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How to Fold Laundry

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Scrunched-up laundry in a bag.

Folding clothes and household linen is one of those chores that comes naturally to some of us. For others, this is a skill that arrives late in life, or not at all. However, it is something that, once discovered, will make your life easier and more efficient. Time will be saved, less time will be needed for ironing for instance - and less time will be spent searching for misplaced pillowcases and matching towels.

To begin with, ask yourself which is truer - are you someone whose linen presses are a joy to behold, with neatly laid out shelves where you may choose with ease the exact set of bed linen for your overnight guest? Or, (and be honest) are you more likely to find that the T-shirt you wanted to wear has become crumpled up in a drawer and will need re-ironing before you meet your significant other for a drink?

Many people keep their clothes in drawers, rather than on shelves, and while it is easier to choose your required garment from a shelf, it is not realistic to chuck out your furniture for the sake of a few minutes of time saving per day. If you learn to fold things professionally you will find your clothes will be easier to find, even if kept in a drawer. They will also be less crumpled and save time and frustration when you can wear them without needing to iron them.

Hanging space is often at a premium and whilst most clothes can be hung in a closet or wardrobe, it is often not possible to hang every single garment.


The same method is used to fold T-shirts, sweaters and other similar garments. Once you have mastered this easy to learn skill, you will find that your clothes can either be stacked on a shelf, or piled in a drawer. The good thing about folding them this way is that you should be able to lay your hand more easily on the clothing you wish to wear, without rifling through everything else and muddling it up.

Place the garment front side downwards on a convenient flat surface. If you have just finished ironing the article, now is the best time to fold it properly - either on the ironing board, a nearby table or even your bed. Make two folds in the garment from the shoulder seams down to to bottom hem, so the sleeves are now towards the back. If the garment has longer sleeves than the length of the hemline, you will need to fold them back so they lie within the smaller outline of the item being folded. Now fold the garment in half so that the hem is now level with the shoulder seams. The effect you are attempting to achieve is a flat front - imagine the section of a shirt that would be visible under a jacket - and because of the nature of the few folds, there should be minimal creasing. Try to make all your folded garments end up as near as possible the same size as you can, this will make looking through your drawers much easier.

If you are unsure of how this is done, go and hang about in any retail clothing store and watch the assistants tidy up the display shelves. They will be providing a master class in clothes folding!

For extremely delicate or precious items, especially if they are going to be packed in a suitcase, tissue paper can be laid over the back of the garment, before folding commences; this also relieves pressure on the garment where the folds are made, and helps to stop any wear or creases.

Jeans, chinos and sweat pants can easily be folded to free up wardrobe hanging space. Fold in half with the back of the trousers together. Then fold in thirds, making the folds at the crotch and half way down the rest of the leg.

Ties are best if they are stored on special tie racks, the creases from the knot will hang out more easily. If you don't own a rack then your tie should be folded in half and then rolled gently.

Underpants, knickers or briefs should all be folded like this: place the item face down on a flat surface and draw up the gusset level with the waist band. Next, fold each side of the garment by a third, overlapping the turned up gusset. This will work whether you have a selection of tiny thongs or a mountain of baggy pants.

Brassieres should be carefully folded with one cup inside the other, and the straps folded inside both. If the bra is padded, they should be placed -unfolded - on top of another similar bra, or use socks to pad the the cups to stop them being flattened, which can lead to the shape being spoiled.

Needless to say, matching sets of underwear should be placed next to each other!

Socks should be kept in matching pairs with the tops neatly folded over each other, leaving the feet nicely flat. This will stop the elastic from being overstretched and the toes from becoming scrunched up. You can also spot more easily if a pair has started to develop a hole, if they are kept like this. Some people have solved the unmatched sock dilemna by only buying identical replacement socks - others make a virtue out of mismatched socks, but that is for another entry!

Household Linens

Towels look much more attractive if they are folded carefully, try to ensure that the edges all match up before starting to fold. If you are really obsessive/compulsive, you could place the folds towards you on the shelf,(rather than the edges) with smaller handtowels on top of the larger matching bath sheets. For really over the top housekeeping, you could even tie ribbon round your best guest towels, to stop the more carefree members of your household using them to dry the dog's paws.

There is a practical point to having the folds of towels and such-like facing forwards, as it is easier to pull just one single item from the pile without the rest becoming untidy. This is because you can tell where one item starts and finishes.

Sheets may seem easy to fold as long as they are unfitted, flat sheets. The task is even easier if two people do it between them, stretching the sheet taut between each fold.

Fitted sheets with elasticated or shaped corners are another matter! The way to solve this problem is to turn two corners inside out and fit them into the opposite corners: ie, bottom-left corner into top-left corner and bottom-right corner into top-right corner. Now fold in the two edges, (the bits that go down and under the sides of the mattress) Repeat with the top edge, bringing this downwards until you are left with a rectangular shape, with all the shaped edges neatly flattened, you may need to make a sort of pleat in the corners. Fold the sheet again until it becomes the correct size for your airing cupboard or linen press.

A brilliant tip to help locate all parts of the same set of bedlinen is to always keep pillow cases and duvet covers together with their matching sheets. The pillowcases should be folded into thirds and placed on top of the folded sheet. The duvet cover should now be folded and just before the final fold is made, the sheet, together with the matching pillowcases, are placed inside the duvet cover. The duvet cover will hold all the set together in the cupboard, and will withstand any 'rifling' without coming adrift and pillowcases being misplaced.


The whole process of clothes folding can start much earlier - for instance when completing the laundry. When wet clothes are loosely folded and piled, on their way to the dryer or line the creases will be eased. Never leave wet or damp washing scrunched up1, unless you own special 'crinkle-look' clothes. If clothes are hung outside to dry, make sure that they are shaken and hung as evenly as possible to reduce time spent ironing later.

1You may be called away to do something higher in the list of life's priorities and when you return to your washing find that parts of it have dried into irredeemable wrinkles.

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