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Tips for Washing Baby Clothes

Learn how to launder baby clothes effectively with these handy tips.

With the arrival of a newborn comes a surge in laundry. Parents have the task of finding products that remove stains and odors without irritating baby's skin. These tips will help you tackle the task, from choosing the right detergent and treating common stains to laundering cloth diapers.

Preparing to Wash

All of your baby's clothes should be washed before you use them. Newborns usually have sensitive skin, and washing removes residues and other irritants. Place socks and other small items in a mesh bag during washing and drying. Fasten all hook-and-loop fabric fasteners to keep clothing from getting caught and possibly damaged.

Make sure to read the garment's care label when washing something for the first time. Children's sleepwear must be flame-resistant. Never use bleach on flame-resistant fabrics -- it reduces the effectiveness of the treatment chemicals and might ruin treated fabrics. Follow care-label instructions.

Choosing a Detergent

Some parents might feel compelled to buy a baby detergent for their infant's clothes. But health experts say that isn't necessary, as long as your baby doesn't have allergies or very sensitive skin. Washing your infant's clothes in regular liquid detergent with the rest of the family's laundry should not be a problem. A liquid detergent may be preferable. Liquid detergents typically rinse out more completely than powders, which can leave behind flakes that may irritate an infant's skin.

If you're concerned that regular detergent may be too harsh, first wash one or two baby items in the detergent. After your baby wears the clothing, check his skin for irritation or note whether your infant is acting uncomfortable or itchy. If that's the case, try a detergent with no dyes or fragrances. If that doesn't work, double-rinsing clothing or using baby detergent until your baby is at least 1 year old may help.

How to Treat Stains

In general, treat stains while they are fresh, making sure to remove as much of the staining substance as possible before laundering.

For proteins (including formula, breast milk, spit-up, most food stains, and feces): Soak stains in cool water using a product containing enzymes. If that doesn't work, try an all-purpose stain remover and launder normally.

For urine: Removing a urine stain requires a two-step process. Dilute 1 tablespoon of ammonia in 1 cup of water, and use it to treat the area. Remember to dab the mixture in a small area first to make sure the garment is colorfast. Use a stain-removal product, such as Shout, and launder normally.

For baby oil: Use a prewash stain remover. After checking the care instructions, wash in the hottest water that is safe for the garment.

For fruits and vegetables: Three methods can be effective at removing these stains. Rinse the stain in cool water. Or place the garment in a 1-to-1 combination of rubbing alcohol and water, and wash normally. The third option is to use a prewash stain remover, followed by laundering, for more stubborn stains. If that does not remove the stain, soak the garment in a mixture of 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water.

Warning: Never mix bleach with vinegar or ammonia. The combination creates toxic fumes that can be hazardous to you and your family.

Laundering Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers should be kept and washed separately from other laundry. Immediately rinse dirty diapers in the toilet. You might want to invest in a diaper sprayer, which hooks onto the toilet and is used to spray off the diapers. Store the diapers in a diaper pail (a plastic trash can or large bucket will work) with a tight-fitting lid until it's time to wash them. You can also use a disposable or washable liner in the diaper pail.

Wash diapers every two to three days. First, do a cold prewash or soak diapers overnight. Do not use detergents with dyes or perfumes. Wash in hot water, rinsing each load twice. Do not use fabric softeners, which can be irritating to an infant's skin. Line-dry the diapers or put them in the dryer.

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