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How to wash baby clothes

Your baby's skin is delicate, so it's important to wash their clothes with care. Check out our top tips for clean, soft clothes.

Updated

Close up of a baby

Key steps:

  • Always follow the advice on the garment’s care label.

  • Treat stains quickly.

  • A mild laundry detergent and gentle fabric conditioner are the perfect duo to use for washing baby clothes. 

  • Natural disinfectants, such as white vinegar, can be added to your wash or used for pre-soaking.

  • Many parents agree that it’s a good idea to wash your baby’s clothes before the first wear. 

At some point, every parent finds themselves thinking that their baby creates a heck of a lot of stains for such a little person. This article explains how to clean and sanitize baby clothes, and how to remove a number of common stains.

How to wash and disinfect baby clothes: top tips

  • As with all garments, make sure you follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Baby pajamas, in particular, are often flame resistant, but certain wash cycles and detergents can reduce the flame resistance of the fabric.

  • Use mild products developed for sensitive skin—harsh detergents can cause irritation. Choose detergents that are gentle to both fabrics and skin, such as a hypoallergenic, free and clear detergent, or one specifically formulated for babies. 

  • Treat all stains as soon as possible—the sooner you work on a stain, the easier it will be to remove.

  • Scrape or wipe away as much of any mess as possible before washing the clothes—this may not be pleasant if it’s poop or vomit, but it’ll reduce staining and stop your washing machine getting clogged up. 

  • Soak stained garments in cool water before working on the stain—cool water may be enough to get rid of simple stains like spit up or milk. If the stain is particularly stubborn, then pre-soaking is an easy way to loosen it before you use detergent.

How to remove common stains from baby clothing

Proteins

This includes breast milk, formula, spit-up and most food stains. Soak the garment first in cool water and then carefully pre-treat the stain with a dab of stain remover or free and clear liquid laundry detergent. Just remember to follow the instructions on the container and test the product on a small, inconspicuous area of the garment first to ensure the color doesn’t fade. Then launder the clothes as usual, following the instructions on the care label.

Leaky diapers

Dirty diapers are never pleasant, and leaky ones are even worse. Poop should be treated in the same way as any protein stain—see above—but you can try adding a few tablespoons of white distilled vinegar to the water when pre-soaking. For a pee stain, dilute one tablespoon of ammonia in one cup of water. Once again, test this solution first on a small, inconspicuous part of the garment to make sure the fabric is colorfast. If it is, saturate the stain with the ammonia solution, then apply either free and clear detergent or a specialized stain remover, and wash as usual. Never combine ammonia or vinegar with a product containing chlorine bleach as this can create a toxic gas.

Oily, greasy stains

Baby oil, creams, and petroleum jelly can leave a stain. Once you remove any excess substance, cover the stained area with cornflour or baking soda. This will absorb the oil. After 15 minutes, scrape this off, pre-treat as above, and launder as you usually would.

Fruit and vegetable stains

Spills involving juice or baby food are all too common. Rinse them out with cool water. If there’s a stain, create a mixture of equal parts rubbing alcohol and water, and soak the garment in this solution. Apply free and clear laundry detergent as a pre-treatment or use a stain remover, and then wash. Add an extra rinse cycle.

How to bleach baby clothes: natural bleaches and cleaning solutions

Many parents avoid using bleach for fear of irritating their baby’s sensitive skin. If you don’t want to use bleach on your baby’s white clothing, you can use one of the solutions below.

  • Ammonia solution: this is a milder alternative to bleach for baby clothes. Mix one tablespoon of ammonia per cup of water for treating stains, or add four tablespoons of the ammonia to your washing machine. Make sure you never mix ammonia with anything containing chlorine bleach, as this can cause a deadly chemical reaction.

  • Baking soda: add a splash of water to baking soda to create a paste, which you can then use on stains. It’ll also help eliminate odors.

  • White distilled vinegar: this natural cleaning agent is great at removing odors, so add it to a pre-soak or include in a laundry cycle. It’ll brighten your white clothing.

Being a new parent can be both exciting and exhausting—hopefully the above tips will make your life that little bit easier.

Originally published