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Should You Wash Baby Clothes Before Use?

Preparing to bring a new baby into the world is almost as exciting as when the baby finally makes its entrance. Prepping for a new baby means decorating the nursery, making sure you have all the necessities, and organizing supplies and clothes. But you may be wondering, should you wash baby clothes before use?

It’s a good idea to wash baby clothes before use. This is because babies have sensitive skin, and clothing often contains chemicals and irritants on it due to manufacturing, shipping, and storage. Washing baby clothes before use is the best way to remove any irritants and protect your new baby’s delicate skin.

In this article, I’ll explain why washing baby clothes before use is important. I’ll also explain the best ways to wash baby clothes, including what products you should (or shouldn’t) use when washing them and what to do after washing them.

Should You Wash Baby Clothes Before Use

Should You Wash Baby Clothes Before Use?

Although some people may choose not to, you should always wash baby clothes before using them. This applies whether you’re prepping for a newborn or if the baby is already born and you’ve recently bought some new (or bigger) clothes for your growing baby.

A baby’s skin is super sensitive compared to older humans. Although their skin will become less sensitive as they grow, babies are already susceptible to getting rashes or other skin conditions within the first few months after being born. Not washing baby clothes before putting them on your baby can cause some of these rashes.

This is the case because many baby clothes, and clothing in general, are treated with chemicals during manufacturing to protect them during transport and storage, and some of the dye used in clothing can irritate a baby’s skin as well. Plus, other irritants on the clothing, such as perfume from people handling the clothing or bacteria and dust from storage, may be on the clothing.

Washing baby clothes before use, regardless of whether they are new or hand-me-downs, can also help prevent bacteria, chemicals, and other irritants from harming your baby. When there are so many other factors besides clothing that can irritate a baby’s skin, washing your baby’s clothes before use can help narrow down some causes.

How Soon Should You Wash Baby Clothes Before Birth?

Washing newborn clothes

Now that you know that you should wash baby clothes before use, how soon before your baby is born should you wash them? Although there’s no best answer here, a month to a couple of weeks before birth is a good time, depending on how comfortable you are toward the end of your pregnancy.

If you wash them too soon before birth, they may still collect dust before your baby wears them, especially if they’re just hanging in a closet for a while. But, you don’t want to wait too long either because you may be too tired, want to relax, or prepare for your baby’s birth in other ways. Don’t give yourself too much work by washing them a few days or even a week before your baby is set to arrive.

If you will wash them more than a month before your baby is due, make sure to store the clothing in a sealed plastic bin or somewhere that won’t collect dust. Try to avoid handling them too much after washing them to keep perfume and other potential irritants off. After your baby is born, wash any new baby clothes anytime before your baby will wear them.

What Temperature to Wash Baby Clothes?

Usually, cool or cold water is a good temperature for washing baby clothes, especially new ones. These temperatures will be enough to remove any irritants from the clothes without causing damage and shrinking. Babies already outgrow clothing quickly, so the last thing you want to do is shrink or damage the clothing by using warm or hot water.

There is one instance in which you’ll want to use hot water and that’s if you’re washing soiled cloth diapers. Hot water is necessary to kill the types of bacteria that would be on cloth diapers and hot water can also remove stains from the diapers more effectively.

With that being said, if the cloth diapers are new and unsoiled, you don’t have to use hot water to wash them. But even if you don’t wash any other baby clothes, cloth diapers are something you’ll want to wash before using them, considering the area of your baby’s body that the diapers will come into contact with. You don’t want to cause any sensitivities or infections in that area due to chemicals, irritants, or bacteria.

Can You Use Fabric Softener On Baby Clothes?

Yes, you certainly can use fabric softener on baby clothes. Fabric softener can be a great way to reduce the potential scratchiness that new clothing may cause that may make your baby uncomfortable. However, there are a few exceptions when using fabric softener on baby clothes.

The first exception is that chemicals found in some fabric softeners, such as artificial fragrances and dyes, can cause skin irritation in babies, especially those with extra sensitive skin. Sometimes, knowing which fabric softeners won’t irritate your baby’s skin is something you’ll have to learn through trial and error. If you want to be extra safe, use gentle, free and clear, or fabric softener made especially for babies as they often don’t contain as many chemical ingredients.

The other exception in which you shouldn’t use fabric softener on baby clothes is if the clothing is flame-resistant or flame-retardant, which usually applies to most sleepwear. The Consumer Product Safety Commission requires that children’s sleepwear be flame-resistant to protect children from burns, which involves treating the clothing with a flame-resistant chemical.

But, fabric softener works by coating the fibers of the clothing to help lubricate them, thus making them softener. Unfortunately, this interferes with the flame-resistant properties of the clothing. So, it’s not a good idea to use fabric softener, even gentle or free and clear, for baby sleepwear or any other clothing that is flame-resistant.

How To Wash Baby Clothes

How To Wash Baby Clothes

Now that you have an idea of what to do and what not to do when washing baby clothes, let’s take a more in-depth look at the best way to wash baby clothes. There are things you should do before, during, and after washing the clothing to make sure that the clothing gets clean and stays in its best shape and that your baby stays safe as well.

Before Washing

The first thing you’ll want to do is check to see if the fabric is flame resistant so that you’ll know to avoid using bleach or fabric softener on the clothing, both of which can wear the flame resistance off. Usually, flame-resistant clothing will have a tag that says so from the manufacturer or sewn into the garment. If the clothing is flame-resistant and you want to use fabric softener, just wash the flame-resistant clothing separately.

Next, place any small clothing items, such as socks, mittens, hats, and bibs, into a mesh laundry bag before washing them. We all know how our socks tend to disappear when we wash and dry them, and baby socks are even smaller. Placing these small items into a bag before washing can help contain them so they don’t get lost. It can also help ensure that these often more delicate items don’t become damaged.

You’ll also want to fasten any snaps and buttons and zip any zippers on the clothing. Doing so will keep the clothing together more, which will help prevent it from getting wrapped around other clothing machine mechanisms and becoming damaged.

During Washing

I’ve already discussed what water temperature should be used to wash baby clothes, but what else should you do during washing? For starters, you’ll want to be careful about what laundry detergent you use until you know what kind of skin sensitivities your baby might have.

It’s best to start out using a laundry detergent made for baby clothes or a gentle detergent. These types of detergent tend to be free of chemicals that might normally cause skin sensitivities or allergies. As your baby gets older and his or her skin becomes less sensitive, you can switch to using the laundry detergent that you normally use to wash your clothes with.

If you have any baby clothes that are particularly delicate, you’ll want to wash them on the delicate or the gentle cycle. You can wash baby clothes on the gentle cycle anyway, but most baby clothes should be fine to wash on the normal cycle without becoming damaged.

And of course, with new cloth diapers that haven’t been used before, you can wash them with other baby clothes. But once the cloth diapers have been used, you’ll want to wash them separately from other baby clothes. This will prevent the harder to clean bacteria from getting on your baby’s other clothing. It’s a good idea to wash cloth diapers every two to three days.

After Washing

After washing your baby’s clothes, whether for the first time or any time afterward, you’ll want to check the clothing well. Make sure that no buttons or snaps have come loose that your baby could grab and pull off. Loose buttons, snaps, bows, or any other embellishments on the clothing can be a choking hazard if your baby gets a hold of one.

Another thing that you’ll want to check for is fraying or loose strings that could wrap around your baby’s fingers and toes. It’s very common for there to be loose strings inside socks that can cut off the blood flow to a baby’s toes if the string gets wrapped around it, so make sure that you turn the sock inside out and cut out any loose strings or frays.

And again, when washing baby clothes before your baby is born, make sure to put them away somewhere so they won’t collect dust or get dirty. They’ll still be fresh and clean when you’re ready to put them on your baby.

Can You Put Baby Clothes in the Dryer?

Can You Put Baby Clothes in the Dryer

You can put baby clothes in the dryer, but there are a couple of things that you’ll want to keep in mind when doing so. For starters, depending on the material that the clothes are made of, the dryer can cause shrinking. Since babies already outgrow clothing so fast that you’ll be replacing them often, the last thing you want is to replace the clothing even more often because they shrunk before your baby even had a chance to outgrow them.

You may wish to dry baby clothes using low heat. Since baby clothes are so small, they shouldn’t take a long time to dry anyway, so using low heat instead of high heat shouldn’t take them very much longer to dry and you’ll reduce the risk of the clothes shrinking as well.

Another thing to remember is that if you have any baby clothes that are delicate or older but were given to you for your baby, you may not want to put them in the dryer. You don’t want the dryer to damage them, so line-drying or air-drying them may be best. Although it’s safe to put most baby clothes in the dryer, use your judgment on if and how you want to dry your baby’s clothes and whether or not you want to put them in the dryer.

Should You Wash Baby Bibs and Blankets Before Use?

Just like washing baby clothes before use is a good idea, so is washing baby bibs and blankets. As with baby clothes, bibs and blankets are also exposed to chemicals, irritants, dust, and bacteria during manufacturing, transporting, and storage, so it can’t hurt to wash them.

Although these items don’t come as directly into contact with your baby’s skin as clothing does, you still don’t want any potential irritants to rub off your baby’s clothes or skin. Plus, sometimes these items may come into direct contact with your baby’s skin, so it’s always good to be on the safe side.

In the case of bibs, since some are made from plastic and some are made of fabric, you may only need to wash the ones made from fabric in the washing machine. Plastic bibs can be cleaned with soap and water before using them with your baby. And if the bib is made from plastic or a fabric bib has a plastic backing, you’ll want to avoid putting it in the dryer because the heat can melt and damage it.

Other items that you should wash before using with your baby are stuffed animals, crib sheets, baby towels, and washcloths. All of these items can come into contact with your baby’s skin. In general, any clothing or fabric item that will touch your baby directly needs to be washed before you use it.

Do I Need to Iron Baby Clothes Before Using?

Ironing baby clothes is not something you have to do, but it’s a good idea to do it. It’s not to remove wrinkles, though. Babies don’t care if their clothes are wrinkled. Ironing baby clothes before using them can be a final way to sterilize them before they touch your baby’s skin.

Ideally, the washing machine should rinse all the detergent and fabric softeners off the clothing. But if too much of these products was used, ironing can help remove some of the residues that may be left behind since too much of a product can cause skin irritation even if the product is safe for babies.

Ironing baby clothes can also be a way to kill bacteria that are on the clothing if the clothing was left out to air dry instead of being put in the dryer. Or, you can use the iron to freshen up any baby clothes that have been washed and ready for a while before the baby comes. You’ll still want to be careful and make sure you use the right iron settings for whatever type of fabric the clothing is made of, though, as heat from the iron can damage the clothing.


Clothing is exposed to chemicals and germs throughout its making, transportation, and storage. These chemicals can cause rashes and skin irritation in babies that already have skin that is more sensitive than an adult’s. It’s always a good idea to wash any type of clothing or other items that will come into contact with a baby’s skin before using them. That way, you can help keep your new bundle of joy safe and healthy. If you enjoyed this article, share it with others!