How Do I Make My Clothes Soft And Fluffy?

Fresh laundry should be soft and snuggly, but sometimes it comes out of the dryer rough and scratchy. 

Quick links:

Why are my clothes rough?

How can I get fluffy clothes?

Should I use fabric softener?

Should I use vinegar?

Should I use baking soda?

Should I use aluminum foil?

Should I use tennis balls?

Should I use wool dryer balls?

Fortunately, there are some easy solutions that can make your clothes soft and fluffy.

For example, Smart Sheep wool dryer balls will do the job. Wanna try them?

Wool dryer balls + scenting spray bundle

Why Are My Clothes Rough After Drying?

We all love the feeling of soft and fluffy towels and clothing, but sometimes, our favorite garments come out of the clothes dryer feeling not-so-soft. 

Here are some common causes of rough-feeling laundry:

  1. Heat from your tumble dryer damages fabrics. High temperatures can cause the fibers in your clothes to become stiff and lose their softness. 
  2. Residual detergent creates clothing stiffness. If not properly rinsed, detergent can leave behind a build-up on the fabric. 
  3. Overloading or overdrying causes clothes to rub. This friction can roughen the fabric, leaving your clothes feeling anything but soft.
  4. Abrasive particles: if clothes are washed with sand or grit, the hard particles can physically scratch and damage the fibers.
  5. Bleach damage: too much bleach can chemically damage and weaken fibers, making them rough.
  6. Hard water: water that is high in mineral content like calcium and magnesium can leave behind mineral deposits that coat fibers and make fabrics feel rough. Hard water makes it harder to properly rinse out detergent as well.

How Can I Get Soft and Fluffy Clothes?

If clothes are coming out of the dryer feeling rough and scratchy, make a few adjustments:

  • Use a lower temperature setting. High heat from the tumble dryer can damage fabrics and cause stiffness. A gentle or low-heat drying cycle can help protect the integrity of the fabrics and preserve their soft texture.
  • Don't overload the dryer. Overcrowding prevents clothes from tumbling freely during the drying cycle. 
  • Avoid overdrying. Excessive drying time leads to friction between clothes, which creates roughness.
  • Add an extra rinse cycle when washing. This ensures all traces of detergent are removed before drying begins.
  • Use the appropriate amount of detergent for your laundry load and opt for a high-quality, gentle detergent that rinses away easily. Harsh detergents can leave behind residue that creates stiffness. 
  • Double-check that the rinse cycle of your washing machine effectively removes all traces of detergent from your clothes.
  • Shake out clothes before washing to remove any loose particles that could physically damage fibers.
  • Follow bleach label instructions carefully and don't exceed recommended amounts.
  • Install a water softener system to remove minerals that leave deposits and cause roughness.
  • Use aluminum foil to separate clothing as it dries. This improves air circulation for smooth, fluffy results.
  • Buy our wool dryer balls and add them to each dryer load. They will fluff and soften your laundry. Bonus: add essential oils to the dryer balls to give your laundry a fresh fragrance.

Should I Use Chemical Fabric Softeners?

Commercial fabric softeners and dryer sheets promise irresistibly snuggly laundry. But are these chemical solutions right for your clothes and health? Consider a few drawbacks before reaching for that liquid softener or scented sheet.

Many fabric softeners leave behind a filmy residue on clothing that diminishes absorbance over time. This coating can also trap odors in the fabric rather than washing them away. The added perfumes and dyes in chemical softeners can also irritate sensitive skin or trigger allergies.

Most commercial fabric softeners and dryer sheets contain quaternary ammonium compounds, which are toxic to fish and other aquatic life. These harsh chemicals remain in wastewater even after going through treatment plants. By skipping the fabric softener, you can reduce the environmental impact of doing laundry.

While chemical softeners can leave clothes feeling cosmetically softer at first, there are natural methods that soften and freshen fabrics safely. Going natural may require a small routine change, but it pays off for you and the planet.

Common Natural Fabric Softeners

When it comes to achieving soft and fluffy laundry, natural fabric softeners are a great alternative to conventional products. They are environmentally friendly and gentle on both your clothes and your skin.

Some effective natural fabric softeners are:

  1. White vinegar
  2. Baking soda
  3. Aluminum foil balls
  4. Tennis balls
  5. Wool dryer balls

Let’s see how each of them can help you get your fluffy clothes back.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is a mild acid that works to break down detergent residue, leaving laundry softer and brighter.

  • Add half a cup of vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser.
  • Helps to break down detergent residue and leaves clothes feeling softer and brighter.
  • Acts as a natural deodorizer, eliminating unwanted odors from fabrics.

Baking Soda

Known for its odor and stain-fighting abilities, baking soda also softens fabrics by neutralizing harsh detergents.

  • Add half a cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle along with your regular detergent.
  • Balances the pH levels in the wash, resulting in softer clothes.
  • Baking soda naturally neutralizes odors.

Aluminum Foil Balls

Aluminum balls make an easy eco-friendly addition to the dryer for softening fabrics.

  • Crumple up aluminum foil into tennis ball-sized balls.
  • Toss 2-3 balls into the dryer to reduce static cling and soften fabrics.
  • Creates a static-discharging effect, resulting in softer clothes.

Tennis Balls

A budget-friendly hack is adding a couple of tennis balls to the dryer to fluff and soften laundry. 

  • Add a few clean tennis balls to the dryer with your laundry.
  • Helps to fluff and separate clothes, improving airflow and reducing drying time.
  • Softens fabrics and reduces the appearance of wrinkles

Even though tennis balls are popular laundry aids, they tend to make your laundry smell balls. They can also shed bits of—you guessed it—tennis ball into your dryer. Wool dryer balls are better than tennis balls in every way, at least where laundry is concerned.

Wool Dryer Balls

The soft, felted wool of dryer balls makes them the MVP for natural fabric softening.

  • Place wool dryer balls in the dryer along with wet laundry.
  • Wool dryer balls work by gently separating clothes, allowing hot air to circulate freely. This speeds up drying time.
  • The soft surface of wool dryer balls massages clothes as they tumble in the dryer. This relaxes fibers and keeps fabrics smooth.
  • Wool dryer balls absorb moisture from fabrics, further reducing drying time.
  • They naturally reduce static, so clothes come out free of cling.
  • As a reusable option, wool dryer balls are a sustainable alternative to single-use dryer sheets. They last for over 1,000 loads.

To learn more, read all about the benefits of wool dryer balls!

Smart sheep 6 pack

Proper Laundry Habits For Soft Fabrics

Here are some tips to help you make your clothes as soft and cozy as possible.

  • Sort your clothes by fabric type before washing to prevent damage and maintain softness. Separate delicate fabrics like silk, lace, and cashmere from heavier fabrics like denim or towels. This ensures that each fabric is treated gently and receives the appropriate care it needs.
  • Choose the right detergent to achieve soft fabrics. Opt for a gentle, fragrance-free detergent specially formulated for delicate fabrics, such as Smart Sheep detergent strips. Harsh detergents with strong fragrances can leave residues on your clothes, making them feel stiff and less comfortable.
  • Lint buildup in your dryer's lint filter can have a negative impact on the softness of your clothes. Before starting each load, remember to clean the lint filter to ensure proper airflow during drying. This helps to prevent lint from transferring onto your clothes, and allows them to retain their softness.
  • For delicate fabrics such as silk, lace, or wool, it's best to avoid using a dryer altogether. Instead, opt for line drying. Hang these items on a clothesline or lay them flat on a towel to air dry naturally. By air drying delicate fabrics, you avoid exposing them to the potentially damaging heat and tumble action of a dryer, helping to maintain their softness.

Laundry FAQ

What is the best way to soften clothes?

The best way to soften clothes is to use wool dryer balls. These balls help to separate and fluff the garments, reducing drying time and softening clothes without dryer sheets or fabric softeners.

Buy our wool dryer balls and make your clothes soft and fluffy again!

Why are my clothes not soft after washing?

There are several reasons why your clothes may not be soft after washing. Some possible causes include: 

  • Using too much detergent
  • Hard water
  • Over-drying
  • Using a low-quality fabric softener
  • Using fabric-damaging laundry products

How do you keep clothes soft after drying?

To keep clothes soft after drying, there are a few steps you can take:

  1. Avoid over-drying. Do not leave your clothes in the dryer for too long, as excessive heat can make them stiff. Remove them promptly once they are dry or slightly damp.
  2. Vinegar rinse. Another natural option is to add white vinegar to the rinse cycle. This can help soften clothes by removing any residue left by detergent, which can make them feel stiff.
  3. Use dryer balls. Instead of using dryer sheets, try using wool dryer balls. These balls work by agitating the fibers in the fabric, which can help soften them naturally. They also reduce static cling.
  4. Avoid using excessive detergent. Using too much detergent can leave residue on your clothes, causing them to feel stiff. Follow the recommended dosage on the detergent packaging and avoid using more than necessary.
  5. Line dry or air dry. If possible, dry clothes in the open air or use a clothesline or drying rack. This can help maintain the natural softness of the fabric.
  6. Add essential oil. Add two or three drops of your essential oil (or use our scenting spray) to give your clothes a pleasant scent.

Remember, different fabrics may require specific care instructions, so always check the garment's care label for any additional recommendations.

What naturally softens clothes?

A natural way to soften clothes is by using vinegar as a fabric softener. Adding a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of your laundry can help break down any residue left on the clothes, making them feel softer.

Does baking soda soften clothes?

Baking soda can make clothes softer as it acts as a natural fabric softener. It can neutralize acidic odors and residue in the fabric, making fabric feel softer to the touch. Also, baking soda is a great eco-friendly stain remover.

How do you soften 100% cotton?

To soften 100% cotton, you can try the following:

  • Use wool dryer balls when drying the cotton items.
  • Add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle, as this can help to break down the fibers and make them softer.
  • Dry the cotton items on a low heat setting or hanging them to air dry, as high heat can make the fabric stiff.

Further Reading

Should I make my own wool dryer balls?

How to use wool balls?

Will essential oils on dryer balls stain my clothes?

Is it safe to use dryer sheets on baby clothes?

How can I recharge my wool balls?

Can I use dryer sheets and dryer balls together?

How can I add essential oils to dryer balls?

What are the best laundry detergents for sensitive skin?

Detergent sheets or liquid detergents—what to use?

How can I make homemade laundry detergent?