This $3 hack will soften stiff sheets and make them feel expensive

Tried and tested.
Unmade bed with white cotton sheets and a coffee on a magazineGetty

Ever purchased a cheap set of bed sheets thinking ‘What a bargain!’ only to put them on the bed and find yourself tossing and turning all night because they’re so stiff and scratchy? It’s truly awful.Thankfully, it is possible to make stiff sheets feel soft using a $3 product you probably already have in your pantry. 

But first thing’s first: why are cheap sheets so rough? A cheap set of 100% cotton bedding may only set you back about $50, but the thing that distinguishes affordable cotton bedding from luxury bedding is the way the raw fibres are spun, treated and woven before they’re turned into sheets. The good news is that cotton, being a natural fibre, will soften with each and every wash. But if you can’t wait that long and want to speed up the process, here’s how to do it.

1. Bi-carb soda and vinegar

Add 1 cup of bi-carb soda to the detergent dispenser of your washing machine. Wash the sheets on a hot cycle. Once the cycle is complete, add half a cup of vinegar to the detergent dispenser of your washing machine. Wash the sheets on a cool cycle. You may need to repeat this process a number of times.

In 2018, US TV-series Hack My Life put this exact method to the test. They then recruited six people to test the sheets and five out of six testers thought the cheap sheets w ere actually more expensive!

Fun fact
Mornington Peninsula farmhouse bedroom
(Credit: Photography: Martina Gemmola / Styling: Aimee Tarulli)

2. Enzyme wash or soak

Another way to speed up the sheet softening process is to wash them with an enzyme laundry detergent. Popular products include Cold Power Advanced Clean Cold Water Enzyme, Biozet Attack Plus Eliminator and Sard Wonder Super Power Stain Remover Soaker Powder.

Enzymes work to soften sheets by lightly abrading the surface of the fibres.

3. Fabric softener

It’s not a good idea to use fabric softener every time you wash your bed sheets (as the product can create a waxy build-up that reduces the fabric’s ability to wick away moisture) but if you have a particularly scratchy set, a touch of softener can help to relax the fibres. 

(Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke | Styling: Tahn Scoon)

4. Tumble dry

Most good quality sheet manufacturers swear by line-drying sheets, which is all well and good if they’re already super soft. But, if you need to make your sheets feel softer stat, tossing them straight into the dryer is another quick way to soften them up. Use dryer balls (rubber or wool versions work best) to further work the sheets and soften them up.

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