T-Shirt Laundry Guide | How to Keep Graphic Tees From Cracking and Fading

For your sake I hope you can't relate, but the younger me knew the dreadful feeling of watching all my favorite graphic tees crack and fade all too well. Thankfully, I know more now than I did back then. Nothing lasts forever, that includes both your vintage and graphic tees. But, there are some things you can do to help them last longer.

Read Washing Instructions

I think it's safe to say most people fail to realize this is the most important part. Some garments require special care and tell you EXACTLY what to do. Start taking the time to read the washing instructions on all the garments you really care about. Learn what the symbols mean. 

If washing instructions are not printed directly on the neck, they're likely on a tag. Depending on the brand, the tag could be sewn along the inside of the shoulder, side-seam, or bottom hem.

Turn Shirt Inside-Out, Before Washing

Turn your shirt inside-out before washing, to minimize both fading and the friction against the graphic. When the graphic is exposed, it's more likely to get damaged by things like buttons, zippers, etc.

Wash Separately, Delicate Cycle

This isn't a "MUST" but you should consider washing the garments that you care about in separate load(s), on a delicate cycle. If the washing machine you're using doesn't have a setting specifically titled "delicate(s)," use the most gentle option.

Hand Washing

We don't recommend hand washing, unless you have to. When you hand wash, garments retain water more easily. Thus, making the shirt heavier and putting pressure on the collar when hang drying.

If you decide to hand wash we recommend using products like clothespins, as opposed to hangers, to hang the garments while they dry. Try to position them in a way that puts little to no pressure on the neck, so the collar doesn't stretch out.

Do Not Use Bleach, Stay Away From Fabric Softeners

Even if the shirt is white, you shouldn't use bleach on a graphic tee. Bleach, fabric softeners, and other harsh products eat away graphics and cause fading.

Wash With Cold Water

Washing with hot water will cause your shirts to fade and potentially shrink. The heat will do you NO favors. It's harsh on fabrics and even worse on graphics.

Line Dry

If you're not familiar with the term, "line dry" basically means air dry. Instead of putting your shirts in the dryer, let them dry naturally. Ideally, you should put them on hangers. But if you're short on space and/or need to get creative, chairs have more than one use right?

Dry Cleaning

If you have the disposable income and don't really care about or feel like doing any of this stuff, you should consider dry cleaning.

Turn Shirt Inside-Out, Before Ironing

Never put a hot iron directly on the print, it'll ruin the graphic. Some fabrics are delicate, ironing the surface can cause damage. And ironing inside-out helps to avoid iron marks.

Use Low Heat Settings When Ironing

Don't speed up the pilling process just because you're in a rush. Even if the shirt is 100% cotton, iron on settings like wool and polyester.

Do Not Iron Graphics

This is probably the biggest no-no. Again, if you're ironing the graphic directly, you might as well throw the shirt away.

Spread Out, Minimize Wear

If you can, try to wear the shirts you cherish a bit less. Fight the urge to wear them as often as you do. Start a rotation. If you stack and fold your tees, grab from the bottom of the pile and work your way back up to the top (most recently worn shirts). The less you wear it, the less you wash it. The less you wash it, the longer it lasts.

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