How To Care For Your Favorite T-Shirts

We all have favorite t-shirts and often they have some sort of decoration. Whether it is a memory of an event, place or something we follow, like a band or team, it’s the one we want to last forever, even it looks old and worn. Here’s a few tips on how care for t-shirts and other clothing, decorated or not.

Equipment Needed

  • Laundry Detergent

  • Mesh Laundry Bag

  • Iron

  • Soft Terry cloth or towel

Steps Involved

1. Read the care label...

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  • This is always the first step of fabric care. T-shirts are not always made from washable 100% cotton and may even need dry cleaning.

  • Decorations, such screen-prints or heat transfers are often applied by another party so the t-shirts care label may not include the care of the decoration.

2. Check the fabric content

  • A cotton and synthetic mix will help the t-shirt retain its shape and should be easier to care for.

  • If it's a “stretch” t-shirt the chances are it contains an elastic element such as spandex. Over time this will most probably breakdown faster than the cotton content especially if exposed to chemicals such as bleach or excessive heat while drying or ironing and even steaming.

3. Printed, embroidered or other decorations

  • Generally, decorations are going to be the t-shirt’s weak point. Transfers and screen prints are susceptible to cracking. Embroidery, lace and other stitched decorations can either shrink more or less than the t-shirt fabric leaving an uneven finish. These items are generally best hand washed.

4. Check the T-shirt

  • Looking at the t-shirt in natural light (if possible) is the best way to detect any marks or stains.

  • Check the seams, hems and any decorations requiring repair before washing as the washing process can make any problems worse.

  • Always wash inside out to prevent or lessen the wear on the “face” of the fabric.

5. Hand Washing

  • Hand washing is the gentlest form of washing and if performed properly will avoid such problems as stretching, color fading and wear to both the fabric and decoration.

6. Machine Washing

  • Washing a delicate t-shirt inside out in a mesh laundry bag will prevent stretching and abrasion from other clothes.

  • Machine washing with heavy or abrasive fabrics (such as towels) can damage finer fabrics.

  • Use the delicate cycle, prints will last longer.

  • Cold water wash eliminates the possibility of shrinkage and preserves colors.

  • Warm to hot water wash will clean better.

  • Use a color safe detergent and bleach to preserve colors.

7. Drying

  • Air drying is best for printed t-shirts.

  • Hanging plain white t-shirts in the sun will brighten the shirt.


To avoid having to iron

  • Place the t-shirt in the clothes dryer (inside out) with a dry towel for five minutes on the medium or low heat setting. This warms the water in the fabric and relaxes the fibers removing wrinkles.

  • Immediately turn the shirt right side out and hang on a clothes hanger.

  • Gently pull (too hard and it will stretch) the t-shirt into shape along the hems and seams and leave to air dry.

  • If you want to speed up the drying time occasionally turn the inside out and back again to release the water trapped inside.

  • If drying inside a fan or a dehumidifier will also speed up drying

  • When dry, put the t-shirt back in the dryer (inside out) with a towel and tumble on the air setting (no heat) for 5-10 minutes.

  • The t-shirt won’t look as “pressed” as ironed shirt, but as most t-shirts are casual attire it suits them.

8. Ironing

  • Check the care label and adjust your iron’s heat setting accordingly

  • Never iron directly on decorations, especially prints as this will cause them to crack at best and at worst you will find the print stuck to the bottom of the iron. Iron from behind and keep the iron moving to avoid heating the print too much or use a pressing cloth between the shirt and iron.

  • I iron most clothes on the inside, but even though a garment may say 100% cotton the stitching treads are often clear synthetic (like fishing line). A hot iron can make them brittle and crack and the ends will irritate your skin.

9. Ironing Embroidery and Lace

  • Place the embroidery face down on a terry towel and iron from behind. The embroidered part will sink into the towel allowing the surrounding fabric to be ironed flat.

  • If you ever need to iron on the face of embroidery or iron lace protect it with a pressing cloth. In the case of lace, using a pressing cloth will stop the tip of the iron getting between the threads and ripping the lace.

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