Ah, the sweet smell of a clean baby! You may be tempted to enhance that clean, fresh smell by running baby diapers and onesies through a final rinse with fabric softener – but don’t! The perfumes in fabric softener can irritate a baby’s sensitive skin, or spark allergies that cause uncomfortable rashes. With all those adorable babies and teddy bears on fabric softener packages, who would have guessed?
Here’s another handful of tips for taking care of baby’s clothes during the first year, focusing on laundering and stain removal.
Choose a detergent that’s free of dyes and perfumes. There are a number of brands of laundry detergent that are specially formulated for baby’s clothing, including Ivory Snow and Dreft. It’s really not necessary to resort to those, though. You can wash baby’s clothes with yours, as long as you use an allergen free, no-dye, no-fragrance detergent.
Baby’s sleepwear especially should be washed in a mild detergent made without animal fats or other water conditioners. Flame retardant sleepwear is specially treated to keep children’s pajamas from flaring into flame if ignited by a spark. The flame retardant chemicals can be affected by fabric softeners and conditioners. Don’t use them on baby’s sleeping gowns and stretchies.
Getting Rid of Baby Stains
Formula, baby food and – well – baby poop, are among the worst challenge for laundry detergents, thanks to their high protein content. To keep spills from becoming tough stains:
— Scrape off as much as you can, being careful not to scrub it in instead.
— Get the stained item into cold water as soon as possible. If you can get it into the washer right away, let it agitate in cold water through a cycle – without soap. If you catch the stain before it dries, it may be enough to keep the stain from setting at all.
— Do NOT use hot water on formula stains, baby food stains or baby diaper stains. The heat can set the stain permanently by ‘cooking’ it into the fibers of the fabric.
— If the cold water cycle doesn’t do the trick, add another tub full of cold water and detergent, and let it soak for half an hour. Run it through, wash in warm water, rinse and repeat. If it’s really stubborn and still there after a soak and two washes, try it one more time – soak in detergent and cold water for at least half an hour, then wash in warm water, rinse and repeat.
— If you use bleach to help get the stain out, make sure that you rinse well to get out all traces of bleach that can irritate baby’s sensitive skin.
Cloth diapers call for special treatment. If you don’t have a diaper service, make sure that you have what you need to deal with the laundering. The basics are a covered diaper pail, Borax, baking soda, bleach and vinegar.
First: Fill the diaper pail with warm water and half a cup of Borax. Rinse diapers out before placing them in the Borax solution to soak.
Second: When you’re ready to wash, use laundry detergent, hot water and bleach.
Third: Wash a second time, using just water to remove bleach and detergent residue. Add vinegar to the final rinse to help loosen detergent residue and whiten diapers. You can also add baking soda baking soda to the final rinse to help soften fabric.
Kirsten Hawkins is a baby and parenting expert specializing new mothers and single parent issues.