Products and Pointers
New Mom's Guide to Baby Laundry
By Dana Sullivan
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 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:
- 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, avoid using liquid fabric softeners or dryer sheets since they tend to be perfumed and may irritate baby's skin. Always wash your baby's PJs in detergent rather than natural animal-based soaps because such formulas wash out the flame-retardant chemicals that are used to treat sleepwear.
- Getting out stubborn 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 in hot water since this can "cook" the protein into the fabric's fibers, making it difficult to remove) and you can 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 in cold water and detergent for several hours. Wash in warm water, rinse and inspect. If the stain remains, soak another 30 minutes and re-wash. If you use bleach to help get the stain out, be sure to rewash since bleach will irritate a baby's skin. Never put stained fabric in the dryer since the heat will set the stain.
- Cleaning cloth diapers If you use cloth diapers and don't have a diaper service, keeping the right supplies on hand will make laundering them easier. The essentials include a pail with a cover, Borax, baking soda, bleach, and white vinegar. Here are three easy steps for dealing with dirty diapers:
- Fill the diaper pail with warm water and 1/2 cup of Borax.
- Rinse dirty diapers before placing in the diaper pail; the Borax solution will help remove stains.
- 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.