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Softening Stiff Material

Softening Stiff Material

Q.  I am wondering whether any other reader could help me with softening ‘stiff’ material.  I purchased some 65% polyester 35% cotton yesterday to make a couple of dresses.  I was assured by the sales assistant that my concerns over the stiffness of the material would be allayed by washing and that it was just a ‘dressing’ that remained on the material.  I washed both pieces with normal liquid and then a fabric conditioner and hung to dry.  Alas there is no change.  I made one dress up and it feels like wearing cardboard.  What can I do?  Is there a common household solution? Thanks –Natasha

A. A suggestion for making material softer.  Use your dryer instead of hanging it to dry.  The "tumbling" action in the dryer can soften many fabrics. Cathie

A. Put 1/2 cup salt in the rinse water.  or try 1/2 cup vinegar.  the salt usually works.

A. This may not be frugal, but try running it thru a dryer. I hang clothes outside in the summer so I can have that crispness, but even towels are like cardboard if they do not go thru the dryer. This may be the same thing with your poly/cotton. –Good luck! faroe


A. When I leave things out to air dry they always end up stiff.  So now I put them in the dryer when they are almost dry (on low or fluff) this has helped soften them up.  Careful not to use to much heat when you dry, this will slowly dull the colors.

A. This shouldn’t happen after you have both washed and used fabric softener. I would first take the article back to where you purchased the material and ask for a refund. If they refuse, get the name of the fabric manufacturer, write them and explain fully what you used on the fabric.  Be sure to include a swatch of the fabric as proof.  I have found that contacting most companies appreciate hearing from a consumer if there is a problem.  More likely than not, they will replace it.

A. To help soften stiff material, run it through the washing machine (warm wash/cold rinse), using 1 cup of nonfat dry milk in place of your usual soap.  Then use the clothes dryer to dry.  My mother was allergic to the chemicals that kept clothes looking nice on the store racks, and her dermatologist gave her this advice many years ago.

A. Some fabric manufacturers get carried away with the sizing. As a professional historical clothier I have ran into this several times.  I have found that adding a good amount of white vinegar to the the load you wash it in will not only help set any dyes that may run, but will also remove any and all sizing.  Be aware however that if the fabric is shiny it may also remove the shine. Also hanging it out to dry on a very windy day also helps loosen up the fabric.

A.  I have softened fabric in the past by adding about 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar to the first rinse water.

10 thoughts on “Softening Stiff Material”

  1. Years ago, my little boy had a coat which got badly stained. The instructions were dry clean only, so I had it dry cleaned. Came back still stained. Thought, well I can’t use it like this anyway, so bungled it in the washing machine. Came out like new. It wasn’t stiff, but it was supposedly dry clean only, so have a go if you haven’t already.

  2. My 50% cotton 50% acrylic scarf that was hand wash only went through the washer. It is now stiff and keeps sticking to its self (it isn’t sticky, it acts more like static without the electricity… If that makes sense.) How do I soften it to its former silky softness?

  3. I use cotton yarn to make baby washcloths but find it kind of “harsh”. Is there a way to soften it after it is made? I also like to make bibs or burp cloths but would like to soften these as well. In the U.S. they have a yarn called” I Love this Yarn” but cannot get over there any more. Many tks for any help you can provide. I live in Canada.

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