How To Break In A T-Shirt

Without a doubt, my favorite article of clothing is a good vintage t-shirt.  Nothing can really compare to a t-shirt passed down from previous generations, worn and loved to almost transparent softness, with holes in all the right places.  I have a couple that belonged to my parents that have achieved this perfect quality, but some shirts are a bit more stubborn. I tried out the following remedy to break in a recent thrift store find more to my liking, and am happy to report that it actually worked!

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how to break in tshirts 1

how to break in tshirts

What you need:

Washing Soda (can be found in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores)


Sandpaper or Heavy Duty Scouring Pads


Combine one cup of salt with ¼ cup washing soda.  Together these will work to break down the fibers of the shirt and reduce stiffness. Put the shirt in the wash – to save on water, include the shirt in other loads of items that you want to soften in the same way (other t-shirts, towels, sheets, etc.).  I’ve actually been working on this project for a couple of weeks now, because you’ll want to put the shirt through this cycle about 3-5 times depending on results. Run the wash on high heat, and add the salt/washing soda mixture when the water is almost finished filling the machine.  Then, dry on high heat.

For my shirt, I ran it through the wash and dry cycle twice, and then used the scouring pad to destruct the label.  It was easier to get results after the shirt had already been worn down a bit by the wash. I also used the scouring pad on the neckline and the edges of the sleeves, creating tiny holes.

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how to break in tshirts 4

how to break in tshirts 2

Once you’re happy with how the label and holes look, put the shirt through the wash cycle one or two more times.  I wish I could include fabric samples in this post so you could feel the results, but it is definitely much softer and the holes look completely natural! If you have any other methods for breaking in a t-shirt let me know.

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More DIY projects from BLDG 25

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8 years ago

Wow it looks so indeed vintage but also comfy. I would try it but first find some washing soda.
But I gonna try this for sure. I love my old shirts way more than my new ones.
Thank you for this amazing tip!

Good vibes,

8 years ago

Broken in Tshirts are the absolute best! Love this.

Warm Regards,

8 years ago

That’s so totally cool! I love, love, love the vintage look. I’m quite sure why, but I love it! : )

The Weaver Of Words…..give me 15 words and I’ll tell you a tale

8 years ago

This is literally one of the best ideas i’ve read about in forever. thanks for sharing!

8 years ago

Interesting! I’d make the holes bigger, but these look great!

8 years ago

Your guys blog is amazing. I hope you guys never stop.. It’s literally so perfect, and I check it so frequently to see what you guys are posting and up to. Please never stop blogging..
Keep on being creative, and amazing.
Thank you.

8 years ago

Great tutorial! I have so many I want to try this one. Thank you!
-Ann with

8 years ago

Lovely vintage T-shirts!

8 years ago

Does this method shrink the shirt at all?

8 years ago

Nothing quite like a broken-in vintage tee…. and I’d love to try this, but I’ve got a front-load washing machine, not a top-loader… can this still be done, considering the water never “fills” the machine, and in order to open the door after the cycle has started, the washer drains the water in order to unlock the door.

8 years ago

Wow! How did you come up with this idea? I will try this out

8 years ago

Amazing. Do you use the washing soda for all the washes or just the initial ones?

8 years ago

This is great! I have a ton of t-shirts that are so stiff, I can’t wear them! Definitely gonna try this out!

8 years ago

Hey! Great info!

Question, have you ever used Trisodium Phosphate?

*If ONE more person suggests just “a hot salt bath” I’m going to jump off a bridge. :)


8 years ago

Is the washing soda baking soda?

8 years ago

Anyway you could do it without a washing machine?

Lei Navarro
8 years ago

I would love to try this one but will baking soda do? i haven’t seen a washing soda here in the our country… Thanks!

8 years ago

Baking soda would not make a good substitute for washing soda.

Brittney Scheuerman
8 years ago

That Evanston, Wyoming shirt this is such a great idea I will definitely be trying this out!

8 years ago

For those wondering about washing soda, I found this handy:
I tried finding washing soda in Target and failed, so made my own. Super easy! 1/4 cup baking soda on a cookie sheet, bake at 400°F for a few minutes.

8 years ago

Just commenting to say that I live close to Oregon, IL and worked at white pines ranch (t shirt used here!). Was fun to see it on Pinterest lol

7 years ago

Does the material of the t-shirt matter? I am not sure if the t-shirt I have in mind for this is 100% cotton, or a blend.

7 years ago

This DOESNT work. Sorry ladies.

7 years ago

I was super excited to see a White Pines shirt on here!

7 years ago

Large is fine!
(love the fur on either side of the content on these pages…..)