Why it’s important to wash your infant’s new clothing

Before you dress baby up in that cute new outfit or wrap them in that adorable swaddle, make sure you prewash everything. Green Living expert, Aida Garcia Toledo discusses.

After nine months spent protected in the womb, a newborn’s skin is especially sensitive and vulnerable to irritants and chemical exposure. The best way to avoid these skin reactions and to protect your newborn is to:

  1. Pay attention to the textiles you buy for your baby
  2. Wash anything new that will come into contact with baby’s skin; be it clothing, blankets, bedding or toys. Just make sure you use a truly non-toxic natural detergent

Surprisingly, just about all textiles contain varying amounts of chemicals, although the amount of chemicals that are released by most textiles is low, and might not pose any significant health risk to the average adult. Babies, however, are smaller in size, are much more vulnerable to chemicals than adults, and, due to their sensitive skin, much more prone to skin irritation, rashes and other side effects.

For newborns and infants, choose the purest fabrics for apparel, bedding, swaddles and bibs.

Which fabrics should you seek out and which should you avoid?

Avoid: synthetic/man-made textiles like polyester, rayon, nylon and acrylic, and items that claim to be stain resistant, flame retardant-free, wrinkle free or static free. These items will have been treated with the highest levels of toxic chemicals.  These chemicals are usually found within the fiber of the fabric and cannot be washed out and thus should be avoided – especially for infants.

Use sparingly: natural fibers like conventional cotton, wool, silk, hemp, alpaca, angora, mohair and flax are much purer than man made textiles. Unfortunately though, these still contain chemicals (ie Cotton crops are heavily treated with pesticides. Most of these fabrics are also often treated with dyes and could also be sprayed with chemicals during import). If you are using these textiles around infants and young children it is important to prewash. Pre-washing can wash off some superficial treatments, however washing will not necessarily detoxify the textile from the chemicals it is treated with during the production.

The safest option for infants: Items made with Certified organic cotton, wool, cashmere, hemp and linen. Ideally without any dyes or, as a second option, using only natural dyes. These materials will ensure that your tot will be exposed to the least amount of chemicals. Pre-washing is still an important first step since the items could have come into contact with everything from bacteria to pesticides during their journey, especially if they were manufactured overseas.

Equally as important as the fibers you are clothing your newborns in is the detergents you use to clean with. Detergent (and the chemicals in it) can remain on our clothes and bedding, resulting in our skin absorbing these chemical, so remember to choose wisely.

Unfortunately detergents and fabric softeners targeted towards babies and marketed for sensitive skin or ‘free and clear’ often contain worrisome ingredients, including hormone disrupting chemicals, Neurotoxicant, Respiratory Toxicant and even known carcinogens.

For laundry detergent that is not only safe for our babies and the planet, we love Rockin Green Soap. It’s unscented and it works hard on dirt and stains while being gentle to the environment.

For more information on the good and bad of cleaning products, refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.