It’s a universal truth: kids are messy. Whether it’s a juice box jet stream to the white romper five minutes before pictures or an uncapped marker that’s bled straight through her favorite blankie, there is a zero percent chance you won’t spend some portion of your day cleaning when you have kids. But cleaning baby clothes and gear should be treated with a little bit of extra care, and doing what your mom did—dousing toys with bleach, no doubt—isn’t always the best option (don’t tell her we said that). Here are a few of our favorite tricks for cleaning baby apparel and gear in the safest, easiest and most effective ways possible.
Laundry: Getting Those Stains Out
Spills, drops, spit-up…it’s all a part of being a parent. Your little one’s clothes take a beating day in and day out and it’s not uncommon for parents to do a handful of loads of laundry each week. Here are a few quick tips on washing your baby’s clothes to bring them back to life after they’ve been put through the wringer, so to speak.
Pick a Gentle, Effective Laundry Detergent—Babies have exceptionally sensitive skin, and the wrong detergent can cause breakouts and rashes. The key is to find a hypoallergenic laundry detergent that also works well. For tough stains, you might need to wash once with a tough detergent and then wash a second time with a gentle version. Use a detergent that’s free of fragrances, dyes and harsh chemicals to prevent allergic reactions.
Give Stains the Individual Treatment—Not all stains are created equal. Some are food. Some are craft supplies. And some are things that should end up in a diaper. Be sure that you treat stains based on what they are. The American Cleaning Institute has a great guide for how to get out specific stains. Just make sure you’re only using baby-safe, non-toxic solutions when stain-fighting.
Wash Everything Before Use—While most new clothing and bedding is safe to use right out of the packaging, it’s important to note that these items may come into contact with chemicals, particles and odors that could be unpleasant for baby. To ensure that your little one doesn’t have a negative reaction, be sure to wash any brand-new baby bedding and clothing before use.
Wash in Hot Water—For those items that get particularly gross, like your burp cloths and bibs, be sure that you’re wiping away any particularly stubborn stains as they happen and then washing them in hot water. For particularly tough stains, consider soaking bibs in a mixture of water and white vinegar.
On-the-Go: Cleaning Car Seats, High Chairs and Strollers
Our baby’s strollers, high chairs and car seats are also likely to be inundated with all sorts of gross things that could lead to stubborn stains. But because they are usually made of a mix of materials, including fabric, metal and plastic, it can be a bit of a chore to get them totally clean. Here are some great tips for cleaning these essentials inside and out so they look like new again.
Cleaning the Cloth Portion—One of the best ways to clean fabric strollers and car seats is to do the occasional sweep out to remove any crumbs or surface stains that could be removed with a quick vacuum. Once you’ve swept away the top layer of dirt, you can use a cloth dampened with an all-purpose non-toxic cleaner. Better yet, if these items have removable covers, simply wash them in the washing machine with a gentle, baby-safe detergent.
Cleaning Plastic and Metal—It’s easier to clean the plastic and metal parts of your baby gear because they can be quickly wiped down and dry faster than fabric. Consumer Reports recommends using a terrycloth towel dipped in a mild dish or laundry soap to clean the plastic parts of your car seat or stroller, working from the top down. You can use the same approach for metal. Just be sure that you completely dry off any water or cleaning solution so that parts don’t rust or corrode.
Let them Dry Fully—Speaking of drying…as a parent, we’re willing to bet you know what happens when things don’t dry all the way. Mold! This is especially true inside those tight, hard-to-reach areas, like underneath the car seat or stroller where airflow is limited. If there are a ton of nooks and crannies where mold is likely to form, use a hair dryer on a cold setting to speed up the drying process. Make sure to take any detachable pieces apart and lay them out to dry.
To Bleach or Not to Bleach
Finally, for the age-old question: Is it safe to bleach baby items? By and large, you should be using baby-safe, non-toxic solutions, but know that bleach is generally safe when used to clean baby’s toys and clothes. If you occasionally use it to zap away stains on those white Onesies or to wipe down your little one’s plastic toys, don’t worry. Just make sure to wash a second time in a gentle cleaner to prevent any irritation to baby’s skin. Remember: Germs may be better for our kids than we think, so don’t go overboard with the bleach.
It’s extremely important that you keep bleach and other potentially hazardous materials locked away someplace where baby can’t get to it. Generally speaking, baby-friendly cleaning supply guidelines are pretty common sense: Don’t use anything that could cause rashes or irritation and always keep all household cleaning supplies locked in a baby-proof cabinet. Finding a good balance between the safe and effective is the most important aspect of cleaning when it comes to kids!