Laundry Origami
January 25, 2006 11:11 AM   Subscribe

My all of my cotton shirts seem to perform origami in the wash and I can't recover them. What's happening?

Every single cotton shirt I own does the same thing - the front starts folding in a line down the button holes and the back tail seam starts rolling itself up. It happens with different powders, temperatures, and even different washing machines and ironing the shirts doesn't make them flatten back down.

These are different brands using different cottons so it's not a case of crap quality clothing.

What the hell is going on with them? Does this happen to everyone or am I inadvertantly buying Japanese cotton with a flair for origami?
posted by twine42 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total)
Response by poster: I never thought I'd be posting to the "clothing, beauty and fashion" section of AskMe...
posted by twine42 at 11:12 AM on January 25, 2006

Have you tried different washing machines, say a friend's? Some of them are apparently prone to this sort of thing.
posted by kindall at 11:22 AM on January 25, 2006

It's probably the rinse cycle that's doing it - the spinning of the drum is causing the shirt to form persistent wrinkles. Try washing the shirts on delicate and then ironing them while they're still damp. A little spray starch with the iron will help too.
posted by Flakypastry at 11:22 AM on January 25, 2006

Iron with stem and/or sizing to help restore the shirts. I get this on all my button-downs, although not to the point of crisis.
posted by werty at 11:24 AM on January 25, 2006

On preview (well, on post): ironing damp is an excellent idea. Also try the permanent-press dryer cycle, which is designed to limit wrinkles.

So that's three potential solutions but no answer to your question.
posted by werty at 11:25 AM on January 25, 2006

(and of course that's "steam" not "stem" in my first response.. and now I'm completely derailing, sorry)
posted by werty at 11:26 AM on January 25, 2006

These are different brands using different cottons so it's not a case of crap quality clothing.

Likely neither the cotton nor the brand, but the stitching style/technology being used. I've had this same problem -- the front fold is partcularly annoying -- but I don't have an answer. Recently, I discovered Eddie Bauer Nano Care shirts. That nano shit really works. I don't think I'll ever buy another brand of shirt.
posted by frogan at 11:49 AM on January 25, 2006

Perhaps the problem is as simple as overfilling the washer or dryer? I have some corduroy pants that crumple up into un-ironable despair when subjected to overstuffed machines.
posted by scratch at 12:04 PM on January 25, 2006

Not just you, twine42 - I've had this happen forever, in both front-loading and top-loading wash machines. I've always accepted it as just something that happens with non-synthetic materials. That's why Sunday evenings are for ironing.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 12:18 PM on January 25, 2006

No iron cotton shirts are gods gift to white collar workers. Just when I'd lost all hope for the technological advancement of humankind, bam, no iron shirts.

It sounds like your wash loads are either too large for the water level or the machines you are using are too heavy duty for your clothes.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:27 PM on January 25, 2006

I don't dry my button-up shirts. Nicer ones go to be dry-cleaned and craptastic ones just hang to dry. Same goes for anything even remotely shrinkable or expensive (be it denim, sweaters, ferrets, etc.). The dryer sees little but undershirts, underwear, socks, towels, and sheets.
posted by kcm at 12:57 PM on January 25, 2006

Alternatively, let the cleaners worry about ironing your shirts for you.
posted by mendel at 12:59 PM on January 25, 2006

This happens with my husband's shirts sometimes too. Loading the washer loosely and no more than 2/3 or so full should help. Also, as you take each shirt out of the washer, hold it by the shoulders and give it a good strong few snaps to smooth out the fabric before putting it in the dryer. That move alone saves a ton of ironing, in my experience.
posted by boomchicka at 1:00 PM on January 25, 2006

If it's not economically crippling, you can take your cotton dress shirts, (I'm assuming their of that style,) to most dry cleaners. Ask for them to be washed and pressed. (Not dry cleaned.) They do it professionally, and you don't have to muck about with ironing. Around here the service is pretty damn cheap, too.

I used to have the same problem, no matter what I seemed to do. This solved it.
posted by generichuman at 1:54 PM on January 25, 2006

To further boomchicka's suggestion of a few strong snaps, I generally hand-flatten the front edges (platen? and place-where-buttons-are?), the bottom edges (hem?) and the collar (collar?) of my shirts post-wash and pre-dry. Giving them a bit of a stretch and a press seems to do the trick nicely. I'd also add that for dress shirts, it is absolutely nuts to try washing and pressing them yourself. Taking them to the dry cleaners is about $1 per shirt, and since it takes me about a half-hour to do a half-assed ironing job on them, it is well worth the $5/week.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:59 PM on January 25, 2006

Ironing with *starch* will help your button line.
posted by unixrat at 6:15 PM on January 25, 2006

Having my shirts buttoned before they go in the wash helps the front part from happening. I usually just undo the top two buttons and treat it like a pullover shirt, so it's not too inconvenient for me to do this, and make sure they're completely buttoned up to the top before washing.
posted by chimmyc at 7:26 PM on January 25, 2006

Response by poster: Thankyou for the answers guys. I'll give them a try!
posted by twine42 at 2:30 AM on January 27, 2006

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