Essential Tips for Washing Baby Clothes Every Parent Should Know

Learn how to launder baby clothes effectively with these handy tips. We'll show you the right way to prep, choose a detergent, remove baby stains, and more.

Parenthood involves plenty of stressors, but learning how to wash baby clothes shouldn't be one of them. In fact, baby laundry requires much of the same care as your regular clothes and linens. One of the major differences, of course, is the size of the garments. You'll have to take care not to lose minuscule baby socks or damage delicate infant clothing during the wash. Baby clothing also tends to gather more stains than adult garments, so it's a good idea to brush up on your knowledge of stain removal techniques before washing baby clothes. With a few must-know methods and a little practice, laundering baby items will soon become second nature.

So if you're buried in baby laundry and worrying about how to wash baby clothes, don't fret. These tricks on choosing the best baby laundry detergent, treating common baby clothing stains, and developing a laundry routine will help take the stress out of washing baby clothes as you take on new parenthood. Read on and you'll be tackling that mountain of clothes, baby washcloths, towels, linens, and even cloth diapers in no time. With less time washing baby clothes comes more time to cuddle your little one (or to sleep!).

Laundry room with bin and clothes storage
Laura Moss Photography Corp

Must-Know Tips Before Washing Baby Clothes

Before you wriggle your little bundle of joy into all those cute new duds, run onesies, sleepers, and clothes through the wash. All of your baby's clothes should be washed before you use them. Babies, especially newborns, usually have sensitive skin, and washing removes residues and other irritants.

Make sure to read the garment's care label when washing something for the first time. Children's sleepwear must be flame-resistant, and you should never use bleach on flame-resistant fabrics. It reduces the effectiveness of the treatment chemicals and might ruin treated fabrics. Always follow care label instructions carefully.

laundry closet with blue bin and don't forget sign
Marshall Johnson

How to Wash Baby Clothes

Once you get a handle on the feeding, sleeping, and essential baby care routine, learning to wash baby clothes will follow. All the basics from your regular laundry care (such as separating colors, using the right stain treatments, and reading the directions on a garment's label) apply to washing baby clothes. But a few tricks can make the process even easier. First, place socks and other small items in a mesh laundry bag ($3, Target) during washing and drying. If adult socks are lost on the regular, those tiny baby socks are even more prone to disappearing; a mesh bag helps contain them. Fasten all hook-and-loop fabric fasteners to keep clothing from getting caught and possibly damaged. When folding and putting clothes away, give items a once over to make sure no buttons, snaps, or embellishments came loose during washing. Ensure there aren't any fraying seams or edges that could cause a baby's skin to become irritated or catch on tiny fingers and toes.

laundry room detergent storage and scoops
Jay Wilde

Best Laundry Detergents for Baby Clothes

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

If you're concerned that regular detergent might be too harsh, first wash one or two baby items in the detergent. After your baby wears the clothing, check his or her skin for irritation or note whether your infant is acting uncomfortable or itchy. If that's the case, the best laundry detergent for sensitive skin will have no dyes or perfumes. If that doesn't work, double-rinsing clothing or using baby laundry soap ($16, Target) until your baby is at least 1 year old might help.

Next to the baby laundry detergent selection, you'll likely find a whole host of baby fabric softeners, baby clothes stain removers, and more. Before purchasing, read the labels, assess your baby's skin sensitivity, and decide if baby-specific laundry items are right for you.

drawer storage hats shoes gloves
Jay Wilde

How to Treat Baby Clothes Stains

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

How to Remove Protein-Based Stains

This type includes stains from formula, breast milk, spit-up, most food stains, and feces. Soak stains in cool water using a stain-removing product containing enzymes. If that doesn't work, try an all-purpose stain remover and launder normally.

How to Remove Urine Stains

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 ($4.42, Walmart) and launder normally. Remember to never mix bleach with vinegar or ammonia. The combination creates dangerous fumes that can be hazardous to you and your family.

How to Remove Baby Oil Stains

Use a prewash stain remover. After checking the care instructions, wash in the hottest water that is safe for the garment. Let the garment air dry to ensure the stain has been removed. (Oil stains might seem to disappear when a garment is wet and heat drying can set the stain.)

How to Remove Stains from Fruits and Vegetables

Three methods can be effective at removing these stains. Try simply rinsing the stain in cool water. Alternatively, 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.

Editor's Tip: What about stained baby clothes that are beyond rescuing? Don't stress. Sure, it's frustrating to have a stain you just can't tackle, especially when it's on that adorable outfit you were waiting to show off and it didn't even make it out the door. Some items like baby washcloths, burp cloths, and plain cotton shirts make great rags for cleaning. For items beyond use, check out clothing recycling programs.

together banner in nursery above changing pad
Adam Albright

How to Wash 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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