Some garments, like dress shirts, just look so much better when they’re pressed with starch or sizing. It adds a firmness to fabrics, increasing the length of time it looks good on you while you’re wearing it.
But, is keeping up appearances doing any harm? There’s a misconception that starch or sizing can damage your garments over time. Your garments may stay at attention, but you can relax about starch and sizing. Here’s what you need to know.
According to the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute, garments like dress shirts are exposed to two different kinds of abrasions.
- Flat abrasion: This happens when your shirt rubs against any other surface while you’re wearing it.
- Flex abrasion: This is when the garment’s fibers are stretched, such as at the sleeve elbow areas.
Starch and sizing adds protection to garments by help them withstand flat abrasion. This is good news for you if you tend to wear a suit jacket or sweater over your starched dress shirts. The starch or sizing stiffens the fibers and makes them less resistant to this kind of abrasion.
Is There a Downside?
The stiffened fibers help to overcome those droopy elbow sags that non-starched dress shirts can get. The added rigidity theoretically might hasten the garment’s life expectancy. The Drycleaning and Laundry Institute ran its own tests and concluded that starch and sizing makes it about 20% more likely for fibers to be damaged by flex abrasion.
Starch and sizing adds body and stiffness. The fabric becomes less flexible. In extreme situations, this loss of flexibility might cause the fabric fibers to snap rather than stretch. The key takeaway here is “extreme situations.” Most people are not likely to stress a starched dress shirt in this way while they’re at the office.
Most people decide it’s an acceptable trade-off. There’s a slight chance that you might reduce the life expectancy of your favorite starched dress shirt if you’re prone to spontaneous bouts of breakdancing at the office – or you forget to remove it before assuming your superhero alter ego.
This slight possibility is balanced by a crisper look, as well as increased resistance to stains, and retaining the deepness of the fabric’s color.
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