How to Soften Low Thread Count Sheets (Easy Hack)

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Thread count is something that’s mentioned a lot when discussing sheets. Usually, the expert advice is to buy sheets with a thread count considered to offer the durability and softness most people want from a bedsheet (more on that later).

But what if you have a set of low thread count sheets that you can’t part with right now – for budget, convenience or even sentimental reasons – that you wish felt less like sandpaper against your skin and more like those silky soft hotel sheets from your last vacation. How to soften low thread count sheets? Can it be done?

The basic answer is yes, you can soften low thread count sheets, and the hack to do so is pretty simple and inexpensive. We’ll get to it in a moment.

However, first, let’s take a look at why thread count matters at all when it comes to sheets, and why you might want to replace those low thread count bedsheets after all. 

What is Thread Count, and Why Does It Matter?

Expensive looking high quality soft sheets and pillowcase set

Any set of sheets you buy new will have their thread count listed somewhere. The funny thing is that while a lot of people have heard of it, and think that the higher the number the better, they don’t actually understand it at all, or what bedding and textile experts say that sweet spot thread count number really is.

Thread count is a count of the threads used to weave one square inch of cloth. The horizontal sections are known as weft weave, while the vertical threads are known as warp weave when the yarn is woven in a crisscross pattern.

The total thread count is determined by adding the warp and weft yarns together. A higher thread count bedsheet usually produces a sheet that is softer and more durable. But that thread count need not, experts say, be as high as you might think. There does come a point when adding to the thread count just won’t make a difference anymore. That’s at about a 500 thread count, with as low as 300 offering almost the same advantages.

Why then do companies sell 1,000 thread count sheets? It’s a marketing thing, its effectiveness relying on the fact that most consumers don’t understand textiles and thread counts.

When possible, investing more in higher thread count sheets does offer good ROI. They will feel softer, and will last longer. If you choose an option like high thread count cotton sheets, they will even be easier to care for.

[Learn More: The Ultimate Guide to Thread Count]

Why Would You Buy Low Thread Count Sheets?

White bedding sheets matching set with striped duvet cover and pillow cases

The obvious reason that anyone would buy low thread count sheets is a monetary one. Higher thread count sheets come with a higher price, and that price can get pretty steep, especially for a higher end fabric like cotton. Spending a lot on sheets may not be a priority for you right now.

Some older sheets might also have a lower thread count, but you love them anyway. Maybe they were your grandmother’s, or they are the cartoon character bedsheets your child refuses to sleep without.

How To Soften Low Thread Count Sheets

Use a mild detergent when caring for special bed sheets.

So, you have low thread count sheets that, for now at least, you want to keep in use, but you would love it if they were a little softer. And we promised you a simple hack to achieve that.

So, without further ado, here’s how to soften low thread count sheets.

What You’ll Need

  • Your Sheets
  • Your Washing Machine
  • Gentle detergent (Baby Dreft is a good choice that is hypoallergenic and smells great.)
  • Household Baking Soda (just the stuff you use in the fridge is fine).
  • White Vinegar
Goya White Vinegar - Distilled, 1 Gallon

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Dreft Stage 2 Active Baby Laundry Detergent - Original Baby Fresh Scent - 50 oz

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How It’s Done

  • Add your sheets to the washer
  • As the washer fills, add detergent, a cup of baking soda and a half cup of white vinegar.
  • Wash as usual on the cycle recommended for your sheets. Most cotton sheets can be washed on a hot cycle, but other fabrics may need a lower temperature to avoid shrinkage. Check the label if you are not sure.
  • Dry your sheets outside if possible, or on a low heat in your dryer if not. If you do use a dryer, consider adding a dryer ball, as they soften sheets even further while also removing piling that may have built up over time.
Wool Dryer Balls - Natural Fabric Softener, Reusable, Reduces Clothing Wrinkles and Saves Drying Time. The Large Dryer Ball is a Better Alternative to Plastic Balls and Liquid Softener. (Pack of 6)

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Why does such a simple hack make low thread count sheets softer?

The pH of baking soda is 9, which is strong enough to soften your sheets without being harmfully high enough to damage the less durable low thread count fabric. With a pH of about 2.5, white vinegar is very acidic.

It is highly beneficial for softening your sheets’ scratchy fibers without damaging or stretching them. There are other advantages of making use of this sheet softening hack.

Baking soda is great for removing stubborn stains and strong odors without the chemicals that some laundry detergents contain.

And whether your low thread count sheets are white or colored white vinegar can help them look brighter, without the need for bleach, which can, of course, damage even cotton over time if the thread count is not very high.

Before you go, check out some of our other articles:

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