How to Soften Sheets: Egyptian Cotton, Bamboo & Linen

Drop the fabric softener. Check out these tips for how to soften sheets. Take care of your Egyptian cotton, bamboo bedding & linen!

You upgrade your bedding, expecting the coziest night of sleep ever. But what if you slip into your new sheets and realize that they’re scratchy or stiff? Don’t worry; you don’t have to return the set. Instead, there are easy solutions for making your bedding feel the way you want. If you’re looking for the easiest (and cheapest!) tips for how to soften sheets, you’ve come to the right place.

Basic Tips to Soften Sheets

African American parents spreading softened bed sheet over son in bedroom
Creating the coziest sleeping surface has never been so simple.

No matter the fabric make-up of your bedding, the following tricks may help you get that comfortable feel you’re craving:

Consult with the Manufacturer

First things first: check with the manufacturer. They may have some great suggestions for softening your bedding. Plus, they may also have some recommendations for what to avoid. When it comes to information for extending the life of your sheets, your manufacturer may be your best resource.

Wash Before Using

Most sheets will be stiff or scratchy right out of the packaging, no matter how top notch they are. That’s because the manufacturing process may create some stiffness due to ironing, chemicals, and/or packaging. The easiest way to get your bedding feeling soft the first night you use them? Wash them before they ever touch your mattress.

Never Use Bleach

Can bleach brighten your fabrics? Absolutely. But, it can also damage them. Harsh chemicals are a no-go when it comes to softening sheets, and bleach is no exception. Try to use an organic detergent when laundering your bedding.

Ditch the Fabric Softener

It might seem counterintuitive, but ditch the fabric softener, especially if you have high-quality sheets made of materials like Egyptian cotton. Fabric softeners might make your sheets smell better and feel softer at first. Over time, though, they tend to leave behind residue. The result? Your sheets may actually feel stiffer and less breathable. It may even degrade materials like Egyptian cotton or bamboo.

Say Goodbye to Dryer Sheets

You should also ditch the dryer sheets. Like fabric softener, these products can leave behind unwanted chemicals and residue on your sheets with consistent use.

Cut Back on Detergent

Sometimes less is more. That might be the case with detergent. It’s actually pretty common to use too much of it when laundering bedding. That means sheets don’t fully rinse, leaving behind plenty of stifling residue. If you notice that your sheets feel stuffy or stiff, try halving the amount of detergent you use. It may not only soften your sheets, but also save you some money on detergent in the long run.

Don’t Overload the Washer

This tip ties in to the previous one. Basically, the easiest way to get cleaner, softer sheets is to make sure they fully rinse out. Using too much detergent or overloading the washer can mean your sheets don’t get the wash they need.

If your bedding is made with materials like bamboo or Egyptian cotton, it’s best to dedicate a whole load just to the sheets themselves. This way, you can ensure that they rinse well. Plus, other objects in the washer may cause snags or lint build-up on your top-notch sheets.

How to Soften Egyptian Cotton

Dried washed bed sheets on rope in bright clear day
Air drying is great for your fabrics and the electric bill. Win-win.

How to Soften Egyptian Cotton Sheets

Even Egyptian cotton (EC) sheets, which are known for being luxuriously soft, can still be a little stiff right out of the packaging. Some of the best solutions for softening EC sheets include the following tricks:

Total Time Needed: 30 minutes

Things Needed?

– Washing Machine – Vinegar – Baking Soda

3 Steps to Soften Egyptian Cotton

1. Be Gentle EC sheets can last you a long, long time… if you take care of them properly. Part of proper EC care includes being gentle with them on wash day. That means avoiding high heat settings in the washer and dryer, as well as choosing gentle, high-quality laundry detergents. 2. Air Dry You might want to consider skipping the dryer all together. Air drying your EC can gently fluff them up. 3. Try Vinegar or Baking Soda Grab the vinegar and baking soda from the kitchen. Using white vinegar or baking soda is an easy, effective way to soften up your fabrics. Plus, it’s also great for cutting back on unpleasant odors and even brightening up your textiles.

So, how do you use vinegar to soften EC? First, use your detergent as usual. Then, add about a quarter cup of white vinegar to the washer.

What about using baking soda? Well, the first time you wash EC fabrics, you can actually skip the detergent all together and just throw a cup of baking soda into your washing machine. After that initial cleaning, try adding a half cup of baking soda to your usual detergent on laundry day.

How to Soften Bamboo Sheets

Person adding baking soda into washing machine to wash clothes for brighter and cleaner finish
Is there anything baking soda can’t do?

Bamboo sheets, a bamboo mattress , and other natural textiles are incredibly eco-conscious and skin-friendly. However, you’ll need to take special care of them if you want to enjoy them for years to come. Some of the best tips for softening bamboo bed sheets? Try to: 

Use Baking Soda

A 1/2 cup of baking soda also softens bamboo fabrics. You want to generally avoid using vinegar on bamboo, though, unless it’s for stain removal.

Keep Temperatures Mild

As with Egyptian cotton, keep the washer and dryer heat settings milder to preserve the integrity of your sheets. Because bamboo naturally has antimicrobial properties, you don’t have to worry about keeping the water temperature lower, either. Your sheets should still come out clean.

Hang Up Your Sheets

Also like EC, hanging up your bamboo textiles can make them feel softer over time.

How to Soften Linen

Using pvc dryer balls is natural alternative to both dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener, balls help prevent laundry from clumping in the dryer. Woman hand put in a yellow spiky dryer ball.
The dryer ball: your new BFF?

Flax linen is one of the most environmentally friendly textiles you can invest in. However, it’s also one of the scratchier and stiffer fabrics you can slumber in. Unlike bamboo or Egyptian cotton, the key to softening up linen isn’t being gentle; in fact, it’s the opposite. Being a little rougher with your linens can help reduce their natural stiffness. To reduce linen’s scratchiness, you can:

Try Dryer Balls

Dryer balls are well-known as reusable alternatives to dryer sheets. Because they create friction and constantly rub against your sheets, they’re perfect for softening up tough linens. Simply throw one into your dryer, sit back, and enjoy the results.

You may also try a combination of both air-drying and machine drying; just be sure to always keep the linens on low or medium heat. Best of all, this method may help preserve linen longevity. Throw the linen in the dryer for about 10 or 15 minutes with the dryer ball. Then, remove and air dry.

Hand Wash

Once again: you can be a little rougher with linen than other fabrics. So, hand washing—which is a little harder on fabrics—will work well with linens. Just be sure not to be too harsh; avoid wringing the fabric at all costs. (You can learn more about how to wash linen sheets here.)

Throw in Some Baking Soda

There really isn’t much baking soda can’t do. Drop that 1/2 cup of baking soda into the washer on laundry day and reap the rewards later that evening.

Final Thoughts

Cheerful young woman laughing while lying on bed. Happy african american girl in bed after sleep feeling refreshed. Relaxed woman with curly hair get up of bed while looking up with copy space.

When it comes to learning how to soften sheets, there are plenty of cost-effective, simple tricks you can try. Softer bedding at a fraction of the price? It’s completely possible.

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Kristen Greif

Napper extraordinaire. Side/stomach sleeper. 25 solid years of experience with sleeping.