The New Mom's Guide to Baby Laundry
The New Mom's Guide to Baby Laundry

by Dana Sullivan

Discover the tricks to get out all the (many, many) messes your new baby makes

As a new mom, you were prepared for the sleepless nights. Maybe you even anticipated the dozen diapers that you'd change on an average day. But did you ever imagine the piles of dirty baby laundry that seem to multiply by the hour now that there's a baby in the house?

Laundry, you'll soon learn, is a job that's never done when you have kids. (Actually, this might be the case even after children leave home for college!) But before you know it, you'll know so much about stain removal that even your grandmother would be impressed. (And don't worry, washing your newborn's onesies needn't be as complicated as assembling his crib!) Here are some tips to help you keep it simple.

Baby Laundry: Choosing Detergent

Your baby's skin is more sensitive than yours, but as long as you use a mild detergent -- one without color or fragrance -- you can safely wash his clothing with yours. (Just be sure to wash cloth diapers separately from all clothing. See"Washing Diapers," below.)

For now, use liquid fabric softeners or dryer sheets, since they tend to be perfumed and may irritate baby's skin. New moms should always wash baby's PJs in detergent rather than natural animal-based soaps, because such formulas wash out the flame-retardant chemicals used to treat sleepwear.

Getting out Stubborn Baby Laundry Stains

To remove any baby stain (i.e., formula, food or poop), first scrape off as much as you can and get the clothing into cold water as soon as possible. Fill the washer with cold water and allow the clothing to agitate while the stain is fresh -- this may get the stain out. (Never soak the clothing in hot water, since this can cook the protein into the fabric's fibers, making it difficult to remove.) Then wash normally.

If the stain remains, let it soak in cold water with detergent for at least 30 minutes. If the stain has dried, soak it in cold water and detergent for several hours. Wash in warm water, rinse and inspect.

If the stain still remains, soak it another 30 minutes and rewash. If you use bleach to help get the stain out, be sure to rewash since bleach irritates a baby's skin. And never put stained fabric in the dryer, since the heat will set the stain.

Laundering Your Baby's Cloth Diapers

For new moms who use cloth diapers and don't have a diaper service, keeping the right supplies on hand makes laundering them easier.

The essentials include:

- A pail with a cover

- Detergent

- Borax

- Baking soda

- Bleach

- White vinegar

Here are three easy steps for dealing with dirty diapers:

1. Fill the diaper pail with warm water and 1/2 cup of Borax.

2. Rinse dirty diapers before placing them in the diaper pail; the Borax solution helps remove stains and control odors. (As the 20 Mule Team Borax website explains,"Our bodies produce sweat and other proteins that become embedded in fabric fibers. Certain bacteria and enzymes feed on the proteins and produce gas (odor) as waste … 20 Mule Team Borax inhibits certain enzymes from producing odor and controls odors in smelly clothes.")

3. Run diapers through two wash cycles. On the first, use detergent, hot water and bleach. On the second, use just water, adding white vinegar to the final rinse. The vinegar gets rid of soap residue and whitens diapers. You can also add baking soda to the final rinse, which helps soften the fabric.

Parenting: "The New Mom's Guide to Baby Laundry"