Ways to Soften a T-shirt

Soft t-shirts are cozy and comfortable; this is why we practically live in them; the durability and the ability to pair well with any outfit.

Unfortunately, we are not always lucky to get instant softness from our shirts, and who wants to wait a while before breaking in the softness.

Other than comfort and aesthetics, another crucial reason for softening t-shirts is to remove the hard and irritable coating applied to shirts to make shipping easier.

How to Soften a T-shirt

Most t-shirts are cotton or polyester or a blend of the two. As a result, you can soften your shirts without causing damage.

These are some of the many ways to soften your shirts.

Vinegar Wash

Vinegar is a great laundry product. It cleans stains, whitens clothes, deodorizes, it even makes the washer cleaner and fresher. In this instance, vinegar will work wonders in softening cotton t-shirts.

The vinegar wash is simply dousing t-shirts in a solution of vinegar. Always use white vinegar for this process as other types of vinegar have colors that can stain the t-shirts, creating another problem.

Don’t worry about the smell; it doesn’t linger on clothes after washing.


  • Make the vinegar solution by adding one cup of water to a sizable bowl or measuring cup and then pouring one cup of white vinegar into the cup.
  • Separate the t-shirts by color and place them in the washing machine. Do not overload the washer.
  • Pour the vinegar mixture into the detergent dispenser or the washer.
  • Start a wash cycle following the shirt’s care label instructions, but do not add any laundry detergent.
  • Dry the shirts after the wash cycle ends, and they should be soft.
  • Alternatively, wash the shirts with laundry detergent and pour vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser during the rinse cycle.
  • Repeat the process if you’re not satisfied with the degree of softness.

Salt Brining

The salt brining technique is suitable for cotton, polyester shirts, or a shirt with a cotton/polyester blend. Brining is an age-old method of increasing the moisture of certain items to soften and preserve them.

In this instance, it uses salt as the main ingredient because salt is a natural fabric softener. The process sees water and salt break down and remove the outer stiff fiber layer of the shirt, leaving it with the newly revealed soft layer.

You will have to exercise patience with this method because it lasts for an extended period.


  • Get a large pot that will contain the shirt(s) you want to soften.
  • Fill the pot with enough water, almost to the top. If the shirts you’re softening are cotton, use cold water, but if they are polyester shirts, use warm water. Follow the instructions on the care label to avoid confusion.
  • Pour a cup of salt into the water and stir till the salt dissolves.
  • Turn on the stove and place the pot of salt water to boil.
  • When the water boils, wet the shirt(s) with cold water to make it easy to submerge in the water.
  • Turn the heat to low and place the shirts into the pot.
  • Use a wooden spoon to shove the shirt deep into the water and stir continuously for a few minutes.
  • Cover the pot with a lid and leave it for 45 minutes.
  • Afterward, remove the shirt(s) from the pot with a tong.
  • Fill a large bowl with cold water and pour one cup of salt.
  • Transfer the shirt(s) into this mixture and soak for hours or days, depending on how soft you want the shirt(s) to be.
  • Rinse with cold water to remove the salt water and place the shirt(s) in the washer for a normal wash cycle.

Using a Dryer

The advice is to favor air drying over tumble drying. In most cases, this is the case because we’re trying to preserve the lifespan of the clothing. However, when softening shirts, we’re trying to do the opposite.

Hastening the age of the shirt is the fastest way to get it vintage soft. So, keep your shirts away from natural air – which will only harden the fiber – and toss them in the dryer.

The dryer mechanism uses agitation, spinning, and heat to dry clothes. Usually, you can control the intensity, the speed of the spinning, and the degree of heat to suit various fabrics, but it still causes wear and tear.

Because of the heavy mechanics, the moisture level in the dryer is high, causing the clothes to come out softer.

However, if you don’t want to risk too much wear and tear, hang the clothes in a temperature-controlled room till it dampens, and then place the shirt(s) in the dryer to complete drying.

Using Abrasive Cleaning Agents

Using abrasive cleaning agents to soften your t-shirts should be the last resort because it is a labor-intensive, lengthy process.

This process is for t-shirts with logos and designs, vinyl t-shirts, or tie-dye t-shirts. The other methods will not be suitable for shirts that bleed color; hence, abrasive cleaning agents can be an alternative.

Abrasive washing is usually reserved for tough fabrics like jeans because there is a high risk of damage. But, be careful when using this method on cotton t-shirts; excessive force can cause damage.

Abrasive cleaning agents employed in this process are; the preferred scouring pads and the harder pumice stones.

Scouring Pad Procedure:

  • Soak the scouring pad in a bucket or bowl of hot water for 20 minutes.
  • Place the shirt(s) on a flat surface near a bucket to avoid excessive water spillage.
  • Run the scouring pad over the shirt for ten minutes, especially the neckline and sleeves, but avoid any designs on the shirt(s).
  • Pour a cup of salt and a ¼ cup of washing soda into a bowl and stir until it incorporates.
  • Place your shirt(s) inside the washer and put it on the highest heat setting or whatever setting the shirt(s) care label allows.
  • Pour the washing soda mixture into the washer as if it were the detergent. It will break down the fiber further.
  • Wash the shirt(s) and dry them as usual.
  • Repeat the process if it is not satisfactory.

Pumice Stone Procedure:

  • Gently brush your shirt with a pumice stone, especially the hemline and the sleeves, for 20 minutes.
  • Fill a sizable bowl or bucket with cold water and pour in a fabric softener.
  • Soak the shirt(s) in the mixture for hours or overnight, based on your preference.
  • Afterward, rinse the shirt(s) with cold water and run a normal wash cycle,

Fabric Softener

Eventually, time, frequent use, and washing of the t-shirt break down the fiber. The reaction we’re chasing by using these methods will happen if we wait a little or a while.

However, we can reach the destination faster if we add fabric softener to our regular laundry.

Fabric softener will line the shirt with a film that will eventually soften it with time.

How to Keep the T-shirts Soft

It’s one thing to have a soft t-shirt; it’s another to maintain the softness. Good laundry practices will preserve the coziness of our t-shirts for an extended period.

  1. Read the t-shirts’ care label.

The care label will have instructions on the water temperature and the wash cycle. These instructions will help maintain the softness of the shirt(s).

  1. Use a Good Quality Fabric Softener

Don’t skip out on quality when selecting your fabric softener, and also follow the instructions on the label to ensure you’re using the appropriate amount per load.

  1. Use Dryer Sheets and Dryer Balls

Dryer sheets and dryer balls are items that soften and fluff clothes in the dryer. Use either a dryer sheet or dryer balls, and not both.

Place dryer sheets in your t-shirts’ drawer to keep them soft long after drying.


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