When it's new, fleece is as reliable as an old friend, and a cozy fleece blanket or jacket can always be counted on to quickly warm you up on a cold or rainy day. However, the more love it gets, the rougher and scratchier your favorite fleece becomes. Reversing this process isn't as easy as changing the kind of detergent or fabric softener you use. The most effective way to fix scratchy fleece actually requires quite a bit of upper body strength.
Fixing Scratchy Fleece
The obstacle in fixing scratchy fleece is that this condition is often caused by the fabric's synthetic fibers literally melting from high heat. They can form clumps that then harden when they cool, making the fleece feel rough and scratchy. Because this process changes the structure of the fibers that make up the fleece, it can't be completely reversed. If you bought a fluffy, smooth blanket that turned scratchy after its first washing, it will never again look or feel exactly like it did when it was new.
That being said, there's one strategy that can work for making scratchy fleece feel softer and maybe a little fluffier: Brushing the fleece vigorously with a stiff, durable brush. It's simple but requires significant elbow grease, so this method may not be viable or appealing to everyone. A plastic hairbrush with fine bristles or a pet brush works well for this job.
Brushing the fleece tends to be easiest when it's wet. Try it when the fleece item is still damp from being washed or dampen the fleece with a spray bottle of water. Lay the fleece on a table, pick a corner or less-noticeable area with which to start and hold the material in place with one hand while you use the other to vigorously brush the fleece. The brush's bristles should pull apart some of the clumped fibers and make them appear fluffier.
Preventing Scratchy Fleece
The key to preserving your soft, smooth fleece is to clean it as little as possible. Spot treat any small marks or stains by dotting them with dishwashing detergent. Let it sit and then gently blot away the soap with a damp cloth.
When your fleece items do need to be laundered, the best way to wash them is by hand with a little detergent and cold water. If that's not an option, wash fleece items on a gentle setting in cool water with minimal soap. Wash these items alone for the best results; being beaten against other fabrics during the washing cycle may contribute to the fleece becoming scratchy.
Heat is the primary culprit behind scratchy fleece, so skip the dryer and let these items air dry whenever possible. If you need to dry fleece in a hurry, put it in the dryer alone and use a no-heat option. Never use an iron on fleece and don't dry clean it.
Another Way to Salvage Blankets
If you're willing to pay to fix a scratchy fleece blanket, examine the blanket to see if it's made of two separate layers. Many fleece blankets are made this way, with a decorative layer and a fluffy fleece layer stitched together only at the edges. A tailor or even a skilled home sewer may be able to separate them and resew the decorative layer you love to a new piece of soft fleece. It may cost you more to fix the blanket in this way than it would cost to buy a new one, but this is a good option if you want to salvage a blanket that has sentimental value.