The Long and the Short of Shirts
Dress shirts are the most essential part of any man’s wardrobe and are probably the most underappreciated articles of clothing. Shirts are taken for granted because we expect them to look great all the time.
Although they are relatively easy for a professional cleaner to clean and press, a shirt can suffer problems, including ring around the collar, color loss, and fabric abrasion leading to tears, punctures, and holes.
Industry experience shows the average shirt has a two-year wearable life expectancy. A better measurement is the number of launderings. The average shirt has a wear life of 35 to 50 cycles.
That’s not to say your shirt will shred to pieces during its 51st time through the spin cycle. Wear life fluctuates with abrasion and strain placed on the shirt during wear, fiber content, and laundering procedures.
These common problems may affect the components of a shirt, the collar and cuffs, sleeves, and body. Some of them can be foreseen or prevented while others cannot.
Ring Around the Color
One detergent company marketed its whole product around removing this. Remember those old Wisk commercials with spokespeople proclaiming, “No more ring around the collar!” after using their detergent?
Ring around the collar is a very common shirt malady. As a shirt is worn, the neckband, collar fold, and cuffs are exposed to ground-in soils from perspiration, body oils, colognes, hair tonics, medicines, sunblock, and other types of skin preparations. To prevent excess buildup in the collar and cuff area, shirts should be laundered after each wearing.
Bleeding or overall fading will occur if the dyes in a multi-colored shirt are not colorfast to washing.
Dyes sometimes migrate in washing. In most cases, there is no safe restoration; however, repeated washing will sometimes remove the transferred dye and return the shirt to a wearable condition.
That Shrinking Feeling
Hot under the collar? Either your neck has gotten too thick, your tie is too tight or your shirt is shrinking. Manufacturers often allow for 2% shrinkage, which usually is not enough to cause a complaint.
Shrinkage beyond this is usually due to poorly stabilized materials. Over several washings even better quality shirts experience shrinkage leaving your neck feeling overly snug.
To determine if your shirt has shrunk, measure the collar from the end of the buttonhole to the center of the button.
Measure the sleeve length in a straight line from the center of the back of the collar to the end of the cuff. If these measurements correspond to the shirt size, it has not shrunk.
A sweat soaked shirt could eventually turn into a stained shirt if the perspiration is allowed to stay in the shirt. It will also weaken the fabric, causing damage during washing. Aluminum chlorides found in antiperspirants also weaken underarm fibers Occasionally, localized holes or tears develop near the underarm area of shirts made with natural fibers or blends, such as 100% cotton shirts or cotton/ polyester blends.
Two tips: When applying antiperspirants or deodorants allow them to dry before dressing. Secondly, wash your shirts soon after you wear them in order to minimize this type of damage.
Pinholes in Oxford Shirts
Tiny holes can appear at random areas throughout an oxford shirt due to the weaving process. Oxford cloth is made with two thin yarns in one direction and one thick yarn in the other direction.
This unbalanced construction puts strain on the thin yarns, causing them to break and leave tiny holes (see picture at bottom).
Manufacturers may be able to slow down the development of holes by using a polyester/cotton blend, a heavier yarn or a higher twist in the yarn, but eventually any oxford weave can develop tiny pinholes due to circumstances of wear and cleaning.
Puckers or Wrinkles in Collars and Cuffs
If the interfacing fabric used in collars, cuffs, and placket fronts is not fused correctly or is not properly preshrunk, after laundering the outer fabric in the collar will then be larger than the interfacing, causing puckers or wrinkles when pressed. This excess material makes obtaining a smooth finish difficult.
If it is objectionable, the shirt should be returned to the retailer or manufacturer.
Warning: Watch Out for Melted Labels
Some shirts contain heat-sensitive labels, such as ones that have been glued instead of stitched on, that may actually soften under high heat and permanently stain the shirt. This type of staining is usually permanent. A heat-sensitive label could melt during tumble drying or in ironing. The shirt should be returned to the retailer or manufacturer if this occurs.
Go Pro For Best Results
To get the most mileage out of a dress shirt you should clean it as soon as possible after each wearing to remove stains and body oils. For best results, shirts should be commercially laundered by a professional cleaner.
Professional shirt laundering is different from home laundering in that it uses specialized wash formulas and different pressing procedures. This process enables us to offer consistently high-quality shirts at reasonable prices. Collars come out cleaner and professional pressing produces a crisper finish.
Finishing may be the most important difference between professional and home care. Ironing at home requires considerably more time and effort than it takes us to press a shirt, and ultimately it won’t look as nice.
The better you take care of your shirts, the longer they will last and the better you will look.