How to Keep Clothes from Wrinkling in Luggage

Laura Lopuch

Showing up at a business meeting or a fancy wedding in clothing that looks like crushed tissue paper is embarrasing. You end up looking like you slept for 30 hours, then fell down a hill, executed a highspeed car chase that James Bond would be jealous of… all in your dress clothes.

And let’s be honest. Even when James Bond does all that, his suit remains pressed and mostly wrinkle-free. No wrinkled clothes while traveling for Mr. Bond, thank you very much.

No matter how you feel about ironing, packing clothes so they emerge at your destination wrinkle-free is tricky.

Especially if you’re on a business trip and wrinkles are frowned upon.

Does rolling clothes prevent wrinkles? How can you keep clothes from wrinkling in a backpack?

I’ll answer those burning questions — and more. Just keep reading.

Wrinkle Resistent Materials

To begin with, a surefire way to prevent wrinkles from showing up is to disinvite them in the first place.

How do you do that?

Pack clothes that are naturally wrinkle-free. Synthetic fabrics — nylon, lycra, polyester — are wrinkle-resistant.

And, you’ll get an added bonus with these clothes: They’re usually anti-microbial, quick-drying and wicking. In other words, they’re technical clothing.

If you’re not a fan of technical clothing, check your tags to make sure your clothing is made of one of these fabrics:

  • Jersey
  • Wool
  • Lyocell (aka Tencel)
  • Cashmere
  • Knits
  • Spandex, lycra or elastane

Not sure if the fabric has wrinkles in its DNA? Try a quick test. Grab a corner of the fabric and crush it in your fist for 30 seconds.

Fabric didn’t wrinkle? Or, fabric wrinkled, but wrinkles shake out after a minute? Congrats, you’ve made a good choice.

How to Pack Clothes to Avoid Wrinkles

Below are the tricks and strategies for minimizing wrinkles in the clothing you pack. Use the approach that suits the garment type and fabric of your choice.

Bundle Rolling or Wrapping

Have you heard of bundle rolling or wrapping?

I hadn’t until recently. One Bag has an in depth tutorial on this hottest new way of wrinkle-free packing.

This method involves wrapping your wardrobe around a bundle of wrinkle-resistant clothing, with the most delicate clothes — like that suit jacket — on the outside. Think of it as large-scale origami for your clothes.

Here’s One Bag with the details:

“Clothing is wrapped in a particular order, so that larger, more tailored, and more wrinkle-prone garments will end up on the outside of the bundle (where the wrapping has a larger radius of curvature), with less easily wrinkled pieces closer to the core. Here is a typical sequence (beginning, as you will begin your packing, with the outer layer):

  • jacket
  • longer skirts, dresses
  • long-sleeved shirts
  • short-sleeved shirts
  • trousers/slacks
  • sweater, knits
  • shorts

You will need a fixed-size object to form the core of the bundle: an organizer pouch is an ideal choice.”

But the big question: does it work?

Christine Sarkis of Smarter Travel put it to the test.

“After stowing the bundle in an upright suitcase for 24 hours, the clothing emerged looking pretty good. The items around the outside—a jacket and some shirts—were, predictably, the most wrinkle-free, showing only a few creases where I had folded the arms around the bundle. Items closer to the center showed slightly more wrinkles, but still looked significantly better than they would have if I’d rolled or folded the items and stacked them individually in the suitcase.

Verdict: A solid choice for business travelers and anyone else hoping to keep wrinkle-prone shirts and pants separate and looking relatively pressed without much effort.”

Here’s how to bundle wrap:

Rolling

Ah, my favorite packing method: Rolling. I think this is the best way to keep your clothes wrinkle-free since your clothes are tightly rolled without hard creases.

To reduce creases down the front of your shirt, before your roll your clothes, fold along the seams.

Pack Lightly

Don’t stuff your bag too full. Give your clothing some room to breathe… breathe out any wrinkles that may be forming.

Folding with Tissue Paper

Fold your shirts and pants with a piece of tissue paper or plastic bag in the middle. This reduces wrinkles because it cuts down the friction (which causes wrinkles).

Dry Cleaner Bags

Plastic reduces friction, thereby eliminating wrinkles from your clothes.

Tap into this highly-complicated (ha!) physics trick by using drycleaner bags. Pack one outfit per drycleaner bag. Melissa Klurman at Fodors road-tested this trick and she says, “Clothes arrive in a perfectly preserved state. Really!”

How to Keep Clothes from Wrinkling in a Backpack

With a backpack, your chances of introducing friction — and wrinkles — into your clothes is higher. A backpack is more prone to jarring and being shoved under seats.

For specific road-tested advice on packing wrinkle-free in a backpack, I turned to the pros: Cycling maniacs who brave peak traffic hours biking to work, then change into a neat business suit and tie .

These peeps from Meta Filter’s forum suggest three methods:

1. Bundle wrap: One forum user recommended using a dry cleaning bag between the layers of clothing you don’t want to get wrinkled.

2. Eagle Creek Pack-It Folders: This folder has a plastic sheet that you use to fold your shirts, then, slip your shirts on top of the folder’s stiff back.

3. A trifecta of awesome tips: Roll and fold your clothes loosely, put your clothes on the top or outside of your bag to avoid pressure on your clothes in the pack, and unpack as soon as possible.

How to Get Rid of Wrinkles

So, you’re at your destination and you unzip your backpack to find a hot mess of wrinkled clothes.

Here’s how to avoid meltdown mode and erase wrinkles from your clothes.

Hang Clothes Near the Shower

Take a hot, hot shower… with your wrinkled clothes. Hang up your wrinkled clothes in the bathroom so that the steam helps to release the wrinkles.

After your shower, run your hand across the fabric to smooth away the wrinkles. Don’t be afraid to apply some pressure — it’ll help erase the wrinkles (like an iron).

Hang Clothes on Arrival

Once you get to your destination, take your clothes out of your luggage and hang them up as soon as you can.

Much like a post-flight cold beer loosens your neck, this gives your clothes space to breathe and loosens the wrinkles.

Travel Steamer

This is the secret that the business road warriors swear by. If you’re traveling with wrinkle-prone clothes, pack a travel steamer. This one isn’t that big and is pretty darn affordable, considering all the stress-induced forehead wrinkles you’ll be avoiding.

Dampen Your Wrinkles

Lightly dampen the winkles with water, then stretch and tug the fabric taut. Hang dry or use a blow dryer to speed up the process.

Use a Damp Towel

Lay your wrinkled item flat and rest a warm, damp towel on top. Press and smooth out the towel.

Toss in the Dryer

Pop it in the dryer for a quick 15 minute cycle. I’d recommend dampening the fabric with water before throwing it in.

TL;DR

You can arrive at your destination with wrinkle-free clothes, provided you did the right prep work before traveling:

  • Pack wrinkle resistent fabrics: Jersey, wool, spandex (lycra), cashmere, knit
  • Or pack technical clothing made from synthetic materials
  • Choose a wrinkle-free packing method: Bundle wrapping, rolling, Eagle Creek Folders
  • Hang up your clothes immediately upon arrival at destination
  • If you spot wrinkles, steam them out with a hot shower, damp towel, misting clothes, toss in dryer