In Brooklyn, there are about as many shirt laundries as there are pizza parlors. In theory, wherever you go to have your shirts cleaned will have a pizza parlor nearby. It is good to know that a person can stain his shirt with tomato sauce, and then have it cleaned at a nearby laundry.
Convenience aside, the abundance of shirt laundries in Brooklyn has kept the price of shirt cleaning relatively low. Having a shirt washed and pressed can cost anywhere from $1 to $2 per shirt. This is quite a deal when you consider that the shirts are most often laundered by hand. Most prefer hand-washing since the chemicals used in the dry cleaning process are harmful to cotton. So, it may not seem surprising that some of the more reputable laundries are overwhelmed with shirts to wash. Brooklyn shirt launderers are not exactly fighting each other for your business. So you may find it advantageous to keep your complaints about mysterious stains or missing buttons to yourself. Otherwise, you may as well expect the sweet little elderly Cantonese woman washing your shirts to tell you in broken English, “No come back, okay?”
Perhaps you’re like me in that you don’t have the good sense to know when not to complain, or you would like to keep your $2 per shirt to yourself and take a nice vacation to a Caribbean Island. Whatever the case, before you switch laundries, take this opportunity to experiment with washing your own shirts. Whether it goes well, or not so well, you would benefit from at least giving it a whirl. Cleaning a shirt is not as difficult as it may seem once you walk through the process. All you need is a small brush, detergent and a laundry stain remover.
Likely, the most tedious part of washing a shirt is scrubbing the collar. It just so happens that the collar gets soiled first. And if you are married, you know better than most that some would not want to be caught dead with a spouse that has “ringaroundthecollaritis.” If you wear your collar open without a tie, you may be able to squeeze a few more wears out of it. But once the collar is visibly soiled, it is time to wash the shirt, especially if it’s white. So here’s what you do:
To make life a bit easier, it is best to pre-treat the collar with a laundry stain remover. Resolve (formerly known as Spray and Wash) has made its mark in households around the world. Apply the laundry stain remover so that the collar is saturated. Let it soak for about 15 minutes. Keep in mind that, soaking only does part of the job for you by loosening the dirt. You will need to purchase a brush to scrub out the ring around the collar. Anything significantly larger than a toothbrush would be in the way, but that’s just my opinion. Do what works for you. (By the way, this same process can be repeated on the cuffs).
Then place the shirt in warm water with a sufficient amount of detergent. Of course, the amount of detergent should be commensurate with the number of shirts. This is important because if you use too much detergent, you will have a hard time rinsing out the excess detergent. If you use too little, the shirt may not be cleaned thoroughly. So, make sure at the very least, that the water feels slippery to the touch. Also, some find it beneficial to put baking soda in the water, about half teaspoon per shirt. This makes your white shirts whiter and your bright shirts brighter. If you are washing white shirts only, a touch of bleach may also be in order.
Some shirts have removable plastic or paper stays in the collar to help the collar to hold its shape. Remember to remove these before washing the shirt as they may get damaged in the cleaning process. If your stays get damaged, they can be easily replaced. You can buy an entire set of eight 2½” brass stays for $10 at http://www.Menswearhouse.com
Although cleaning the armpits can also be a challenge, don’t worry so much about those since this area is usually covered. If you decide to tackle the armpits, you can use the collar scrubbing process also on the armpits. Also, the publication Supermarket Super Productsby Jerry Baker says that perspiration stains can be removed from cotton clothes by soaking them in a solution of 1 to 2 cups of salt per gallon of water for an hour before washing. But if the underarm area of your shirt is noticeably soiled and cannot be cleaned by you or your laundry, you may want to consider trashing it.
Washing a shirt by hand and then ironing out the wrinkles afterwards can be like removing a dent from a car. In fact, removing a dent from a car would probably be easier. However, if you put your shirt in the dryer and let it roll around for about 10 minutes or so, you can avoid this problem. The goal is not to completely dry the shirt, but to make ironing the shirt more manageable. When you put a laundered shirt in the dryer even for just a few minutes, ironing out the wrinkles afterwards should be a cinch.
That’s it. Like I said, it is not a difficult process, but once you know the process, cleaning a shirt can become second nature. I recommend washing more than one shirt at a time. Doing so makes washing shirts more cost-effective.