One thing that amazes many new mothers is the amount of washing generated by one small person. You kind of expect the nappies to add to the washing, but you never expect that small people sometimes need their clothes changed two or three or more times a day, thanks to leaky nappies and puking up. And this rate of mess continues for several years. The puking stops but is replaced by mud, dirt and slime, while leaky nappies give way to trainer pants, wet beds and accidents when you’re stuck on the motorway with no way to stop and an urgent need for the toilet. The latter will require another cleaning job – cleaning the wee (or worse) of the car seat.
However, it should be no surprise that the ideal cleaners for baby clothes (and bedding and soft toys and changing mats and…) are natural products. We are at our most sensitive when we are small, and if the household toxins in commercial cleaning products are bad for us, they are worse for developing babies and toddlers. To make things worse, cleaning and laundry products that have been “specially formulated” for babies are often loaded with artificial scents – usually artificial musks that are really, really bad, especially for human hormone systems.
Nappies: For the sake of the environment, I hope you’re using cloth nappies. If you are signed up to one of those companies that offers a professional cleaning service for nappies, good for you, as they will take the dirties and give you a batch of clean ones. All you have to do is change the baby and pay. You don’t have any problems, although it might pay to do your homework a bit and ask what products these professionals use to clean the nappies. If they use dry cleaning methods and products, forget it and try somewhere else. If you’re washing your own nappies because you don’t have a professional cleaning service nearby or you can’t afford it, the nappies will need a good soak in soapy water first to loosen the smelly stuff, followed by a thorough wash. To kill germs in nappies, use boiling water. To get the last traces of soap and other alkaline substances out of the nappy (and thus reduce the chances of nappy rash), add about a cup of vinegar to the final rinse instead of fabric softener – gets the nappies nice and soft, too.
Bibs and tops: These are prone to getting stained by bananas. This is a real beast to wash out. If you don’t want to cheat and dress your baby in dark or bright colours that hide banana stains (and there’s no real reason why you can’t – who says that all baby clothes have to be pastel?), then try rubbing the fresh stain with soap and leaving it to sit before washing. Eucalyptus oil can help shift the stain, as can glycerine rubbed into the spot.
Soft toys: Definitely don’t dry clean these. These can easily be washed by hand using ordinary soap, followed by a good rinse and a spin in the washing machine to remove excess water. “Washing teddy” can be a fun game to play in the bath with a toddler who doesn’t like having their hair washed. The toddler can get Teddy all foamy and lathery using soap while you wash the toddler’s hair. You will need to rinse the soap off Teddy somewhere other than the bath, though – try the basin. Teddy can then spin in the machine while toddler is getting dry and dressed. Teddy will still be slightly damp after spinning, but will be dry enough to cuddle and play with – the rest of the moisture will be removed by evaporation and a little light osmosis.