Plant Life

Washing Baby Clothing: a How-To Guide

Tips to remove stains and keep baby outfits in good condition.

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baby clothing packed into a bag

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We asked some of our UpChoose parents who have consistently returned items in great condition to share their tips and secrets.

Why It Matters

We designed a circular baby clothing service to get you the softest and most adorable clothes at a fraction of the cost and effort.

⁠Keeping items in good condition and following the right washing practices will ensure you get the best of out the high-quality organic cotton fabrics you receive in your UpChoose sets. You will also make it possible for the next family to enjoy preloved clothes in good condition. It's an important part of what makes this model work! The good news is in most cases, it's not that hard. We know it because we see so many UpChoose parents do it.

Investing money into good quality clothing also means you’ll want to nurture that investment by taking good care of your baby’s clothing. The goal is not to be perfect, but to do our best. We're here to help along the way!

How Do You Wash Baby Clothes for the First Time?

One of the exciting things about the end of pregnancy is getting to wash baby’s clothes and prepare the nursery.

A good rule of thumb is to have everything washed and ready to go by the time you're 35 weeks pregnant. This gives you a comfortable window before your due date, just in case your little one decides to make an early appearance.

Pre-washing removes any residues from manufacturing and ensures the clothes are soft and clean for your baby's sensitive skin. Use gentle, eco-friendly detergents (more on this later), and you'll have a fresh set of clothes ready for when baby arrives!

How to Choose the Right Laundry Detergent

The first thing you need is a detergent. So, what should you look for in a detergent? Here are some key points:

  • Natural Ingredients: We're aiming for detergents that are derived from plants and other natural sources. These are gentler on the skin and the environment.

  • Fragrance-Free: Fragrances might smell nice, but they can be irritating to sensitive skin. 'Fragrance-free' means the detergent is free of synthetic scents.

  • Phosphate-Free: Phosphates can cause algal blooms in water bodies, harming aquatic life. So, a phosphate-free detergent is a friend to our waterways.

  • Dye-Free: Dyes are unnecessary chemicals that don't need to be there. They can be another source of irritation.

  • Hypoallergenic: This means the detergent is less likely to cause allergic reactions, making it a safer choice for baby's skin.

If you’re looking for detergents that tick all of these boxes, the Environmental Working Group, or EWG, is a great place to start. They rate cleaning products on safety and environmental impact. They even have a EWG VERIFIED™ label, which means it meets EWG's strictest standards for health and transparency.

UpChoose uses Biokleen in-house for washing the bundles. But there are other good options out there too. Let's list a few:

  • Attitude Baby Laundry Detergent

  • Healthy Baby Our Laundry Detergent Concentrate

  • Dapple Baby Laundry Detergent, Fragrance-Free

  • Dropps Sensitive Skin & Baby Laundry Detergent Pods, Unscented

  • The Honest Company Baby Laundry Detergent, Fragrance Free

  • Whole Foods Market Baby Laundry Detergent, Unscented

  • Molly's Suds Laundry Powder

How to Treat Stains

Also included in laundering is stain treating. Babies can get super messy - whether it’s a milk stain, a pumpkin puree or something equally as colorful. 

Here are a few general tips:

  • The quicker you act on a stain, the better your chances of removing it.

  • Always check the care label before you start your stain-removal mission.

  • Sunlight is nature's bleach, especially for white and light-colored fabrics.

Let’s discuss the various types of stains:

  • Milk and formula: These can leave a surprising mark. Rinse the area with cold water as soon as possible, then apply a small amount of your chosen baby-safe detergent directly to the stain. Gently rub it in and let it sit before running it through a regular wash.

  • Diaper leaks: A reality for all parents. If you're dealing with a protein-based stain, cold water is your best friend. Rinse the garment thoroughly, then soak it in cold water with a bit of your detergent before washing.

  • Baby food: Purees can be colorful and persistent. Scrape off any excess, rinse under cold water, and treat with detergent before washing.

🌟 How UpChoose Works

You’re never charged for items returned stained or damaged, insurance is already covered in your subscription.   

Should You Wash Baby Clothes Separately?

Some parents prefer to wash baby clothes separately to avoid any potential irritation from adult clothes. But if you're using a gentle, baby-safe detergent, you can totally mix in their clothes with yours. It's a time-saver and, let's be honest, anything that simplifies life with a newborn is a win.

Washing, Drying, and Storage Best Practices

For the washing machine settings, the gentle cycle is recommended for baby clothes. It's less abrasive and helps preserve the fabric's integrity. Use lukewarm water for washing; hot water isn't necessary with the right detergent and can be harsh on delicate items.

Drying baby clothes can be done in two ways: air drying or using a dryer. Air drying is ideal, especially for organic cotton, as it's gentle and energy-efficient. If you need to use a dryer, opt for a low or medium heat setting to prevent damage to the clothes. Wool dryer balls are a great addition to reduce drying time and are a natural alternative to dryer sheets that are often saturated in synthetic fragrances.

Remember, the care label is there to help, not to make life more complicated. It's got all the info you need for keeping everything looking great and feeling soft.

UpChoose Parents' Secrets

We asked some of our UpChoose parents who have consistently returned items in great condition to share their tips and secrets. 

We grouped them into three categories: Keep it gentle, wash and dry carefully, and use the right products.

Keeping it Gentle

  • Try to move slowly when putting clothes on or taking them off.

  • Try not to put extra pressure on the fabric when using snaps. They are nice and easy but can cause tears.

  • Bibs are your best friends. Use them as much as you can!

baby clothing hung up on a rack

"We almost always have some sort of bib on Cora" — Elysse S., California

"I always pull right at the snap to ensure I’m not creating any extra pull on the fabric that could result in a tear over time" — Ashton G., California

"Take baby's clothes off while eating!" — Brittany B., Colorado

When to Wash & What Temperature to Use

  • Don’t overwash. Only wash clothes when they are actually dirty.

  • Don't let stains sit for too long. Pretreat stains by soaking them in warm water right away.

  • Choose the warm setting on your washing machine, and sort like colors together.

  • Tumble dry low. Air dry when you can. Lay clothes out in the sunshine to naturally get stains out.

  • Do not wash dark and light colors together. Organic fibers should never be bleached. Turn patterned clothes inside out.

baby outfits hung up against a wall

"I wash them in cold water with a fragrance-free detergent. I dry them on low heat for a few min to remove wrinkles and for the softness." — Corrina V., Pennsylvania

"I pretreat stains with hot water but wash on cold. It uses less energy and is gentler on your clothes." — Ashton G., California

"I use warm for white clothes and colder for dark clothes. We use a dryer, usually the delicate setting" — Jolana I., California

What Soaps or Detergents to Use

  • Try to avoid ordinary, fragranced laundry detergents. Many of them contain undesirable ingredients.

  • Use natural, fragrance, and phosphate-free cleansers. One brand we recommend is Biokleen which has an "A" rating from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). You can check the rating of the product you use on the EWG website. Here's a good post on how to pick a safe laundry detergent.

  • You can also test soap nuts for an even more sustainable way to do your laundry.

baby clothing on hangers

"The biggest recommendation I have is Baking soda. It’s my best friend when talking about cleaning and laundry. It’s great for not only stain removal like mentioned, but it’s great to put in your load to help with smells and freshness as well!" — Corrina V., Pennsylvania

"I use the Method stain stick for pretreating any stains. It has a cap with bristles that are great for stains. You can also use baking soda to lift the stain, especially with anything oily. And an old toothbrush is your best friend for getting in there and scrubbing those stains out." — Ashton G., California

"We use Molly's suds detergent, warm cycle in the wash. Dryer balls in the dryer." — Brittany B., Colorado

Other Gentle Care Tips

When it comes to keeping baby clothes in good shape, a little TLC goes a long way. Here's a rundown of some hands-on tips to keep your baby's wardrobe looking and feeling great:

  • Button Up and Zip Down: Before you toss clothes into the wash, take a moment to button up those buttons and zip down the zippers. This helps prevent snagging and keeps the clothes from stretching out of shape.

  • Storing for Growth: Babies grow at lightning speed, and before you know it, they've outgrown that cute onesie. When storing clothes for the next round (whether it's for a sibling or to pass on to a friend), clean them first, then store them in a cool, dry place. Consider using clear bins with labels so you can easily find sizes and seasons when you need them.

  • Wash only when needed: I have found that my baby can wear some items more than once before needing a wash. This cuts down on wear and tear and also saves water due to less frequent washes.

  • Gentle on the Go: When you're dressing and undressing your little one, be gentle with the clothes. Avoid pulling on cuffs or necklines, as this can stretch them out. And when dealing with buttons or snaps, open them with care to avoid tearing the fabric.

By following these suggestions, you're not only keeping your baby's clothes in great condition but also protecting your investment and reducing the need for frequent replacements. And remember, if you're part of the UpChoose family, these practices align perfectly with our philosophy of mindful consumption and care for our little ones' future.

Real Parents’ Top Laundry Care Tips for Keeping Baby Clothes in Great Condition

From Jolana I., California

  • We take care of UpChoose clothes as if it was ours. No difference between ours & rented.

  • We don’t wash clothes after every use, only if they’re dirty! 'Cause babies don’t sweat :)

  • Light colors = sleeping / Dark colors = daily use. 

From Brittany B, Colorado

  • Wash often. Don't let stains sit for too long.

  • Take baby's clothes off while eating!

  • Lay clothes out in the sunshine to naturally get stains out.

From Corrina V, Pennsylvania

  • To spot remove them as quickly as possible

  • Dry them for a small amount of time on low heat so they are soft.

  • Wash them with similar colors

From Elysse S, California

  • We almost always have some sort of bib on Cora.

  • If she does get a stain we soak it in warm water right away.

  • Try to move slowly even when the baby gets impatient haha. We usually give her a pacifier or a toy so that she’s not too antsy and has avoided tears so far.

From Ashton G, California

  • Don’t overwash. Only wash clothes when they are actually dirty. 

  • Pretreat stains

  • Tumble dry low. Air dry when you can.

Any questions, comments, or secrets of your own to share? Let us know as we will continuously be updating this page!