It’s easy to gush over baby clothes. Whether you’re stocking up on sustainable second-hand outfits or have your sights set on buying new, knowing how to clean baby clothes is something you can learn before bringing your baby home.
While you may not always feel inclined to wash before you wear when you’re shopping for yourself, baby clothes should be treated a little differently before first use. It’s a good idea to pre-wash newly purchased baby clothes because they may have been treated with things like flame retardants, have excess dye, etc. For hand-me-down baby clothes, pre-washing just helps ensure the clothes are clean for their newest wearer. Old or new, always start the laundry process by checking the item’s laundry care symbols.
Pre-washing doesn’t mean you have to wash and dry every single onesie, burp cloth, and towel before the baby is born. Just make sure to wash baby clothes or linen before you use them.
Tip: Pre-wash baby clothes in phases, starting with items marked in sizes newborn through 0-3 months. This helps avoid washing things your baby may grow out of quickly – or items they may not wear at all.
There are some detergent options that are labeled as being “gentle for baby,” which tend to be dye-free but may have a light scent. If you’re interested in washing baby clothes with regular detergent that you could use for your whole family versus one marketed for babies, consider all® free clear laundry detergent, from the #1 detergent brand recommended by dermatologists, allergists, and pediatricians for sensitive skin.
It’s a good idea to wash baby clothes separately from other household items and clothing and to sort by level of soil in case any items require pre-treatment for stains. For smaller items like socks, bibs, swaddles, etc., you may want to consider a mesh laundry bag to help minimize snags.
Tip: Baby clothes are notorious for having all types of fasteners – buttons, snaps, zippers. Before you place baby clothes into the washer, be sure to zip, snap, or button the garments to avoid damaging any of the hardware.
If you’re washing cloth diapers, you may wish to use warm water, however, when washing baby clothes like onesies, towels, and other linen, you can feel comfortable washing with cold water unless the care label says otherwise.
We know that once something is washed it needs to be dried, but with baby clothes, how you choose to dry them matters, too. There are dryer sheets that are formulated to be gentle for sensitive skin, but it’s best to steer clear of products with added ingredients that are not necessary for cleaning.
Delicate baby clothes or especially well-loved hand-me-downs may be better off with hang-drying or line-drying versus a machine dryer. For all other items, if the care label gives it the OK, you can use your machine dryer, but may want to use a gentle setting.
How and where you plan to store your baby clothes will depend on what space you have available. If your baby will have its own dedicated closet, getting a set of baby hangers and organizing outfits by size range (0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months, etc.).
Tip: If you’re using a closet and hangers, consider repurposing a hanging shoe rack as a hanging shelf system to fold special items, or to hold things like socks, burp cloths, and crib sheets.
Before your baby outgrows their clothes and moves onto the next size range and/or season, think through how you’ll store your clothes to reuse as hand-me-downs in the future. Vacuum storage bags are great, and make it easy to group seasons and sizes together.