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Can you put baby clothes in the washing machine?

Baby-specific Laundry Concerns

Is the washing machine safe for baby stuff? Ask a seasoned mom or dad this question, and you'll likely get a very clear response in the affirmative. You'll find very few parents who don't shudder at the idea of hand-washing, say, cloth diapers.

Happily, yes, it's perfectly safe to throw your baby's clothing, linens, cloth diapers and blankets in your trusty washing machine. The machine itself will not do any harm (as long as the clothing isn't, say, a hand-sewn, silk Christening gown). However, what you put in the machine along with that clothing can matter quite a bit, especially when it comes to detergents.

It should come as no surprise to hear that the detergents that remove blood from a white shirt might contain some harsh chemicals. Those chemicals might be perfectly fine for your skin, but they can be pretty tough on your brand new baby's, which is very sensitive to additives like dyes and scents and strong cleansers that can cause irritation.

To make sure your detergent is safe for baby, look for one that's very mild. This could mean one made specifically for infants (they usually say it right on the front of the container) or a regular detergent that is free of dyes and perfumes and states it is hypoallergenic. Some experts also recommend choosing liquid over powder, since it may dissolve and rinse out more easily.

You should probably skip the fabric softener and dryer sheets entirely, since they, too, can contain harsh chemicals.

The other major baby-clothes concern is the unique type of deposits you'll find on their garments -- yes, poop, and not just on the diapers -- which should always be washed separately. In the event of an unfortunate blow-out, even pants and dresses can end up stinky. And then, of course, there's the spit-up.

Clothing (and diapers) soiled with bodily fluids need extra care due to the potential for illness-causing bacteria and germs, which can not only resist being washed away, but can also end up deposited on other clothing items. So in addition to washing vomit- and poop-soiled items separately, you also want to be sure to wash everything in hotter temperatures (above 140 degrees Fahrenheit/60 degrees Celsius), add a mild disinfectant since your mild detergent probably doesn't contain bleach, and, ironically, wash your washing machine. Especially if you typically use lower wash temperatures for efficiency and color-saving, run an empty wash on hot and add bleach once a week or so. This should kill any germs or bacteria (or even dust mites) that may have collected in the machine.

Pretty simple, overall. And for even greater safety and efficacy, you can follow a few additional tips ...