Pre-Washing & Caring For Baby Clothes: The Tot Clean Laundry Guide

Wondering if you need to pre-wash your newborn’s clothing? You’ve come to the right place! In this guide, we’re sharing everything you need to know about pre-washing and caring for baby clothes! (The non-toxic way!)


If you’re expecting a baby, you’ve likely heard of  nesting.

Nesting is that magical period of time where you feel compelled to clean obscure shelving, assemble your crib, install your car seat and of course: organize your baby’s wardrobe!

Arguably one of the cutest activities of the pre-arrival work you’ll do, sorting out what your baby will wear needs a little more attention than you think.

It doesn’t matter if the baby clothes you have came from a baby shower, boutique or thrift store. You need to pre-wash them before putting them on your baby. While you might assume it’s most pressing to wash used clothing, washing the clothing is equally important.

As parents who are conscious of creating a clean, non-toxic world for our babies, we’ve created a baby laundry guide below that will cover:

  • Why you need to pre-wash baby clothes
  • Ingredients to avoid in laundry detergent
  • How to choose the safest laundry detergent for babies
  • Tips for washing & caring for baby clothes
  • The best newborn clothes – fabrics & dyes

Scroll down to learn more!

A baby wearing HART + LAND's organic cotton onesie


Why you need to pre-wash new baby clothes

Depending on the fabric used to make your baby’s clothing, it might be sprayed with potentially harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde (used to prevent wrinkles), flame retardants (used to meet certain flammability requirements) and/or pesticides (used to help cultivate cotton).

Due to the fact that babies have particularly sensitive skin and respiratory systems, it’s important to wash as much of these chemicals off as you can.


Why you need to pre-wash used baby clothes

Because you can’t be entirely sure how the clothes you’ve been handed down (or purchased from a thrift store) were cared for, it’s important to pre-wash used clothing.

As mentioned above, babies are susceptible to allergens like dust and dander. If the PJs they’re wearing came from a home with a cat, they might end up with itchy eyes.

All baby and children’s sleepwear in the U.S. must meet or exceed flammability safety requirements. While some brands achieve this with chemicals, others opt for snug-fitting designs and natural fibers. Look for brands that offer chemical-free flame-resistant fabrics.


Ingredients to avoid in laundry detergent

The number one thing we want parents to consider it: What chemicals are lurking in my laundry detergent?

While we care about the effects laundry detergent has on the environment, we also care about the potential harm (both short and long-term) it can have on your families’ health.

Below is a list of common ingredients in laundry detergent we like to avoid where possible:

  • Chlorine/bleach
  • Borax
  • Antimicrobials
  • Optical/UV brighteners
  • Synthetic fragrances/perfumes
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate/ Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLS/ SLES)
  • Phosphates
  • Dioxane (1,4 Dioxane/ Diethylene Dioxide/ Diethylene Ether/ Dioxan)
  • Dyes


What laundry detergent is safest for newborns?

Many parents prefer liquid laundry detergents, as liquid tends to rinse off clothing better than powder and is less likely to leave a residue.

Because many babies are prone to dry skin, eczema and other rashes, it’s important to make sure you’re choosing a detergent that has as few irritants as possible and can be thoroughly rinsed off.


A simple DIY baby laundry detergent recipe you can make comes from Whole New Mom:

  • 1/4 cup of castile soap
  • 1 cup sodium carbonate (aka washing soda)
  • 1 cup of baking soda

Method: blend the washing soda until it reaches a fine consistency. Add baking soda. Slowly pour the castile soap in until you achieve an even mixture.

For regular loads, use 1 tbsp, for large, use 2 tbsp. Store in an airtight container.

Prefer to shop instead? 

A fantastic resource for deciphering ingredients lists and making informed decisions about the household cleaning products you buy is They have a straightforward rating system for each ingredient as well as specific brands.



Tips for washing baby clothes

  • When washing for the first time or if specified on the item’s care tag, separate into similar colors.
  • Always follow a garment’s care instructions, however, we like to use cold water because it helps save colors, prints, and electricity. (It also helps eliminate smells!)
  • Looking for a natural stain remover for urine and poop? Pre-soak the item in cool water. Add 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide and 1/2 cup baking soda in the washing machine. (Wash with other soiled clothing.)
  • If washing cloth diapers, use our guide here.
  • The best way to kill bacteria on baby clothes is by exposing it to heat. You can either line dry your clothes in the sun or use a dryer.
  • Constantly spotting stains? Try to get your baby’s clothing into a sink to soak immediately. Once you have enough items, you can start a load.
  • If you’re washing an item with a snap or zipper, always check that it is still securely attached to the garment to avoid any choking hazards.
  • Place small items like socks and mittens in a mesh bag so they don’t get lost in the abyss of your machine!


The best newborn clothes – fabrics & dyes

When it comes to shopping for newborn and baby clothes, it’s important to choose naturally hypoallergenic and cleaner fabrics such as organic cotton and sustainably sourced bamboo rayon and dyes specified to be free of heavy metals and phthalates.

Both organic cotton and bamboo can be cultivated without the use of pesticides and are free from added chemicals such as formaldehyde.

Two great certifications to look out for our GOTS Certified Organic and OEKO-Tex Standard 100.


OEKO-Tex Standard 100

The OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certification means every thread, button and accessory has been tested for harmful substances including, but not limited to flame retardants, BPA, carcinogenic and allergenic dyes, pesticides and heavy metals like lead.


GOTS Certified Organic

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) covers the ethical, ecological and sustainable processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trading and distribution of all textiles. GOTS certified organic textiles must contain a minimum of 95% certified organic natural fibers.


Scroll down to see our favorite organic cotton product picks from HART + LAND! Available in a range of colors and prints, they’re ultra soft and easy to mix and match.


Click here to view the full range of HART + LAND organic and bamboo baby essentials