Babies are gross. At a minimum, our baby and everything he touches is covered in puke. Sometimes he accessorizes the puke stains with pee or poop. So when I buy used, I work under the assumption that every piece has seen its fair share of baby sludge. These are the steps I take to clean used baby clothes and fabrics like crib sheets:
Bed bug watch! Keep all items in a plastic bag and don’t put them on any furniture until you can clean them
We had a bed bug scare when I was pregnant and even though we did not actually have bed bugs, it was traumatizing. The scare was unrelated to my acquiring used baby things but it still changed the way I ‘process’ new secondhand gear coming into our house. I keep everything away from furniture and stored in either the closed washing machine or a plastic bag until I am able to clean it. For non-machine washable items, I spray everything down with 91% rubbing alcohol. Machine washable items are run through the dryer at least 30 minutes which takes care of bed bugs concerns.
How to clean old stains, blowout stains and discoloration out of baby clothes
Photos on facebook usually don’t provide good detail of item condition unless the seller purposefully posts close-ups of imperfections. I look over each item in good light so that I can treat stains before washing. I recently bought a wearable blanket that only said it had ‘wearing’ and a small hole but it turned out to be heavily stained. From the outside it didn’t look terrible but once unzipped, it had a huge probably-blow out stain on the back. I’m using this piece as an example for detailing how I tried to remove some of the staining.
These are the steps I take to try to get out baby clothes stains and discoloration – scroll down for a before and after shot!
Time needed: 30 minutes.
How to clean used baby clothes and old stains
- Make a paste of dish soap and baking soap.
I aim for a consistency like rubber cement. I used Costco-brand dish soap for this example since it is what we had but I have found the Dawn works the best for this.
- Rub the baking soda soap paste onto all the stains, leaving a generous caking on top of them.
Allow the paste to sit on the stain for at least 30 minutes.
- Pour distilled white vinegar over each stain and allow it to react.
Science! You may hit it a couple times with vinegar depending on how much baking soda was spread.
- Rinse with water and assess the stain.
If the stain is still there or is set, you have some options: repeating the steps, soaking overnight in vinegar or putting the garment in the sun to dry.
- Option 2: Soak overnight in distilled white vinegar.
In the morning, rub stains with another round of dish soap and baking soap paste. Throw the garment & leftover soaking vinegar into the washing machine and run on your normal settings.
- Option 3: Lay garment out in the sunlight to dry.
If the stain still persists after washing, skip the dryer and put it out in the sun. For really pesky stains, you can cover them in lemon juice before sunning them. You can also try sun drying at any point, just make sure the garment is wet when you put it out.
- Option 4: For the toughest stains, use hydrogen peroxide
Mix some hydrogen peroxide with dish soap and baking soap, and allow to set on stain for at least 30 minutes before machine washing. See my post 3 Ways to Get Out Stains with Household Ingredients for more details.
I use this process for discoloration on garments too. For baby clothes, around the neck often has yellowing and this often lightens it. I’ve also used it on adult clothes to get the yellowing out of armpits. Since used baby clothes have been washed repeatedly, the stains may be set pretty well so this technique isn’t perfect, but I’ve had good luck with it.
Machine washing and drying
In terms of machine washing, I wash used clothes like I do any other load of laundry. I assume used clothes have already been dried repeatedly so I do not worry about them shrinking in the dryer.
I make sure to dry any used item that is dryer safe for at least 30 minutes to kill any bedbugs. For items that aren’t dryer safe, I hit them with a spray of 91% rubbing alcohol.