How To: Remove Wrinkles from Clothing Without Ironing

Remove Wrinkles from Clothing Without Ironing

Need to remove wrinkles from your shirt but don't want to bust out the iron and ironing board (or don't even have one)? Well, with a little bit of do-it-yourself ingenuity, you can "iron out" that wrinkly top in no time.

For example, if you need to hop into the shower, simply hang clothing from a plastic hanger on the shower rod and allow for the hot steam and moisture to gradually release wrinkles from your blouse, pants, dress, skirt, or tee. Or, if you're really running short on time, dampen the wrinkled area on the fabric and use a hair dryer to straighten it out.

Still not convinced there's a DIY to quickly rid your shirt of its wrinkles? Okay, you can also remove wrinkles easily using a damp towel, a spray bottle, a flat iron (aka hair straightener), or even the steaming spout of your tea kettle. This all said, there's always the preventative approach, where you hang your clothes immediately after removing them from the dryer. More on that below.

The Reason Why Clothes Wrinkle at All

If you've ever wondered (while staring at an unwanted crease in your shirt) why clothes wrinkle in the first place, the answer is two-fold: polymers and bonds. Fabrics are made from polymer chains, which in turn are made from many molecular units or monomers:

A fiber is a continuous polymer which, when spun into thread, makes fabric. The polymer strands line up close to one another, forming strong bonds between strands. If a fiber is pulled, it tightens the bonds, often making the fiber stronger and harder to break.

And wrinkles appear when these polymer chains are broken, often achieved through heat, and then reset. The process allows the chain to rejigger and take on a different shape, and when the heat is taken away, the bonds cool in the new shape (a wrinkle). It's actually the same process that can help get wrinkles out, only the end result is different.

Why Clothes Wrinkle if Left in the Dryer

Above, one of our DIYs used hot steam from a shower to loosen a garment's bonds, and then gravity took over to pull the bonds into a new straight shape. A clothes dryer, though, with all the tumbling, will create many different combinations and that mish-mash can end up as many different wrinkles. This is why experts recommend you remove clothes from the dryer right after a cycle ends:

Immediately remove clothing from the dryer when the cycle is finished to help avoid wrinkles. When that ideal scenario isn't possible, run the dryer another 10–15 minutes, then remove the clothing promptly to lessen the problem.

Yes, if you can't get your clothes out right away, you want to apply heat again so that you can relax those bonds once more and then, once removed from the dryer, shake out the wrinkles before they have a chance to set.

Flat Irons Work Like Small Irons on Wrinkles

We also mentioned using a flat iron in a pinch, and yes, thinking of how curling irons and hair straighteners work on our hair is another way of thinking of how heat is used in reshaping fabric.

The key element of a curling/flat iron is heat; Heat both helps break down and then set the hair anew. Like our clothes that cool down into a certain shape in a clothes dryer, hair once pressed into a curl or straightened flat, will cool down and set in that new form. For clothes, we can think of garments that have a crease, like pants, and why an iron (using heat and pressure) is best-suited for tackling them.

This is why a flat iron, basically a small iron, can be a solution for ironing out hard-to-reach parts of clothing, like the collar of a shirt. A traditional iron, even with the pointed tip, can be difficult in getting to these areas. A flat iron though, it's simple and can work even when a garment is hanging up; no ironing board needed.

Using Steam to Remove Clothing Wrinkles

You'll find that a number of DIY methods for wrinkle removal employ steam. From the hot shower to the tea kettle, steam helps loosen a wrinkle's hold. As with heat, the bonds of the polymer chains are relaxed via the steam, and the shape they were in (i.e. the wrinkle) can take on a different (smooth) one.

And so with this all in mind, you may discover a few more DIY methods around your home to try yourself. Just think of ways to get those cooled down bonds to ease up and moving again. That's the key. In your research, note that with certain fabrics, like cotton, a bit of water will be needed to get the process going. Another solution, of course, is to buy clothes that are wrinkle-free. You can always find the latest styles in such wash-and-wear fabrics as polyester, rayon, and acrylic. Good luck!

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