How to Soften Linen Sheets?

  • Are new linens typically soft and cozy? Not really. Brand new sheets can feel more scratchy than soft because of the treatments used in the manufacturing process. Before the linen is turned into clothes or bedding, it’s usually pre-softened by the manufacturer. 
  • Linen is a fabric made from very fine fibers, derived from the flax plant—carefully extracted, spun into yarn, and then woven into long sheets of durable fabric. What’s more, linen fabric is known in the whole textile industry for its exceptional sturdiness. 
  • Do you feel that your newly-bought linen sheets are not as soft as you expected them to be? What can you do about it? In this article, we’ve gathered a few effective methods—such as tennis balls, machine washing, a cup of baking soda, or a cup of vinegar—to soften your linen fabrics safely at home.

Linen bed sheets—introduction

Bast fiber like 

  • flax (linen), 
  • hemp, 
  • jute, and 
  • ramie 

derive from the inner fibrous layer of plants. 

They’re natural, low-impact fibers that make 4.5% of all fibers consumed globally. It’s a soft woody fiber obtained from stems of dicotyledonous plants—flowering plants with net-veined leaves. The industry uses this type of fiber for textiles and cordage.

Linen is a strong and sturdy material. Before becoming our linen bedding sheets, pillowcases, or clothes, it’s often pre-softened by the manufacturer in a special softening process. This way, linen items become more comfortable and ready for our daily use. 

Linen sheets are trending during hot summer days. They are light, breathable, and made of “green,” sustainable material.

Once softened, linen sheets become super comfy and easy to wash and dry. Besides, they are super comfortable; you don’t even have to iron them in most cases!

Important: Linens constructed with 100% cotton and a thread count measuring at least 250 to 300 (referred to as higher thread count) are almost always softer, more luxurious, and of higher durability than sheets of a lower thread count.

One of the linen items worth knowing is the Terry cloth towel made of natural linen. It’s made of 100% heavy-weight linen flax loops and a cotton base, which makes it perfectly soft and plush. A good terry robe has thick, uncut loops to give it an even heavier and warmer appeal.

How to soften linen bedding at home?

Now, the question is—how do we soften the initially-stiff linen fabric at home? After all, having linen scratchy bedding isn’t the nicest experience. 

What solutions can we apply safely to our linen items to soften linen fabric? 

Try any of the natural softening methods presented in this article—time (and washing), baking soda, vinegar, or dryer balls;

Wash your linen bedding more often

For example, linen gets softer with a simple wash, unlike cotton. Why? It’s a simple reaction: the pectin from natural fiber (the fiber that binds the fibers) gently breaks down in every wash cycle.  

Most linen is best washed in cool to cold water in the gentle cycle and dried on low heat. 

Every water temperature (warm or cold water) in the washing process can soften linen sheets by itself, even without any extra fancy fabric softeners. More so, fabric softeners strengthen the opposite effect—they can coat linen strands in a chemical residue that can negatively affect the porousness of the fabric, not letting it soften naturally.

So our very first advice is simple—don’t steer away from washing your linen sheets on a gentle cycle often. Regular washing of the linen sheets turns the linen fibers more flexible and soft.

Pure linen is a genuinely magical fabric. Thanks to its unique qualities, it gets shinier, softer, and comfier to wear after each wash.

After washing, toss your linen fabric in the dryer sheets at low temperature (you can also drip dry them on a line). 

Tip: Don’t let your linen fabrics become completely dry. Instead, remove linen items while they are still slightly damp. This will help you avoid setting in wrinkles and increasing the stiff feeling.

This method is easy but, naturally, requires time. After all, you can’t just wash your linen bedding over and over, so it takes weeks to put the complete use-and-wash linen soften cycle in practice. So you would also have to equip yourself with more than a dash of patience.    

If you don’t have any of those—simply move further to the next natural fabric softening method below.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a very natural cleaning powder.

We talk and write about it all the time because it serves plenty of purposes in our households (check, for example, our article “Does baking soda kill bed bugs?”)

But baking soda is not only a natural cleaner but also a great fabric softener perfectly able to soften linen sheets.

So consider using a cup of baking soda to soften linen sheets. This inconspicuous powder can soften your linen fabric bedding sheets in just one go! 

There are a few simple ways to use baking soda:

  1. Pour some baking soda into the laundry detergent tray—mix regular washing powder with ½ cup of baking soda. Then, drop your bedding in the washing machine running its usual wash cycle.
  1. Soak your linen sheets into the baking soda solution before washing—fill the bowl with warm or cool water and pour the whole bag of soda into it. Then, simply soak the linen sheets in this solution overnight, or even for 24-48 hours. The more baking soda you use, the stronger the softening effect. After that, simply wash the items in a regular way in a washing machine and dry them.

Important: Most linens can be washed in a conventional washing machine (unless marked for hand washing or dry cleaning only). Vintage linen or heavily embroidered linen should be hand washed in cold water with a gentle detergent. Read more on “How to wash linen?

  1. Dissolve some baking soda directly in the water if you hand wash your linen sheets—simply dissolve half or a full cup of baking soda into the water before washing. Then, hand wash your bedding sheets as you would typically do. 

White Vinegar

Another natural solution to soften linen fabric is white vinegar! 

Tip: Vinegar is also commonly advised as a cleaning method. 

Here are a few different ways to use vinegar as a natural fabric softener:

  • Use vinegar in place of a chemical fabric softener—if you’re machine washing your linen sheets, replace the chemical fabric softener by adding a solution made of ½ cup of vinegar and ½ cup of water,
  • Simply wash your linen sheets with vinegar—wash the linen sheets in the washing machine adding ½ cup of pure white vinegar instead of washing powder. After that, wash the clothes again under the regular washing cycle using regular cleaning detergents,
  • Soak your linen sheets into the vinegar solution before washing—pour one cup of vinegar into one gallon of water and leave the linen sheets soaking in this solution overnight. The next day, simply drop them in the washing machine.

Tip: Vinegar not only softens the linen fabric but also removes the remaining residue of the washing powder or scent from the laundry.

Dryer Balls

Dryer balls are a well-known mechanical fabric softener used to soften bedding and garments.

If you have already checked baking soda and vinegar options, have a look at the “traditional” dryer balls method!

There are various shapes, colors, and materials that dryer balls come in. They can be made of rubber or plastic, but the most commonly used are pure wool.

Dryer balls are an excellent, delicate alternative to chemical and toxic fabric softeners, while they provide almost the same effect as the latter!

Put two or three balls into the dryer to soften the linen fabric and speed up the drying process to 25%.

The working principle of the dryer balls is that they prevent the laundry from clumping together during the drying process. 

This way, the hot air can circulate freely, allowing the natural fibers to keep separate. That’s precisely why your linen sheets become soft and comfy at the end of a drying cycle!

Tip: If you don’t have specific dryer balls at home, look for tennis balls. Tennis balls will do the same trick with your linen laundry in the same way a professional dryer ball would. 

You are now fully prepared to break the myth about linen bedding sheets not being comfortable because of their itchy feel on the skin. New linen sheets might feel like that at first, but achieving the softening effect is within your reach with our easy and effective methods. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

It depends on their condition. Brand-new linen sheets that weren’t pre-softened by the manufacturer may not feel very soft. However, there are several effective ways to soften the linen fabric. Besides, the linen tends to soften over time naturally. If you have enough patience, you don’t even have to put any effort—just use your linen sheets and watch them become softer with time!
Linen fabric is known to be the strongest natural fiber in the world, which contributes to its exceptional durability and longevity. In the past, this material was used in paper money and woven into armor by ancient Greeks, thanks to being so strong. Linen is 30% thicker and stronger than cotton.
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