How to Wash Baby Clothes and Remove Stains
Babies are messy, especially in their first and earliest months of life. They tend to get dirty very easily and very fast, which means that you most certainly will have to have your machine up and running pretty often. However, not all parents are equally prepared for this, and for some, it might come as a bolt from the blue. There is nothing much to worry about, though - it’s all doable and most of it is cleanable, so you don’t have to buy new clothes each and every time your baby makes a complete mess of them.
We know you’ll get a bunch of advice from everywhere - some of them more useful, some of them less. But it’s best when you’ve got it all in one place, especially if you want to save time and money (and we all know everybody wants that!). That’s why in this article we’ve got it covered for you, all the basics you’ll ever need to keep your baby’s clothes clean and fresh - from special detergents and best baby stain remover, to the basic cleaning methods for washing clothes, as well as advice on whether to hand wash or not - it’s all neatly packed in here.
Hand or Machine Washing - Which is Better?
Hand washing slowly becomes a thing of the past as new and better washing machines emerge on the market. However, even though a lot of parents simply shudder at the idea of hand-washing their baby’s clothes (no wonder, because with babies it can often turn into a full-time job on its own!), some still opt for it because they think it’s a safer solution both for the clothes and the baby itself.
But it doesn’t necessarily have to be so. In fact, it’s a misstatement that when your child is little, it’s better to hand wash their stuff. You can relax and without a care in the world toss all your baby’s stuff - blankets, cloth diapers, linens, sleepers, pants, shirts, and whatnot in the machine. Unless your baby has silk, hand-sewn or lace garments, then you’re totally free from the hassle of hand washing. Most of baby clothing is made to withstand a lot of machine washes and what matters a lot in stain removal is how you handle particular stains before putting them in the machine or what kind of detergent you use for dirtier clothes.
For harder stains, though, you will have to do some pre-washing machine tossing hand-washing or soaking to do. But no worries, with the right technique, this also won’t take up too much of your time and energy.
Choosing a detergent is also important because you don’t want one that’s packed with harsh chemicals. And that’s precisely what we’re gonna go next after - what to look in a detergent, how to choose a detergent and which are the best ways of doing so.
What Kind of Detergent Should You Use?
It’s pretty straightforward info that detergents which are more powerful and can remove heavier stains are also more prone to contain harsher chemicals and can be unsuitable to use for baby clothes. This is often the case because the chemicals used in the detergent may cause certain allergic reactions to the gentle baby’s skin.
Babies are usually rather sensitive to various additives present in detergents and soaps - stuff like dyes and scents or perfumes, but also strong cleansing chemicals are the usual culprits that can stand behind a potential detergent allergy or irritation.
That’s why it’s best to look for a detergent that’s labeled as safe for babies - these are usually mild cleaning soaps or detergents, specifically formulated for infants (look for info straight on the container). Also, make sure to look for detergents that are hypoallergenic - while they’re not entirely abolishing the chance of allergies, still hypoallergenic products might significantly lower the chance of developing allergies or other skin irritations. Some experts even recommend that you choose a liquid detergent over a powder one because it usually dissolves and rinses out more easily.
You also might want to do without any extra chemicals for clothes, like a fabric softener for example, which can also contain harsh substances that can cause allergic reactions.
Next, we’re going to go over the most effective stain-removal techniques so you can have your baby’s favorite clothes back in their spotless form in no-time.
This is an old-school technique, but there’s a reason why it has stuck for so long - precisely because it’s easy and effective. In combination with a good stain-removing product, it will definitely work magic on your precious little one’s clothes and linens. Just follow these simple steps and you’ll immediately see great results!
- Fill the bathtub, a plastic basin or large bucket with hot water - in fact, any kind of vessel will do, it just needs to be big enough to hold water and clothes which can lie in it for a couple of hours or possibly overnight, undisturbed.
- Dissolve a bigger scoop of stain remover (powdered or liquid) - the amount of water should be able to fully cover the clothes. Make sure the water is hot - it dissolves the stain remover more effectively and it also has a bigger stain-fighting potential.
- Now, when you leave the clothes to soak, the rule ‘the longer, the better’ is usually valid in here as well. Of course, that doesn’t mean they should remain soaked for days! Up to overnight for really hard stains would be enough.
- After the clothes are properly soaked, you should drain the vessel and squeeze the clothes to get the water out of them - don’t overdo it, though, so as not to stress the fabric too much). After you do this you can freely put the clothes in the machine and do your usual batch of laundering. You can add some mild detergent if you prefer to make extra-sure the stains are getting off, or choose not to add anything because the clothes are already soaked in the solution of the stain remover - it’s completely up to you.
This is also kind of an old-school method but works well with lighter colored clothes. This is a particularly desirable method because it doesn’t really involve any chemicals, and we know a lot of parents want to avoid using them as much as possible on their little ones.
This is a trick that is particularly popular with families that use cloth diapers when trying to get rid of diaper stains that just won’t go any other way. However, it can be rather effective on other clothing items as well.
The sun-bleaching method is also very effective in treating breastmilk or baby formula that has been spilled on baby clothes and has darkened with time, producing those well-known and very annoying yellowish, round stains.
With just a couple of hours in the sun (even one to two hours on an especially bright and sunny day!), you’ll notice a considerable difference in the clothes that you’ve been drying - either the stains become much less noticeable or they disappear entirely! Just make sure to lay or spread the clothes flat out in the sun, exposing the stained area the most, making it get maximum sunlight. You can also hang the clothes on a clothesline, it works in a similar way.
Note: You have to be careful with certain clothing items when it comes to sun-bleaching. Some more delicate materials and fabrics may deteriorate faster in the sun. Also, have in mind that colorful clothing is going to fade faster when exposed too much to the sun, so it’s better to use this method on lighter colored or white clothes.
Oxygen Bleach Method
This method includes baking soda and washing soda (sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate). It’s a color-safe bleach and can be used for all fabrics. It also doesn’t contain any chlorine.
You can definitely use the oxygen bleach method on any stains, especially ones caused by poo, spit-up, and different kinds of food. It can do magic for hand-me-downs, old clothing with yellowish milk stains, making it seem like you’ve just purchased it from the store. It also works pretty well for sweat-stained clothes, for the bigger kids and adults in your family.
With these couple of steps you can try out the oxygen bleach method:
- Put the clothing in cool water and rinse.
- Make a paste with the powdered oxygen bleach mixed with water.
- Apply the paste to the stain and rub for a bigger removal effect.
- Let it stay put for 10-15 minutes. Then wash it as you usually do, either by hand or toss it in the machine.
If the stain is more stubborn, try the soaking method with hot water (the one we wrote about earlier), and let it stay overnight.
Enzyme Detergent Method
Enzymes are a type of protein, and many detergents contain them because they work well in removing stains caused by organic substances of the likes of:
- Greasy food like milk, eggs, chocolate
- Feces, vomit, urine, blood, sweat
- Grass and mud
Laundry detergents contain different kinds of enzymes. If you’re interested in this method, you should look for the following in the ingredients list:
- Protease or amylase - this works best on proteins and starches, among them milk, food, and blood
- Cellulase - this one keeps the cotton clothing from getting that greyish hue
- Lipase - targets stains from oily substances or foods
If you want to remove stains with an enzyme detergent:
- Use cool water and rinse the clothing once you put it inside the basin
- Apply the enzyme-rich laundry detergent to the stain.
- Let the clothing item sit for a while, and then wash it in warm water (hand or machine wash). If the stain is harder to remove, you can also additionally use an oxygen bleach after you let it sit for a while.
Diluted alcohol is a safe solution for most types of fabrics. If you want to use the rubbing alcohol-vinegar method, just follow these simple steps:
- Rinse the clothing items in cool water
- Let them soak for 15 minutes - the solution should be one part water and one part alcohol
- If this proves not to be effective enough in removing the stain, soak the item again in one part water and one part vinegar.
- Wash the item as you would regularly.
Some Other Things to Consider
Always Wash New Clothes
When you purchase new clothes for your baby, it’s recommended that you wash them before you dress your little one in their new outfit. Of course, it’s unlikely that something serious will happen to them if you don’t do this, but allergies and other types of skin irritations are possible as a consequence of unwashed new clothes, and you definitely don’t want to run the risk of that, especially not on a tender, baby skin. The shipping and storing of clothes for sale are often unsanitary and you never know the conditions of the storage facilities they’ve been kept in so far - new clothes often come in contact with bugs, dirt, and rodents, and it’s important to always consider washing them after you purchase new clothes for your little nugget.
Some Tips on Machine Washing
Babies tend to produce stains that are kinda harder to remove - stuff like poop or vomit or spit-up is part of their regular repertoire. Besides the heavy stains, there’s also the heavy smell, that also needs to be removed. That’s why it’s very important to have them thoroughly and properly washed. But the most important reason is, of course, health concerns. There are lots of bacteria and germs present on soiled clothes and cloth diapers, which means that it’s crucial to clean them as soon as possible. And because of the heaviness of the stains and the germs present on them, you’ll want to wash them in higher temperatures (around or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit or 60 degrees Celsius). For additional protection, you can also add a mild disinfectant when washing such clothes.
It’s also recommended that you occasionally disinfect the washing machine itself - you can, for example, run an empty wash on a higher temperature (you can add bleach as well if you want). This should be an effective means of killing most of the germs, bacteria, and dust mites as well, that may have accumulated so far in the machine.