AAn old friend once described his style to me as “like an apple, crisp and fresh”. The description was appropriate for this time in our life (early 20s) and although a decade has passed I still think about it every time I put on a white shirt.
The wardrobe classic looks great when it’s just that: crisp white, crisp and fresh. But keeping it that way isn’t always easy.
The lifespan of the shirt will be in part determined by its composition. Jade Sarita Arnott, creative director of slow fashion brand Arnsdorf, recommends choosing natural fibers like organic cotton, linen, hemp or Tencel. She says, “Stay away from synthetic fabrics or synthetic blends as they attract odors and trap bacteria.”
Steve Anderton, a laundry expert with LTC Worldwide Consulting Group, explains that this is because “polyester tends to cling tenaciously to oily contamination. [including skin sebum]”, As well as greasy food stains caused by” dressing, chicken fats and fish oils “.
Watch out for deodorant
Anderton warns that the chemicals in deodorant stains make them “virtually impossible to remove.” To avoid them, he suggests waiting until your deodorant is completely dry before putting on your shirt.
While not particularly popular in a hot Australian climate, wearing an undershirt will also help absorb sweat before it reaches your shirt.
Choose the right detergent
Both Sarita Arnott and Anderton suggest keeping white clothes away from all other colors when washing. Sarita Arnott explains that this prevents dyes in other clothes from tinting whites.
An all-white wash will also allow you to choose a specialty detergent that may not be as gentle on other colors. Anderton recommends choosing a higher quality detergent with a suspending agent like sodium silicate salts, so that after the dirt is removed from your shirt in the machine, it will stay in the water and out of the fabric for the. rest of the wash. This prevents the shirt from turning gray.
He says your detergent should contain an emulsifier, such as citric acid, to solubilize greasy food stains (this will help even stained polyester). A mild oxidizing agent such as sodium perborate will help discolor plant dye stains from things like coffee, tea, red wine, beets, or grass.
The other thing to watch out for is a detergent that contains enzymes like protease or proteinase, which will digest food and drink stains and perform well in low wash temperatures. If this is all a bit technical, Choice has performed lab tests to determine which detergents are the best.
Pre-treat problem areas
Often times, the collars and cuffs are the first places to turn yellow. Anderton says this is because “grime tends to build up on the fabric which is repeatedly rubbed against the skin during normal wear.”
He suggests pre-treating the collars and cuffs to keep those areas white by following these steps: “Wet them and scrub for a few seconds with a medium-hard natural bristle brush dipped in liquid detergent”.
If this does not work, unfortunately the fabric may have been discolored by skin oils from a previous wash, where they were not removed, “either with the heat of a previous drying, or with ironing, or simply over time ”. To avoid this, Anderton advises to pay “special attention to the pre-treatment of the yellowed areas, otherwise they will not fade.”
Although sweat and skin oil can be more complicated, he says, “most food and drink brands will rub off very easily, provided they have a cold pre-wash (below 40 ° C). ) to prevent the formation of spots “.
Sarita Arnott recommends targeting the stains by making a paste from baking soda and water, applying the paste directly to the oily stains and leaving it overnight before washing the garment. After this treatment, Sarita Arnott recommends using “a cold or gentle machine wash at 30 ° C”. She says, “You can also add baking soda to your regular wash load to lighten the whites and make them look fresh.”
To dry white shirts, Sarita Arnott suggests hanging them outside in the fresh air because “sunlight can also brighten whites.”
It should be even more impactful if you’ve used a detergent with an optical brightener, says Anderton. It has to “grab onto the cotton fibers and convert the invisible, ultraviolet part of natural daylight into a brilliant white light” that will make the shirt glow.
Sarita Arnott says you can avoid ironing “if you hang the shirt on the line or on a hanger” to dry, as most creases will fall off in the process. But she cautions, “if you’re using a hanger, make sure you use one with light wood or metal or plastic rather than dark wood which can transfer color.”
If you need to iron, Anderton recommends doing it while the shirt is still slightly damp, using an iron on medium heat. Turn it inside out, start with the back of the collar and the yoke on the shoulders, then work your way up to the sleeves and finally work around the body. It says to avoid squeezing hard folds in the sleeves or pleats, to maximize the life of the fabric.
Do you have a garment care riddle that you would like to cover in this column? Send an email to [email protected] with the requests.