The Non-Iron Shirt Debate

Stiff. Uncomfortable. Starchy. These are some of the main complaints people use when describing non-iron dress shirts. First released by Brooks Brothers in 1953, the shirts saved busy households time and quickly became an industry standards. Fans of non-iron shirts love that crisp, lasting fit which makes it easier to spend longer days in the office or traveling for business without looking rumpled.

However, new studies have shown that non-iron shirts are both bad for your health and for the environment. The chemicals conglomerate DuPont worked with shirt retailers back in the 50’s to develop the solution used in non-iron shirts and included formaldehyde — a chemical used in embalming — as one of the main ingredients. Each shirt is dipped into this solution, giving it that weird smell when you first purchase it.

Just in case you didn’t know — the National Toxicology Program named formaldehyde a carcinogen in 2011. While formulas have changed slightly since then, formaldehyde continues to be a main proponent of non-iron shirts.

In addition to causing discomfort and allergic reactions, the chemicals in non-iron shirts are cause the material to break down quickly. Collars and elbows quickly wear out because the fabric is less breathable. Lastly, the chemicals are slow to break down after items are thrown away, making them terrible for the environment.

So do yourself a favor and eliminate non-iron shirts from your closet. If you’ve forgotten how to iron, watch this video from GQ for a refresher.