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This is the first in a series about caring for your tailored clothes. I lay out ten tips to extending the life of your custom dress shirts. Confession: I do not always follow these tips them. The moral of the story is: Just as you would not take your Porsche to jiffy lube for an oil change, clothing that is made with any level of handy-work should be cleaned with care.   

1.    Wash in Cold Water.  To minimize shrinkage and to avoid prematurely aging the fabric, wash your shirts in cold water.  You might be thinking (correctly) that the cold water might provide a deep enough to clean for dark stains or strong odors. If you have any bad stains or odors, I would blot the stained areas with your laundry detergent and then wash them and then set for a longer rinse.


2.    Delicate Mode. If you are using a washer, select delicate mode. This mode will cut down on any type damage during the spinning cycle. I have known too many people who have put a custom dress shirt on regular wash which damaged the shirt.  


3.    Don’t place your shirts in the dryer. This is a no-no. Not only will it damage them but it will only shrink them to the point that they might not be wearable anymore. I had this happen to a custom shirt made for me by Thom Sweeney that was accidentally placed in the dryer. I had to get throw it out and, believe me, it wasn’t cheap.


4.    Minimize washing your shirts if possible. I used to think that after every wear, you needed to wash a shirt. Not so. If the shirt is not drenched in sweat and odor, you can hang it up and just wear it again. This is sometimes does not work for me as I live in humid and hot central Florida; its a judgment call I guess. I think menswear designer, Sid Mashburn, put it well,


I like to get two wears out of a shirt before laundering it (barring that I didn’t, say, run in it), and the second wear is best for a weekend or something less formal.

5.    Iron your shirts yourself.  I understand this might be too much of a time investment for some.  But it is a way to make sure your custom dress shirts are no man-handled by a dry cleaner. I also prefer an iron that is not super-hot. That way, I know the fabric is not being damaged due to exposure to excessive heat.


6.    Avoid most dry cleaners. This could have been included in the prior tip but understand that dry cleaners make their money in volume. Do you really think that joe-blow dry cleaner is going to take care of your handmade shirt for $2.99? If you want to keep your shirts—including  mention the buttons and seams—in good shape, avoid most dry cleaners.


7.    Avoid Starch. I would recommend not starching your shirts; it will only damage the fabric. I prefer to use a water-spray bottle and steam to get my shirts to look crisp.  


8.    Ironing the Collar. If you want to protect the collar from getting yellow, place a handkerchief or light cotton fabric before you iron it. The collar is going to be on the area of a shirt that people will notice—in my opinion.


9.    Select a Dry-Cleaner. If you are dead set on using a dry cleaner, choose a quality one.  Some drycleaners have an option for a higher price to take care of a hand-made garment. The only dry cleaner I would let touch my dress shirts (if I didn’t wash and iron them myself) is RaveFabricare in Arizona. I’ll do post on them soon.   


10.  Select a Quality Detergent. Best option would be to select a detergent that is engineered for delicate or sensitive skin. That way, you will avoid exposing your shirts to harsh chemicals that will deteriorate the fabric prematurely.



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