How to Soften Bed Sheets

Rough sheets are very unpleasant to sleep on. Even fancy Egyptian cotton sheets can start out feeling stiff or scratchy. Instead of giving up on them and shoving them to the back of the closet or getting rid of them, you can soften your sheets with common household items such as baking soda or vinegar.

Why so Coarse?

New sheets can feel scratchy and downright uncomfortable due to chemical coatings that the manufacturer adds. The chemicals can make the sheets feel and look crisp, but too much so makes them unpleasant to use. The chemicals might fade away after several items of washing. If your older sheets feel scratchy, this can be from the fibers the sheets contain, or it could be that the sheets are being improperly washed and dried. A low thread count can make the bedding scratchy as well. You can only get low-quality sheets to a certain level of softness, but using natural softeners like baking soda can help a bit.

Treatment for New Sheets

You can get rid of the chemical coatings on brand new sheets by putting baking soda in the wash with them. Choose a cool or warm, not hot, setting, and put in one cup of baking soda with the water. Don’t put any fabric softener or detergent in. Fabric softener will make chemicals even more difficult to remove since it will coat your sheets. In the last rinse cycle, put one cup of white vinegar and choose a cold water setting. Launder the sheets an additional time using detergent, but only half the amount you’d normally use.

Softening Under the Sun

When you have brand new sheets, especially cotton, you can dry them on a clothesline outside after the first time you wash them to help soften them up. They might still feel a bit stiff after the first couple of washings, so you can wash them again and dry them in the dryer without any fabric softener or dryer sheets. When you dry old or new sheets, you can put some dryer balls in to help fluff them and keep their softness, rather than using fabric softeners or dryer sheets since those will leave a chemical residue behind.

Using VinegarSoften Sheets Vinegar

No matter how old your sheets are, you can give them a quick dose of softness with a half cup of white vinegar added right to your wash cycle with your regular laundry detergent. It will not leave a vinegar odor, as it will dissipate on its own and not stick to the sheets. The vinegar will also assist in freshening up stale sheets and any other laundry you have as well. For the best cleaning, use less laundry detergent than you might think you need to and do not overfill your washing machine. If there is too many items and too much soap in a single load of wash, the sheets might not get washed or rinsed properly since they do not have enough room to move around as they should.

  • Jeff

    Bottom line, sheets made today are poor quality, period. Years ago sheets were cotton/poly percale and WONDERFUL. I remember around $39.00 queen set around 1975-80.Soft from the start, no dryer needed. I found some on ebay.Perm/press,heavy, soft as can be. Good luck otherwise.

    • Doubtful Guest

      Totally agree. What I find most irritating is that you can no longer buy just one sheet. Sheets used yo be sold as separate items – except for pillowcases, which came two to a package. Now EVERYTHING is sold in sets.

      This means that every time the fitted sheet in a set wears out, you can no longer buy a replacement. The set itself is then useless,

      I have a linen closet with an entire shelf full of top sheets and pillowcases from sets which no longer have a fitted sheet. It’s just one more scheme to get the consumer to buy, buy, buy.vcI am planning to sew my own fitted sheets from the leftover top sheets so I can use these broken sets again.

      • Jay in Chicago USA

        How true, but if you really look you can find some single sheets out there. But you are very limited probably to solid colors to match your old ones. I find calgon/with detergent, hot water really gets the “yellow” out of older sheets.

  • Brad Folkers