Vinegar, fabric softener and dryer sheets all remove stiffness from cotton fabric. New cotton fabrics tend to be stiff until they are washed, but stiffness can also be caused by soap build up and dirt and other items sticking to the fibers. Vinegar dissolves stuck-on soap. Fabric softener and dryer sheets coat the fibers with chemicals to make them softer, according to schiff-consulting.com. These items also reduce static electricity. Vinegar is the most environmentally and biologically safest additive to use. However, if you have some cotton clothing or fabric that needs to be softened, any of these three methods will work well.
Load the washer as you normally would with cotton fabric.
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Pour in the laundry detergent.
Start the wash cycle.
Measure out 1/4 cup of vinegar. Pour it in the washing machine right before the last rinse cycle. If you'd rather use commercial fabric softener, pour a capfull into the wash during the last rinse cycle.
Put the wet cotton fabric in the dryer and add one or two dryer sheets for an added boost of softness or as a substitute for using the vinegar or liquid fabric softener. Run the dryer as you normally would.