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The Curse of Stiffness


Have you ever hung dried your clothes, only to have them come out stiff? This is very common, and although hang drying does leave your clothes stiff at times, at least you’ll the peace of mind in knowing that your clothes have been spared of that torturous dryer trip they so dread. That horrific dryer trip that although leaves your clothes soft, also abuses and wrinkles your clothes, pulling away at the fibers and fading the colors. But better stiff than sorry, grandma used to say.

There are many reasons clothes can be stiff after line drying. Soap buildup due to excessive soap use during washing is one of the most common reasons for stiff clothing. This is because many common laundry detergents use highly concentrated ingredients that need to be applied sparingly. Often times people make the mistake of thinking that using more detergent will make their clothes come out cleaner, when that isn’t always the case, as discussed in another one of our articles. Too much laundry detergent will make your laundry stiffer because it builds up on your clothing’s fibers during the wash. There are also many other scientific reasons why clothes come out stiff, and we’ll discuss that in a future article.



  1. Utilize Fabric Softener During Washing

Fabric softeners are chemical compounds applied to laundry during the wrinse cycle, available in solution form or solid form. Fabric softeners do what they say soften and freshen fabric. Make sure to wash cotton fabric in the washing machine using cold or lukewarm water, depending on the color of your clothes.


  1. Wash with White Vinegar

White vinegar helps remove soap and residue build-up by naturally softening fabric, as it is a natural fabric softener. It can be used in a clothes washer as a laundry booster, fabric softener, or water conditioner by lowering the pH of the water which increases the solubility of other compounds, helping your fabrics become less stiff. The vinegar scent will pass. To soften fabrics, add a 1/2 cup of white vinegar to a load of laundry before the final rinse cycle. As an alternative, add a 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser in the washing machine before starting a cycle instead. However, do not use dark-colored vinegar because they might stain the fabric. Re-wash again and add some fabric softener as vinegar has a distinct smell.

  1. Utilize Borax

After your heap of clothing begins its flush cycle, kill the washer and include 1/4 glass to 1/2 measure of Borax, and let it soak into the laundry, as it helps to remove detergent build-up and softens fabrics. After the laundry soaks for a bit, turn the rinse cycle back on.

  1. Drench with Salt

Fill a bucket with 1 quart of cold or lukewarm water. Next, add 1/2 cup of salt for fabrics and clothes and 1 cup for bedsheets. Submerge the fabric in the bucket completely. Let it sit for two to three days before washing the cotton as usual. Include around 1/4 cup fabric softener to the clothes washer for extra delicate quality.

  1. Steam the Stiff Fabric

A simple steam cleaning can help to loosen stiff fabric, including cotton. To do this, turn your iron or laundry steam cleaner onto the steam mode and use it lightly on the fabric.

  1. Wash with Baking Soda

Not only does baking soda give you whiter whites and brighter colors, but it also helps with the stiffness of line drying! Add 1/2 to 1 cup of baking soda to your normal wash cycle, depending on the load size. Then, add the baking soda as the machine fills with water. The soda helps boost your detergent’s strength, eliminates any odors present, and softens the water.

  1. Shake the Clothes Very Well

Shake out your clothes before hanging them. The shake will help your clothes have more ‘bounce’ as the wind from outdoors or from your Tidalpool dries them. This may make a mess, so be careful.

  1. Use Less Laundry Detergent in the Washer

It is the residue of detergent left in your laundry that causes the clothes to be stiffer when you line dry them. Cut the amount of detergent that you use in the washing machine. Half the recommended amount is usually plenty to get your clothes clean.

  1. Windy Day Equals Softer Clothing

Hang your clothes out on a windy day and the breeze will help fluff them so they won’t be as stiff. Keep in mind if you’re Tidalpooling your clothes, then you’re already set, as the concentrated warm air will not only dry your clothes but help to fluff them as well.




And for those of you who don’t like line drying, there’s another option – it is, afterall, 2017. There’s wonderful stuff like the Tidalpool Portable Dryer with UV Lamp around, and for those who didn’t know, that is the middle ground between a tumble dryer damaging your clothes and line drying leaving them stiff.

By using a Tidalpool Portable Dryer, your clothes won’t take the same damage as if you put them through a drying machine. But at the same time, they won’t be as stiff as if you left them out to dry. Below are a few tips to deal with stiff fabrics.