Question: I've seen some people fold their tallis on Shabbos, while some just stuff it into their tallis bag. What's the halacha?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 113a) teaches that folding clothing on Shabbos is only permitted if the following five conditions are met: 1) It will be worn again on Shabbos, 2) No one assists in folding it, 3) It hasn’t been washed since its last use, 4) it is white, and 5) they have no other to wear.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 302:3) adds that one may, however, fold something providing that it isn’t folded on its original crease. Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (302:19) writes that though it is permitted even if it won’t be worn again that day, ideally one should be stringent and avoid folding it.
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 302:12) explains that there are two different reasons for the prohibition: Rambam (Shabbos 22:22) writes that folding is being mesaken, fixing the garment, while the Raavad (Shabbos 23:7) holds that folding is a tircha yesera, additional effort. Neither of these reasons, he suggests, apply to folding a tallis. Certainly, it is inappropriate to stuff one’s tallis into his tallis bag without folding it at all.
Likewise, the Kaf Hachaim (OC 302:32) quotes R’ Yitzchak Falaji (Yafeh Lalev OC 302) who writes that the folding is actually a hiddur mitzva and not treating it properly will lead to it getting ruined.
The Beis Yosef (OC 302) quotes the Kol Bo (Shabbos p.33a) who allows one to fold clothes nowadays, arguing that we are no longer as particular to place our clothes in the press as people once were. Nonetheless, the Ben Ish Chai (Vayechi 2:13), R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 2:24:3) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 2:40) concede that one shouldn’t rely on this. Rather, one should fold one’s tallis over while avoiding the original folds.
The Magen Avraham (300:1) notes that the Maharil would fold his tallis straight after Shabbos.
In conclusion, while those who fold their talleisim properly should not be criticised, it is best to fold it while avoiding its original creases. It is commendable to fold it properly after Shabbos.