How to Wash, Dry, and Iron a Cotton Maxi Dress

How to iron and dry a maxi dress

Whether your dress is pure cotton or a cotton blend, you should know that anything made of cotton is susceptible to shrinking and wrinkling during laundry, drying, and storage. To prevent this, you must use proper care techniques-cold/lukewarm water, low dryer setting, and follow the care instructions on the label. If the dress is labeled as dry-clean-only, take it to the cleaners. Otherwise, wash other cotton fabrics by hand or machine using the following techniques.


Cotton dresses are washable and strong by any standard. However, there are rules and steps to consider;

Wash cotton items sparingly or as needed.

 If the dress is not dirty or sweaty, consider wearing it again instead of washing it after only one use. Too much water and detergent ruin the structure of the cotton fabric and make the dress lose shape and color with time.

Consider the non-cotton parts before machine-washing.

For example, if the dress has accessories like an attached leather belt, pearls, and metal, you should hand wash it instead. Maxi dresses with pockets also require you to pay special attention to the pockets. At the very least, turn them out before throwing the dress in the wash.

Take care of stains immediately.

Cotton absorbs liquid and color, so the faster you can take care of the stain, the easier it will be to remove. While aggressive stain removers will do the job well, they also affect the garment’s original color and fabric. Use a mild detergent like this Tide Free & Gentle Laundry Detergent, hydrogen peroxide, or baking soda instead.

Wash cold.

100% cotton fabrics do not appreciate heat at all, and they shrink. So if your dress is colored, use cold water and detergent to wash it. However, you can use warm water (30-40 degrees) to wash whites, especially if they are soiled.

Wash inside out.

By washing the dress inside out, you ensure the unavoidable abrasion only happens on the inside, leaving the outer side unaffected. This will be even more impactful if you are drying the clothes in the machine because you don’t want any of that heat touching your printed dress.

Thankfully, cotton is an easy material to clean, so you don’t need any special detergent. Any good detergent will do, but try to stay off chlorine products because they compromise the quality of your fabric and the color.


The rules of drying cotton dresses are pretty straightforward- avoid tumble drying at all costs. Again, cotton does not react very well to heat, and you can expect natural shrinkage when you tumble dry. Instead, air dry your clothes outside after washing, even if machine-washed.

If you MUST dry your cotton dress in the dryer, do the warm setting instead of hot. It will take longer to dry, but you will prevent shrinkage and yellowing. And just as we said you dry your clothes inside out, you must dry them that way too.

Speaking of air drying, try to avoid direct sunlight if your dress is not pure white. While whites appreciate some sunlight, colored items fade or turn yellowish. You can hang them in the shade or get one of those indoor clothing racks.


Before we get into how to iron a cotton maxi dress safely, it’s important to note that you don’t have to. Cotton may be susceptible to wrinkling, but there are ways to avoid that so you don’t have to iron clothes every time. Subjecting your beloved dress to heat so often will damage it, though the process will be slower than that of tumble drying.

What can you do to prevent wrinkling, you ask? Avoid wringing out the water from your dress, for starters. It’s okay to squeeze out some excess water but don’t squeeze so much. Then, while your dress is still wet, give it a gentle stretch or shake to straighten it. Focus on the hemline, pocket area, hands, and body of the dress but avoid stretching the neckline and shoulders because you don’t want it to lose shape.

Now, if you are wearing the dress to an event and you think it needs some ironing, here are the steps to take;

  • Choose a steam iron. The secret to wrinkle-free cotton clothes is choosing the right steam iron. While any iron will eventually straighten your dress, only a steam iron will do it fast and safely. You want an iron with a steam rating of 1500 watts or more, which indicates its hotness. Anything lower will not give you the same quick results. The BLACK+DECKER D3030 Allure is a great, affordable iron that will give you the necessary steam without causing any harm to your clothes.
  • Add moisture. Before ironing, spray the entire dress lightly with water to moisten it. This moisture turns into steam when you iron and help the fabric stretch better.
  • Use starch for extra crispness. This step is not mandatory but adding starch to a cotton dress when ironing gives it that crisp finish. The Faultless Heavy Starch you pick up on Amazon or Walmart gives you a good approximation of starch to use when ironing.

That said, we acknowledge that not everyone has a powerful steam iron. In this case, you can use any iron box. Turn the dress inside out, place a thin fabric between the dress and the iron and use a medium-hot setting. The fabric in between protects the dress from burning and fading.

Related articles

How can I Wash and dry 100% cotton without shrinking it?

The best way to avoid shrinkage on cotton is to wash the item by hand using cold water. If you must use a machine, wash on delicate cycle and do not tumble dry.

Can You Dry Clean Cotton?

While it’s okay to dry clean cotton items, you do not have to. Cotton is a material that doesnt deteriorate because of water, as long as you use cold water and gentle detergents.

Lior Shapiro

I love clothes with pockets and dresses, and I think any woman can pull off a good maxi dress.
I believe women's clothes with pockets make the world a better place.