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How to Wash Baby Clothes (the Eco-Friendly Way)

How to Wash Baby Clothes (the Eco-Friendly Way)

Eco-conscious laundry habits help you clean your baby's clothes while lessening your environmental impact. Not sure where to start? Follow this six-step guide to learn how to wash your baby's clothes in a more environmentally-friendly way.

Buying eco-friendly baby clothes is one way to lessen your environmental impact. Quality fabrics are a safer choice for baby’s soft skin, and often better for the planet, too. Keep reading to learn how to wash your baby’s clothes with more sustainable laundry practices.

Taking Care of Baby Clothes is Good for the Environment

Babies grow at an astounding rate. Buying quality, responsibly-sourced, eco-friendly clothing is an excellent starting point. Taking care of quality clothes helps them last, so they can be donated or passed along to new babies in the family — keeping more fast fashion out of the landfill.

Folded piles of baby clothes

How Does Laundry Detergent Affect the Planet?

How many busy parents pop their little bubs’ clothes into the washer with a commercial detergent on a warm wash cycle? Honestly, probably a lot. Careless cleaning like this can create waste and pollution, damage the fabric, and cancel out your efforts of buying sustainable baby clothing.

Here are some ways standard laundry practices are not environmentally-friendly:

  • Many commercial brands use synthetic chemical compounds, which add to water pollution and harm aquatic life and their ecosystems
  • Following the wash cycle, detergent goes down the drain with wastewater, and often does not break down well
  • Products usually come in plastic containers and packaging that may be non-reusable or non-recyclable, with many of these bottles ending up in landfills
  • Laundry machines require energy and can be an inefficient use of water
Washing powder

6 Steps for a More Eco-Friendly Laundry Routine 

1. Read the Label

One way to prolong the life of a sustainable fabric is to actually read the garment’s care instructions. These tags outline the washing and drying instructions, helping you sort which items you plan on washing in the same load.

2. Select Your Laundry Products

A lot of commercial brands contain chemicals. These pollutants are harmful to the environment, and they can ruin natural dyes in clothing, and cause damage to your baby’s clothes. 

Choose a non-toxic, all-natural laundry soap specially formulated for babies’ clothing — what you want to look for are plant-based, 100 percent biodegradable products. Typically, natural ingredients include vegetable oil soap, baking soda, vinegar, and other gentle cleaners. 

Try to avoid using bleach. It’s a harsh product that damages fabric, can be irritating and harmful to a child’s skin, and it’s not necessarily a better sanitizer than other detergents. 

As for fabric softeners, skip them. If you are buying quality baby clothes, the material should be soft enough for a baby’s skin without these added chemicals.

Washing machine settings

3. Deal with Stains

    Babies are notoriously messy. No matter how careful you are, stains can still happen. Before reaching for a chemical-based cleanser, treat stains in a more eco-conscious way. 

    Spring into action the moment you notice the stain, as a fast response makes it more likely the stain comes out. Place a colourfast cloth behind the fabric to absorb the stain, and use ice-cold water to dab the spot. Stubborn stains may need to be rubbed directly with an ice cube. 

    Some tough stains can be removed with baking soda, vinegar, or lemon juice, but we recommend avoiding these unless you know for certain how a particular fabric reacts to these items. When in doubt, visit an eco-friendly professional cleaner for their help.

    Baby playing with food

    4. Load the Washer

      You’ve sorted the laundry, and you’re ready to transform dirty clothes to clean ones. Frankly, hand-washing laundry is the greenest way to go, as it uses less water, energy, and cleaning products. The downside for busy parents is that hand washing requires a lot more involvement than using the machines in the laundry room. 

      For many parents, cleaning baby clothes with a laundry machine is the most practical, but you can be more conscious about how you use it. An eco-friendly load of baby laundry is a full load — cutting down on wasting water and other resources. 

      Hand placing baby clothes in washer

      5. Choose the Wash Cycle

        On some washers, the default temperature is warm. Instead of habitually pressing start, change the temperature to cold first. This change conserves more energy, but it’s also gentler on clothing, helps preserve colours, and — as an added bonus — prevents the buildup of static electricity.

        After adjusting the temperature, make sure you use a gentle cycle. This cycle uses less water, which leaves clothes less wet, thereby helping them dry more efficiently. Aside from being more eco-friendly, the gentle cycle is also less abrasive on baby clothes.

        6. Conserve Energy with the Dryer

          For the most energy-efficient drying, hang baby clothes on a line or drying rack. Not only does this conserve energy, but it helps prevent clothes from becoming wrinkled, and preserves the fabric, so clothes last longer.

          If you don’t have the space, or air drying is not an option, use your dryer thoughtfully. Set the dryer to the lowest setting possible, or use an ‘air dry’ cycle if available. Lower heat is better for the clothes, preventing shrinking, fading, and other issues that occur in high heat.

          Forgo dryer sheets in favour of dryer balls — they help air circulate, which reduces drying time (and they cut down on static!).

          Clothes hung on white rack

          Eco-Friendly Clothing Projects for Worn-Out Baby Clothes

          Baby clothes don’t last forever, even with eco-friendly laundry habits. Eventually, well-loved items become unwearable, but you can find creative ways to squeeze more life out of baby clothes with these DIY ideas:

          • Turn your favourite pieces into a quilt 
          • Use them as rags to clean up messes
          • Use them as elbow or knee patches for other clothes
          • Make them into headbands
          • Use their fabric for stuffed animal or doll clothing
          • Sew it into a child-size purse
          • And more
          Patchwork blanket

          Small, Environmentally-Conscious Habits Add Up

          At Nest Designs, we care greatly for the planet, and we want it to be a place our children can grow up happy and healthy. Eco-friendly laundry habits are a way of being kind to your baby’s clothes, and taking care of the planet, too. It’s one little thing you can do to make a difference.

          Learn more about our evergreen designs and sustainable fabric options on the Nest Designs website.