Here’s How Often Should You Should Toss Old Dress Shirts

It’s Time to Toss Those Old Dress Shirts

We’ve all been guilty of hanging on to a piece of clothing longer than we probably should. Often times, these items have a very acute emotional significance to us. One of the most common pieces of clothing that most men keep too long are dress shirts.

The undisputed workhorse of your wardrobe, dress shirts, wear out faster than most of our clothes because of the daily stress we put them through. A spring cleaning is not only great to help put away your seasonal wardrobe, but also a time to get rid of old or damaged clothing.

dress shirt disposal

When inspecting your dress shirts, there are multiple aspects which can contribute to over-worked or soiled garments:

1. Dry-Cleaning. The chemicals from dry-cleaning will cause shirts to yellow over time. It also breaks down the fibers in most shirts, which makes them weak and susceptible to tearing.

2. Deodorant. Most deodorants, or those with fragrance and high aluminum content, will yellow the underarms of your shirts. This is the most common and ultimate demise of your everyday dress shirt.

dress shirt disposal

3. Improper Home Laundering.  A lot of men don’t know how to properly launder their own shirts. Your home washer and dryer can be a destructive force on the delicate interfacings and buttons of your dress shirts.

Generally, I like to think of dress shirts like undergarments. Once you see signs of wear, like color fading, stains or rips, it’s time for them to be tossed. While there’s no exact time table for when you should toss your old dress shirts, a general rule of thumb is to inspect them every 3 or 4 wears.

Some shirts can last 6 months, others can last 1-2 years. A shirts durability can be attributed often times by both the quality of the dress shirt and the amount of times it’s been laundered. Mass produced shirts tend to fail faster than MTM or bespoke shirts. This can often time be due to the quality control of the factory.

dress shirt disposal

Sustained longevity of your dress shirts will vary on how much you care for them. Taking into account the wear and tear of daily life, here are a few tips for keeping your dress shirts going longer:

1. Green Dry Cleaning. Try organic or green dry cleaning or ask your local cleaners if they do a hand laundering. Don’t dry clean? I prefer to launder my dress shirts at home. Start with the most delicate or light setting you can, hang to dry and then steam iron before you’re ready to wear.

2. Switch to natural deodorant. Choose one that’s not acidic or has a ton of fragrance. I like this one. If you don’t sweat a lot, consider not wearing deodorant from time to time.

dress shirt disposal

3. Properly Fitting Shirt. Overtime your body will change. Well fitting shirts will last longer mainly because of the decreased stress on seams and fabric. If it doesn’t fit, let it out or get rid of it. Remember tailored not tight.

4. Wear an undershirt. Undershirts provide a layer of protection from your sweat and deodorant. Not everyone is a fan, but an undershirt can help when it comes to insulation during the winter or in this case saving your custom dress shirt. Brian made a video about undershirts a while back. Try these shirts. They’re thin, have some stretch and won’t break the bank.

5. Pretreat your shirts. You do not want your deodorant or swear to remain on the garment. They can continue to yellow or cause odor to your shirts. Try pre-cleaning spots with things like Oxyclean or at-home methods of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Either of those options might be able to help keep your shirts in your rotation longer.

Any tips to keep your dress shirts from wearing out? Let us know.

Stylishly Yours,

Steven D. Elliott
He Spoke Style


Chime In

  • SpaceFromGreece!

    my problem has always been the collar stains… Any tip to avoid/get rid of them easily?

    • grey0135

      Don’t let your hair in the back grow too long. When I go the barber, I have him shave off hair that goes below the collar-line (this has to be done artfully, of course). There are two benefits to this: (1) fewer collar stains, and (2) creates the visual appearance of a longer neck which can make you look taller.

      • SpaceFromGreece!

        super Tips! Really appreciated!!!

        • Steven Elliott

          I’m glad they helped.

      • Steven Elliott

        This is a great! Thanks so much for the suggestion.

    • Steven Elliott

      Collar stains are attributed to sweat, dead skin or maybe hair product runoff. 1. Try to limit sweating. 2. Think about unbuttoning your collar. I assume you’re wearing a tie, but try collar extenders. They can help reduce the tightness of the shirt collar around your neck. 3. If you see collar staines, be sure to pre-treat with a cleaner and wash as soon as possible.

  • bornu

    Buy more shirts. The less frequently you wear them, the longer they will last. Fabrics require time to recover from the stresses of being worn, and from laundering, regardless of what methods you use. You can have 5 dress shirts and wear them to a frayed mess rather quickly, or buy a few dozen, and wear rested, fresh looking shirts every time. Also, don’t use a lot of starch. It makes the fibers stiff and brittle over time. If your dry cleaner always asks how much starch, get another dry cleaner. They should know better than you what the proper amount of starch is. Hint: it’s never enough to make the collars and packet stiff and rigid.

    • Steven Elliott

      Good point. A a good shirt rotation can also help longevity.

  • grey0135

    Launder at home. And use a washing machine that does NOT have an agitator. Washing machines with agitators are really hard on dress shirts.

    • Steven Elliott

      Agree, but not everyone has that. Try and Be a gentle as possible with them.

  • Tom B

    Great tips, thank you Steve! That being said, throw out?? Old dress shirts are great for cooking, household chores, painting (the really gruddy ones), and my favorite, sailing! Seriously, they’re cotton, they’re comfy, you stay cool, they cover your arms (sailing sunburn, ouch) and they look just fine untucked over a tee-shirt or under a sweatshirt. “Retired” dress shirts are my favorite knock-around wear (ok, maybe not to be seen by anyone except close family). I used to retire them really fast with cigar ash burns, don’t do that!

    • Steven Elliott

      I don’t do much sailing these days but thats great that you found a use for them. The really dirty ones get thrown out and If I can’t get to replacing them, I’ll keep the ones I can layer under a sweater.

  • Terry Cullen

    You should also toss out those plastic hangers while you’re at it.