Calling all parents buried in baby laundry and wondering how to wash baby clothes! These tips, tricks, and advice on baby laundry detergent, stain treatments, and finding a laundry routine are almost as helpful as a good night's sleep. Read on and you'll be tackling that mountain of clothes, baby washcloths, towels, linens, and even cloth diapers in no time. (Because less time washing baby clothes means more time to cuddle that little one. And to sleep.)
Before you wriggle your little bundle of joy into all those cute new duds, run those 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. Never use bleach on flame-resistant fabrics—it reduces the effectiveness of the treatment chemicals and might ruin treated fabrics. Follow care-label instructions.
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 (separating colors, the right stain treatments, reading the directions on a garment's label, etc.) apply to washing baby clothes. But a few tricks can make the process even easier. Place socks and other small items in a mesh bag 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, or there aren't any fraying seams or edges that may cause a baby's skin to become irritated or catch on tiny fingers and toes.
Some parents might feel compelled to seek out the best baby laundry detergent specifically 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. If you have questions, talk to your pediatrician. (It's okay, you aren't the first—and definitely won't be the last—parent to ask about baby laundry detergent.) 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, 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 until your baby is at least 1 year old may 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. Read the labels, assess your baby's skin sensitivity, and decide if baby-specific laundry items are right for you.
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 yup, poop): 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 and launder normally. Remember to never mix bleach with vinegar or ammonia. The combination creates toxic fumes that can be hazardous to you and your family.
For baby oil: 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 may seem to disappear when a garment is wet and heat drying may set the stain.)
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.
Editor's Tip: Okay, so what about those poor pieces 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. But for items beyond use, check out clothing recycling programs.
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.