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5 Insider Tips for Washing Baby Clothes
December 15, 2023

5 Insider Tips for Washing Baby Clothes

By Babylist Team
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5 Insider Tips for Washing Baby Clothes.
5 Insider Tips for Washing Baby Clothes

While you as an adult may be (mostly) well-versed in keeping your clothes relatively clean, babies are born with no such skill set. Between spit up and blowouts, their laundry can get messy quickly, and their stains tend to be of a different nature than ours (think: milk, poop and lots of pureed veggies). We’ve partnered with Dreft to share some insider tips on how to protect those little outfits you’ve painstakingly picked out. Their classic Stage 1 Newborn detergent is hypoallergenic and dermatologist-tested to make sure that new baby laundry scent won’t irritate your little one’s sensitive skin.

Tip #1: Less is More

First let’s talk about what kind of detergent babies need. Because while stain-fighting is important, babies are also notorious for their extra-sensitive skin. So regular laundry detergent might contain ingredients that could irritate their skin (irritation can look like rashes and eczema, itching, blisters or dry, cracked and scaly skin). If you notice your baby having any of those symptoms (or just want to be proactive against future issues) opt for a baby-friendly laundry detergent with these words on the label:

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Dye-free
  • No added chlorine
  • No phosphates

Pro tip: if reading labels feels overwhelming, generally a detergent with the word “free” in the name— like Dreft Free & Gentle —means you’re on the right track (it checks all the boxes above and is unscented).

Tip #2: Keep Stains Wet

Maybe the most challenging part of baby laundry (other than just how much there is!) is how easily those little stains work their way into your baby’s outfits and then stay there forever. One tip is to keep a pre-treater like this stain remover in your diaper bag for on-the-go messes.

Dry stains are more likely to set permanently. Just be sure not to keep their clothes wet for more than a few days to avoid mildew (aka the smell that happens when you forget to move your laundry from the washer to the dryer. Not that we’ve ever done that.).

Tip #3: Not All Stains Wash the Same

Before you wash anything, it’s helpful to peep the label on your baby’s clothes to see if there are any special wash instructions. But realistically? New parenthood does not leave a whole lot of time for pondering the thread count of your baby’s outfits. So unless you’re washing wool or silk, here are the basics things to keep in mind when washing some of the more common baby stains like poop, milk or puree.

  • Cold water cycles are better for the environment (and luckily Dreft is designed to fight stains even in cold water). But if you have particularly soiled clothing, check your washing machine for a heavy-duty setting or sanitization feature for an extra oomph in your wash cycle.
  • If you do wash your clothes in warm or hot water, make sure not to include anything with breast milk stains on it. If you try to clean breast milk with hot water, it can cook the milk and make the stain set even more and turn yellow. Stick with cold water instead. If the first wash doesn’t do the trick, wash again before you dry (remember: a wet stain is easier to clean than a dry one).

And if you have the energy to pretreat stains, but are still trying to keep the ingredients you’re using to a minimum, there are a few easy ways to treat stains using things you likely already have at home:

  • For basic stains, soak clothes in a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water.
  • For quick pretreating, rub some of your baby’s detergent into the stain before washing. ( Dreft’s Free & Gentle is both fragrance and dye-free). And keep a stain treater in your diaper bag or car for on-the-go.
  • For food or oil stains, rub a little dish soap (or a mixture of dish soap and baking soda for extra power) into the stain and then rinse before washing.
  • And for poop stains, use a baby wipe to help remove as much of the stain as possible before pretreating; the flexibility of the material allows you to remove poop more thoroughly.

Tip #4: The Sun is Almost Better than Bleach

Most baby clothes will hold up just fine in the dryer (though keep the heat low. High heat can damage the elastic that makes baby clothes so soft and stretchy). But if you have the space to hang clothes to dry and the weather allows, the sun can be an incredibly powerful bleaching agent, basically disappearing stains overnight (we’ve tried it ourselves; it’s particularly effective on blowout stains). Just be mindful that you may not want all your clothes bleached! If you want to avoid fading your baby’s colorful outfits, turn them inside out before hanging to dry.

Tip #5: Baby Detergent Isn’t Just for Babies

If your approach to laundry is “we get to it when we get to it,” then keeping multiple containers of detergent on hand might not be your style. And that’s totally fine. Baby detergent is just formulated to be less irritating than regular detergent, while still tackling stubborn stains. So it’s totally fine to use for the whole family (though it could be worth springing for the eco box).

That said, as your baby grows, you may want to switch to a toddler formula like Dreft’s Active Baby Detergent that is geared specifically toward fighting 99% of the most common baby food stains or Dreft Free & Gentle, which is actually their strongest liquid detergent (it’s also unscented, so the whole family can use it).

Want more advice on how to clean your baby’s clothes? Dreft has even more washing tips —from how to remove poop, pee, formula and breast milk stains to washing tips for stubborn baby foods like bananas and carrots. Or you can go straight to comparing their baby-friendly detergents to find the right fit for your family.

This article is sponsored by Dreft. Babylist’s free site, apps and emails are made possible by our sponsors. We limit our sponsored content to relevant partners that offer products and services we believe in and use ourselves.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.