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Do Baby Clothes Need To Be Washed Before Use? (Step-by-Step Guides)

Do Baby Clothes Need To Be Washed Before Use? (Step-by-Step Guides)

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As an expecting parent, you will realize that you will be doing a lot of laundry once the baby comes. Your baby shower probably brought in a lot of baby clothes as gifts, and, as your nesting period begins, you will go through the clothes, separate and organize them. But is it as easy as that, or should you wash the clothes before your baby puts them on?

It is best practice to wash your baby’s clothes before they wear them for the first time to avoid irritating your baby’s sensitive skin. Baby clothes can accumulate dirt, dust, allergens, residual dyes or chemicals, and other irritants before you bring them home, and washing will help to remove them.

Keep reading as we give you more information about how to wash and handle your baby’s clothes.

Should you wash baby clothes before using them?

Washing your baby’s clothes before using them is highly recommended because of your baby’s skin sensitivity.

You should usually wash your baby’s clothes before the first wear to remove any lingering chemicals, dyes, and dust from shipment and storage. Since baby skin is more sensitive than an adult’s, you should wash baby clothes separately using a gentle baby-safe detergent. 

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Donald Belsito, a professor of dermatology from Columbia University, explains that lice can also linger in used clothing. He recommends always washing clothes before using them, especially for babies.

We usually don’t think about how clothes are made, but it is very common for clothes to be manufactured in one country, dyed in another, and stitched together in a third country. These fabrics travel from one county to another, and these countries have varying levels of standards when it comes to chemical use.

As for hand-me-down or pre-loved clothing, the same rule of washing before wearing applies. Stored clothing in storage areas or the garage can also be exposed to dust and mold. You don’t know the type of household the clothes have been in, so it’s better to be cautious and wash the clothes first.

When should you start washing baby clothes before birth?

Generally speaking, you should start washing your baby’s clothes in your second or early third trimester.

The second trimester of your pregnancy is characterized by more energy, so that will give you the extra boost to wash your baby’s clothes. If you’re setting up a nursery for your new baby, this should also coincide with that, so you’ll have a clean, accessible storage place until your little one needs the tiny outfits.

Of course, every pregnancy is a little different, so your mileage may vary!

When to stop pre-washing baby clothes

You should make it a habit to wash all clothes before using them, not just with your baby’s clothes but your clothes.

Even as your baby grows older, it is too risky to put clothes on without washing them just because of the potential side effects of dye or other irritants to your child’s skin.

How do you wash baby clothes for the first time?

When it comes to washing your baby’s clothes for the first time, you have to think about many factors: what type of detergent to use, temperature, wash cycle, or deciding whether to hand wash or put it in the washing machine.

The usual detergent that you use for yourself will be too harmful to your baby’s sensitive skin. Opt for fragrance and dye-free detergents to not react to the baby’s skin. Skip the dryer sheets and fabric softeners because these might have chemicals harmful to the baby’s skin.

In terms of the water temperature, cold water is preferred because it will reduce the risk of shrinking the baby’s clothes. Contrary to popular belief, cold water cleans as much as warm water and prevents color bleeding. Some of the baby’s clothing is also made of delicate material, and cold water can prevent certain materials from shedding or unraveling.

After washing, the clothes can be dried in direct sunlight or the dryer with the lowest setting. It might be tempting to select the highest temperature to make the clothes dry faster but doing this will cause shrinkage and damage to clothes. For delicate baby clothes like lace, it is recommended to handwash instead of throwing them in the machine.

How to wash baby clothes in the washing machine

  1. Read the label – The clothing label will have the type of material used and all care instructions.
  2. Prepare the clothes – Make sure that zippers, buttons, and velcro are secured. You can put smaller pieces of clothing like socks and mittens in a mesh bag to make it easy for you to put them away.
  3. Separate clothes – Separate by colors, darks, and whites.
  4. Choose a baby-friendly detergentDreft is hypoallergenic and recommended by pediatricians.
  5. Wash on cold cycle.
  6. Choose gentle to normal cycle – If your baby has eczema or skin allergies, you can run the wash cycle twice to make sure all the detergent is thoroughly washed off the clothes.

Looking for more information about washing your baby’s laundry? Check out this article about how to wash everything – whites, colors, blankets, and more!

What temperature to wash baby clothes

It might be tempting to select the highest temperature for washing a baby’s clothes because it will kill any bacteria and germs, but this can also make the clothes shrink.

In terms of selecting the right temperature, cold water is preferred.

This will preserve the quality of clothes and, at the same time, help lessen your electric bill.

How to clean washing machine before washing baby clothes

There’s a lot of wear and tear that your washing machine goes through, especially with multiple loads of laundry every week. As a parent, you can go the extra mile by cleaning your washing machine before you wash your baby’s clothes.

If you prefer to do it the natural way, you can use vinegar and baking soda:

  1. Select the highest level and hottest water temperature option in your washer.
  2. Put 2 cups of white vinegar in the detergent dispenser.
  3. Run a complete cycle.
  4. Add ½ cup baking soda to the drum.
  5. Run another cycle choosing the highest level and hottest water temperature.
  6. Once finished, wipe down the inside of the drum with a clean cloth.

Can you put baby clothes in the dryer?

Baby clothes can be dried in the dryer, but it’s not preferred.

If you’re able to, allowing baby clothes to line dry because of sunlight’s natural germ-fighting capabilities is the best option.

As a bonus, clothes will come out softer and whiter, plus it’ll save on your energy bill!

How to wash baby clothes by hand

  1. Wash your hands before handling the baby clothes.
  2. Check the water temperature – water that is too hot might burn your hands.
  3. Use a baby-friendly detergent, free from dyes and chemicals.
  4. Soak in warm water before and after the wash at least for 30 minutes – this ensures that bacteria is removed.
  5. Dry using direct sunlight will also remove any lingering bacteria in the clothes. Make sure the clothes are completely dried, and never put damp clothes on your baby.

When can you wash baby clothes in regular detergent?

There isn’t a hard and fast rule for leaving the baby detergent behind, but it’s most important during the first year.

Most babies can safely transition from baby detergent to regular detergent around the time they turn one. If your baby has overly sensitive skin, is prone to allergic reactions, or has eczema (or a similar skin condition), you will probably want to wait a little while. 

When you’re reading to make the switch, go slowly and watch your baby for any adverse reactions.

Check out this article for how to make the switch to a regular detergent!

Joshua Bartlett
Joshua Bartlett

My name is Joshua Bartlett I run this blog with my wife Jarah. We have more than 11 years of parenting experience including three girls and one boy. I started this blog in late 2018 when I realized that I was dealing with baby-related issues on a constant basis…please read more about me here!

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