Salt is a staple in most kitchens. But what can easily bring life to your food can also be used to preserve the life of your clothes.
If you’re like most people, you’ve never thought about treating your clothes with salt water before laundering them.
However, there are a variety of benefits to this practice that may have you reconsidering the way you do your laundry.
This article covers all you need to know about soaking your clothes in salt water.
If you’re interested in the benefits of saltwater on your clothes, how long you should soak fabric for, and top tips to help you on your way, then read on!
What Happens When You Soak Clothes In Salt Water?
It sounds odd to soak your clothes in salt water before washing them, but the way the salt interacts with the fabric does result in a variety of benefits. These include the following:
- Softens the fabric: When a garment is soaked in salt water, the proteins in the fabric are broken down. This makes the clothing softer to the touch and therefore more comfortable to wear. Effectively, it works as a natural alternative to fabric softener.
- Removes wrinkles: The breakdown of any proteins in your garment’s fabric has another benefit: it helps to remove wrinkles. This means that soaking your clothes in salt water can help to refresh your wrinkled clothing without the need for ironing.
- Prevents colour bleeding: The chlorine found in salt stabilises the dyes used to colour clothing. This helps prevent colour bleeding while a garment is being washed, keeping your clothing vibrant for longer and reducing the chances of dye transfer onto other items.
- Removes stains: Salt is a powerful stain remover for the toughest stains, breaking down most substances that could leave a mark on your clothing. It also acts as a natural disinfectant and deodoriser, perfect for removing any last traces of the spilt substance.
How to Soak Clothes in Salt Water
As we’ve seen, soaking your clothing in salt water has plenty of benefits. However, the way you go about doing this and the length of time you leave your clothes to soak differs depending on which use you are trying to benefit from.
Below are three methods for soaking your clothes. No matter which method you use, make sure to avoid using Epsom salt. Epsom salt contains a lot of minerals that you don’t want in contact with your clothing. Instead, try to use sea salt or table salt.
Method 1: To prevent fading
This first method for soaking your clothing in salt water will help to prevent dye in the fabric from bleeding out in the wash.
There will still be some colour bleeding, but a saltwater soak will slow down the fading process. For this to work, you need to soak your garment when it is brand new.
You can use salt water to prevent fading in the following way:
- Pour 4 litres of cold water into a bucket and add 75g of salt
- Stir until the salt has completely dissolved
- Fully submerge your garment(s) in the saltwater solution
- Let your clothing soak for at least 3 hours
- Gently wring out each item of clothing
- Wash your clothing as usual, making sure to add 75g of salt to the fabric softener compartment before starting the cycle
When using salt in the washing machine as recommended above, you must regularly clean your washing machine to prevent any build-up or staining.
Method 2: To remove stains
Soaking a soiled garment in a saltwater solution can be a great way of removing stains. Sometimes, you will have to turn to a stronger stain remover, but the salt solution will still help loosen the stain and make it fade.
To remove stains from your clothes using salt, you need to:
- Pour 4 litres of cold water into a bucket and add 75g of salt
- Stir until all traces of salt have dissolved into the solution
- Fully submerge your garment(s) in the saltwater
- Allow your clothing to soak for 15-30 minutes
- Gently wring out your garment
- Wash your item of clothing as usual
Method 3: To soften clothes
This last way of soaking your clothes in salt water can be used to soften fabrics and remove wrinkles.
Depending on how many garments you wish to soak at a time, you can scale the measurements below up or down to meet your requirements.
According to Tide, the best way of using salt water to soften your clothing is as follows:
- Pour 1.2 litres of warm water into a bucket and add 150g of salt
- Stir until all traces of salt have dissolved into the water
- Fully submerge your item of clothing, making sure to remove any air bubbles that form within the fabric
- Soak your garment for up to three days, stirring the salt water solution for one minute every day
- Gently wring out your item of clothing and then wash it as usual
Be aware that soaking cotton clothing in salt water for a prolonged period of time can lead to unwanted shrinkage. Because of this, it is best to only use this method on cotton items that are oversized.
Top Tips for Soaking Clothes In Salt Water
When soaking clothes in salt water, there are some common mistakes that people tend to make.
Unfortunately, these mistakes can cause damage to your clothing, so it’s important you avoid these wherever possible.
To achieve the results you want without causing any damage, simply follow our top tips:
- Keep an eye on the amount of salt you use: When mixing up your saltwater solution, take care to only add the advised amount of salt. Too much can actually cause the fabric to stiffen, lose its colour, and wear out faster.
- Stick to cold water when removing stains: Although salt water can be used to remove stains from your clothing, using water that is too hot will instead set the stains in the fabric and make them harder to remove. Therefore, it is always best to stick to cold water when removing stains to be safe.
- Wash your clothing afterwards: Salt water may be beneficial to your clothes, but allowing the salt water to dry will cause staining and salt rings to be left behind. This is why it is essential to either machine or hand wash your garments after soaking them.
- Regularly replenish the salt water: While soaking, the salt in the water will loosen any dirt on your clothing. Unfortunately, it will also attract any dirt in the water to your clothes. To avoid this, make sure to use a fresh batch of salt water when soaking multiple loads of washing.
Hannah is a freelance content writer with a passion for cleaning. She worked her way around Australia by cleaning hostels in exchange for free accommodation and used her cleaning skills to bag her a job as a chalet host for a luxury ski company in France.