Decide which garments get the hanger treatment—and which are better off tucked away in a dresser.

By Deanna deBara
Updated April 27, 2020
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Whether you just scored a brand new pair of jeans, refreshed your wardrobe for spring, or finished a load of laundry, there's one question that's likely to come up over and again: Do you fold your clothes and put them in the dresser, or should you be hanging them in your closet? And the answer is, it depends. "What to fold and what to hang depends on several factors, [including] how much space you have in your closets and dressers, what your personal habits are, what type of garments you own, [and] what types of fabrics they are made of," says Darla DeMorrow, professional organizer, owner of HeartWork Organizing, and author of Organizing Your Home with SORT and Succeed ($15, barnesandnoble.com). Ahead, DeMorrow and other professional organizers break down how to know when to hang and when to fold.

Hang: Flowy Fabrics

First, let's start in your closet. Which clothes absolutely belong on a hanger? Anything composed of flowy fabrics, says DeMorrow. "Anything made from silk, chiffon, or other 'flowy' materials—commonly dresses or blouses—[should be hung]," says professional organizer Melissa Keyser. "I like to tell my clients to think about how the fabric moves in a breeze; if it seems to float or dance around, it wouldn't be happy folded and stuffed in a drawer."

Hang: Linen

Linen is notorious for becoming wrinkled—which is why it's much better to hang any linen pieces in your closet. "Hanging [linen] prevents unnecessary creases," says Robyn Reynolds, professional organizer and the CEO and owner of Organize2Harmonize, which specializes in residential organization. DeMorrow agrees: "Linen almost always needs ironing to look its best. Definitely hang anything linen."

Hang: Pants

While jeans don't necessarily need a place in your closet, you should definitely plan to hang all your other pants (like dressier slacks). "Dress and casual pants should always be hung," says Reynolds. "You can hang them the long way or fold over the hanger."

Hang: Blouses

If you don't want your nice blouses to be full of creases and annoying wrinkles, make sure to keep them on a hanger. "Blouses should always be hung," explains Reynolds. "This will help to eliminate major wrinkles."

Hang: Jackets

Jackets are large pieces—and if you try to fold them and put them in a dresser, not only will it cause wrinkles (and potential damage to the structure of the piece), but it will also monopolize most of your space. "Jackets of any kind should be hung," says Reynolds. "No matter what kind—blazers, jean jackets, outerwear—they are too bulky to fold."

Hang: (Most) Dresses

Most—but not all—of your dresses deserve vertical space in your walk-in. "Dresses, for the most part, should always be hung," says Reynolds. "The exception would be heavy sweater dresses or heavy dresses of any kind. When these are hung, they can end up stretching. Fold these so this doesn't happen."

Fold: Thick Sweaters

Now that you know which clothes to hang, let's cover which clothes to fold—starting you're your thicker winter knits. Fold these, say our experts, both to preserve their structural integrity and to save space in your closet. "Really chunky sweaters should generally be folded," says DeMorrow. "There are folding techniques to gently wrap your sweater around a hanger to avoid making hanger marks, but it's generally not intuitive for most people, and a chunky sweater can take up a very thick width, often the space of six or more hanging blouses."

Fold: Activewear

Yoga pants, workout tops, activewear—anything you'd wear to the gym, plan to fold. "These can get wonky and stretched out if on a hanger," says Keyser.

Fold: Shorts

While you don't necessarily have to fold shorts, there's really no reason to hang them—so they'd probably be better off folded and stored in your closet. "Shorts should always be folded as it really doesn't make sense to hang them," says Reynolds.

Hang or Fold: T-Shirts

Some clothing items, on the other hand, can be folded or hung, depending on space and personal preference. T-shirts are one such item. "T-shirts can be hung, folded, or stacked," says DeMorrow. "There's no doubt that hanging them reduces the chance for wrinkles. But most modern tees have some amount of stretchy fiber in them (Lycra or similar) that allows them to be relatively wrinkle free in any case—[including when folded]." If you do decide to hang your t-shirts, be sure to use the right hangers—Keyser prefers padded ones. "A softer (and wider) option can help prevent the distortion that a narrow hanger might cause," she adds.

Hang or Fold: Jeans

Jeans are one of the most versatile pieces in your wardrobe—something that absolutely holds true when it comes to storing them. "[Jeans] are the easiest of pants to fold since they are usually on the thicker side and will hold their shape," says Reynolds. "Of course, some prefer to hang them. If so, I would say folding them over the hanger is best."

Hang or Fold: Scarves

Have a collection of scarves? "Scarves can be folded, rolled, or hung," explains DeMorrow. While scarves can be stored a variety of ways, the size of the scarf will often dictate whether it makes more sense to fold or hang. "Bigger scarves that act as shawls should be folded as that is easier for something so big," says Reynolds. "Small ones that are worn around the neck can be folded and stored in drawers or a container as well as hung from scarf hangers."

Comments (14)

Anonymous
October 6, 2015
I found “Super Grippy Hangers” online. After trying them out, I did my entire closet with them. They come in shapes and sizes for anything you’d need to hang (including sizes for women and kids), they’re sturdy and they don’t stretch clothes out at the shoulders. I love the way they keep clothes on the hanger. My closet looks so tidy, it’s easier to find the clothes I am looking for. One thing that took getting used to, you can’t just “grab and go” – you have to take clothes off the hange
Anonymous
March 15, 2012
I totally agree that just changing your hangers changes everything! I just found the best hangers that are thin and have the best shape that I can even hang my sweaters and tshirts without pulling at the shoulders. It's a sweater hanger at www.hangerclassics.com. I also hung all of my spaghetti straps on them and my closet looks gorgeous!!
Anonymous
October 18, 2011
This is an awsome tip! I'm a newlywed with restricted closet space so I need this kind of advice. I also tried nice boxes I can put on unused floor space for my husbands socks & boxer shorts, it's worked pretty well so far!
Anonymous
July 29, 2011
MVTUIG-Excellant tip!!! One of the easiest can dos I have heard! Thank you!
Anonymous
October 31, 2010
I fold cotton tops/sweaters with a sheet of tissue paper, helps stop the folds from setting in. Use 2 sheets for heavier fabric. Good luck!
Anonymous
October 24, 2010
And I never thought to fold evening dresses, but what a truly magnificent idea. We have lots of shelf space but little hanger space.... I use space bags a lot, and love the new giant ones in the canvas cases. I can store all of my off season clothes in two, and living in New England, we deal with this in a big way.
Anonymous
October 24, 2010
MVTUIG - Great idea. Thanks.
Anonymous
October 24, 2010
The best way I have found to empty my closet painlessly, is to hang everything with the hanger hook backwards on the rod at the beginning of the season. At the end of the season if it is still backwards off it goes to the thrift shop.
Anonymous
October 24, 2010
Great tip to hang sweaters. I found a fabulous sweater hanger that I hang all my sweaters on. The hangers are black and rubberized and shaped perfectly so they never leave a dimple on the shoulders! I got them at hangerclassics.com.
Anonymous
September 27, 2009
Thank you on the info for the resilvering kit - I also have an old mirror that needs to be redone.
Anonymous
September 25, 2009
You can get a resilvering kit at www.angelgilding.com. They also have instruction links you can click on. (I know this request is old, but just in case anyone else is looking.)
Anonymous
September 25, 2009
Folded cotton sweaters end up with wrinkles. How can folding wrinkles be avoided or dealt with?
Anonymous
January 19, 2009
I almost breezed by this tip because there wasn't an item to make or use, but these two paragraphs are brimming with information about clothes-care I didn't know! Layering sweaters in the closet by folding them in half, draping over the closet pole
Anonymous
September 24, 2008
Martha, i was looking in your site for some tips on re-silvering an antique mirror. I hope you can help