Why Some Fabrics Wrinkle

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Example of Wrinkle-Free FabricsFormal occasions like weddings call for special attire. Wedding dresses, suits, and similar garb look great. That is, until they get wrinkle. This is enough reason for product packaging suppliers such as Eastpac Group to offer specialised boxes, garment covers, and carrier bags to protect clothes during transportation. But have you ever wondered why some fabrics wrinkle more than others?

Underlying Science

Moisture and heat are two of the major culprits in wrinkling fabrics. You may think that these are also the same two methods used to remove wrinkles. There are specific fibres more prone to wrinkling than others. Natural fibres such as flax, linen, cotton and hemp are the most vulnerable. Silk falls in between.

More common fabrics such as wool, nylon and polyester are affected by heat and moisture in a specific way. These textiles have a so-called glass transition temperature limit. Anything below this temperature causes the fibre’s material to be in a “glass phase.” Long chains of repeating molecules which are held by special bonds line up the space inside the fibres. When heated, these bonds break, causing the fibres to shift and form new bonds as they cool. An abrupt return to the fabric’s glass phase causes the altered structure to show in the form of wrinkles.

Manufacturing Methods at Work

The way a fabric is created also affects how resistant or prone it is to wrinkling. For instance, knitted fabrics are less prone to wrinkling than woven ones. Purely one-fibre fabric (i.e. 100% cotton) is more vulnerable to wrinkling unless mixed with another fabric like spandex. The quality of the fabric’s fibres also means that it’s more wrinkle-resistant. And lastly, tightly woven fabrics with high thread count will need significantly less ironing.

The Solution

It helps that wrinkle-free fabrics are now in existence. Courtesy of research in the 1950s by one Ruth Rogan Benerito, wrinkle-free fabric was made possible by replacing the hydrogen bonds between fibres with stronger, water-resistant ones. While Benerito’s early creations were a bit crude, they did pave the way to better things — albeit still not perfect, making sure you look as good as you should on that special day.