There’s something so defeating about carefully packing for a trip, only to arrive at your destination with a suitcase full of wrinkled shirts, pants, or skirts.
While no packing method can be 100% wrinkle-proof, there are a few things that can affect the way your clothes move around in your suitcase, and can therefore have a direct effect on how wrinkled they get en route.
- Reduce friction. Clothes get wrinkled essentially because the fibers stick slightly to one another, and then when the clothes shift around — especially when combined with a warm or humid environment in the suitcase — the “sticky” fibrils (tiny pieces of fibers) crumple up against each other. If you can reduce friction, you can reduce wrinkling.
- One way to do this is to choose fabrics that have stronger polymers. Polymers form the basic structures of fibers, which are what fabrics are made of. The polymers in 100% natural fibers like cotton, linen, and hemp break down at a much lower temperature, which makes them wrinkle much more easily. Fabric blends (like a cotton/Spandex blend, for example) and regenerated polymers like bamboo, Tencel, and Modal keep their shape at higher temps, helping them resist wrinkling.
- Another way to reduce friction? Plastic. If you have dress shirts or blouses that you want to keep looking pressed, wrap them in think plastic dry cleaning bags as you pack them. This keeps the fibers from sticking to one another, allows some airflow, and will increase the chances that your garments will arrive looking great.
- Avoid overpacking. Cramming clothes together crushes the fibers and causes wrinkling. Clothes, like everything else in life, need a little breathing room.
- Avoid huge spaces in your suitcase. This might sound like it contradicts #2 — but the key here is You don’t want a suitcase too jam-packed, but having random open spaces in your suitcase also can cause heavier items like shoes to shift around and crumple clothing. What you want is a suitcase that is evenly packed with heavier or unwieldy items secured enough so they don’t tumble around.
- Find a folding method that works and stick with it. Jeans and t-shirts respond well to rolling. Tutorials like this one on how to fold dress shirts abound on the Internet. There’s more than one way to banish the wrinkle!
- Try something totally unconventional. There is a packing method that involves layering clothes out flat in your suitcase, with the sleeves and legs hanging over the edge to start. Next, you create a soft “bundle” of your socks and underwear in a fabric bag, which you place in the center of the flatly layered items. Then, like shuffling a deck of cards, you begin to fold in the sleeves and pant legs one at a time, laying them gently over the cushion in the middle. The theory is that this creates the optimal environment — not too crammed, not too loose, room for air circulation, and minimizing friction — so clothes arrive looking great. When you arrive, you simply unwrap the items in your suitcase and hang them up as needed.
A few wrinkles with each trip are probably unavoidable. But understanding how fibers interact and how space, heat, and humidity affect fabrics can at least help you get to your destination with only minor ironing needs. After all, the goal is to spend more time enjoying your trip and less time ironing out the wrinkles!