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The New Parents’ Guide to Caring for Baby Clothes

baby booties hanging to dry

parents guide to caring for baby clothes

Every parent can agree that it’s fun and easy to pick out cute baby clothes. Whether you’re searching for a snuggly Sleep ‘N’ Play or a festive jumper, nothing is better than dressing your little one in a brand new outfit. After you get your favorite garments home, though, there’s really no instruction manual for caring for them. Before you pick up the phone to ask mom how to organize bodysuits, or begin scouring the Internet for tips on removing a huge, dirty stain from PJs, read our guide full of helpful pointers on washing, drying and storage. You’ll feel like a professional launderer in no time—and you and baby will be happier for it!  

Washing Baby Clothes Like a Pro

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Cleaning your mini-me’s clothing is much different than washing your own. While you probably have no problem using the cheapest detergent on the shelf or mixing your cozy sweaters with your partner’s athletic jersey, there’s a specific way to launder an infant’s outfits. This is not only so they stand the test of time and save you money—but more importantly, so they don’t irritate baby’s sensitive skin.

baby in striped red onesie

Before You Start the Washing Machine…

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  • Buy the right supplies—It’s important to purchase a detergent without perfumes, dyes or colors. This may be a product especially for small children or one with a natural, simplified list of ingredients. Many personal products companies make non-toxic, hypoallergenic liquid. They also contain powerful natural enzymes that work to effectively fight stains. There are also plenty of recognizable name brands out there recommended by pediatricians and dermatologists for eczema and other types of sensitive skin.
  • Stick with one brand—When you do find the detergent you like, keep using the same one. Before you think we’re trying to keep the variety fairy from jazzing up an already mundane task, know that there are two benefits to doing this. First, you’ll be keeping things consistent, so you won’t see mixed results in the cleanliness of the clothes. You also won’t surprise your little one’s skin. Plus, if baby does have a sensitivity to the type you choose, you’ll know the culprit instantly so you can try selecting another brand or seek the advice of your pediatrician.
  • Pre-treat all stains—There is nothing worse than a white snap shirt with a huge stain down the middle. The good news is, even the biggest oopsies don’t have to result in a trip to the trash. Start by rinsing the garment under cold water as soon as an accident happens. If you have a spare sink or basin, keep the item in water until you’re ready to wash it. Using a product that is as free and natural as possible, spray the entire spot on the inside and outside of the clothing. Rub the spray in with your finger, but don’t smear each side of the fabric together. Once you finish this, it’s time to head for the washer.

    Once You Get the Washer Going…

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    • Double check the tags—No parent wants to spend their hard-earned money on an adorable set of bodysuits, only to shrink them before baby wears them. Read each fabric care tag separately to see if you should be washing them in warm or cold water.
    • Turn the clothes inside out—This handy trick prevents designs from fading and also keeps snaps and buttons from wearing out too quickly. While this step will leave you at the machine a few seconds longer than normal, you’ll be happy that you did it, especially when your favorite tops and bottoms last until your little one outgrows them.
    • Rinse clothes two times—Most washing machines already do this on most cycles. As long as you don’t choose a quick-wash setting, you should be fine. Even scent and color-free detergents can bother some children with allergies, so the safer you can be, the better.

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      When It’s Time to Dry…

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      • Skip the dryer sheet—Many people like the extra freshness that dryer sheets provide. However, when it comes to washing baby clothes, it just leads to another chance that some perfume or ingredient will make your little sweetie uncomfortable. Rest assured knowing that the right detergent will make every garment super clean. If you’re searching for good smells, cuddle your sweet-scented son or daughter a little closer.
      • Don’t go overboard on dry time—It’s pretty safe to say that no one likes moldy clothing. But when you do dry, remember that infant clothes are much smaller, thinner and more delicate than an adult’s garments. Follow your dryer’s instruction manual carefully or consider experimenting with a shorter dry time until you get the right formula down pat.
      • Don’t overload the dryer—Understandably, new parents are looking for every shortcut they can find. The funny thing is, trying to save time by overloading the dryer can actually make the process take longer. It can also make your machine break down, which does nothing more than create a big repair bill or add an expensive item to the shopping list. As long as you don’t fill up the washer too much, the dryer should follow suit. If you find yourself with big drying loads on a regular basis, consider placing quick dry items out in the sun instead.

        Storing and Organizing Baby’s Clothing Essentials

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        Congratulations—you survived the washing and drying gauntlet! Now that you know your baby’s clothes are fresh and clean, it’s time to capitalize off your hard work by learning how to keep them as crisp and organized as possible. While your exact strategy will depend on the amount of storage space you have, every parent can enjoy organizational Zen by following a few helpful tips. Let’s make things as easy as possible by considering the primary places you store jackets, outfits and socks—drawers and the closet.

        woman folding clothes in laundry room

        To Best Organize Clothes in the Closet…

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        • Create Closet Dividers—You’re not alone—no parent wants to waste time in the morning finding the right size jacket or pair of pants. Thankfully, you can save yourself any confusion by adding a few size dividers to your nursery closet. While some baby supply stores have these for purchase, you can easily make your own at home. Buy a few plain clothing rack rings online or get a few colorful door hangers from a home store. Label them Newborn, 0-3 months, 3-6 months and so on with a permanent marker. That way, you’ll never have to guess what will fit, and you won’t ever get sizes mixed up. It also makes everything look nice and tidy, which is nice when you feel frazzled.
        • Buy a Bunch of Clothespins—When it comes to budgeting for baby, a bag of clothespins are as about as cheap as it gets. Instead of buying more expensive hangers with little hooks for dresses and pants, you can transform regular ones with a couple of these wooden helpers. Simply clip the pin over the garment you want to hang and then clip it again over the hanger.
        • Install Shelves—Adding a set of shelves to your closet walls adds tons more space for folded items and baby shoes. Install a few in between or alongside the racks of clothes to make things easier to find. This strategy is perfect for easily locating items that you use on the regular, like beanies, socks and burp cloths. They also make the perfect destination for bibs, bath towels and cloth diapers.
        • Buy a Shoe Organizer—If your nursery has a closet with a door, consider picking up an inexpensive shoe organizer.  It’s an excellent storage solution for small items like socks and hats. Roll bigger items up so they take up even less room. You can also hang one up on the door of a standard closet. 

          budgeting for baby quote

          To Keep Drawers Neat and Tidy…

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          • Designate a Drawer for Each Clothing Type—If you have a large dresser in your baby’s room, you can make outfits easier to find by assigning one drawer for a separate category of clothing. For instance, bodysuits can go on top, while sleepwear sits in the till beneath it. Place priority items in the drawer highest up, with less important clothing toward the bottom. That way, you won’t have to bend down each time you need to grab some pajamas or a top. 
          • Add Plastic Dividers—No matter how many drawers you have, plastic dividers are a great way to keep everything neat and tidy. You can sort by month, which creates a similar system to the one you have in your closet. Just like the closet dividers, you can write Newborn, 0-3 months and so on with a permanent marker. This time, though, you’ll want to create your label at the top row of the compartments, so the appropriate size is easy to find. This organizing hack is also a great way to ensure clothing doesn’t become messy. Instead of scheduling a monthly re-folding session, pants and socks will stay in nice little rolls until you’re ready to unfurl them.
          • Think Outside the Big Box—Should you have less drawer space than you want, you don’t necessarily have to splurge on a large piece of furniture. Pick up a clothing cart or plastic drawer set instead. You’ll spend a fraction of your organizing budget on these items while still creating more space for important items. A clothing cart is an ideal place to store shoes, booties and seasonal items, since you’ll have quick access to them. You can also up the convenience by adding diapering supplies and sheets to the bottom rack. Plastic drawers easily fit into closets and next to cribs. Plus, they can be tucked away in a flash if you need more space for cleaning or playing.
          • Say Goodbye to Old and Worn Clothes—You may have a little nostalgia about your baby’s first hoodie or PJ set, but if doesn’t fit anymore or looks overly tattered, it’s time to get rid of it so you can save your sanity and space. Consider memorializing especially meaningful items by cutting a square of fabric and then make a quilt or add it to a scrapbook. Otherwise, you’ll be better off closing your eyes, taking it out of the drawer and thinking happy thoughts as you toss it. The good news is, you’ll have more room for the newest bathing suits, hats and holiday sweaters.

          baby clothes in drawer

          Washing and Organizing Your Way to a Happy Family

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          While keeping your baby’s clothes clean and tidy is probably more involved than you first thought, you now have the tools to keep both you and your little one healthy and happy. By following these tips, your son’s or daughter’s skin will be smooth and glowing, and you’ll be content knowing you’re ready for the next milestone–whatever it is! As with every precious memory and mishap, don’t forget to have your smile ready as you roll through the stains, rips and messes. While disorganization and chores may seem like nuisances now, everything you learn is a sign that you’re becoming a more amazing parent!