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How to care for baby clothes

Ninoshka Alvares-Delaney

It is not until you have become a parent that you realise how much the laundry piles up when you have a baby and how much effort goes into maintaining baby clothes. As adults, we do not give a second thought to washing our clothes. But things are different after the arrival of a baby. Parents go to great lengths to make sure everything is perfect and comfortable for their little one. It is not enough to just make or buy clothing made of baby-friendly material. One must take extra care in making sure that the material doesn’t lose its softness and the chemicals used in their maintenance is not harmful to baby.

Always wash baby clothes before use: Even if the clothes are brand new they have to be washed thoroughly before use. You don’t know what conditions the garments have been manufactured in. There could be traces of chemicals, dust and germs in them. Babies, especially newborns, usually have sensitive skin, and washing removes residues and other irritants. If you’ll be using second hand clothes, for example your older child’s clothes kept away for your next child, you’ve probably cleaned them and put them away. Even though, it is advisable to wash them before use in order to remove any traces of mold or mildew.

Sort the clothes before wash: Ideally it’s best to wash baby clothes separately as each item of clothing may have different washing requirements. This means separating colours and tackling stains correctly. It is a good idea to separate bright colours from the whites. Small items like socks can be placed in a mesh bag during washing and drying so they don’t get misplaced.

Follow wash care instructions carefully: Always read the wash care label before washing a garment. Following wash care instructions carefully will help you use the product effectively without damaging it. For example, children’s sleep wear must be flame resistant. Using a bleach on flame resistant fabrics reduces the effectiveness of the treatment chemicals and might ruin treated fabrics.

Choose an appropriate laundry detergent: The best way to care for baby clothes is to hand wash them. That way, the fabric doesn’t get abraded and any residual detergent can be washed off completely. Some parents might feel compelled to seek out the best baby laundry detergent specifically for their infant’s clothes. But health experts say that isn’t necessary, as long as your baby doesn’t have allergies or very sensitive skin. If you are concerned, talk to your pediatrician. Or else, wash one garment in regular detergent and check to see if your baby has any skin irritation when he wears it. Liquid detergents are preferable over powders as they rinse out more completely as opposed to powders which can leave behind flakes that may irritate an infant’s skin. Just to be sure, you can double rinse baby clothes. The best laundry detergents for sensitive skin will have no dyes or perfumes. There are a whole host of laundry products available in the market such as fabric softeners and stain removers. As far as possible, avoid using fabric softeners as they tend to coat the fabric with chemicals in order to make it feel softer and smell good. The chemicals used are pretty harmful to breathe in and wear against the skin. They also leave a residue on the garment that can cause discolouration and make the fabric less absorbent and harder to clean.

Wash baby clothes effectively: Fasten all hook and loop fabric fasteners before washing to keep clothing from getting caught and possibly damaged. Wash baby clothes in cold water. You can do a final rinse in warm or hot water. Cold water prevents certain stains from setting into the fabric. Protein stains such as spit up, milk and even poop may set permanently if washed in warm water. Oil stains will have to be washed and line dried as heat drying can set it. Preferably deal with stains while they’re still fresh. For stain removal, try natural and biodegradable options like white vinegar, lemon juice or baking soda. Cloth diapers have to be kept and washed separately from other laundry. Dirty diapers should be rinsed immediately and then soaked for sometime before washing thoroughly.

Post wash care: Line drying baby clothes in the sun is very effective. Not only does sunlight kill germs and bacteria that may be present on the clothes, but it also acts as a natural bleach and is a great way to keep white clothes looking bright without using harmful chemicals. Sun drying may not be possible in the monsoons. Hence, it is advisable to iron baby clothes in order to remove moisture. When folding and putting clothes away, check each item to make sure no buttons, snaps or embellishments came loose during washing, or there aren’t any fraying seams or edges that may cause baby’s skin to become irritated or catch on tiny fingers and toes.

Find a laundry routine that best suits you because less time washing baby clothes means more time cuddling the little one.

Until next time, stay stylish!

(Writer is a fashion designer. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook@ninoshkaindia)

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