A great alternative to commercial fabric softeners (which work, but tend to leave a build up over time, thus the flannel loses softness after awhile) is vinegar. If you add 1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle of your washer, it removes any soap residue and naturally softens the fabric. Also, be sure not to use too much detergent, as this makes fabric stiff and hard; and you could add an extra rinse cycle to ensure that all the detergent is removed.
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