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Keep baby clothes neat and clean

By on August 1, 2008

Cloth Diapersphoto by Dazed81
Many parents are concerned with how to launder their baby’s clothing so they can fight stains but not irritate their baby’s skin. Some baby laundry detergents claim to be gentle on skin, but they might not clean as well as you want them to. I used some free samples that turned out to be scented heavily, so I stopped using them. I realize most babies won’t experience any reaction to clothing washed in regular laundry detergent. I wanted to be on the safe side, so I selected scent- and dye-free laundry detergents, nixed the fabric softeners and made certain baby clothes were rinsed well.

In time, I washed baby clothing with our regular clothes. Often, I was too tired to be terribly bothered by the occasional stain. Typically, I used bibs, and that prevented most stains. I’ll admit that many times, once my babies were a bit older, I’d simply remove top layers of clothing when it was time to eat. A stained onesie here and there wasn’t going to upset me, but whether our baby’s clothes are new and extravagant or secondhand and simple, we want to make them last and not look terribly shabby on our little ones. Many of us save them for resale, friends or future babies, too, so we want stains kept to a minimum.

PROTEIN: Stains such as formula, breast milk and diaper stains are best treated by soaking the garment in cold water and then applying an enzyme cleaner, like Whisk, or a pretreatment cleaner that contains enzyme directly on the garment. Let the clothing soak so the enzyme cleaner has a chance to attack the stain. Often, people reach for hot water to combat stains, but hot water can set a stain, so I use cold water and have had good results. If the stain persists, you can try an all-purpose stain remover, such as Shout. If you’re looking for frugal alternatives to fighting protein stains, try rinsing the garment in cold water and directly applying dish liquid and one tablespoon of ammonia. Rub gently and rinse. With diaper stains, try placing the garment outside in the sun. It works as a natural bleach.

GREASE AND OIL: For oily stains from baby products, such as lotions, baby oils and petroleum jelly, your first course of action should be to absorb some of the oil with cornstarch. Let the cornstarch set for 30 minutes. Then scrape it off and treat the fabric with a pretreat solvent, such as Spray ‘n Wash. A frugal alternative is to apply dish liquid to the stain and soak. Rinse with vinegar. Then launder as usual.

For fruit and vegetable stains, soak in cold water. Blot as much of the stain as possible. Hydrogen peroxide or vinegar can help remove these stains, too. Apply a pretreat solvent and launder as usual.

— Wash baby’s clothes prior to using them.
— Don’t wash cloth diapers with other laundry because they contain bacteria.
— Don’t combine bleach with ammonia or vinegar because the combination is toxic.
— Don’t use fabric softeners because they can reduce the fire-retardant qualities of your baby’s clothes.


  1. MaXiao

    10/4/2008 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks for a useful and informative article. We have a two month old baby and my wife and I have have different opinions about how to do his laundry. My wife claims that the baby clothes HAVE to be washed separate from our regular laundry. I (being more lazy than my wife) am wondering if it is not possible to throw it all into one machine, as long as we only use our “baby detergent”

    Does anybody know who is right here (not that it matters since my wife is the most stubborn person on the planet, and there is no way she’ll ever let me clean our little guys stuff together with my T-shirts…). Cheers, M

  2. Jennifer

    8/3/2009 at 1:38 pm

    wash one or two if baby’s onesies with your clothes, with your regular detergent and see if he has any kind of reaction or sensitivity. If not, you can wash everything together with the regular detergent. Baby detergents tend to actually have plenty of irritants and a free and clear detergent should be just fine, as it will have fewer irritants.

  3. Pingback: Frugal Baby: Beat Baby Stains

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