the shirt

To prepare the shirt, first unbutton all the buttons including the cuffs and collar. If the shirt has a collar stay, remove it and set it aside. Next, pre-treat any stains with detergent or a stain removal pen.


You can pretreat by putting a small amount of liquid dishwashing detergent or specialized pretreatment solution on the stain and allowing it to sit for about ten minutes. Rinse the dishwashing detergent completely before moving on to the next step. 


Select Whirlpool® washing machines also feature a built-in Pretreat Station where you can soak, scrub and wash all in one spot.

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Step 2: Select a cycle

You should refer to the garment’s care tag to help you select the correct wash cycle. If no care label is available, use the permanent press cycle for dress shirts. If the shirt is made from a heavier fabric use the permanent press or normal cycle.

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Step 3: Select a water temperature

The next step is to choose a water temperature. Use the warmest temperature setting allowed per the shirt’s care label. Depending on the fabric, white and lightly colored dress shirts may be able to be washed in warmer water. To help prevent fading in dark colored dress shirts, you’ll usually want to use cold water.

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Step 4: Add detergent

Use a high-quality detergent to wash your dress shirts, being careful to ensure that the detergent does not include chlorine. Follow the dosing guide on the detergent’s packaging to avoid using too much or too little. The Precision Pour Cap and ultra-concentrated formula of Swash® Laundry Detergent1 delivers the results you want in a compact, intelligent bottle design.


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Step 5: Wash shirts

Wash the shirts in the washing machine using the appropriate cycle and settings. Allow the spin cycle to wring the excess water from the shirts.

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Step 6: Remove shirts

When the cycle ends, the shirts may be wrinkled from the wash and spin cycles. Remove the shirts from the washing machine as soon as the cycle ends and gently shake them out to help avoid setting in the wrinkles.

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Step 7: Dry

First, check your garment’s care tag and follow the instructions for drying. It is usually best to air dry dress shirts to help them keep their shape. They can be hung on hangers or laid out on a flat surface. Avoid sharp hangers or tight clothespins, which can cause damage to shirts or cause the fabric to stretch and pucker. 


If you need or want to use the dryer, avoid high heat or overdrying the shirts. Many dress shirts will call for a delicate or low temp cycle but, as usual, refer to your garment’s care tag first. Use the dryer to remove most of the moisture from the shirts and then allow them to air dry.

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Step 8: Iron

When the shirts are mostly dry, you can iron them. Ironing shirts before putting them in the closet helps to ensure that deeper wrinkles aren’t set-in and that they are ready for their next wear. Ensure the fabric can be ironed by referring to the care tag.

Shirt soaking in basin Shirt soaking in basin

How to wash dress shirts by hand

Rather than machine washing, you can also wash dress shirts by hand. Hand-washing is great for delicate fabrics or to help garments hold their shape. Read the steps below to learn how to hand wash your dress shirts.

What you’ll need

  • Small tub or sink

  • High-quality detergent

  • Towel

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Step 1: Read the label

To begin, read your garment’s care tag to see if there are specific instructions for hand washing.

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Step 2: Fill a tub or sink

Next, fill a small tub or sink with water of the correct temperature as indicated on the care tag. If the care tag does not specify a water temperature, cool or slightly warm water should be safe for most fabrics. Add about a teaspoon of high quality detergent to the water.

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Step 3: Wash

Submerge the dress shirts in the soapy water. Move them around gently back and forth in the water. Do not scrub or twist them to avoid damaging the fabric. Continue moving the shirts through the water, allowing them to soak for at least five minutes.

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Step 4: Rinse

Remove the shirts from the tub or sink and drain the water. Refill the tub with clean water to rinse. Place the shirts back in the clean water and push them up and down until all of the soap is removed. You can also rinse them with clean water directly from the faucet if necessary or if you can still see soap on them.

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Step 5: Remove excess water

Wringing out delicate fabrics may cause damage, but when hand washing you don’t have the benefit of the spin cycle. To remove excess water, carefully lift the clothes with both hands and squeeze out as much water as possible. Next, you can lay the clothing flat on an absorbent towel, and roll the towel and garment together until the water is absorbed.

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Step 6: Dry

Air dry your dress shirts by hanging them on a hanger or laying them flat. Avoid sharp hangers or tight clothespins that might damage or cause puckering in the fabric.

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Step 7: Iron

Once your dress shirts are mostly dry you can iron them. If you iron them before putting them in the closet, you can remove any wrinkles that might otherwise set in.

Person spot treating shirt Person spot treating shirt

How can I remove stains from dress shirts?

How to remove a stain from a dress shirt depends on its fabric. For cotton and synthetic fabrics, gently rub liquid dish soap or liquid enzyme detergent into the stain and let it sit for about ten minutes. If using liquid dish soap, rinse it fully before placing the shirt in the washing machine.

If your dress shirt’s fabric is delicate, such as linen, mix a mild detergent in the warmest water temperature recommended on the garment’s care tag. Add the garment to the water and gently massage the soapy solution through it. Soak for 5-10 minutes.

How can I remove armpit stains from dress shirts?

You can remove armpit stains by soaking your shirt in a solution that is two parts water and one part vinegar for about thirty minutes. Prepare a paste of a ½ cup baking soda, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide. Mix it well. Use a toothbrush to apply the mixture to the stains and let it soak for about twenty minutes. Finally, wash the shirt using the hottest water allowed by the care tag and then line dry. Repeat if necessary.

How can I remove deodorant stains from dress shirts?

Particularly stubborn deodorant stains can be removed using a baking soda paste. Mix about four tablespoons of baking soda and about 1/4 cup of warm water to make a paste. Spread the paste onto the deodorant stain and let it dry. If the stain is set-in, leave the paste on it for up to an hour. Wash the shirt using the instructions on the care tag.

How often should I wash my dress shirts?

Dress shirts can be worn one or two times before washing. If you have sweat in them or they are visibly soiled, you may consider washing them after each wear.

Clothing in washing machine Clothing in washing machine

Can I wash dress shirts with other clothes?

For best results when caring for your family’s clothing, separate items by color, fabric type and soil level.

Shop Whirlpool® washers

Whirlpool washing machines allow you to care for your family’s clothes in the way that works best for you. With features on select models like Intuitive Controls, your Whirlpool® washing machine can help you choose the cycle that will work best for your favorite dress shirts and you can even customize up to 35 cycles to get the fabric care you need.

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1. Swash and the recommending brands are owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation.