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How do I soften up denim?

Sussana | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

I made a colored denim jumper and it turned out a little to stiff for my taste, does anyone have any tips on how to soften it up?



  1. fabricholic | | #1

    All I know is; wash and dry, wash and dry, wash and dry. Eventually, the threads will break down and be softer, especially if it is 100% cotton.

  2. tmorris1 | | #2

    Sussana;Did you pre-wash the denim before you used it?? If the garment is well fitted, you may find that it will shrink in the process of trying to wash out the sizing in the fabric (the coating that makes it stiff). Be careful to wash in cold now, and tumble dry on low. Also a 1/2 hour soak in a solution of 4 parts water, 1 part white vinegar and 1 part epsom salts will help to set the color in your denim so that it will not fade as much, and will likely help with the stiffness.Remember in the future that you should always pre-wash your fabrics. I know that it takes time, but you will be much happier with the end result.Happy SewingT.

    1. Sussana | | #3

      Oh yes, I prewashed it, a few times - I'm a prewash finatic!

      and if it shrinks a little its fine it can afford it.  I'll try the vinegar/epsom salt thing its a pretty cornflower blue and I like the color a lot.

      but I guess I was hoping that after the fact, now that its made, there was some special tip to beat the heck out of it so that it was a little more flexable.   : )

      1. tmorris1 | | #4

        Beating the heck out of it would certainly loosen the fibers LOL!!

    2. solosmocker | | #9

      T., I just want to say that I am amazed at your experience and knowledge. This post has been another one of yours that has blown me away with your answer. Thanks so much for hangin' around. I learn a lot from your responses. soloETA: did you know that if you put about a TBSP of epsom salts on your green pepper plants they will produce like rabbits? Really. Oh, wrong board, ;)

      Edited 7/2/2007 10:14 pm ET by solosmocker

      1. tmorris1 | | #10

        Oh, Solo, you flatter me so...The people on this message board are all so sweet, how could I not want to share with you all!!! Now, I'm off to sprinkle my pepper plants with epsom salts. Salsa for EVERYONE!!! LolT.

  3. ValerieJ | | #5

    I'm wondering if tennis balls in the washer and/or dryer would help to soften it. It seems like you need a lot of agitation to really soften the fibers.

    Maybe beating it on stones for that stone-washed look would help :-)

  4. Crazy K | | #6

    I think I have heard/read somewhere sometime ago that washing with detergent and a very healthy dose of fabric softener in the wash water will soften denim.  I may be crazy (see the handle?) but I keep thinking about that and decided to throw in my nickel's worth.  Guess it wouldn't hurt anything to try it...........maybe someone else remembers this tip and can remember the details more correctly!


    1. Pattiann42 | | #11

      I was going to recommend extra softener in the rinse water. 

      Putting softener in with detergent reduces the suds to zip, but if the purpose is just to soften then I guess it wouldn't matter if the two were combined.  

      Some detergents come with softener in them, but I don't think they clean or soften as well as the individual products.



      1. Crazy K | | #12

        You know.......I think I heard this on Sandra Betzina's show years ago........the old brain just doesn't keep up to speed these days!! LOL  I thought she said to put gobs of fabric softener in with the wash (we're softening not cleaning) but putting it in the rinse would help, too.  Maybe a warm water rinse and tons of softener...........might help.

        I agree that detergent alone is far better than those that combine. 

  5. PASDENOM | | #7

    A lot of denim, and many other fabrics, have some lycra in them, which makes them stiff. If it stretches when you pull that might be your problem. You also might have chosen a denim meant for pants that is a bit too thick for a dress.

    1. Sussana | | #8

      Well, it doesn't have any lycra in it. 

      But I think that the fabric was probably more suitable for pants -- but it was the perfect color!  (I think I was in denial when I decided it would be fine.) 

      so here I am wishing that there was some extraordinary tecnique to soften it up...

  6. Fruzzle | | #13

    I'm gonna second the tennis-ball-in-the-dryer suggestion. I did this for a stiff quilted cotton skirt, and it had much more drape to it afterwards.

  7. User avater
    Becky-book | | #14

    There are balls (about the size of tennis balls, with knob all over) designed to go in the dryer, for softening.


  8. mygaley | | #15

    I once read directions for softening jeans that said put your jeans on to soak in the washer with two cups fabric softener and soak for 24 hours. I tried this with Downey and had good results. Galey

    1. proegge | | #16

      Does anyone know if this would also work for just regular cotton quilt fabric?  I found the perfect print for a summer dress, but quilt fabric is a little too stiff for me-I really want something very lightweight.  I was going to prewash several times, but don't want to lose all the color before I even make the dress!  I will try the epsom salts, but was wondering about using the tennis balls with the lighter weight fabric. 


      I was going to suggest putting actual punice stones in with the denim in the wash-that is what they use to stonewash-sometimes you'll still find them in the pockets when you buy jeans.


      1. Josefly | | #17

        I think if you use any abrasive process on your quilt cottons you will lose depth of color very quickly, no matter how you try to set the color with vinegar or epsom salts. One reason cottons look faded quickly is often not just because the dyes have faded, but because the surface of the cloth has been abraded, and there is actually a little fine fuzz that is raised on the fabric, making the print colors look faded. I always wash my cotton garments inside out for this reason. Your quilt cottons will soften naturally after a couple of washes.

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