5 Baby Laundry Tips for New Parents

How to wash babies' clothes and remove stains

A picture of a woman folding laundry while holding a baby
Photo © Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Baby laundry and clothing storage can be a tedious and time-consuming task. The following five tips will help get your laundry routine established before your baby even comes home and will take you all the way through preparing your baby's clothes to pass down to the next sibling.

Preparing Clothes Before Baby Comes Home

Pregnant woman holding laundry basketJamie Grill
Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Washing baby clothes before they're worn is an absolute necessity. Many baby clothes are sprayed with formaldehyde before they are shipped to ensure they look new and unwrinkled when they arrive. Since a new baby's skin is so sensitive and soaks in so much of what touches it, you don't want to take any chances.

Use a "free & clear" detergent to wash these clothes and skip the fabric softener, both liquid, and sheets. Fabric softener can reduce the effectiveness of the flame retardancy on baby pajamas and can also irritate your baby's skin.

Remember, in addition to washing your baby's clothes, you should also wash anything that will touch the baby's skin including wearable blankets, bedding, and mom's and dad's shirts.

Check out a couple of my favorite baby laundry detergents: 

Removing Stains Once Baby Is Home

Once your baby is home, the fun really begins. Everything from formula and spit-up to pureed vegetables and fruits will come in contact with your baby's clothes, not to mention the assorted powders, lotions and oils. And while those stains can sometimes be difficult to remove, they don't have to be impossible.

Immediately rinsing the stained clothing in cold water will help prevent the stain from setting. You can then soak your baby's clothes in a laundry pre-treater such as OxiClean Baby Stain Remover. Buy on Amazon.com.

You can even create a laundry pre-treater yourself by filling your washer about half-full with water and drop in a few tablespoons of detergent; soak for approximately 30 minutes and then finishing filling the washtub with warm water and add some additional clothes to run a full wash cycle. Note: Liquid detergent tends to work better than powder for food stains.

In the event you're dealing with a non-food stain, turn to a powder as it seems to break up oily stains much better. The best way to treat the types of stains that result from lotions or baby oils is to simply make a paste from the powder and a little bit of water and apply it directly to the stain. Let it sit for 30 minutes and launder as usual.

Remember, do not dry the garment until you know for sure that the stain has been removed.

For a more detailed look at removing baby stains be sure to review A Guide to Removing Baby Stains.

Cleaning Up the Baby Poop

There's no beating around the bush here; you will have exploding diapers. And baby poop is no fun to deal with — especially when it's caked into clothing.

Again, I highly recommend a laundry pre-treater and have found that OxiClean Baby works particularly well for this type of stain. Buy on Amazon.com.

If you don't have a pre-treater, fill your washer tub or a large bucket half full with water and then add a few tablespoons of your laundry detergent and a 1/4–1/2 cup of color-safe bleach to the solution.

Soak for 30 minutes and then finish filling your washer with the warmest water your settings will allow and add additional detergent.

Repeat the process of washing as many times as necessary and do not put the clothes in the dryer until you are satisfied with the stain removal.

Treating Stains While You're Out with Your Baby

Marketing tactics would have you believe that you must invest in portable stain removal pens (think Tide to Go Instant Stain Remover or the Dreft Portable Pretreater Pen) or little single-use wipes soaked in pre-treater (like Shout Wipes). While these are definitely convenient to have, you can actually make your own on-the-go pre-treater with just your laundry detergent and a small spray bottle you can pick up in the travel-size section of your local big box store.

Just decide how many individual bottles you want and make a 3:1 mix for each bottle; 3 parts water to 1 part detergent. Toss the bottles in your purse, diaper bag, glove box, and even next to the changing table.

Spray as necessary and toss in the laundry as soon as you get home.

If you prefer a more traditional stain remover, you may want to review Top 10 Stain Removers for Laundry by Sarah Aguirre, About.com Guide to Housekeeping.

Preparing Outgrown Baby Clothes for Storage

Inevitably, your baby will outgrow all those adorable little clothes. And when that happens, you may choose to host a baby clothing swap, take them to the consignment shop, or even have a garage sale to get rid of it all.

Or you might decide to pack it all away for the next baby.

If you choose to do the latter, there are a few steps you should take to prepare the baby clothes for storage. Some of these outfits might be special (like christening or coming home outfits) and will require special care. Other baby clothes can be packed more simply. Regardless of what you're putting away though, it all needs to be washed — surprisingly — in the exact same method as when you washed it for the very first time; a "free & clear" detergent and no fabric softener.

Edited by Jennifer Nicole Sullivan, Baby Clothes Expert