There are few garments with the iconic status of the white T-Shirt. Quite simply, no wardrobe is complete without it. But if you’re wearing a white cotton T-shirt as outerwear – on its own in summer, or styled with a jacket – you want it to stay looking as good as new. It needs to be crisp and clean. Above all, it has to stay brilliant white, with no dullness or stains.
Here’s a complete guide to caring for your white T-shirts, from washing and drying, to removing stains and avoiding shrinkage.
How to machine wash your white T-Shirt
Here are four steps to machine washing your white cotton T-Shirt so that it stays white:
1) Wash only whites together – The first rule when machine washing your white cotton T-Shirt is to wash like with like: don’t mix your white T-Shirts with any other colours, even off-whites. While it might be tempting to add in more items to bulk up a wash, if you want your T-Shirts to stay brilliant and bright you need to wash them strictly with other white items to prevent any colour leaching. (It’s also important to avoid overfilling the machine as your clothes need to circulate properly with the detergent in order to get properly clean.)
2) Read the label for the correct wash temperature – Next, before you put your white T-Shirt in the washing machine, make sure you read the garment care label. (Sunspel 100% white cotton T-Shirts, from the ultra-fine Classic Cotton white T-Shirt to the sleek, durable Cotton Riviera white T-Shirt, can be washed on a gentle cycle at 30°C.)
3) Use the correct amount of detergent – Using too little will not give a proper clean, while too much can actually trap dirt and odours into the fabric and leave some white T-Shirts looking grey or yellowed, so be sure to follow the instructions on the detergent packet.
4) Reshape immediately – Once washed, remove your T-Shirt from the machine as soon as possible and reshape it whilst damp, by shaking it out from the hem.
How to handwash your white T-Shirt
It’s important to treat your T-Shirt gently when handwashing. First, mix some detergent in a sink or bowl of warm water. Gently massage the T-Shirt in the water, and then rinse it thoroughly using clean, cold water.
Next remove the T-Shirt from the water, lay it out flat on a clean towel, roll it up and squeeze to remove excess moisture. Avoid any excessive wringing, which can stretch the fabric. Reshape your T-Shirt by shaking it out from the hem.
Should you cold wash your white T-Shirt?
Cold washing your white T-Shirt can have a number of benefits. Washing in cold water can reduce the risk of shrinkage, damage and wrinkling that can come with higher temperature washes. Some stains are also less likely to bleed and set.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that some detergents work best at warmer temperatures, and a warm (not hot) wash will help to give a good overall clean and ensure that any oils or perspiration are removed, reducing the risk of discolouration such as yellowing around the arms and neck.
What does dry cleaning do to your T-Shirt?
Dry cleaning involves the use of chemical solvents to remove dirt from your clothes, with little or no use of water. Before the process begins, the garment is inspected and pre-treated for any stains, and is then loaded into a machine where it is agitated with the solvent solution.
Dry cleaning can help to remove certain stains, and can also help prevent shrinking or stretching. However, it’s worth noting that it is not always as effective as normal laundering at removing some stains from cotton, such as sweat and body oils. Unless your T-Shirt is heavily soiled, a gentle wash at 30°C will usually suffice.
Avoiding shrinkage of your white T-Shirt
Cotton has natural shrinkage, which often occurs during the first few washes. You can help to avoid shrinkage of your white T-Shirt by using cold or warm rather than hot water for washing.
Tumble drying is another major cause of shrinkage and damage, particularly when it comes to finer yarn cottons, so we recommend that you avoid tumble-drying your white T-Shirts and instead allow them to air dry.
How to remove stains from a white T-Shirt
The first rule of dealing with stains on your white cotton T-Shirt is to act immediately! Blot the stain to remove any excess liquid, using a dabbing action and a clean cloth or paper towel. Then add some mild soap or detergent to the stain, and gently work it in to remove as much as possible.
More stubborn stains may require a commercial stain remover, but you should avoid using chlorine bleach-based products.
If your T-Shirt is heavily soiled, you may need to pre-soak it before putting it in the washing machine; always check the care instructions first.
What is the best way to dry your white T-Shirt?
When it comes to drying your white T-Shirt, you should avoid using a tumble dryer which can degrade the fabric and cause shrinkage, yellowing and bobbling.
Lay your T-Shirt flat on a towel, then roll it up and gently squeeze out any excess water. Reshape by shaking the T-Shirt out from the hem. It’s best to air dry your T-Shirt wherever possible, by placing it on an airer or on the washing line. If your white T-Shirt is looking a little faded, the UV rays from the sun will naturally help to whiten the fabric.
What is the best way to clean your T-Shirt without washing it?
If you want to freshen up your white T-Shirt without giving it a full wash, there are a number of things you can do. To get rid of odours or generally make things fresher, hang your T-Shirt outside to air.
Meanwhile, to spot clean your T-Shirt and remove specific odours, try mixing some baking soda into a paste with some water, and applying to the areas in question. Allow it to dry, then simply brush off the baking soda.
How often should I wash my white T-Shirt?
To help keep your white T-Shirt looking bright, you should wash it regularly. If your white T-Shirt has any signs of soiling or staining, it should be washed immediately.
Dirt and oils can also build up during wear, and they may not always be visible, so we recommend that you wash your T-Shirt at least every other wear.
Washing and caring for a Sea Island Cotton T-Shirt
Grown and hand-picked in the Caribbean, Sea Island cotton is the rarest and most sought-after cotton in the world, not least because of its extraordinary softness.
That kind of luxury requires specialist knowledge and care. At Sunspel we work with expert spinners in Switzerland, who weave the extra long cotton staple fibre into the highest possible yarn count to make a super-smooth, silky and breathable fabric.
As well as being extremely cosy, Sea Island cotton is naturally delicate, so it’s important to treat it with care. You can machine wash your Sunspel 100% Sea Island cotton T-Shirt on a gentle cycle, at a temperature of 30°C. Avoid using bleach or a tumble dryer, and reshape your T-Shirt whilst damp. Your Sea Island T-Shirt can be ironed on a warm heat, and it’s also dry cleanable.
General care of your T-Shirt – ironing, folding and storage
When ironing your white T-Shirt, you should check the iron settings on the label. Using too high a heat can damage the fabric and leave marks, so you should always use a lower temperature. Cotton in particular benefits from adding some steam or water before ironing, to help smooth and flatten the fibres.
When it comes to storing your T-Shirts, it’s best to fold or roll them and stack them on a shelf or in a drawer, out of direct sunlight. Hanging can cause the fabric to stretch or become misshapen over time, especially around the neck and shoulders, so if you do need to hang your T-Shirts, use wide hangers and insert the hanger from the bottom up.