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How To Clean Dress Shirts


Do you have expensive dress shirts hanging in your wardrobe, left unworn for fear of getting them dirty? We get it. Dress shirts are expensive and stains are inevitable no matter how careful you are. But you don’t have to leave your favorite dress shirts cooped up in your closet when you have the tools and knowledge to keep them clean and wrinkle-free. This guide covers washing dress shirts at home and professionally, so you can look your best in a clean, nicely pressed shirt whenever the occasion calls for it.

What’s the Best Way to Wash Dress Shirts?

If you’re wondering what is the best way to wash dress shirts, then you’ve come to the right place. Your go-to method is going to depend on a few things like stain level and clothing material. If you have a shorter time frame and access to all of the necessary tools, then you may want to consider washing your dress shirt at home. Perhaps, your dress shirt is filled with wrinkles even after you take it out of the dryer, in which case, a trip to your local dry cleaner may be needed. If you want to know how to wash dress shirts, check out our options below.

Option 1: Wash at Home

If you’re wondering how to wash button-up shirts and want the most control and quality oversight, consider washing dress shirts at home. This is a great option if you want to save money and do it yourself. If you need your dress shirt for a special occasion, you retain a sense of security by taking matters into your own hands. In this section, we will discuss practical tips to help you understand your shirt care instructions so you can safely wash your dress shirt at home.

How to Wash Dress Shirts at Home

Washing a dress shirt at home is not as hard as you may think. With a few household items and the following step-by-step guide, you’ll be well on your way to looking slick in a freshly cleaned dress shirt.

  1. Before you begin, check the care label on the shirt. If the shirt says “machine wash”, you’re good to go, but if it says “dry clean only” we strongly recommend taking it to your local dry cleaner or any one of our Mulberrys locations
  2. Make sure to prep the shirt properly. Undo all of the buttons, then remove the collar stays and place them off to the side.  
  3. To help lift deep-set stains in the collar or elsewhere, use a cleaning pre-treater in the form of a spray bottle or rub detergent into the stain with a laundry brush or toothbrush. Apply according to the product’s instructions. Work the pre-treater into the fabric by massaging the stained material on both sides. For optimal results, treat the stain while it is still wet. If you have dirt or mud stains, allow your stain to set with a liquid laundry detergent before placing it in the wash. 
  4. When using a washing machine, it’s important to follow shirt care instructions. In most cases, that means using your machine’s cotton setting with hot water for whites and cold water for dark-colored clothes. 
  5. Once the cycle is finished, remove the dress shirt from the washing machine to prevent excess wrinkles. Set a timer on your phone so you don’t forget. 
  6. Drying dress shirts is an important step to learn in the process. You can hang the dress shirt (do so without stretching the shoulders) or lay it on a flat surface to air dry, which may be necessary to prevent shrinkage. For most cotton shirts you can also dry them on low heat. 
  7. Once your shirt is almost dry, you can iron or steam your dress shirt for that freshly pressed finish and voilà—your shirt should be ready to wear.


  • Washing your dress shirt at home saves you time and money. 
  • You have total control over the cleaning process.


  • You need to block off a good amount of time to restore your dress shirt.
  • After the process is finished, your dress shirt still may not look as good as if a professional had cleaned it.

Option 2: Professional Dry Cleaning

Dry cleaning is not typically recommended for dress shirts, as they tend to need water for a proper deep clean. But if you have an oil-based stain on your dress shirt or a dress shirt with silk, wool, or other sensitive fabrics or fibers, it may be time to call in the pros. At Mulberrys, we use environmentally-friendly, non-toxic solvents to achieve a deep clean for your garments, bedding, and other items. Read on to find out whether a professional dry cleaning service is right for you.

What is Dry Cleaning?

Dry cleaning is useful for delicate items that should not be exposed to water. Dry cleaners pre-spot stains before loading clothes into commercial machines, which use non-toxic alternative solvents to clean your clothes without water. Once dried, they are pressed and ironed like usual to deliver a good-as-new finish.


  • This option is guaranteed to get your clothing items deep cleaned without shrinkage or damage and is great for hard-to-remove oil stains.
  • Dry cleaning dissolves any headache for the owner, as all they need to worry about is finding a local dry cleaner to treat their garments. This is made even easier with our free dry cleaning pickup and delivery services.


  • This is the most expensive out of the options and one dress shirt will run you the cost of roughly two cups of coffee from Starbucks. 
  • Dry cleaning is not necessary for cotton dress shirts and will not remove perspiration stains as well as professional laundry services.
  • It’s not easy to give up total control to your dry cleaner, which is why we provide 100% transparency. Read our customer reviews and find a garment care company you trust. 

Option 3: Professional Laundry Services

Our recommended avenue to clean your dress shirt is with a professional laundry service. Most people assume dry cleaners only offer a dry cleaning service, but laundry is the most common way dry cleaners handle your garments.

What are professional laundry services?

We use non-toxic, professional-grade water-based solvents during our laundry process. By forgoing the use of harsh chemicals, we ensure your clothes are cleaned safely and effectively. This option eases any anxiety if it’s your first time using a professional cleaning service, as our staff goes to great lengths to ensure the proper water and temperature protocols are taken to prevent your dress shirt from shrinking in the wash.


  • Professional laundry is the best choice for cotton dress shirts.
  • It is cheaper than dry cleaning. Plus, we offer wash and fold laundry service subscriptions on weekly and bi-weekly plans for singles, couples, families, and even roommates too.


  • Quality of service may differ, depending on which professional cleaner you go to. We encourage you to vet any dry cleaner you consider. 
  • There may be accidental loss of buttons in the press and cleaning process. There is also a potential for stretched shirts or smashed collars. 

Washing Dress Shirt FAQs

Still have questions about washing dress shirts? You’re not alone. Get the answers to frequently asked questions here.

Can you put dress shirts in the dryer?

For a quick dry, it is okay to put dress shirts in the dryer. However, we don’t typically recommend it. If you’re in a time crunch and need to use the dryer, throw some towels or other bulky clothing items in with the dress shirt to help absorb some of the heat and check on your shirt in 10-minute increments to avoid shrinkage.

Can you put dress shirts in the washing machine?

Yes, it’s completely fine to put dress shirts in the washing machine, but always check your dress shirt instructions first. For dress shirts, consider using a mesh bag to protect the fabric and using your washing machine’s most delicate wash setting.

How often should dress shirts be washed?

Dress shirts can be washed as regularly as you wash your other clothes. To prevent skin irritation, experts recommend washing your dress shirts before you wear them the first time and after an event.

Can you wash dress shirts with regular clothes?

It’s okay to wash dress shirts with regular clothes, as long as you cater the wash cycle’s conditions to the dress shirts, and remember not to mix your lights and darks. 

Final Thoughts on Washing Dress Shirts

Whether you only have time for a quick wash at home or you’re able to bring your dress shirt to your local laundromat for a professional service, cleaning your dress shirts doesn’t have to be shrouded in mystery. We hope the above tips helped you to learn how to wash dress shirts and the best way to care for them. 

If you are new to doing laundry and need some refreshing tips to keep your clothes looking great, visit our Berry Blog for practical guides, tips, and how-tos, or if you’re still on the fence about professional dry cleaning, check out our response to the top five dry cleaning delivery myths.