Do Your Shirts Need to be Buttoned Before Washing Them?

Button-down shirts are a classic look that can be worn in almost all places and occasions. However, some of these shirts are made of delicate materials that require special care. And one important question that often comes up when it comes to washing a button-down shirt is whether it should be unbuttoned before going in the wash.

Your shirts should be unbuttoned before going in the washer. Washing machines are known to agitate clothes, and when the shirt is buttoned, the agitation may loosen the buttons or pull them off. By unbuttoning the shirt, you’ll reduce the friction between the buttons and other clothes in the washer.

Let’s take a look at exactly why you need to unbutton your shirts before washing them, whether you should hand wash button-up shirts, and when it’s necessary to dry clean your shirts.

Should You Button a Shirt Before Washing?

Close up view on clothes dryer with washed and dried shirts in and door open

Buttons are so important on your shirts that losing them might be seen as a pretty serious fashion accident, especially if it happens when you’re away from home. Imagine having to hold your shirt together with your hands as you walk down the street!

Buttons get lost when the threads holding them become loose with time — and the main cause of this problem is improper laundering. During a normal cleaning cycle, shirts undergo lots of tossing, twisting, and turning.

The friction inside the washing machine can pop your buttons. The button can also get caught on other clothes or items like loose-knit sweaters or laces. The best way to reduce friction as you wash is to unbutton the shirts before tossing them into the washing machine.

Unbuttoning the shirts will reduce the friction inside the washing machine and reduce the chances of the buttons getting tangled with other items in the wash. Make sure you undo all the buttons, including the cuff buttons and the collar buttons. Any button you see on the shirt should be unbuttoned. 

Next, turn the shirts inside out, just like you do for washing your pants. Don’t fear that your shirt will stretch or that your collar will get deformed when you unbutton them before washing. After the shirts dry, just button them up and hang them on a drying rack. They’ll be dry and ready to use in no time.

You can also hand-wash your button-up shirts. Hand-washing may seem like an unnecessary burden when you’ve got a washing machine, but it’s a very safe way to wash your precious shirts.

Methods for Drying Button-Up Shirts

It’s recommended that you avoid using a dryer when drying your button-up shirts unless it’s extremely necessary. If so, you should set the dryer at low heat. Use the dryer to eliminate most of the water from the shirt, then remove the shirt and dry it in the air or iron it to dry it completely and remove the wrinkles.

If you leave the shirt in a dryer until it dries completely, the shirt will become harder to iron and may shrink too much to be worn.

The best way to dry button-up shirts is to air dry them on hangers or lines if you have enough space. To air-dry your shirts, you can start by squeezing them lightly to remove excess water. Don’t wring or twist the shirt because this might ruin the fabric by overstretching the fibers.

If you want your shirts to dry faster, lay down a lint-free bath towel on a flat surface, then place the shirt on it. Roll up the towel to encase the shirt, then press it gently for the towel to absorb water from the shirt. Transfer the shirt to another towel if the first gets saturated with water.

Once you’ve removed excess water, you can move the shirt to dry in the air. However, you must first check the shirt’s label for drying instructions. Some shirts should not be dried in direct sunlight. 

If no label instruction exists, lay the shirt on a clean towel spread on a flat surface away from direct sunlight and allow it to dry. You can flip the shirt once in a while to ensure it dries evenly.

Make sure the surface on which you iron the shirt is moisture-resistant. If your shirt gets wrinkled, check its care label for the best ironing temperature.

When Do Shirts Need to be Dry-Cleaned? 

Folded Shirts

If your shirt has a tag, you can easily decide whether it can be dry-cleaned. The care label has lots of information about caring for the fabric. If the label reads “dry clean only,” then it means dry cleaning is the method recommended by the manufacturer.

Clothing manufacturers recommend the safest methods of washing clothes, but that doesn’t mean dry-clean-only clothes can’t be hand washed.

However, it’s best to dry clean a shirt if it satisfies the conditions below:

  • If it has stains, and you don’t know how to remove them.
  • If it’s made from rayon, triacetate, or acetate.
  • If the shirt is lined, find out if the lining material can be hand-washed.
  • If the shirt contains suede or leather or is trimmed.
  • If the material transfers colors when it gets wet.

If you aren’t sure which method is best for cleaning your shirt, consult a laundry expert.