White dress shirts are sort of like mini-ticking time bombs that you pay a lot of money for, fill your closet with, wear to work every day—and, hey, they probably look good on you too—and slowly (fearfully) wait for to explode. A tailored button down is flattering because it shows everything, but is dangerous because, well, it shows everything! Here are a few tips to keep in mind to keep your dry cleaning bill low and your whites bright.

Prevention:

Ask any Doctor, prevention is the key to avoiding many common diseases, and men’s grooming, after all, is a science.

– Lint roll, lint roll, lint roll. No one in your 1PM meeting wants to see the leftover crumbs from your 12PM brownie.

– Make sure to hang your shirts neatly on thick wooden or felt hangers in your closet to prevent wrinkling.  

– Wire hangers are less costly in price and storage space, but it is this thinness in material that ends up harming your shirts by causing points at the shoulder and puckering around the yoke – especially if your shirt has an weight to it.  The Container Store has a great selection of hardwood hangers that won’t leave you selling your shirts to pay for them.

– Most dress shirts are cotton-based, which aren’t particularly a favorite of moths, but other clothes in your closet might have animal fibers to attract them. Place mothballs in your closet to prevent any chance of insect holes.

– Perspiration is a natural, albeit nasty thing, and can also ruin your fancy designer clothes. Wear an undershirt beneath your dress shirts to soak up any extra sweat. Also use anti-perspirants that don’t contain aluminum compounds. It’s the aluminum that reacts with the salts in your sweat to create those dreaded yellow armpits of death.

Cleaning:

– Pre-treat stains as they occur. As soon as you notice a stain on a white shirt, pre-treat it. Even if you can’t do the laundry immediately, soak the stain in pre-treat solution (OxiClean should work just fine), and make sure to use clean rags to try and remove it before washing.

– Use the shortest wash cycle possible. Frequent washing can lead to discoloration, so only use long wash cycles if it’s absolutely necessary.

– Alternate bleach with baking soda. Though bleach is good for getting tough stains out of white clothes, it can also produce a yellowing effect if used too often. If you are washing white clothes with light to moderate stains, try using a half-cup of baking soda with your regular laundry detergent instead of bleach.

– Launder white garments after every wearing even if they look clean. Body oils and perspiration can quickly turn a garment yellow. If you like to wear white and want to save money, be sure the garment is washable and does not require dry cleaning.

– Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar in with your detergent to help lift dirt and oils from white clothing. It doesn’t weaken clothing fibers, and, after the clothes are dried, any trace of vinegar smell is gone.

– If all this DIY stuff is too much for you, just drop your shirts off at the cleaners after each wear. It’s certainly the pricier alternative, but it’s definitely a viable option.

The bottom line is this: Any white shirt you buy has a shelf life. It’s a little bit like that hot girl you meet at the bar and try to convert into a permanent girlfriend. She will be fresh, new and exciting in the beginning, but inevitably, she will lose her luster over time. But back to white shirts – hopefully with the tips above, your white shirts will remain crispier and maintain their pristine vibrancy for longer period of time.


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