How To Soften Stiff Polyester Fabric

Polyester fabric is one of the world’s most used textiles. Because Polyester is a  man-made fabric, it is far less comfortable (on its own) than any other more natural fabrics. However, the fabric can be softened to reduce the uncomfortable nature of the stiff Polyester using a couple of hands-on methods. It is far less comfortable or stiff because it is made up of polymer bonds which are very strong and thus make the fabric also strong and stiff. This is not entirely bad since most of Polyester’s properties are why it is widely used and yet some people would still love their Polyester composed clothing to be a lot softer than it is. Here’s how to do it.

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What Makes Polyester Stiff?

Polyester fabric is widely used because of its resistance to wrinkles, shrinkage and stretching. So fibers or fabrics like cotton (which are very prone to wrinkles and shrinkage) are often blended with Polyester fabric to void them of these unlikely occurrences. Polyester fabric is inherently stiff and so you may find that formal clothing like men’s suits are entirely made of Polyester fabric, this is to exhibit a professional look of formality. So some people might prefer their Polyester fabric to retain its stiffness as opposed to being softened. However Stiff fabrics are often very uncomfortable and are usually worn for a short period of time. Soft fabrics do not have the same disparity, instead can be worn for longer without feeling uncomfortable in them. Polyester fabric can be softened using basic home ingredients to achieve certain comfortability.

Softening Stiff Polyester Fabric

  • Using a washing machine, make sure to set the water temperature to warm. Then pour exactly 2 ounces of your regular laundry detergent into the washing machine’s dispensary.
  • Put the stiff Polyester fabric (or clothing) into the washing machine and let the fabric complete its washing cycles in the machine.
  • When the washing machine is entering its final rinsing cycle, pour one cup of pure white vinegar into the washing machine. We use pure white vinegar because it doesn’t harm the Polyester fabric as most chemical detergents are bound to do.
  • (Pure white vinegar loosens the chemical (polymer) bonds between the Polyester fibers, giving it a more softer feel and composition. Rather than a stiff and more uncomfortable one.)
  • (A great substitute for pure white vinegar is baking soda – measured at precisely ¼ of a cup.)
  • You can then transfer the Polyester fabric to a tumble drying machine (or dryer.) Be sure that the dryer is set on a low heat to effectively soften the stiff Polyester fabric further.
  • You can now remove the Polyester fabric from the dryer after it’s tumbling cycle. Make sure not to leave the Polyester fabric in the dryer as this may cause it to produce static electricity, which then makes the clothing uncomfortably stick to the surface of your skin.

Types Of Polyester Fabric

  1. Ethylene Polyester (PET) – This is the most popular type of Polyester fabric, which is what most people will be referring to when they say ‘polyester’ even though there are plenty more types of Polyester. When PET fabric is blended with a soft fabric like cotton (as it normally is), it is far less likely to be stiff or strong but as a result it will become very durable.
  2. Plant-based Polyester – A more expensive but equally good for the environment type of Polyester fabric. It is biodegradable which makes it a far more better Polyester fabric than any other on this list. It is worth noting that fabrics made from this kind of Polyester is softer and smoother without needing any chemical additions to make it so. However Plant-based Polyester is not as durable or long-lasting as other chemically- or synthetically-based Polyester fabrics.
  3. PCDT Polyester – A more elastic Polyester fabric than the aforementioned. However this type of Polyester fabric is far less popular than PET but arguably better than PET in most ways. It is more durable than PET and so is usually used in heavy-duty applications like upholstery and curtain manufacturing. This also means that PCDT Polyester is more stiffer and stronger than PET Polyester. And softening this type of Polyester fabric would certainly make it lose all of its essential properties.

More On Softening Stiff Polyester Fabric

  • What makes other Polyester fabrics very stiff is that they are chemically treated before leaving their manufacturer’s plant. These chemical treatments only serve to strengthen the chemical bonds of the Polyester fibers. That is why to soften the stiff Polyester fabric you need to wash it with warm water, and the aid of a dilutant solution like vinegar or baking soda. This helps rid the Polyester fabric of most of these chemicals.
  • You can also (after washing) add some fabric softener or conditioner to further soften the Polyester fabric. Fabric softeners not only soften and make your clothing smell good, they also preserve them to last longer than they normally would.
  • If you want maximum softness from your Polyester fabric, you can mix both the pure white vinegar and the baking soda. Be sure to place them in the washing machine’s detergent dispensary.
  • Handwashing can also achieve the same result of softness. However it may take longer as you would would need to feel the change as you are washing with your hands (you would need to be rough on the Polyester fabric.) You also need to use warm water as it is also very crucial.


It wouldn’t help much to soften your stiff Polyester fabric (or clothing) if what you’re looking for is just softness or comfortability. There are other equally costly but more environmentally friendly fabrics that already offer that same functionality and properties. However it is understandable since even after you soften the Polyester fabric it can still retain its durability for longer. Most people soften Polyester fabric to keep the distinctive look of the fabric but make it more comfortable and well sitting on the skin of the wearer.