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The Truth About Pre-Washing Baby Clothes: Why It ISN’T Necessary


It’s a couple of weeks before your little one is due to arrive. You’ve been scrubbing every nook and cranny of your house, rearranging the nursery furniture, and trying to get everything ready for the birth of your new bundle. But, should you be pre-washing baby clothes before you bring your little one home too?

New parents often hear horror stories of what can happen if you don’t wash your little one’s clothes. Hand-me-downs can have dust particles (or who knows what else).

But what about new clothes from the store? Many parents recommend washing firstdyes used in clothing can irritate your little one’s skin, as well as any chemicals or other particles they have picked up between manufacturing, shipping, and sitting on the store shelves.

But maybe exposing your child to these things isn’t all bad. Keep reading to learn more.

Why Should I Pre-Wash My Little One’s Clothes?

Parents who are for pre-washing are generally worried about the possible exposure of germs and chemicals from new clothes on your baby’s skin. Many clothing manufacturers use Urea formaldehyde on new clothing, which is a finish that preserves color or texture before the clothes are washed. Darker colored clothing may also be coated in azo-aniline dyes, which can wear off of acrylic, polyester, and other synthetic fibers before the clothes are washed.

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Of course, there are some secondhand stores that wash clothes before selling them. If you buy baby clothes from yard sales, they may also be laundered. Even then, there is a risk of clothes coming into contact with dust, pollen, and bacteria from anyone who has handled the clothing.

Considering that skin is the body’s largest organ, do you really want chemicals, germs, or other irritants to be the first thing you put on your sweet baby’s skin? Most likely not. But there could be benefits to letting those clothes be…

Is the Pre-Wash Really Necessary?

The last few weeks before your little one arrives can be panic-inducing. It is not uncommon for parents (especially mothers) freaking out, wondering if they are ready for their baby to come home. This includes everything from double-checking your baby-ready supplies to being sure every nook-and-cranny has been cleaned and organized.

So, do you really need to pre-wash when you’re already under so much stress? Nope.

It isn’t a necessary step, especially if you aren’t worried about skin irritation. Even though some babies do have a reaction, it is generally mild. You’ll know your little one is having a reaction if they have red, bumpy, or itchy patches of skin.

Whether you choose to pre-launder or not is up to you. It does not make you a bad parent if you don’t want to take that extra step. After all, wearing new clothes is a luxury and exposure to bacteria is actually good for building your baby’s immune system. If he or she develops a skin reaction, then you’ll know next time.

When my boys were younger, we did pre-wash their clothes. Most of their outfits were hand-me-downs, though (having a big family is great for this!). There have been quite a few times we have come home from buying new outfits and they just couldn’t wait to try them on, so we skipped the whole washing thing.

How to Pre-Wash My Baby’s Clothes

Pre-washing your baby’s clothes is not as difficult a task as it may seem, even when you are overwhelmed with preparing for the arrival of your newborn. By following a few guidelines and being sure to choose a baby-safe clothes detergent, pre-washing becomes an easier extra step.

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Step 1: Preparing the Clothes

You should follow the same basic guidelines when pre-washing baby clothes that you would when washing adult clothes. Take time to read the manufacturer’s labels and prevent damaging the clothes. Sort according to colors as needed (though you won’t need any stain remover for the first wash). You should also take the time to button, snap, and hook clothing as needed. This will stop embellishments from becoming lose and edges from fraying, preserving the life of your baby’s clothes.

You’ll also want to wash baby socks, bibs, and other small clothing items in a small mesh bag. Think about how many adult socks your dryer eats each yearwithout the bag, you’ll end up losing sock mates before your little one has a chance to wear them.

Step 2: Choosing a Detergent

Choosing the right detergent is going to protect your baby’s soft, smooth skin. Many detergents use perfumes and dyes meant to make the liquid look more appealing and make your clothes smell good. Many babies have sensitive skin.

While it is not necessary to choose a baby-safe detergent, it does prevent the risk of irritation. It also stops you from having to re-wash all of your little one’s clothes if you find out they are allergic. Dye-free and natural detergents may also be a good choice if you want a baby-safe detergent that can be used for the whole family. Check out this article on best baby detergents if you need a little help deciding.

Step 3: Washing and Drying

Now, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and launder your little one’s clothes as you would normally. You should use a gentle-to-normal setting on the washer, especially for the first wash. Even though there might be dyes or chemicals, there won’t be a build-up of dirt or hard-to-remove stains that would require a harder wash. Of course, if there are specific manufacturer instructions, you should follow those.

Final Take

To pre-wash or not pre-wash: that is the question.

Some parents may find pre-washing baby clothes an extra (and unnecessary) step. There might also be a benefit of exposing your little one to bacteria to help build immunity.

For parents who would rather skip the possibility of a skin reaction to chemicals or irritants, they may decide to pre-wash. After all, a few loads of laundry is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

The reality is you cannot know if your baby will have especially sensitive skin or if they will be fine if you choose not to pre-wash. Do what you think is best for you and your little one!

Samantha Davis
Samantha Davis
Samantha Davis is a part-time writer and a full-time mommy of two boys, Apollo (age 3) and Adrien (age 5). She has been working as a writer for five years and one day plans to run her own writing company. For now, Samantha is content working as a writer and spending all her free time with her little boys. They live together with dad in Ohio and spend their free time crafting, hiking, and baking.

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