How to Prevent Wrinkled Clothes on a Cruise

Did you know cruise ships don’t have irons in the staterooms? Because of fire safety rules on board, not only is there no iron provided, but you can’t pack your own travel iron or steamer. So how do you prevent wrinkled clothes on a cruise?

If you’re like me and can’t stand wrinkled clothing, I have lots of tips to make your cruise wardrobe look freshly-pressed.

Disclaimer: I may receive a small commission when you make a purchase from a link on this site, at no added charge to you. I was not sponsored by any companies I mention in this article. I paid for and personally used all products and services I recommend, and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Choose wrinkle-resistant fabrics

Many clothing companies that specialize in travel clothing use wrinkle-resistant fabrics. If your style is casual, these items might be a good option for you. Although wrinkle-resistant clothing tends to look its best right out of the dryer, creases from packing can be removed quickly using my de-wrinkling tips.

If travel clothing isn’t your style, you can purchase (or shop your closet for) items to pack that are made from synthetics such as polyester, nylon, acrylic, or olefin.

Watch out for rayon, because it tends to wrinkle! Lyocell (sometimes called Tencel) is similar to rayon, but is much more wrinkle-resistant.

If you (like me) prefer to wear natural fibers, you’ll have to work a little harder to get your cruise outfits looking good after you unpack. But it is doable, I promise!

Cotton or linen blended with a synthetic will be a bit easier to get looking good, especially if you choose a knit or stretch fabric instead of a non-stretch woven material.

Iron or steam your clothes at home first

Make sure that your clothing is wrinkle-free before you put it in your suitcase. A quick pass with an iron or steamer at home will save you time when you’re on your cruise. No one wants to waste hours of their hard-earned vacation ironing!

Whether you iron or steam the wrinkles out, be sure the clothes are completely dry and cool to the touch before you pack them. This will prevent wrinkles or creases from setting while your garments are in your luggage.

Use a hard shell suitcase (or put items that tend to wrinkle in your carry-on suitcase)

If you’re flying to your embarkation city, be careful where you pack your most wrinkle-prone items.

Have you ever seen what an airplane’s baggage hold looks like when it’s full? Suitcases are stacked on top of one another, so there’s a good chance that your suitcase will have hundreds of pounds of pressure sitting on top of it for the duration of your flight.

Hard-sided suitcases without expandable panels are your best bet to protect your clothes from becoming creased. Zippered expandable panels made of heavy-duty fabric will compress under pressure. A well-made solid case can withstand the weight of whatever ends up on top of it, not affecting what’s inside.

If you don’t have hard shell luggage, place the items that you’re most concerned about wrinkling in your carry-on suitcase. As long as your suitcase fits easily in the overhead compartment, you won’t have to worry about your clothing getting squashed.

Pack your suitcase the right way

1. Don’t overpack

Have you ever had to sit on your suitcase to close it? I’ve been guilty of this in the past! I blame it on my shoe obsession. Pressure can create wrinkles, and if you pack that tightly, you’re going to have a problem!

Use a packing list and stick to it. If you’re flying, you’ll have baggage restrictions, so edit your choices until they fit comfortably in the luggage that you’re taking.

I like to keep to a basic color scheme so I can mix and match layering pieces that I’ll wear several times, instead of packing individual outfits for each day.

Tip: Are you struggling to pare down your shoe choices for your cruise? Think metallics and neutral colors. A pair of metallic or neutral sandals, a light tennis shoe or slip-on with a rubber sole, and a neutral pair of dress shoes for dancing and formal nights is all you really need.

Looking for more packing tips? I’ll guide you through packing the perfect cruise carry on bag.

2. Fold your clothes in bundles

Bundles? I hear you thinking right now, “What on earth is she talking about?” Bear with me, and this will change how you pack forever.

When you fold each individual item and stack them on top of one another, every fold can become a crease when pressure is applied. However, if you fold items around one another, you’ll avoid making any tight creases at all. You’ll end up with far fewer wrinkles in your clothes when you unpack.

An easy way to do this is to start with something that’s fairly firm and doesn’t tend to wrinkle, like a pair of jeans. Fold your jeans as you normally would. Lay your next item flat, and smooth out any wrinkles. Place your jeans in the center of that item, and fold it up and around your jeans.

Lay your next item flat, put your bundle on top of it, and fold the flat item around your bundle. Continue with your clothing until you’ve folded your last item around the bundle, then place your completed bundle in your suitcase.

I like to alternate larger and smaller items, so that the larger garments hold the smaller ones in place. If you save your largest piece for last, it will help keep everything together.

3. Use packing cubes

When I first heard about packing cubes I was very confused. Why would I need to put bags inside of my bags? Let me tell you, now that I’ve tried them, I love these things!

Not only do packing cubes help organize your suitcase by keeping similar items together, but they also allow you to fit more inside. The cubes lightly compress clothing so it takes up less space. These are great for clothes that you don’t care about wrinkling, like pyjamas. I also use them to organize my socks, underwear, knit camisoles, leggings, workout clothing, swimwear, or any other items that I never iron.

Tip: When you’re unpacking your suitcase, the packing cubes can be placed directly in dresser drawers or in the shelves in your stateroom closet. The mesh panels make it easy to see what’s in each cube.

Packing cubes are also helpful to corral small electronics, chargers, and other accessories.

Wondering what other travel accessories are helpful for cruisers? We share the 19 best cruise accessories you need to pack.

4. Stuff shoulders and bodices of formal items with tissue paper

If your cruise line has formal nights, you likely will be packing some dressy clothing. Protect any parts of these clothes that could crush under pressure, like the shoulders of a suit jacket or dress, or the bodice of a formal gown. Ball up some tissue paper, and stuff these sections to help them keep their shape.

Hang your clothes immediately

When your luggage arrives at your stateroom on embarkation day, the last thing that many people want to do is unpack! But, the longer your clothes are squashed in your suitcase, the more creased they can become.

Tip: There are never enough hangers in stateroom closets! Ask your steward when he visits your room to introduce himself if he could bring you extra hangers. (Find out more about what your room steward can and can’t do for you in Eight Things That Will Surprise New Cruisers).

Hang your clothes as soon as you can, and you’ll have the added benefit of more room in your cabin! Those bulky suitcases can slip right under the bed.

Pack wrinkle release spray

When wrinkle release spray came on the market several years ago, I ran right out and bought a bottle. I was spending a full day each week ironing in between loads of laundry for the three of us, so I was super excited for this miracle product!

To be honest, it didn’t take the place of my iron (I actually bought a commercial steamer that saves me hours on laundry day). But, it does a pretty good job getting wrinkles out of some fabrics. I have the best luck when using it on jersey and piqué knits, like t-shirts, polos, and casual knit dresses.

Wrinkle release spray won’t make your clothing look as crisp as an iron would, but I always take it when I travel to remove the worst of the wrinkles.

Simply spray your garment lightly, tug the wrinkles out, and hang to dry.

Since it has a light scent, it’s also great if you packed light and want to re-wear some of your clothing during your cruise.

If you’re flying to your embarkation city and not checking any luggage, get a travel-sized bottle for each person you’re traveling with.

Use the shower trick

We all know that the steam from a hot shower can help de-wrinkle clothing. But did you know that you can get your stateroom shower REALLY hot to make steamier steam? You can!

If you look carefully at the temperature knob when you’re running the shower, you’ll notice that you can turn it up only to a certain point. Then it gets stuck, even though it looks like it can be turned more.

In most cruise showers, if you push the knob towards the wall and keep turning, you can get the shower water super hot.

After you’ve all finished showering, turn the water to its hottest setting and let it run, just for two minutes. Then hang any clothing that needs extra attention on the retractable clothing line in the bathroom. Close the bathroom door, and let the steam work its magic while you go off and do something else.

Some cruise ships have the anti-theft hangers that you can only use in the closet, so I like to use my beach towel clips to hang my clothes on the line to steam.

Use an iron in the self-service laundry room

Many cruise lines have self-service laundry rooms on board. Along with the washers and dryers, they will have a few irons and ironing boards set up for passengers to use at no charge. The irons are on timers to prevent the risk of fire.

Some lines have a laundry room on each floor, but some have only one or two for the entire ship. Keep this in mind when you’re planning to use the laundry room to iron, because they can get busy!

I try to avoid ironing on sea day afternoons or right before dinner, especially on formal evenings. I’ve noticed that the tiny laundry rooms can get crowded at those times.

If you’re unsure if your ship has a laundry room, check the deck map online or ask your room steward once you’re on the ship.

Pay for pressing or dry cleaning service

Most cruise lines have an onboard laundry service, for a fee (some lines offer free laundry service for passengers with elite loyalty status). Many will press your clothing for a small charge per item. Some cruise lines also offer dry cleaning service.

Just remember that the turnaround time on these services can be several days. This may not be practical for a short cruise, but if you’re on a longer sailing it could be a time-saver.

Tip: Many cruise lines that offer laundry service will offer a midweek special on a bag of clothes. You can save quite a bit of money compared to the per-item rate. Ask your room steward at the beginning of your cruise, and he just might let you know if and when they’ll be running the special.

Try the hair straightener trick

Although cruise lines won’t let you take most heat-producing items on board, a notable exception is a hair straightener! Double-check your specific cruise line’s list of prohibited items before you travel, because they do tend to change.

If you need to get a crease out of a shirttail or collar, or a wrinkle out of the hem of your skirt, a hair straightener will do it very quickly! Just be sure that you don’t have a lot of styling product residue on your straightener before you use it on your clothing.

Hair straighteners can get HOT (mine goes up to 455 degrees F). Be careful when using it on synthetic fabrics. Just like an iron that’s too hot, it can scorch or melt synthetics. Make sure to start on a lower heat setting and only turn the heat up if you need to.

Think you’re all set for your upcoming cruise? Read our nine questions you have to ask yourself before embarkation day.

Do you have any other tips for keeping your cruise outfits wrinkle-free? Let us know in the comments below!


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