Even the most luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets may feel scratchy or stiff when they're brand new. Instead of stashing those scratchy sheets in the back of a closet or getting rid of them all together, soften them with household substances such as vinegar or baking soda.
Cause of Coarseness
Brand new sheets may feel scratchy or otherwise uncomfortable because of chemical coatings added by the manufacturer. These chemicals make the sheets look and feel crisp -- but too crisp may be cause for discomfort. After several washings, the chemicals fade away. If older sheets feel scratchy, it may be from the fibers in the sheets themselves, or improper washing and drying. Low thread count can also contribute to the bedding's general scratchiness. While there's a limit to the softness you can bring to low-quality sheets, natural laundry softeners such as baking soda may still help a bit.
Remove those chemical coatings that make sheets scratchy by washing them with baking soda. Select a warm or cool water setting -- not hot -- and add 1 cup of baking soda to the water. Do not add laundry detergent or fabric softener -- fabric softener makes chemicals even harder to remove, because it coats the sheets. During the final rinse cycle, add 1 cup of white vinegar and select a cold-water setting. Wash the sheets one more time, this time using detergent -- but use half the amount you normally would.
When sheets are brand new -- especially cotton sheets -- dry them on a clothesline outdoors after their first wash to help soften the fibers. If they still feel a bit stiff -- they may after the first wash or two -- wash them again, and dry them in the dryer without dryer sheets or fabric softeners. When you dry any type of sheets, new or old, add a few dryer balls to help fluff them up and keep them soft, instead of using fabric softeners or dryer sheets that leave behind a chemical residue.
Vinegar Sheet Softener
No matter how new or old your sheets, give them a dose of extra softness with 1/2 cup of white vinegar added to the wash cycle along with your usual laundry detergent. The vinegar odor dissipates on its own and won't linger in the sheets. The vinegar also helps freshen stale sheets -- and the rest of the laundry in general. For the most effective cleaning, use less laundry soap than you may think you need, and do not overfill the washer. If there's too much soap and too many items in one load of wash, the sheets may not get washed or rinsed thoroughly because they don't have enough room to move.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.