Person hand-rinsing laundry in a Whirlpool® Top-Load Washer

How to wash baby clothes: a guide for new parents

As a new parent, laundry day may have moved up in your priorities. Baby clothes can get messier than most, and you may wonder which detergent or washing and drying method can help remove tough stains while remaining gentle enough for your baby’s delicate skin. Whether you’re planning for a newborn or are already on your journey as a parent, this guide can show you how to wash baby clothes with step-by-step instructions and tips that can help simplify laundry day.

Should you wash baby clothes before use?

Newborns can have sensitive skin, so you’ll want to wash new and gently used baby clothes before you use them. Washing new clothing can help reduce the amount of residual chemicals that may be left over from the manufacturing process. It is also effective for hand-me-downs that may have collected germs or allergens in storage.  

How to wash baby clothes in a washing machine

For busy parents juggling multiple tasks, using the washer and dryer is the most convenient method for cleaning baby clothes. Most baby clothing can be machine-washed and dried, just be sure to follow the care instructions on the clothing label as some fabrics may require hand-washing and air-drying. 

Whether washing new clothing or gently used hand-me-downs, the following instructions can help you with the basics of washing your baby's clothes.

What you’ll need to get started

Keep in mind that babies can be sensitive to harsh ingredients, so be sure to use a gentle detergent that’s fragrance-free and formulated for sensitive skin. Swash® Free and Clear1 laundry detergent is designed with zero phosphates and has no perfumes or dyes.

  • Gentle laundry detergent

  • Stain remover (optional)

  • Soft-bristled brush (optional)

  • Washing machine

  • Dryer

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Step 1: Separate baby clothes from the rest of your laundry

Because baby clothes tend to be more delicate, it’s best to wash these garments separately from the rest of your family’s laundry. Sort your laundry and create a “baby-only” pile to prepare for washing.

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Step 2: Check the clothing care labels

Before you begin pre-treating or washing your baby clothes, always consult each item’s laundry label to ensure you’re using the correct washing cycle and temperature. You may find that you need to further sort baby clothing based on fabric type.

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Step 3: Pre-treat any stains

To tackle tough baby clothing stains from spit-up, diaper blowouts or baby food, pretreat soiled clothing using detergent or a stain remover. Gently scrub the stain with a soft-bristled brush, like an old, clean toothbrush, to help break up the stain. 


Select Whirlpool® washing machines feature the Pretreat Station that allows you to soak, scrub and wash all in one spot with a built-in faucet and pretreat brush.

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Step 4: Prep the baby clothes and place in the washer

Help protect your baby’s clothes from wear and tear by buttoning all buttons, closing all zippers and turning each garment inside out to protect the fabric and seams. Place small items like socks and bibs in a mesh laundry bag to prevent them from getting lost. Once your laundry is prepped, place the load inside the washing machine. 

Water pouring into a full top-loading washer Water pouring into a full top-loading washer
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Step 5: Add detergent and select a cycle

Add a gentle, preferably fragrance-free detergent to your washer’s soap dispenser. Baby clothes can usually be washed using warm water on a “normal” or “gentle” wash cycle depending on the fabric. Some materials, like cotton, can be better maintained with cooler water temperatures, so be sure to consult your laundry care tag before selecting a wash temperature. If your machine allows, select an extra rinse cycle to ensure soap residue is completely washed away.


You can streamline the process of washing your baby’s clothing when you select Whirlpool® washing machines with the Load & Go™ feature. This feature lets you skip the step of adding detergent before every wash by storing up 20–40 loads worth of detergent.2


Avoid using fabric softener, dryer sheets and bleach

There are times when the use of a fabric softenerdryer sheets or bleach is beneficial to a load of laundry, but it’s generally best to avoid using them when washing baby clothes. Newborns can be sensitive to the chemicals, dyes and scents that may be in these products. Fabric softener may also reduce the effectiveness of children’s flame-resistant clothing.

Person loading clothes into the dryer Person loading clothes into the dryer
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Step 6: Dry the baby clothes

Once the wash cycle has completed, place your baby clothes in the dryer. Most baby clothes can be tumbled dry on a low setting to help prevent shrinking. If the garment care tag recommends air drying, or if you’re concerned about shrinkage, hang the item on a clothing line or a drying rack.

How to hand-wash baby clothes

As with machine-washing, follow the instructions on your care label closely. In general, you can hand-wash baby clothes in a tub of warm water with a gentle detergent after you pretreat stains. Agitate the water and let the clothing soak for 30 minutes. Rinse until the water runs clear, wring and hang dry.

How to remove set-in stains from baby clothes

It tends to be easier to clean a stain right away, but no need to fret if the stain has set in. Use a gentle, fragrance-free detergent or stain remover and a soft-bristled brush or clean toothbrush to gently scrub the area. Tougher stains, such as diaper soils, may require a soak in your sink or tub.

If you pretreat a stain before machine-washing, you may want to double-check that the stain has been removed before putting the clothing item into the dryer. A dry cycle may set the stain if it’s still visible.

How to disinfect baby clothes

Using extra-hot water, like a Sanitize cycle on your washing machine may help reduce bacteria on clothing. You can also add a laundry sanitizing product and wash as normal. Make sure to check your clothing label for care instructions to make sure that hot water won’t shrink the item. Check your owner's manual for more information on your washer’s Sanitize cycle.

Select Whirlpool® washers feature a Sanitize cycle that uses extra-hot water to eliminate 99.9% of three common household bacteria.3

Shop Whirlpool® washers for baby clothes

Whether you’re washing clothes for your newborn or towels for the rest of the family, Whirlpool® washing machines include a range of cycles to properly care for your laundry. With features like the Pretreat Station and Sanitize Cycle on select Whirlpool® washers, you can free up valuable time to care for the newest member of your family.

Learn more about Whirlpool® washers

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1. Swash and the recommending brands are owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation.
2. Based on an 8-lb load. Actual dispenser capacity varies by model.
3. Bacteria tested were S. aureus, P. aeruginosa, K. pneumoniae.