​Why is my bedding fabric stiff and how can I soften it?

Posted by Kimberly Morrison on 8th Mar 2023

​Why is my bedding fabric stiff and how can I soften it?

New bedding can be stiff and uncomfortable. There are a few reasons why this happens. Fortunately, you can soften your bedding using quick, easy steps.

Why is my bedding fabric stiff?

There are two main types of fibers used in bedding: natural and synthetic. Each has its own characteristics that can affect the softness of the fabric.

Natural fibers

  • Cotton is commonly used in bedding because it is so versatile. It is soft and breathable without sacrificing durability. Cotton can be a soft and breathable all-seasons blanket or an excellent fabric for protecting your bed or pillow. It can sometimes be stiff when it's new because of the manufacturing process, which can include chemicals or manual compression (ironing). Cotton can also remain stiff if it has a low thread count.
  • Linen is also a durable fabric that absorbs moisture and dries quickly. It can be stiff when it’s new because the linen fibers are thicker and coarser than other natural fabrics.
  • Wool is often sought after because it feels so warm and cozy. In fact wool insulates better than cotton because it’s heavier, loftier and thicker than cotton. However, even wool can be stiff when it is new, especially if it is overly chemically treated. Natural wool becomes softer over time, with use.

Synthetic Fibers

  • Polyester is long-lasting and wrinkle-resistant material that is often used for bedding. When built to last and treated with anti-microbial and water-proof coatings, it can protect your mattress. When blended with cotton, polyester can provide an excellent combination of softness and offer a cool touch feeling to your bedding and wick moisture away. Fabric treatments can make polyester stiff when it is new.
  • Nylon is a flexible, lightweight material typically blended with polyester or other fabrics. However, it can be stiff and rough when it's new because of fabric treatments that help protect your mattress from spills and microbes.
  • Acrylic is another synthetic material often used in bedding because of it is soft, durable, it doesn’t shrink, and it doesn’t wrinkle. However, it can be stiff and scratchy when it's new.

How to Soften Bedding Fabric

Fabric may start out stiff, but it doesn’t have to stay that way for long. Here are a few tips for making your new bedding feel soft and luxurious.

Washing Tips

  • Choose the right detergent. Gentle detergents designed for delicate fabrics may make your new bedding feel softer with just a few washes. It’s best to avoid bleach or harsh detergents because they can damage the fibers and make the fabric feel stiff.
  • Use vinegar or baking soda. You can alternate adding a cup of white vinegar or a cup of baking soda when you wash your bedding to make the bedding softer, brighten the fabric, and leave your bedding smelling fresh.
  • Avoid overuse of fabric softeners. Fabric softeners may seem like the best way to soften your bedding, but they add a waxy coating to fabrics that reduces moisture-wicking and makes fabrics stiff over time.

Drying Tips

  • Air dry. Hanging your bedding on a clothesline to air dry can prevent unnecessary wear and tear on fabric, keeping it softer longer.
  • Use dryer balls. If you prefer to use a dryer, add dryer balls. Dryer balls fluff up fabric to prevent it from becoming stiff while helping the fabric to dry completely.
  • Choose the right heat setting. When using a dryer, use a low heat setting to prevent shrinking and stiffness.

Ironing Tips

  • Steam ironing: A steam iron is an excellent tool for smoothing out and softening your bedding.
  • Choose the right heat setting: Using the right amount of heat can smooth out your bedding. However, be sure to use a low heat setting on your iron to protect your bedding from heat damage that can cause stiffness.
  • Use starch or fabric softener: If you prefer to use a starch or fabric softener, use it sparingly to keep your bedding soft over time.

Additional Tips to Keep Bedding Soft

Proper Storage

  • Use a storage bag. Store your bedding in a breathable storage bag. A breathable bag will prevent moisture from becoming trapped and causing mold or mildew. Mold and mildew can damage your fabric and reduce the soft texture.
  • Avoid moisture. Store your bedding in a cool dry space. This will keep your bedding from accumulating mold and mildew over time.
  • Keep away from sunlight. Store your bedding away from direct sunlight. Sunlight is great for drying your bedding, but it can cause damage to the fabric over time, leaving it stiff and uncomfortable.

Regular Maintenance

  • Wash bedding regularly. Wash your bedding every one to two weeks. Regular cleaning prevents buildup that can damage your bedding and make the fabric stiff.
  • Avoid overloading the washer. Overloading the washing machine when you wash your bedding can prevent it from getting clean. When bedding doesn’t clean properly, the buildup of dirt and oils can make the fabric stiff.
  • Use gentle cycles. Gentle washing cycles clean the bedding without damaging the fabric. A harsher washing cycle can damage the fabric and make it less soft.

Benefits of Soft Bedding Fabric

  • Improved comfort: a soft bed is a comfortable bed! When you’re comfortable, you can relax and fall asleep more easily.
  • Better sleep quality: soft bedding promotes better sleep quality. When you are in a soft and comfortable bed, you can remain asleep throughout the night.
  • Longer lasting bedding: purchasing high-quality bedding and exercising proper care and maintenance will leave you with bedding that can last a long time, making it a worthwhile investment.

Bedding quality can make a big difference in your world. Investing in good quality bedding and maintaining your bedding well will improve your sleep quality. We hope these tips will help improve your sleep. Good sleep is the cornerstone of healthy living. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.