4 Reasons Why Clothes Turn Stiff After Washing

4 Reasons Why Clothes Turn Stiff After Washing

Haunted by stiff towels and shirts? This is how you can make your laundry behave (they’ll turn soft and fluffy).

When laundry feels stiff after washing, the causes include using too much detergent or the wrong kind of fabric softener. Clothes can also lose their softness due to hard water and being hand-washed.

Say goodbye to those scratchy and stiff clothing. We explain why laundry does not come out of the washer all perfect and how you can make sure that it does!

The Top 4 Causes Why Laundry Feels Stiff After Washing

Under normal circumstances, clothes should follow the TV commercial! When you are done washing them, they should feel soft and smell fresh enough to make you smile. Unfortunately, life is not a commercial and laundry seems to know this. Too often, we complete this tiring chore only to be rewarded with stiff clothes and towels. 

The good news is that your stiff laundry is most likely caused by one of the four most common culprits known to be responsible for this issue. We will discuss each one and also provide their solutions. 

Meet the monsters:

  1. Using too much detergent with the laundry.
  2. The wrong type of fabric softener.
  3. You are washing your clothes with hard water.
  4. Washing laundry by hand.

How Too Much Detergent Makes Clothes Stiff

4 Reasons Why Clothes Turn Stiff After Washing

Well, let’s face it. Without laundry detergent, one cannot really give clothes a facelift. It is a necessary part of the washing process. But the detergent itself is not the problem – it is the amount that you add to each cycle. 

When too much laundry detergent is plonked into the wash, your washing machine will struggle to remove it during the rinsing cycle. As a result, your washing might look free of detergent but the truth is a little different. In reality, there will remain enough detergent behind to cause a problem.

Let’s say you hang your clothes out to dry. During the drying process, the remaining detergent is also affected and turns fibres coarse and stiff. 

What Is The Correct Amount Of Laundry Detergent?

The answer depends on several factors. Mostly it depends on the number or weight of clothes you are about to wash. But at the end of the day, you are not left hanging. Whether it is powder, soap, liquid or capsules, the product should come with instructions to guide you.

However, things are not always as simple as following directions. Some people obey instructions in such a way that a drill sergeant would absolutely adore them – and still, the clothing turns stiff and scratchy. If you are certain that the detergent is the problem, simply reduce the amount you use (even if it is less than what the instructions suggest). By lowering the amount in increments, you will eventually find how much detergent gives the best results with your laundry and washing machine.

How Do I Soften Detergent-Affected Laundry

While you are trying to gauge the correct amount of detergent, you might still end up with a few loads of stiff clothing. Nobody knows who this genius is but someone added vinegar during the rinse cycle and some people replace fabric softener with vinegar – but it softens clothes just as well.

Here are the top 5 reasons why laundry detergent is so expensive.

Using The Wrong Type Of Fabric Softener

Fabric softener smells amazing and makes stuff fluffy! Who does not love this stuff? A lot of people, actually. Fabric softener can, ironically, make laundry anything but soft. When you use the wrong brand and the wrong amount, your towels might come out of the wash looking like scratchy surfboards. 

Some environmentalists are also very concerned about the health implications and chemicals inside fabric softener.

What Is The Wrong Type Of Fabric Softener?

4 Reasons Why Clothes Turn Stiff After Washing

While it is fun to try new things, try not to impulse-buy softener without reading a few reviews first or a glowing report from a friend. You are going to be the one holding the baby. Other warning signs include mass-produced softener (the type that comes in giant bottles with tacky labels) at a really good price. There is a reason why a good fabric softener costs so much – it takes a lot of effort and research to create a working product.

The Correct Amount Of Fabric Softener

A lot of the same rules that we previously discussed for detergent also apply to fabric softener. But here is a quick recap.

  • Always follow the directions of the products.
  • If you are sure that the softener is the problem and you have used the correct amount, lower the amount you use each time until your laundry turns out perfect.
  • Consider replacing your fabric softener with DIY hacks like a cup of vinegar.

You Are Washing Your Clothes With Hard Water

What exactly is hard water? It refers to water that contains a high amount of dissolved minerals like magnesium and calcium. Hard water is known as a troublemaker in the home. It causes limescale that can damage appliances that work with water, including plumbing, kettles, boilers, and washing machines. 

Hard water can be found in the municipal water of certain areas. Say your home has hard water, using it for laundry can make clothes feel more stiff and coarse. How? Well, those minerals are evil. Okay, not really but they attach themselves to the fibres of your laundry and cling like little magnets. The result is fabrics that are stiff and increasingly dull in appearance. 

Hard water can also cause your kettle to leak. But it might not be the only cause! Here are the top 3 reasons why your kettle is leaking water.

How Do I Fix A Hard Water Problem?

First, you have to determine if your water supply is affected. Have a look around your home and garden at all the faucets. Are there signs of limescale? If so, then you might live in a hard water area. Even if your taps look fine, you still need a more concrete answer. 

  • Call your local municipality for an answer. You can also visit their online site for queries or more information about water quality in the area.
  • Use a test kit. Most contain strips that change colour when they come into contact with water. Depending on the end colour, you will be able to see if you live in a hard or soft water area.

Okay. You have discovered that your plumbing is stuffed with hard water. Now what? First, rest assured that hard water is not considered a health concern – it is still safe to consume. But naturally, you do not like stiff laundry. The best solution is to add a hard water filter to the water outlet you use for laundry. It will remove the minerals that are responsible for rigid clothing. 

Find out why your cold water tap makes a loud noise.

Why Hand-Washing Clothes Can Cause Them To Stiffen

Many people still do laundry by hand. Whether by choice or circumstance, handwashing is labour-intensive and does not always clean as well as a washing machine. One simply cannot agitate fabrics the way a machine can! And therein lies our problem. 

Removing laundry detergent and fabric softener by hand is extremely hard. You might already feel irritated and tired after trying to scrub the clothes clean. But to then rinse and agitate the clothing in water to clean them of suds is an extra round most people only do half-way. Detergent and softener remain behind in the fabric and the results are inevitable. 

I Rinsed Like A Maniac. Why Is My Laundry Still Stiff?

Sometimes, our best efforts are seemingly not enough to get rid of all the detergent. Very often, the fault is the wrong type of detergent so hunt down those products designed specifically for hand-washing! A sprayer attached to a faucet can also help to rinse clothes more thoroughly. You can also rinse each item on its own until all the detergent is removed. 

A Quick Summary On Why Clothes Stiffen After Being Washed

  • When washed correctly, clothes should come out of the washing process looking and feeling great! But small issues can make laundry feel stiff instead.
  • The most common reasons include hard water, hand-washing, and incorrect use of detergent and fabric softener. 
  • Fixes include water filters, changing the way you hand-wash, and the correct use of detergent and fabric softener.

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About the Author Harry Thompson

Involved in home renovations throughout his life, Harry is an expert in everything to do with home and garden DIY. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and tending to his garden.