The Easiest Way To Soften Up Your Fave T-Shirts

Everybody loves the feeling of a well-worn tee. Soft, thin, and light as a feather, a comfy t-shirt is a go-to fashion staple. Airy and breathable? Check. Timelessly chic? Check. Versatile enough to dress up or dress down in countless outfit combinations? Check. However, not every t-shirt has that drapey, figure-flattering flutter that we all adore. Somehow, our closets instead end up jam-packed with stiff, heavy tees that don't even make good pajamas.

This almost unavoidable accumulation of bulky t-shirts is understandable. When you come across a tee with a sentimental or must-have design, you can't always worry about the weight and texture of the garment. Maybe you're a sucker for a band tour shirt, an irresistible fandom tee, or nostalgic souvenirs like that "Bride Squad" design from your bestie's bachelorette party. But if these shirts remain boxy and uncomfortable, they're not going to get as much wear-time as they deserve.

Fortunately, there are ways to revamp your old t-shirts, including an easy method to soften up all your favorites. And you may even have the supplies at home already! So don't spend unnecessary cash buying delicate, pre-distressed tees at a premium. Put your existing t-shirt collection to good use by giving each top the cuddly, broken-in feeling you crave.

How to soften any t-shirt

Sometimes, you love the design of an uncomfortable t-shirt enough to keep it, but not enough to wear it. But there's no point in hoarding your logo tees at home like some kind of t-shirt dragon. Luckily, there's a solution to soften those puppies into tops you can't wait to wear. If you're hoping to breathe new life into a stiff or scratchy t-shirt, this method will work wonders on cotton, cotton/polyester blends, and even cushy, newfangled modal tees, which will come out extra-soft.

As Fashion Institute of Technology professor Ingrid Johnson instructs InStyle, begin by mixing water with either salt or white vinegar, filling a bucket with ½ cup of vinegar or salt per quart of water. Then dunk your shirt into the solution and leave it to soak for at least seven minutes. "The salt and vinegar will open up the fibers," Johnson reveals, adding cushiony volume "much like adding volume to your hair."

Once your tee has completed its bath, toss it into the washing machine and put it on for a normal wash with mild detergent. You can also run it through the dryer afterward, with one caveat: Pull the shirt out while it's still a little bit damp and hang it up in an open space. As Johnson explains, "Just like your skin, you want the shirt to be a little hydrated and then air-dry." This will help the fibers retain their new softness and keep them from getting scratchy.

One of the beautiful things about this soak-and-wash method is that it's gentle on shirt designs. But what if you're trying to scuff up that logo or graphic to achieve a more vintage vibe? One simple hack will guarantee that your t-shirts aren't just soft, they're also fashionably weathered.

How to add a faded, vintage look

If you prefer t-shirt designs that are a little rough around the edges, all you need is a bit of patience and a mildly abrasive tool like a scouring pad or fine-grit sandpaper. First, run the pad all over the shirt to impart the fabric with consistent softness and an organic wear pattern. Then pay special attention to the hems, especially near the sleeves and neckline. These tend to be some of the thickest, stiffest areas on your shirt, so give them a little extra scrubbing. Just be careful not to put any tears or holes into the hems, unless you're going for a ratty, grunge aesthetic.

Finally, turn your sandpaper or scouring pad to the graphic on your tee, rubbing softly. The harder you rub, the more distressed the design will become, so it's best to start with light pressure and then decide if you want a more weathered look. Depending on the design, it will probably look more natural with greater distressing toward the edges, so you can also try starting from the outside and working your way inward. Once you've got the design looking adorably vintage, just follow the soak-and-wash method to imbue your tee with overall softness.

Whether you're trying to revive a skin-tight crop tee or figure out how to style oversized t-shirts, getting a cuddly, worn-in look couldn't be much easier. So don't let unused t-shirts languish in your dresser drawers any longer. Instead, make the most of your wardrobe by getting your freshly-softened tees back into regular wear!