Linen has become a popular alternative to traditional cotton and cotton blend dress shirts. Made from the fibers of the flax plant, it's soft, supple, lightweight and breathable, making it ideal for use during the otherwise hot spring and summer months. But if you're planning to wear a linen dress shirt, you should familiarize yourself with the steps to caring for it. Like all fabrics, linen requires some basic work to preserve and maintain its appearance and structural integrity. So, what's the best way to care for a linen dress shirt?
Hang It Up, Don't Fold It
Normally, it's best to fold dress shirts to protect them from wrinkles, but not with the case of linen. Linen has a naturally low level of elasticity. Therefore, folding or ironing it repeatedly can damage it. This usually doesn't happen after a single fold. Rather, you must fold or iron a linen dress shirt dozens of times before any noticeable damage occurs. Nonetheless, you should limit the number of times that you iron or fold your linen dress shirt to protect it from damage.
Don't Use Bleach
It's also worth mentioning that bleach can damage a linen dress shirt. You have to remember that bleach is a harsh, corrosive chemical. While most fabrics can withstand bleach with little or no ill effect, linen isn't one of them. When exposed to bleach, it can damage the fibers and, of course, cause the color to fade. Because of this, it's recommended that you avoid using bleach or products containing bleach on your linen dress shirt.
Beware of Mildew
In addition to bleach, mildew can also damage linen. Going back to the basics of biology 101, mildew is a type of fungi that requires organic matter and moisture to grow. Being that linen is made of flax plant fibers, it's the perfect source of organic food for mildew. You can't change the fact that linen is organic, but you can still control moisture around your dress shirt and protect it from mildew. Use a dehumidifier in the room or area where you store your linen dress shirt. And after washing or cleaning your dress shirt, dry it promptly so that mildew doesn't have the opportunity to take hold and reproduce. As long as you take a proactive approach towards protecting your linen dress shirt from mildew, this shouldn't be a problem.
Choose High-Quality, 100% Linen
When choosing a linen dress shirt, make sure it's made of 100% high-quality linen. Just because a dress shirt is labeled "linen" doesn't necessarily mean that it's only made of linen. It's not uncommon for manufacturers to include other fabrics or materials in their shirts. A linen dress shirt, for instance, may also include polyester. The presence of polyester, even just a small amount, increases its elasticity so that it can stretch without breaking. Unfortunately, it also makes the dress shirt more susceptible to damage from washing and drying. To get the most use out of your dress shirt, stick with a high-quality, 100% linen fabric.
Don't Over Dry It
There's nothing wrong with drying your linen dress shirt after washing it; on the contrary, this is necessary to protect it from mold and mildew. However, you should use caution to avoid overdoing it. Drying a linen dress shirt too much may damage the delicate linen fibers, causing permanent damage to your shirt that's next-to-impossible to repair. So, if you're going to dry it in a traditional drying machine, set the timer on low and remove it promptly when finished. Alternatively, you can line dry your linen dress shirt, which is a safer and more effective way to dry linen. Either way, though, you should avoid over drying your linen shirt to protect it from damage.
Iron When Damp
One of the perks of choosing a linen dress shirt over other fabrics is its natural wrinkle-resistant properties. As long as you hang up your linen dress shirt, it shouldn't develop wrinkles. However, there are times when it may develop wrinkles or creases, creating unflattering appearance that should be avoided for formal events and occasions. The good news is that you can remove wrinkles from a linen dress shirt using a hot iron. But if you're going to iron your linen dress shirt, it's recommended that you do it when the shirt is still damp. Linen irons better when it's still damp as opposed to being fully dry. You can even spray a light mist of water over your linen dress shirt before ironing it.
When in Doubt, Dry Clean
If you're struggling to clean your linen dress shirt, take it to the local dry cleaners. Unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer in the shirt's care label, you can usually dry clean linen without fear of it harming or damaging the fabric. Just remember to check with the dry cleaners beforehand to ensure that they are familiar with the fabric. Assuming the dry cleaners says it's okay, you can drop off your linen shirt to have it dry cleaned.
Wash on Delicate Cycle
When washing your linen dress shirt, set your washing machine to the delicate cycle. This uses a lower level of energy -- along with less vibrations -- to clean clothes. Some people assume that washing clothes on the delicate cycle doesn't get them as clean, but it's actually just as effective as the more aggressive wash cycles.
Test New Products in Discreet Area
If you're going to use a new product on your linen dress shirt, such as laundry detergent, color-safe additive, spot-cleaning spray, anti--static spray, etc., test it in a discreet area before applying it to the rest of your shirt. This will give you the opportunity to see if it damages or otherwise negatively affects the fabric. If the product leaves a lasting stain, for example, you should discontinue use and choose a different product. For most superficial stains, however, you can clean your linen dress shirt using white vinegar or even warm water.