Laundry Time for Little One

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on May 23, 2023
3 min read

Ah, the life of a new parent. Your schedule follows a predictable pattern: feeding, sleeping, constant diaper changes, and yes, the joy of seemingly endless laundry. Some days, your baby can go through so many outfit changes, it can make your head spin faster than your washer or dryer.

But is your laundry routine safe for your little one’s delicate skin? There are a few things to keep in mind as you’re tackling that mountain of baby clothes, washcloths, bedding, blankies, and even cloth diapers.

Always wash before wear. Babies, especially newborns, have sensitive skin, so throw most of your baby’s new items into the laundry before they wear them. (If it’s a coat or jacket that doesn’t come in direct contact with their skin, you may not need to launder it first.) Use a mesh bag for washing and drying socks, and fasten any Velcro tabs so they don’t catch on other clothes.

No need to clean your baby’s clothes separately. And most people don’t need to invest in a special “baby” detergent. In most cases, you can toss their clothes in with the rest of the family’s stuff.

If your baby has allergies, eczema, or you’re simply worried that regular detergent may cause problems, use it to wash one or two baby items and then check their skin for irritation after they wear them. If they do have a reaction, baby detergent could be a good investment. Or look for a soap that is hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. You can wash the whole family’s clothes with that.

Since liquid detergents rinse out more easily than powder ones, they may be a better choice for a baby’s sensitive skin. Don’t use anti-static products or fabric softeners, which may have chemicals that can be too harsh. And avoid soap flakes, which can strip away the flame-retardant properties of their PJs.

Wash cloth diapers alone. Regular detergents can cause diaper rash, so you do need to separate these items from the rest of the laundry. Also, baby detergent can be a good investment in this case to protect the delicate skin in their diaper area. After you dump poop into the toilet, rinse cloth diapers in cold water, then soak them in a mild detergent with bleach. Wash them with baby detergent in hot water. Double rinse each load.

Attack stains right away. If your baby spits up a bottle all over their new designer sundress, act fast. If you can, either wipe away as much of the mess as possible with a baby wipe, or soak their clothes in a mix of water and detergent. This makes it less likely the stain will set and be permanent.

Keep babies away from the laundry area. Laundry detergents are poisonous. Always keep them out of sight and reach of your little one. If there’s a spill, clean it up right away. Laundry detergent pods are especially dangerous. Kids are often attracted to them because of their bright colors. But if they get even a tiny amount in their mouth or eyes, it can cause irritation, breathing or stomach problems, and even death. It’s a good idea to lock up your laundry area when you’re not near it.

Be extra cautious with eczema. If your baby has this itchy skin condition, you need to be a little more careful when washing their clothes. Choose detergents that are hypoallergenic, free of dyes and fragrances, and double rinse each load. Liquid products are best, since they leave fewer residues than powders. You should always wash every item that will touch your baby’s skin, like bedding, blankets, towels, and plush toys, before they use them for the first time.