Tablecloths are the base layer of the dining experience, so you want them to be as smooth and crisp as possible. Cutlery, table ornaments and china will look their best on beautifully prepared table linens. One of the more frustrating experiences in hosting a gathering or event is finding out during your final preparations that your tablecloths are wrinkled.

If you have time, there are effective ways to remove wrinkles from polyester and other fabrics to give a polished, professional look to your table linens. If you are pressed for time, there are faster ways to get the wrinkles out at the last minute.

Wash and Dry

Although polyester does not wrinkle easily, once creases form, it can be difficult to remove them. If you have time, washing and drying the tablecloths is one of the best ways to remove wrinkles.

Because the material is sensitive to high heat, polyester fabric should be washed in warm water on the gentle or delicate cycle. Do not overload. After washing, place the cloth in the dryer on the permanent-press or delicate setting. A cooldown cycle at the end keeps wrinkles from forming. If possible, remove the tablecloths immediately. Ideally, they should still be slightly damp. Straighten and block them to align the fabric. Hanging them on a clothesline, hanger or railing will prevent new wrinkles from forming.

Drying Only

If you do not have much time and the linens are clean, put them in the dryer on low or permanent press with a damp towel or cloth. Some people use ice cubes tied in a towel to produce steam. The trick is to use moisture and steam to slightly dampen the cloth.

Again, do not overload. The fabric must have plenty of space to tumble, which prevents wrinkling. Take the linens out as soon as the cycle ends. Block them and hang them from hangers or on a clothesline.

If you plan to iron them later, the table linens can be rolled or folded damp and stored in a clean plastic bag. This method is recommended if the ironing will be within a few hours. However, if damp cloth sits too long, mold or mildew can form.

Steam

Moisture and heat are the keys to removing wrinkles from polyester and other fabrics. If the linens are clean, slightly dampen them, block them and hang them neatly on hangers, a towel bar or a clothesline in the bathroom. Turn on the hot water in the shower to produce steam, turn off the exhaust fan, and close any air conditioning vents to create a very steamy room. As with the other methods, the moist heat will penetrate the fabric and remove the wrinkles. Let them hang for at least one hour. Smoothing the cloth with your hand or pulling the edges and corners will speed up the process. Be sure to keep the cloth evenly aligned.

After the wrinkles disappear, take the cloth to a dry room. Lightly fold the fabric, smoothing the surface as you fold. Be sure edges are even to keep the alignment.

Ironing

If you want a crisp, professional look, ironing is the best way to achieve this. If your linens are clean, press them with a damp cloth or pressing cloth. Polyester and other synthetics cannot take high heat, so it is best to test a small section first to make sure the iron is not too hot. Adjust the iron to the hottest setting that the fabric will tolerate without burning or melting the yarns. Iron on the reverse side to get a wrinkle-free surface.

Iron with back-and-forth strokes along the alignment of the threads. Circular strokes can stretch the material and create uneven lengths. After ironing, loosely fold the cloth, and clip the top onto a hanger or clothesline. If the tablecloth is long, fold it into thirds or quarters. Clip it to the hanger until it is ready to use. This avoids creating new wrinkles and minimizes creases.

A little advanced preparation will get your polyester tablecloths ready for your gathering. Your fresh, crisp linens will set the backdrop to a well-presented event.