How to soften sheets

How to soften sheets

So you’ve got your hands on a brand spanking new set of sheets and count down the hours till bedtime so you can slip between them and drift off to a blissful sleep. Imagine your disappointment when you lay down to find your sheets are less than perfectly smooth and soft! Actually, this is pretty common. Brand new sheets, and in particular percale cotton sheets often initially feel scratchy or stiff. And that’s sure to come between you and a good night’s sleep. So, what can you do about it? Luckily, there’s a couple of simple and easy ways to soften sheets and get them feeling luxurious faster, and best of all – all involve common household products and no nasty chemicals.

Why are my sheets scratchy?

Brand new sheets can feel more scratchy than soft due to the treatments used in the manufacturing process. If your sheets are organic or Oeko-Tex certified, like ours, you can rest assured this won’t cause you any harm as you won't be exposed to harmful chemicals. Additionally the fibres have not been worn in so the fabric may start off feeling a bit stiff but washing and use will soften sheets with time. You can speed up the process with our suggestions.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you’ve purchased poor quality sheets, there’s not a whole lot you can do to make them softer. Lesser quality bedding is typically made with short staple cotton fibres. These poke out of the weave, making your sheets rough and prone to pilling. There’s no magic way of turning these into the soft cloud of comfort only quality sheets can provide. 

View our Washed Cotton Percale Sheets
The great thing about our Washed Cotton is that they are stonewashed for softness right from the very first night.Soft Washed Cotton Bedding

From scratchy to soft

First – put that fabric softener away. Fabric softener works by coating the fibres, this does make them feel smoother but it reduces the breathability of the fabric and over time can degrade the fibres.


It goes without saying that you should always use a good quality, gentle detergent. But importantly, if you want softer sheets, you should use less! Generally about half the recommended dose is enough. Using too much detergent causes a build up to accumulate, contributing to that unwelcome stiffness in the fabric. It may help to put your sheets through an extra rinse cycle to remove detergent residue.

Baking Soda

Take your brand new sheets and pop them in the machine before use. But instead of using detergent for that first wash, place a cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in the machine. Wash using a gentle cycle with cold to warm water and line dry if possible.

Your old sheets will benefit from a little baking soda treatment too. Just add ½ cup to your usual amount of detergent with every wash.


Ahh vinegar, the soft sheet's best friend. It truly is a great fabric softener, and in case you are worried your bedding will smell like salad, you’ll be pleased to know the smell does not linger.

Additionally, because detergents are alkaline, and vinegar is acidic, it does a great job at neutralising the detergent residues which - you may recall - can make fabric feel stiff. So add ½ cup to a cup of plain white vinegar to the fabric softener compartment of your machine with every wash. If you like, add a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil in with the vinegar. We suggest lavender as it can help improve your sleep.

At this point you may be recalling the volcano experiments from high school and wondering if it’s wise to mix baking soda and vinegar? Don’t worry. As long as you put your baking soda in with the detergent, and the vinegar in the fabric softener compartment, you can be certain there will be no eruptions.

Other ways to soften sheets

Baking soda and vinegar should do the trick but some have had luck trying these methods:


Add ½ cup borax to a laundry tub of cool water and soak your sheets in the solution overnight. The next day run them through a wash cycle without detergent (or a small amount) and dry.


Add 1 cup of salt to a laundry tub of cool water and let your sheets soak for a couple of days. Then wash as usual.

Dryer balls

We always recommend line drying however if that's not possible or practical, you can tumble-dry on low. Adding a couple of clean tennis balls to the dryer, or using dryer balls can help to lessen the stiffness of fabric and make your sheets just that little bit softer.

So there you have it. Simple ways to soften your sheets with products you probably already have stashed in your cupboards. And remember that good quality sheets, like a fine wine, will only get better and softer with age. Happy sleeping!