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How to Maintain a Signed Football Shirt

If you’ve been lucky enough to receive a signed football shirt, your first thought is probably ‘what do I do with this?’. Unlike normal replica kits, there’s very little chance of you wearing it again, at the risk of damaging or removing the signature. This guide will explain the best ways to ensure that your kit stays in good condition and provide you with some storage options.

How to keep your signed football shirt in good condition

Your first step will depend on whether the shirt is new or previously worn and, if it is previously worn, whether it’s dirty enough to need washing. In most cases, it shouldn’t need to be washed but if there is visible dirt or an unpleasant smell, you may not have a choice. If at all possible, try to avoid washing because there will always be some risk of the ink running or the signature being otherwise damaged. If the shirt is clean enough already, feel free to skip the next section.

How do you Wash a Signed Football Shirt?

The first thing to keep in mind is that the protection of the signed portion is your number one priority. Unless the shirt was worn and washed heavily before being signed, one wash won’t cause a problem but, depending on the fabric and pen used, the signature could be damaged with any carelessness. The signed area should have as little contact with water and cleaning products as possible. You can find our advice for the most common situations below.

Cleaning smaller localised stains or marks that don’t extend to the signed area

The solution to this issue should be very low risk and simple. You should use a stain removing pen or soap (I personally use Vanish Soap Super Bar Stain Remover but any brand should do) and apply it to the stained areas. Follow the instructions as normal but do not use any near the signature, even on the inside of the shirt.

Cleaning a shirt that is visibly dirty and smells

You should start by following the advice above and cleaning the most dirty areas first. Any stains should be removed with the pen or soap and mud/dirt should be scrubbed off. Make sure that you avoid touching the signature through this process. Once the worst of the dirt is gone, evaluate whether the shirt still needs cleaning.

As we mentioned before, you should avoid washing because the contact with water risks damaging the autograph. If it is still dirty or smells, you should hand-wash it with cold water. Fill a bowl with cold water and turn the shirt inside out. Use a small amount of a gentle detergent and wash carefully, still avoiding the signature. Once done, leave it to dry naturally, somewhere away from the sun. We have a more comprehensive guide on hand washing football kits in our article on general shirt care.

You may see some articles or videos suggest that you iron your shirt, in order to help  the signature set into the shirt. You should not do this under any circumstance. Football shirts are not made of the same materials as normal shirts and you risk doing serious damage to both the signature and the shirt itself, if you use a hot iron. Similarly, avoid any recommendations to tamper with the signature. If you go over it in fabric pen or sew the signature onto the shirt permanently, all of its value will be lost.

Tips to keep your signed shirt in good condition

Once the shirt is clean, you should be ready to store it in whatever way you’d like. Before that though, there are a few basic rules to keep in mind if you want to ensure that your shirt lasts well, whatever way you decide to store it. Whether its loose or in a case, you should ensure that it is kept in specific conditions.

  1. Humidity – If there is a lot of moisture in the air, you could see a number of adverse effects in your signed shirt, including smearing, shrinking and leaking out of its original outline. Because of this, you should try to store it in relatively low humidity environments. Basements, bathrooms and garages, in particular, can be high humidity areas that wouldn’t be suitable. Ultimately though, it depends on the house and location.
  2. Airflow – Poor airflow can cause major problems with the fabric of your shirt. If the clothing can’t breathe, it will deteriorate far more quickly. This can be a problem both in a display case and in a normal storage area. Make sure that the shirt isn’t pressed directly up against the glass/side; there should be as much open space around the shirt as possible.
  3. Contact – Try to keep the signed portion of the shirt away from other objects. Contact with other clothes, storage areas or glass could gradually wear on the signature, causing it to fade. If you plan to fold the shirt, make sure to keep the signature on the outside. You could also consider using archival tissue paper as a buffer material between the shirt and whatever it is resting on.
  4. Temperature – Extreme heat, in particular can cause issues with both the signature and the fabric it is written on. Try to keep the shirt away from areas with extreme temperatures.
  5. Direct sunlight – You’ve probably seen things in your windowsill gradually fade over time. The light of the sun will cause the shirt and the signature to fade alarmingly quickly. To avoid this, you should make sure that it is stored in a shaded area, away from windows. If you plan to frame the shirt, you’ll be able to buy a case that is specifically designed to reduce the damaging effects of sunlight by regulating the amount of light that can reach the shirt.

How to store signed football shirts Now that you have an idea of the best practices when storing a signed shirt, you can decide whether you want to put it away somewhere or if you want to display it. If you plan to hang it in a wardrobe or put it in a chest of drawers, there isn’t much else you need to know. If you follow the basic conditions explained above, your shirt should last almost indefinitely. If you want to display it, you can look at our guide on framing football shirts here.

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