If you’re looking to soften scratchy sheets, you’re in the right place. Nobody likes the feeling of stiff sheets at night, but luckily there are plenty of easy fixes for this common problem. Whether your new sheets are feeling stiff and scratchy, or your old sheets are feeling rough and dull, this article can help!
Read on below to learn all our favorite sheet-softening hacks, plus get some tips on choosing soft sheets in the store, and find out why most people sleep better on softer sheets.
What Makes Bed Sheets Soft?
A high thread count and luxury materials are generally what make sheets feel soft. When it comes to material, long-staple cottons like Egyptian cotton and Supima cotton generally feel the softest right out of the package. On the other hand, linen sheets will feel stiff and scratchy at first, but are some of the softest sheets available once you break them in. If you’re shopping on a budget, check out jersey sheets, which will feel like an ultra-soft t-shirt.
When it comes to thread count, higher thread count sheets generally feel softer. Generally, a thread count of about 400 will feel softest. But, the appropriate thread count for your sheets depends on the fabric you choose! Check out our best material for bed sheets article to learn more about choosing a soft fabric.
Aside from material and thread count, wash care and age can also make the difference between soft and stiff sheets. Newer sheets can feel stiff because of chemical residue leftover from the manufacturing process. Don’t worry, there’s nothing dangerous on your new sheets, and if that’s the issue they should soften up quickly after a wash cycle. On the other hand, low quality sheets will feel rougher with age as they pill and break down.
When it comes to wash care, the right tricks can make your sheets feel way softer! Take a look below to learn more.
How to Soften Bed Sheets
There are tons of different ways to soften sheets. Keep in mind most of these methods work best for linen, flannel, jersey, polyester blend, and cotton sheets. Luxury fabrics like silk and sateen are very delicate, so you should stick to the washing instructions on the package if you like those fabrics.
Baking Soda or Vinegar
If you like DIY, this popular sheet-softening method should be right up your alley! Put your sheets in the washing machine with one cup of baking soda and run a full cycle using warm water. During the rinse cycle, switch to cold water and add half a cup of white vinegar to the machine. Don’t use laundry detergent during this wash. This natural, affordable method breaks down old detergent residue that can leave your sheets feeling stiff and dull.
If you want to try this out but don’t want to come back to the washing machine mid-cycle, you can put the baking soda and vinegar in at once. But, put the baking soda in the detergent compartment and the vinegar in the fabric softener compartment. If you stick them in the same compartment, they’ll react and you’ll end up with a mess on your hands (think middle school science fair volcano).
After you take your freshly baking soda-and-vinegar treated sheets out of the wash, try to line dry them outside. Putting your sheets in the dryer can cause shrinkage that makes your bed linens feel scratchy. If you don’t have a good place to line dry your sheets, tumble dry them on the lowest setting. A gentle cycle can replicate some of the softening effects of a line dry.
Fabric softener is a tried-and-true way to soften pretty much anything, sheets included. Use the softener as recommended on the label. Or, to get an ultra-soft feel, you can run your sheets through the washer using only fabric softener (skip the detergent). Fabric softener is a great way to soften stiff sheets quickly! But keep in mind that fabric softener coats the fibers of your sheets to make them feel soft. Over time, fabric softener build up makes sheets less breathable. This residue also means your sheets will wear out more quickly.
Using a natural, high-quality detergent can make your sheets feel much softer. If you already have a set of luxury sheets and find they’re not as soft after a wash, build-up from your detergent could be the culprit. Be sure to use a gentle, quality detergent to avoid this issue. You can also use less detergent (about half the recommended amount) or try rinsing your sheets twice if you want to avoid build up.
Epsom Salts or Borax
If you want the absolute softest sheets on the block, try soaking your bed linens in Epsom salts or borax. This is an ultra-gentle method and is great for fabrics that you might need to hand wash. Fill your tub with cold water and about 50 grams of Epsom salts or half a cup of borax. Hand wash the sheets by stirring them around for a few minutes to ensure they really absorb the salt.
Leave your sheets overnight to soak. In the morning, you can either rinse them in the washing machine (using cold water) or rinse them by hand. Line dry your sheets after this for the softest results.
Wash Multiple Times
If you have a new set of sheets that just won’t stop feeling scratchy, you can try washing them multiple times. Complete a dull wash and dry cycle two or three times before sleeping on your new sheets. This is not a very environmentally friendly option, but it can work wonders on fabrics that need to be broken in, like linen.
Reusable wool dryer balls are a great way to make fabric less stiff if you can’t line dry. Use them when you tumble dry your sheets on low. If you don’t have dryer balls on hand, clean tennis balls are a great substitute! Either option will soften and fluff up your sheets for you. Dryer sheets can also work well for removing static, but they’re not quite as softening.
How Can Soft Bed Sheets Lead to a Good Night’s Sleep?
Research shows that fresh, clean sheets lead to better sleep. But soft sheets can help too! High-quality, soft sheets can help you fall asleep and stay asleep more quickly, especially if you have sensitive skin. Choosing a sleep fabric that works for you is super important, especially if you sleep hot. A ton of research indicates that wearing breathable pajamas and choosing breathable bedding helps you sleep through the night.
How to Buy Super Soft Sheets
If you want to avoid needing to soften scratchy sheets, consider choosing a super soft set from the store. The best way to buy soft sheets is to consider fabric, thread count, and quality. As a general rule of thumb, cotton, bamboo, and linen tend to be the softest fabrics. You’ll want a thread count of around 400 for cotton, 300 for bamboo, and 130 for linen to get the softest feel. And finally, higher-quality sheets tend to feel soft initially and get softer over time.
If you’re buying sheets in-person, be sure to open the package and feel your new bedding! If it feels soft in the store, it should feel soft on your bed. If you’re buying online, check out our best sheets of 2022 article to find some awesome, plush options.
What are the softest bed sheets?
Egyptian cotton sheets are generally considered the most plush and soft sheets on the market. You might also want to consider other luxury cottons, like Supima.
Do sheets soften over time?
Yes, certain sheets can soften over time. Linen and luxury cotton sheets tend to break in and get softer with age. On the other hand, low quality sheets will likely pill and wear out, which can make them feel coarser over time.
Are higher thread count sheets softer?
Higher thread count sheets are often softer than low thread count sheets. But be sure to do a little research before choosing the highest thread count possible! Depending on the fabric you choose, you’ll want a different thread count. Check out our best thread count for sheets guide to decide which thread count is best for you.
Are linen sheets softer than cotton?
Cotton sheets are initially much softer than linen sheets. However, linen is an incredibly durable fabric and softens over time. If you keep your linen sheets for long enough, they’ll become the softest sheets you own. Take a look at our linen vs cotton sheets article to learn more.
What are the best soft sheets for hot sleepers?
The best soft sheets for hot sleepers are linen sheets (which are ultra-cooling and become soft over time). However, if you want cooling sheets that are super-soft right out of the packaging, check out bamboo sheets. These sheets are soft and breathable, great for hot sleepers. In fact, Oprah called the Cozy Earth bamboo sheets the softest sheets in the world.
Madison is an ex-mattress tester and current law student. When she’s not studying, she puts her accumulated mattress and bedding knowledge to good use writing articles for Mattress Clarity. A few of her favorite non-work activities include trying new restaurants, reading short stories, and watching too much reality TV.