Wrinkle-free Fabrics : Are they real?

The concept of wrinkle-free fabrics and the differences between chemically treated wrinkle-free fabrics and naturally wrinkle-resistant fabrics.

When your alarm goes off in the morning, it is like, an atom bomb is ready to explode on top of your head! You know your time is up; you know you will be busted, but you are still paralyzed to do anything. Just a few seconds ignoring the alarm, and the bomb goes off.

There is no time even to sit and have your coffee; forget about ironing. It is a case of, you are done for if you do, and you are done for if you don’t. Be late or be presentable – that is the question.

Don’t you wish you had clothes that never need ironing? Wrinkled clothing is such a deal-breaker everywhere.

wrinkles on fabrics - the fabric on the right is cotton which wrinkles a lot.

Choosing fabrics less likely to wrinkle is just a matter of commonsense.

Which fabrics wrinkle less and which do a lot? 

All fabrics wrinkle. But some more than the other. And some recover more easily than others. So which are these naturally wrinkle free fabrics? It is time to get lucky.

Natural fabrics wrinkle a lot more – for example, if my polyester top and my cotton top are mishandled and stuffed inside the laundry bag – both are ill-treated and wrinkled. But the cotton will look far worse.

If I try to straighten both, the polyester one will look better without an iron touching it.

I think linen is the most prone to wrinkles out of all. They wrinkle even when they have a crease-resistant finish applied to them; So, what to say about ordinary linen. But then, many love the wrinkles on linen and call this its charm.

Rayon fabrics (and other cellulosic fabrics) wrinkle a lot, especially thin ones.

Spun silks like dupioni silk wrinkle less than other filament silks.

Which are the best travel-friendly fabrics for a wrinkle-free trip?

Polyester and nylon and such resilient synthetic fabrics are supposed to wrinkle less than the natural fiber fabrics like silk, cotton, linen etc. They also do not retain the wrinkles – a slight press with an iron will remove the wrinkles very fast. Sometimes even hanging them in the shower area after a hot shower will do the trick.

Have you tried this with cotton or linen pants? Not so lucky.

Out of these wrinkle-less materials, thin materials wrinkle even more. Wool and acrylic clothes are also less wrinkle-prone. Acrylic clothes more so.

A lot of thick knits are also less wrinkle-prone than woven clothes. Thin knits do wrinkle a lot.

Some twill-woven fabrics like Gabardine, denim have a compact structure and hard finish that prevents wrinkling. 

Spandex clothes, even the blended spandex clothes, wrinkle less. If the weather permits, I would pack a lot of spandex blend clothes because they are comfortable fitting-wise and are wrinkle free.

Blended fabrics consisting of synthetic and natural fibers are more resistant to wrinkles than pure 100% natural fiber fabrics.

How to know if a fabric will wrinkle or not?

Checking the fiber of your fabric is the first step- whether the fabric is made of synthetic or natural or a blend of both. Synthetic fabrics and blends are more wrinkle-resistant.

Durable press rating

There is a rating called Durable Press rating. This is a rating that assures that the fabric has a smooth appearance after it is laundered and dried. The highest rating (which is 5) says that it is wrinkle resistant. A score of 3.5 is good enough.

In textile terms, the wrinkle effect is measured in terms of ‘crease recovery.’ and ‘crease resistance’. Crease recovery is the ability of a fabric to recover to a definite degree. Crease resistance is the ability of a fabric to resist the formation of crease or wrinkle when slightly squeezed. You can try this yourself.

Do a hand creasing test to verify this – scrunch the fabric in your hand. Check how long it takes for the fabric to recover from its creased state. Those which lag in this will need to be pressed with a hot iron to remove the wrinkles on them. You cannot label them ‘high ease of care’ or wash and wear. 

In the book  Fabric Sewing Guide by Claire Shaeffer, this is mentioned – “pull a thread from your fabric and untwist it. The fiber with more crimp will wrinkle less” – so a crepe fabric will wrinkle less than a smooth fabric.

‘High ease of care’ is the highest compliment you would give these fabrics. 

What is a Wrinkle-Resistant Fabric?

The wrinkle-free finish  is also mentioned on clothes as “Easy Care,” “Durable Press,” “Wrinkle-Resistant,” “Wash and Wear,” “No-Iron,” and so on. The wrinkle-free clothes are advertised as clothes that would not need to be ironed after laundering. Ofcouse, a little bit of ironing may be needed, but not the shoulder-paining kind you would need with linen and cotton clothes.

Polyester and nylon, and other synthetic fabrics are often mentioned as ‘wash and wear’. They are naturally wrinkle-resistant. And even those wrinkles that are formed, they let go very fast.

But other fabrics are also referred to by this term. These are fabrics with a special resin coating (Phenol-Formaldehyde resins, Urea formaldehyde resin, Alkyd resins, Ketone resins, Vinyl resins) given for wrinkle resistance.

If you see a cotton or cotton blend material that does not wrinkle, you should know that it has been treated. Wrinkle-resistance finishes are applied to lessen the need for ironing – they come at a cost, but some people who really like these are prepared to pay a premium for a wrinkle-less life.

What does the different wrinkle-free labels say?

Anti–crease: The fabric would not be deformed by folds or creases.

Wash-n-wear: This means that the fabric is very easy to maintain. The fabric of the clothing doesnot need much ironing. You can wash them and then straight up, wear them.

Durable press: This means that everything including the pleats on the fabrics would all be same even after enduring laundering and drying in machines. 

Are they worth it ?

The “wash-and-wear” shirt was first introduced in 1953.  It has gained a lot of popularity since the 1990s.

The first wrinkle-free coating was a result of a lot of harmful chemicals applied on the fabric. Even though many innovations have been made, the chemicals are still chemicals. They may still cause allergic reactions. So choose the ‘wrinkle-free finish’ fabric with full knowledge of what they entail.

Another disadvantage is that some of the fabrics (depending on the manufacturer) may feel stiff and uncomfortable and at times even harsh on the skin. Some may even have a chemical smell.

Related posts: How to prevent wrinkles on clothes; Pressing clothes; Pressing tools; Steam pressing tips; Tips to iron clothes.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
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