You don't have to be a parent long to learn babies go through an astounding amount of clothing, requiring you to do far more laundry than you ever have before. There are some special processes and considerations to keep in mind when washing your little one's wardrobe, from caring for those special occasion items to getting nasty stains out of onesies that fell victim to a diaper blow-out.
Treat Stains First
Don't just throw those dirty sleepers in the wash. Start by checking each item for possible stains. If you see evidence of spit-up, food splatters, diaper blow-outs, or other possible issues, pre-treat the stains before you begin washing. According to Better Homes and Gardens, you should pre-treat according to the type of stain you're dealing with:
- Protein-based stains, such as breast milk, formula, spit-up, and baby food, need a soak in cold water with an enzyme cleaner like Puracy Natural Stain Remover. If the natural approach doesn't do the trick, try a few sprays of your usual stain remover product.
- Diaper blow-outs can be spectacularly stain prone too, but you can treat them the same way as other protein-based stains.
- For urine, you'll need to pre-soak the items with a weak ammonia solution after making sure the clothing is colorfast. Mix one tablespoon of ammonia in a cup of water and allow the items to soak for a few minutes. Then spray with a stain removal product.
- Oil-based stains from lotions, sunscreen, baby oil, and diaper rash ointment require a close eye during the washing process. After spraying with a stain-removal product, wash on the hottest water acceptable for the item. Don't use the dryer until you know the stain is gone.
How to Wash Baby's Everyday Clothing
After you've pre-treated the stains, washing those everyday baby items is much like washing anything else. Follow this basic process:
- Separate lights and darks to wash in different loads and read labels to check for water temperature and other washing instructions.
- Fasten zippers and hook and loop tabs to prevent snags. Use a lingerie bag for little items like baby socks so things don't get lost in the machine.
- Add a laundry detergent of your choice. If you choose to, you can use a special laundry detergent for baby's sensitive skin. If you are washing sleepwear, HealthyChildren.org notes you should not use soap flakes, which can break down the flame retardant in the fabric.
- Wash the laundry and move it to the dryer. Be sure to remove anything that requires air drying.
- When the dryer cycle is finished, fold the clothing right away to prevent wrinkles. As you fold, check for loose strings and buttons and mend everything as needed.
Washing Special Occasion Clothes
Formal wear, antique pieces, wool sweaters, and other heirloom baby clothes may require special laundering. Read the label first so you can decide how to proceed.
In some cases, infant formal clothes will require dry cleaning. The American Council on Science and Health reports dry cleaning is safe for children's clothing; however, it's a good idea to ask your dry cleaner about using the safest chemicals possible for your baby's clothes. You can also remove the cleaned item from its plastic covering and let it air out before having baby wear it.
If the item can be hand washed, use this process to get it clean safely:
- Pre-treat any stains according to the process above.
- Fill a laundry sink with cold water and add a capful of mild detergent, such as Woolite. If the label specifies you can use warm water, you can try a warmer temperature.
- Push the items down into the water until they are submerged. Gently move them around without scrubbing or wringing them.
- Drain the water and fill the sink with clean water. Swish the baby clothes through the clean water until they aren't soapy. Repeat two more times to make sure you have removed all soap that might irritate baby's skin. Drain the sink.
- Gently squeeze the clothing to remove water, but don't wring it out. Lay a clean bath towel on a counter and place the garment on it. Roll the bath towel up with the clothing inside and press the roll all over to force the water out of the garment and into the towel.
- Unroll the towel and lay the baby clothing flat to dry. Avoid hanging, since it can cause the clothes to lose their shape.
Keep Baby Looking Fresh
No matter what kind of infant clothing you need to clean, the key is to read the label and pay special attention to stain treating. Soon, your little one will be looking fresh and clean in his or her clothes - at least until that next diaper change.