You can’t show up to a meeting or a wedding looking like you slept in your clothes. Even the most rugged backpacker wants to look good sometimes.
No matter how you feel about ironing, packing clothes so they emerge at your destination wrinkle-free is tricky.
Does rolling clothes prevent wrinkles? How can you keep clothes from wrinkling in your travel backpack or suitcase?
We’ll answer those burning questions—and more. Just keep reading.
A surefire way to avoid dealing with wrinkles is to prevent them from forming in the first place.
How? Pack wrinkle-free travel clothes. Synthetic fabrics like nylon, lycra, and polyester are make to be wrinkle-resistant.
And, you’ll get an added bonus with these fabrics. They’re usually anti-microbial, quick-drying, and moisture-wicking. We call this “technical” or “performance” apparel.
Synthetic fabrics now look and feel as good as natural fabrics with better performance. They’ve come a long way from the first wrinkle-free dress shirts that felt like plastic.
If you’re not a fan of synthetic fabrics, check your tags to make sure your clothing is made of a natural fabric like cotton, wool, cashmere, or tencel.
Not sure if the fabric is prone to wrinkling? Try a quick test. Grab a corner of the fabric and crush it in your fist for 30 seconds. If the fabric didn’t wrinkle or the wrinkles shake out after a minute, you’ve found a good option.
How to Pack Clothes to Avoid Wrinkles
After you choose your fabrics and clothing, the next step is packing. Below are our tips and tricks for packing clothes so they don’t wrinkle. Use the approach that best suits the garment type and fabric.
Should you roll or fold your clothes? This is the classic packing debate.
My favorite packing method is rolling. Rolling is the best way to keep your clothes wrinkle-free since your clothes are tightly rolled without hard creases.
To avoid creases, fold your clothes along the seams and smooth out any wrinkles. Then roll your clothes. Don’t skip this step. If your clothes are wrinkled when you pack them, they’ll be wrinkled when you take them out of your bag.
Bundle wrapping your clothes is a new strategy that’s effective but may not be intuitive.
The bundle rolling method involves wrapping your wardrobe around a bundle of wrinkle-resistant clothing with the most delicate clothes—like a suit jacket—on the outside. Think of it as large-scale origami for your clothes.
One Bag has a great overview:
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):
- Longer skirts, dresses
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Short-sleeved shirts
- Sweater, knits
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 a video from NBC News showing how to bundle wrap:
Folding with Tissue Paper
Fold your shirts and pants with a piece of tissue paper between each item. Adding the reduces wrinkles because it cuts down on the friction that causes wrinkles.
Dry Cleaner Bags
Plastic reduces friction, thereby eliminating wrinkles from your clothes.
Take advantage of this trick by using dry cleaning bags. Pack one outfit per bag then pack them into your luggage.
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, you are more likely to create friction which will cause your clothes to wrinkle. A soft-sided travel backpack is more prone to jostling and being shoved under seats.
For specific road-tested advice on packing wrinkle-free in a backpack, I turned to the pros: cyclists who brave peak traffic hours biking to work then change into a neat business suit and tie .
Commenters on Ask MetaFilter suggest three methods:
- Bundle Wrapping: One forum user recommended using a dry cleaning bag between the layers of clothing you don’t want to get wrinkled.
- Packing Folders: Fold your shirts against the plastic sheet then close the folder around your shirts.
- Three Steps: 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.
Business road warriors swear by travel steamers. If you’re traveling with wrinkle-prone clothes, pack a travel steamer.
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.
You can arrive at your destination with wrinkle-free clothes, provided you did the right prep work before traveling:
- Pack wrinkle-resistant fabrics or technical clothing.
- Choose a wrinkle-free packing method like bundle wrapping or rolling.
- Hang up your clothes immediately upon arrival at your destination.
- If you spot wrinkles, steam them out with a hot shower, damp towel, or travel steamer.