Cotton batik fabric can be stiff due the the resist, or waxy, coating; but it can be softened. Modern resist is easier to remove than a traditional wax layer, because the batik process has adapted as new waxy compounds have been developed. While some resist can be removed with water alone, most cotton batik will require a combination of heat and detergent to soften the fabric. Traditional paraffin wax batik will not respond to detergent, but can be softened a little bit using heat.
Softening Batik Made with Modern Resist
Pour about two gallons warm water and one scoop delicate detergent into the washbasin. Mix the detergent and water with your hand. Submerge the fabric, and use your hand or a wooden spoon to agitate the fabric.
Drape the wet fabric over the clothesline and pour very hot water over it; thoroughly rinsing the detergent and resist out of the fabric.
Place the fabric in the dryer, on low heat, to finish drying and fluffing.
Using an Iron to Soften Cotton Batik
Spread out a layer of paper towels. Place the fabric on top of the paper towels. Spread a second layer of paper towels on top of the fabric.
Iron the top layer, with the iron on the cotton setting. Keep the iron moving in a slow and continuous motion. Avoid stopping in any one spot to prevent scorching. You should be able to see shiny spots on the paper towels. The shiny spots are from the wax lifting out of the fabric.
Remove the paper towels from the fabric when it has cooled slightly. Pick up the fabric so you can remove the bottom layer of paper towels.
Put down a new layer of paper towels, replace the fabric, and cover the fabric with new paper towels. Iron the cotton batik fabric again. Repeat until you cannot see any more wax on the paper towels when you iron.