How to Care for Baby Clothes

Chelsea Day

Babies need a lot of clothes. Between the spit-ups, blowouts and other messes, it’s no wonder that parents are looking for tips about how to care for baby clothes. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to keep your little one’s clothes clean and smelling fresh – now, and even long enough for future generations to enjoy!

Choose the Right Fabrics and Cuts

Fabric is extremely important for baby clothes. We all know that cotton tends to shrink, but this is extra-important for baby clothes that go through a ton of use and abuse, with constant washing when they get dirty multiple times per day. The most durable fabrics are newer, fashion-forward choices such as hemp and bamboo. Both of those are weather-regulating (great for baby clothes when you don’t know what season they’ll be wearing which outfits based on varying growth rates!) and they wash extremely well.

Washing Baby Clothes

So you’ve got a ton of adorable baby clothes, but you don’t know how to care for them? Don’t worry! Here are some tips on how to care for baby clothes. Always remember the most important rule when it comes to clothing care: if you have a stain on your baby’s clothes, try to get it out as soon as possible. If you wait too long, it can leave a permanent mark.

1. Wash new baby clothes before you use them. You don’t know what sort of germs they’ve encountered out in the public store or in transport to your home. Some manufacturers even use chemicals to keep clothing crisp and clean while on display, so it’s always best to wash baby clothes to avoid any potential contamination or inflammation.

2. Wash them separately. Always wash baby clothes with like colors to keep them from bleeding. This is particularly important for high-end baby clothing, which may be more gentle and not as colorfast as traditional clothing.

3. Avoid bleach, and use a laundry detergent meant for babies. These typically have fewer chemicals that babies may have an allergic reaction to.

4. Use the delicate cycle. Because baby clothes are delicate!

5. Cold wash whenever possible, but use warm if you need a little extra cleaning power. Avoid washing baby clothes on “hot,” as it may degrade the fabric and limit the lifetime of the item.

6. Add vinegar to get out extra-stubborn smells. Vinegar neutralizes odors, and is a highly effective, safe additive that even hospitals use to kill germs! Simply add ½ to 1 cup of vinegar to any wash to get out poop and urine smells. Vinegar is also a natural softener, making it a great alternative to dryer sheets.

7. Lay baby clothes flat as soon as they’re done drying, to prevent wrinkles from forming.

How to Handle Various Stains on Baby Clothes

  • Formula: Formula is notorious for creating the most stubborn stains! On colors, simply mix a bit of baby-friendly detergent with water, rub onto the stain and wash after letting it sit for half an hour. For whites, a quick dab with lemon juice can remove formula if you catch it early enough.
  • Breastmilk: Breastmilk is infamous for causing stains that come back time and time again! OxiClean is the miracle solution for these stains, with an oxygen-based stain fighter that moms swear by.
  • Poop and pee: Remove as much fecal matter as you can, then pretreat with Spray N Wash. Let it sit for five minutes before washing as normal, and check that the stain is fully removed before drying (or else the stain may become set in the clothes). If you don’t have Spray N Wash, regular dish soap is a great alternative. Just squirt a small amount on, agitate with your fingers, and wash as descibred above.

Disinfecting Baby Clothes

Once in awhile – if baby has been sick or been in a hospital environment – you’ll need to fully sanitize their clothing and remove all risk of germs remaining after the wash. In this case, the typical rules for washing in cold or warm water no longer apply. You’ll want to wash on the hottest water possible (choose the “sanitize” cycle if your machine has one) and add a cup of vinegar to the wash as a disinfectant.

Hand Washing Baby Clothes

It is possible to hand wash baby clothes in the sink, although typically not necessary. If you have a broken washing machine or simply prefer hand washing baby clothes, fill a sink up with room temperature water, add a teaspoon of baby-friendly detergent, agitate with your hands by swirling the clothing around in the water, then rinse repeatedly until the water runs clear. Hang dry or dry in a machine as you typically would.

Common Questions about Baby Clothes

  • Is it Safe to Use Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets? No! Softener and dryer sheets contain chemicals that may irritate your baby’s sensitive skin.
  • Should I Combine Loads with the Rest of the Household? You can! If you choose to wash baby clothes with clothing from the rest of the household, simply make sure to use baby-friendly detergent to minimize chances of an allergic reaction. If you have people in your household who work in extra-dirty fields (such as medical and first responders in contact with tons of germs, or folks who are around a lot of chemicals) it is always a good idea to wash their work clothing separately on a sanitary cycle to minimize chances of contaminating baby clothing and getting your baby sick.
  • Should I Put Baby Clothes Away a Certain Way for Daily Use? I personally like to roll baby clothes using the Marie Kondo method. It makes it easy to pull out a little bundle without disturbing other items in the drawer, and it makes it so there are no edges bumping up against each other and wearing down. I do also have friends who have hung up baby clothes for extra safe and wrinkle-free usage, but I find that that is not the best use of space when you have multiple children.

And there you have it! That’s how you select, wash, and care for baby clothes on a daily basis.

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Helping parents live simple and satisfying lives. Our homeschooling family loves to learn, and in our spare time (hah!) we RV travel and flip houses.

Boise, ID

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