Should You Button Shirts Before Washing Them?

When caring for your clothes, you probably ask yourself: Should I button shirts before washing them, or should I unbutton my shirts before washing them? Truth be told, it's much better to unbutton any button shirts before washing them. This is contrary to washing zippered items, in which case you should zip them up beforehand! With button shirts, everything should be left unbuttoned, including the primary row of buttons down the middle, any buttons around the collar, and the buttons around the cuffs or sleeves. Want to know more about how to care for button-down shirts? Read on for tips and tricks to make your button shirts look and feel fantastic for years to come.

Why Not Button Up Your Shirts Before Washing Them?

Remember to unbutton your button shirts before washing, and they’ll stay great for much longer. This advice goes for both basic overshirts, like Vintage 1946’s Stretch Corduroy Shirt Jacket, and for shirts that only have a few buttons, like this Stretch Jersey Henley.

Simply put, buttonholes on your shirt can become torn or shredded when you put your shirt in the wash while it’s still buttoned up. Even the gentlest washing machines run the risk of accidentally snagging a shirtsleeve or other part of your shirt on a corner of the moving basin. If the wrong thing gets caught on a button’s buttonhole, you could withdraw your shirt after it is washed, only to find it ruined beyond repair.

Similarly, buttoning your shirts while washing them means you run the risk of button threads being polled and loosened while in the washing machine. By keeping your button shirts unbuttoned, you lower this risk and maximize the chances that your shirts will come out of the wash looking as good as new or even better. Plus, unbuttoning your shirts exposes the insides to more washing water and detergent: never a bad thing.

How to Care for Button Shirts

With that said, you can do more to care for your button shirts aside from just unbuttoning them before you put them in the washing machine. Here are some tips and tricks you should use for your next laundry load.

Sort Shirts (and Other Garments) by Color & Material

First and foremost, you should always sort your shirts and clothing based on their material. Color sorting is also wise. Light-colored clothing should only be washed with other light-colored clothing. The same is true for dark-colored clothing. Never mix light and dark colors in the wash unless you want to see some unfortunate side effects. When separating clothing by material, heavier items, like sweaters and jeans, are best kept separate from lighter things like dresses, light button-down shirts, and blouses. You should also wash things like bedding, towels, and other bulky items together instead of mixing and matching.

When you sort your shirts and other garments by material, you help ensure that there won’t be any tearing or material blending, plus you help laundry dry evenly (since heavier laundry items take much longer to dry). If you have a batch of dress shirts, go ahead and wash them all together rather than mixing them with other garments in your laundry basket.

Use the Right Amount of Laundry Detergent

Next, be sure to always use the correct amount of laundry detergent for each laundry load you throw into the machine. Using more detergent doesn’t actually get your clothes any cleaner than usual. In fact, it can cause the opposite—while also draining your wallet.

When you add too much detergent to a load of laundry, you will accidentally make extra suds that don’t fully rinse out of your clothes. If you throw too much laundry detergent into a load of button shirts, you’ll find that they retain a very sticky residue that can attract bacteria, dust, and dirt: the opposite of what you want to see when you take your clothes out of the washing machine. Therefore, always pay attention to the “fill line” of a detergent measuring cup. Only use the recommended amount of detergent with a load of laundry, particularly for thin clothing like button shirts.

Pre-Treat Any Stains

It's always a smart idea to pre-treat any stains you see on your button shirts. These include food stains, sweat stains, or ink stains. You can do this using a stain remover. These chemical formulas usually just have to soak into the fabric for about 20 minutes before you can continue the cleaning process.

By pre-treating stains, you prevent the stain material or color from spreading to the rest of your shirts. Plus, you make your washing machine much more effective. This step is particularly important to care for button-down shirts that have a stain that clashes with their natural color, like a wine stain on a pure white T-shirt.

Wash Your Shirts the Right Way

It's crucial to wash your shirts the right way if you want your button shirts to serve you as long as possible. When you wash a buttoned shirt, like a dress shirt, you should wash it on a delicate cycle rather than a more rigorous cycle which runs the risk of shredding or tearing the material.

Don't forget the water temperature, too. Generally, hot water is ideal for white button shirts and any other light colors. In contrast, cold water is best for dark colors to help prevent color from bleeding. In both cases, be sure to use a high-quality detergent rather than something you can get on the cheap. Often, cheap detergents can be harsh on clothes.

You can alternatively select your water based on the type of stain you are trying to clean out. If the stain is oil-based, like a paint stain, warm water will have a much better chance of getting the stain out. The reverse is true for non-oil-based stains. Whatever you do, don’t wash your button shirts in warm water too frequently, as this can cause any colors to fade over time.

Dry Your Shirts Properly

Drying your button shirts well is just as important as washing them correctly. To dry a button shirt, you should hang it on a plastic hanger rather than throw it in a drying machine (in most cases). Button up the top two buttons; this will help your button shirt maintain its shape or frame over time.

If it’s a particularly nice shirt, like a dress shirt or a shirt you plan to wear with a suit, you can put the shirt in the dryer, but only on permanent press mode. The permanent press mode will help to accelerate the ironing you likely plan to do anyway.

Don't dry your button-down shirt for more than six to eight minutes, however. Anything more than this, and you may find that your shirt's color has faded or that it has suffered some damage.

Don’t Forget to Iron

In a lot of cases, it’s a wise idea to iron your button shirts, whether they are fancy or not. To do this, check the label of your shirt for its fabric content. That way, you can choose the right heat setting for your chosen ironing implement.

Typically, you’ll find that cotton shirts or cotton blend shirts can handle higher heat compared to shirts made of synthetic fibers like polyester. In any case, ironing your button shirts will make them look much better, plus feel a little more comfortable when you shrug them on or wear them all day.

Store Your Shirts Correctly

Last but not least, don’t forget to store your button shirts properly if you want them to look great for years to come.

Everyday button shirts should be kept fully buttoned and hung on a sturdy hanger, preferably a plastic one that has not lost its shape or a metallic hanger. If it's a shirt that you don't wear often, on the other hand, try to store the garment in question in a cotton garment bag.

Cotton garment bags are superior since they let air circulate but also prevent shirts from yellowing. This is the ideal way to store a button-down shirt that you’ll wear to fancy occasions, like weddings or graduation ceremonies.

Maintain Your Washer & Dryer

Last but not least, don't forget to regularly maintain your washer and dryer! This will do wonders to help you maintain your button shirts in the long term; after all, you likely aren't planning on washing your button shirts by hand anytime soon.

To do this, perform simple maintenance tasks like:

  • Cleaning your washing machine every once in a while. This is necessary since hard water deposits, mold and/or mildew, detergent residue, and plain old dirt can build up inside your washing machine over a lot of time. Use the self-clean cycle to accomplish this, or run a hot water cycle with no clothes but with vinegar instead of detergent
  • Cleaning out the lint in your dryer. Be sure to do this every time you finish a load of drying laundry. You should also annually check your dryer duct to make sure that it isn't clogged. If it is, you can clean this by detaching the hose from the rear of your dryer and cleaning out any build-up or lint you see

Put Your Best Look Forward at Vintage 1946

As you can see, taking care of your button shirts is much easier than you think, especially if you keep these tips and tricks in mind! Of course, you need to have some stellar button shirts to put this advice to good use. Vintage 1946 has some of the best long-sleeve shirts for guys, ranging from stylish Henleys to long-sleeve crew necks and jackets. If you’re ready to upgrade your wardrobe, browse the Vintage 1946 Fall Collection today.

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