How to Soften Linen Clothing or Sheets Easily (Helpful Guide)

It would be paradise if every piece of fabric would be soft and cuddly. Then people would not have to use their time to soften the material. But life isn’t fair and some fabrics got the short end of the stick. The good news is that it is not hard to make those fabrics soft.

With linen, it doesn’t take much effort to make the material nice and soft. All you have to do is be patient and let the washing machine and dryer handle the task. It may take several trips through those appliances but eventually, linen will become as soft and cuddly as cotton.

To learn more about getting linen nice and soft, just continue to read our article. It has the information you need to know about in order to make your linen fabrics feel good next to your skin. The fabric is worth the effort.

Does Linen Soften Over Time?


Yes, linen will soften over time. That is one of the best characteristics that make this material worth using. While the material is initially a little rough and stiff, give it a little time and it will come around and soften up.

It should be mentioned that how the fabric was made will play a role in how soft the linen will become. Quality and structure always play a role in how fabrics respond to softening action. This fact means that it is possible to damage the linen material if you are not careful and happen to have bought an inferior quality.

Also, linen will wrinkle on you. That result is also a fact of life when you use linen fabrics. You will have to iron the material after you wash it. The ironing may contribute a little to the softening process but it may not be a large contribution.

If you are in a hurry, then either linen is not a fabric for you or you have to go to one of the many speed-up processes to get the material softer, faster.

Does Linen Get Softer After Washing?

This is one of the speed-up processes we just mentioned. Washing your linen fabrics is one way to get them a lot softer and in a very quick time frame. But there are some steps to take for that to happen.

First, cold water is your best water temperature to use. Unless the manufacturer has stipulated that warmer temperatures may be used on their materials. Then, you need to use the gentle cycle as too much agitation may not bring the desired result.

After that, you can use the dryer to get the moisture out but keep the heat setting on low. Or you can hang dry the material to help avoid wrinkles. The problem with using a dryer is that you have to remove the linen fabric before it is completely dry and hang it up.

If you let the material dry completely in the dryer, then then you will have to iron out those wrinkles and still have that stiff feel to the fabric.

How to Soften Linen in the Wash


This process will depend on how the linen was made. If the weave style causes stiffness, then you may have to use your washer in different settings to get that stiff feel out of the material.

What that means is that you may have to bump up the cycle from gentle to regular or take to washing the fabric by hand. Then besides the higher agitation speed by the washer, add in some towels to help build up friction. The extra friction should work on that stiffness and get it a little softer.

Or if you decided to wash by hand, be a bit more vigorous in your rubbing the cloth together. The drying process does not need to change and the air-drying should help a lot. If the material doesn’t soften up as quickly as you would like, run it through the washer until it does.

Check the label to see if you can use a fabric softener in the wash. No all fabrics respond to that chemical additive and some fabric softeners leave a coating on the material.

Does Vinegar Soften Linen?

As we said, fabric softeners are not the key to getting this material to soften up and be more cuddly. Besides the coating or chemical residue they can leave behind, they may also leave a fragrance that does not appeal to your nose.

You can try vinegar and a cup of vinegar in your wash cycle may perform a softening miracle for you. Vinegar doe shave many uses and it may also help get some tough stains out at the same time.

Then this is not mandatory but you can soak the linen in a mixture of 1 cup of vinegar to every gallon of water in the pail or tub overnight. Then use dryer balls when you place the fabric in the dryer.

Softening linen takes friction and those dryer balls should provide enough friction to get the material to the soft point you want. Dryer sheets may not work that well and you should play those by ear.

If they work for you then great. If not, try the dryer balls as dryer sheets may not provide the friction you need.

Does Baking Soda Soften Linen?


Yes, baking soda is another one of the speed-up processes we mentioned earlier. The good news is that you do not need a full cup to do the same job as the cup of vinegar will do for you.

1/2 cup is all you need and you add it to your wash at the appropriate time. There is no recommendation to soak the linen fabrics in baking soda overnight or even for a few hours. It is a wash additive only.

Like vinegar, you should add either towels or dryer balls to increase the friction to either the wash or the dryer. The same dryer heat is needed and you should not let the fabric dry completely.

You can if you like ironing and wrinkles but hang dry for a bit to avoid that chore. It is best to take the linen clothing out of the dryer while still a bit wet and let them hang dry the rest of the way.

How to Soften Linen Pants Or Shirt

Friction is going to be the keyword in this process. While you do not want to overdo it, you should have some friction in the wash or the dryer to bring that soft quality linen is known to have.

You do not have to overload your washing machine or dryer with lots of clothes or heavy fabrics. if you do, you may end up damaging the linen clothing. using a terry cloth towel or two, or some other softer clothing item or bedding, etc., will do the trick or should do the trick.

Then when it comes to the dryer part of the process, dryer balls are good as are a few, and we emphasize the word few, other pieces of clothing. Of course, you do not want to add those materials that bleed color or are very heavy like denim.

Before you add the clothing or dryer balls, take the safer route and use the gentle cycle with vinegar baking soda added to the wash cycle. Do the softening process in steps going from the gentlest to the harshest method.

How Long Does it Take for Linen to Soften?


There is no real set time frame that can be imposed on how long it will take for linen to soften. No one can say the linen will soften in one day or after one load of wash because all linens are not made the same.

The quality of the fabric as well as the quality of the weave will influence how long it will take to get the stiffness and rough feeling out of the material. The best time frame anyone can give is ‘that in time...’ or ‘time will...’

The methods we already described above are not miracle cures for stiffness in linen. It will take more than one washing and if it only takes one, then you are one of the lucky ones. Which method you use will also influence the time frame and some methods may be faster than others.

One thing is for sure, if you do not get the results you want after one wash, it will take longer for the linen materials to soften up.

How to Soften Linen Sheets

Linen is linen and if they come in clothing formats, bedding, or even bath formats, the way to soften the material is going to be the same. The reason, according to one expert, that linen sheets feel rough is because of the chemical residue leftover from the manufacturing process.

It takes some time to get rid of the chemical presence and get the material soft and natural. The way to do that is to follow the different methods already given in this article. You can start with the cold wash and low heat dry.

Then move up to the baking soda option and end up with the vinegar method. Or you can skip those last two and just add friction to the washer or dryer load. We suggest avoiding using fabric softener and dryer sheets.

You are just adding more chemicals and those chemicals may not stop the other ones from making the linen stiff.

Softening Linen Naturally


The most natural method possible would be to hand wash in cold or cool water and use a very mild detergent or just vinegar or baking soda. Then hang dry in a well-ventilated area. You cannot get more natural than that.

This method takes some work but in the end, you should end up with softer linen that is less stiff. Of course, it may take more than one round of this method to achieve that softness but that is the nature of the process.

There really is no other method to use unless you just want to skip the vinegar and baking soda and just use your washer and cold water or hand wash only in cold water. There is no other method you can use that would be more natural.

Hang drying the material helps you avoid ironing which will free up your time a little bit more. You won’t have to stay around the house to pull the linen out of the dryer before it dries completely.

What is Softened Linen?

This material is still linen but it is processed in a different way than regular linen fabric. One step that is omitted is the chemical additive step. There are no chemicals used to make the fabric you want to use.

In other words, this linen is probably more natural than regular linen is and it helps you avoid doing the softening processes we already talked about. Plus, you are not missing out on any of those positive linen characteristics which make it an ideal fabric for many different sewing projects.

Buying this version of linen should save you time and you do not have to wait for the material to get nice and soft. It is a good alternative to regular linen.

Some Final Words

Linen is a natural fabric but it does have its quirks. Sadly, some of those quirks are placed into the fabric during the manufacturing process. When that happens, you have to spend time and money to undo what has been done.

These methods are not overly expensive nor are they complicated to do. It just takes up a little more of your free time. If you do not have the time, then buy the softened linen material.

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