How to win the war on wrinkled clothes

By | June 12th, 2017

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more frivolous travel topic than wrinkles. But I’m willing to bet that the longer you spend on the road, the less you’re laughing.

Jonathan Breeze doesn’t think wrinkles are funny. “I’ve traveled for years, using a variety of different materials that purport to be wrinkle-free,” says Breeze, the CEO of an insurance website. “I have yet to see anything that rolls out of the case looking ready-to-wear.”

New products and fabrics — here just in time for the summer travel season — challenge the assumption that to travel is to wear wrinkled clothes. If they don’t work, I have a few tips that can get even the toughest wrinkles out of shirts, dresses and jackets.

Here’s one from Breeze: As soon as he checks in, he turns the shower on the hottest setting and hangs his clothes, turning the bathroom “into a sauna.” Within 20 minutes, all the wrinkles from his dress shirts and pants have vanished.

Keeping wrinkles out means taking preventive steps, says Jacobi Dolphin, a personal wardrobe organizer and stylist. “For all garments that need to be hung, wrap them in plastic,” she advises. “The best plastic to use are dry cleaning bags. Friction causes wrinkles, and plastic prevents friction.”

Dan Miller, the CEO of Mulberrys Garment Care, pays attention to the seams when he packs his shirts. Fold along the seam lines and you’ll prevent wrinkles. “Also, use cardboard for stability, to ensure that your garments hold their shape while traveling,” he says. You can use the cardboard from your shirts that have been dry-cleaned.

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Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you need an iron. There are new solutions that can help. Consider Collar Perfect ($34.95; collarperfect.com), a travel-sized iron that specializes in quick touch-ups but can be used on an entire garment, if necessary. It’s the size of a cellphone.

Another solution is the new Rowenta Steam ‘N Press ($29.99), a multifunctional garment care tool that offers a variable steam option that lets you control the amount of steam based on the fabric, as well as a steam trigger for longer bursts.

Let’s face it. You don’t want to shrink-wrap your clothes, and you don’t want to iron. Is there a way out? Yes.


  • Eddie Bauer (eddiebauer.com) offers several products made with its wrinkle-free ComfortCloth cotton/spandex fabric. Its Comfort Waist Casual Performance Chino Pants ($65) promise you’ll “say goodbye” to your iron. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
  • Orvis (orvis.com) has All Transit Pants ($98) that are lightweight and breathable, moisture-wicking and quick-drying. Any wrinkles that might appear during packing quickly disappeared when I tried them.
  • Mountain Khakis (mountainkhakis.com) can provide a wrinkle-free experience for the outdoorsy types. Its new Passport shirt ($85) is buttery soft and wrinkle-free, thanks to its unique polyester blend.
  • Bluffworks (bluffworks.com) makes travel-specific blazers that refuse to wrinkle. Its Gramercy jacket ($295) is comfortable, breathable, machine-washable and has a few nice touches for the jet set, such as 10 built-in pockets.
  • Unbound (unboundmerino.com), a new clothing brand that uses wrinkle-resistant Merino wool, creates travel clothes that that can be worn for weeks at a time without needing a wash. A Merino T-shirt will set you back $65.
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When it comes to wrinkles, I used to be a skeptic like Breeze. I’m slowly becoming a convert. I say “slowly” because some of these materials keep more than the wrinkles out. I recently bought two no-wrinkle shirts made with a nylon-like fabric. I couldn’t stop sweating in them.

Oh well. Give a little, take a little.

Three tips for keeping out the wrinkles

  • Roll, don’t fold. It doesn’t just save space, it can prevent wrinkles. Michelle Weller, a travel agent with Travel Leaders in Houston, says that for maximum effectiveness, you have to pack the right attire. “I buy clothes that don’t wrinkle and roll them up,” she says. Wrinkles don’t have a chance.
  • Spray ’em out. Wrinkle-release sprays such as Downy’s Wrinkle Releaser ($1.54) can fix travel-related wrinkles in a pinch. “It works by coating your clothes with a relaxing lubricant that relaxes the fibers, making it easy to smooth it out without an iron,” explains Peter Nguyen, a personal stylist.
  • Don’t overpack — or underpack. “Wrinkling is caused when the bag is underpacked or overstuffed, so add or remove items until you have the perfect amount of items to keep the items in place while traveling,” advises Tori Toth, author of the book Feel at Home: Home Staging Secrets for a Quick and Easy Sell. When she packs, she groups similar items together and arranges them according to the date or time she needs them, to avoid rummaging, which is a leading cause of — you guessed it — wrinkles.


  • DChamp56

    And please, don’t pack an iron to go on a cruise, or you’ll have to surrender it, and pick it up after the cruise on the “Table of Shame”.

  • AJPeabody

    My keys to no wrinkle packing combines several of your ideas. First, fold along the seams, carefully making sure that everything is completely flat. Fold things so they are the same size when folded. I use underwear and socks in the folds and shirt collars to keep them from setting under pressure. Then wrap (without wrinkles) pants or a skirt around two shirts =/- a sweater already prepped, making a module good for several days, place the module into a dry cleaner bag, and gently press out air. Using square modules in a rectangular bag leaves a place for shoes, kit bags, etc. My wife’s shoes fit inside mine, and then hold a small hard item like a clock or shaver. Each shoe module is in a plastic bag. Long thin things (belts, ties) go around the walls of the bag around the other modules. I fill so that mild compression prevents sliding but is not so tight as to cause wrinkles.

    I found that rolling caused wrinkles since the outside of a roll is bigger than the inside (geometry wins). causing the inner layer of a roll to be shorter than the next outer layer, wrinkling the inner layer.

  • Ben

    The “steam in bathroom” trick never works for me, even with “wrinkle-free clothes”.

    Here’s a pro-tip: Hotel irons can develop calcium deposits, rust, or other gunk which will mess up your clothes. Test/flush the iron on a towel first on high-heat and high-steam.

  • Kerr

    Not that I’d take one, but why aren’t irons allowed on cruise ships?

  • Kerr

    Good point about testing the iron.

    A few minutes ironing is better than wasting 20+ minutes of hot water!

  • jsn55

    You generally can’t bring electrical items that use lots of power; I’ve always assumed because the ship generates all the electricity itself. I remember a Costa cruise many years ago where we all had to troop down to a special room to dry our hair before dinner. Somebody plugged in a hairdryer in their stateroom and shorted out the whole section. There is also always a big concern about fire on a ship.

  • DChamp56

    They are fire hazards, and THE worst thing on a cruise ship, is a fire, so no irons allowed.

  • Joe Wojnowski

    I travel a lot for business. The hot shower method that Breeze mentions is the go to solution for me. I hang the clothes on the bathroom door, turn the shower on to hot, wait 15- 20 minutes. Then turn off shower. I then leave the clothes hanging with the door shut if the wrinkles are not completely gone. The big thing is to remember to turn the bathroom fan off!

  • Kerr

    Worse than sinking? ;)

  • DChamp56

    I’ve heard of far more fires on cruise ships, than of them sinking.

  • PsyGuy

    I often just buy a new shirt at my destination.

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