remove stains from baby clothes

How-to Remove Stains from Baby Clothes

As any parent or caregiver knows, baby clothes and stains go hand in hand. Whether it's the adorable onesie hit by an unexpected spit-up or the perfect little dress smeared with puréed peas, certain stains seem to be an inevitable part of babyhood. Yet, with the right approach, removing these stains doesn't have to be a daunting task. Understanding how to effectively tackle different types of stains can help maintain the quality and appearance of those cute baby outfits. In this article, we’ll share professional yet friendly advice on removing stains from baby clothing, ensuring those baby clothes stay as delightful as the day you bought them.

Stain Removal by Type of Material

how to remove stains from baby clothes based on material type infographic


For both new and old stains on cotton baby clothes, start by blotting the stain with a clean cloth and rinsing it with cold water. Apply liquid laundry detergent as a pre-treatment, letting it sit for 5-10 minutes for fresh stains and up to 15 minutes for set-in stains. Soaking in a detergent or oxygen-based bleach solution can aid in loosening stubborn marks. Wash in warm water suitable for cotton, and air dry to prevent setting any leftover stains.

Polyester and Synthetics

Gently blot and rinse stains with cool water. Apply a mild detergent and let it sit, especially useful for resilient synthetic fabrics like polyester. Soak the garment if the stain persists, using a mix of warm water and detergent, followed by a cool water wash on a gentle cycle. Air drying is recommended to avoid heat damage.


Treat stains on bamboo baby clothes quickly by rinsing them in cold water and applying a mixture of cool water and eco-friendly detergent. For older stains, a vinegar solution can help break down the stain without harming the delicate fibers. Wash on a gentle cycle and air dry, keeping the fabric's sustainability and softness in mind.


Wool requires cautious handling; blot stains and rinse with cool water. Use a wool-safe detergent for pre-treatment and hand wash or select a machine's wool cycle. Air dry flat to maintain shape and avoid shrinkage. Vinegar can gently treat old stains without damaging wool's natural qualities.

Fabric Blends

Addressing stains on baby clothes made of fabric blends calls for a balanced approach. Blot, rinse with cold water, and pre-treat with a mild detergent. Consider the blend's makeup when choosing washing settings, opting for cool water and a gentle cycle. Air drying is preferred to ensure thorough stain removal and fabric care.

Stain Removal by Type of Stain

Whether you're dealing with the all-too-common food spills or the dreaded diaper disasters, we’ll equip you with the knowledge to address each stain with care, prioritizing your baby clothes' material needs every step of the way.

Poop Stains

Rinse immediately under cold water to remove excess. Apply a gentle stain remover or liquid laundry detergent and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

For set-in poop stains, a soak in warm water with an enzyme-based detergent is beneficial for dissolving the proteins found in poop. After soaking, gently agitate the stained area, rinse well, and proceed to wash the garment using the warmest water recommended for the fabric type. Air drying the clothing after washing is essential to verify the complete removal of the stain, as tumble drying may set any remaining residue, making future removal efforts more difficult.

Breast Milk Stains

For fresh breast milk stains, start by soaking the garment in cool water mixed with a bit of dish soap to break down the fats, then gently rub the area before rinsing thoroughly.

If dealing with older, set-in breast milk stains, a longer soak may be necessary, possibly with a repeated application of the dish soap solution to ensure the fats are fully dissolved. Follow this with a warm wash, using a mild detergent suitable for the fabric. To verify that the stain has been completely removed, air dry the garment, as the heat from a dryer could set any remaining residue, making it more difficult to clean later.

Formula Stains

Immediately address fresh formula stains by applying a stain remover or a solution of liquid laundry detergent, specifically targeting the proteins and fats in the formula. Gently work the solution into the fabric before tossing it in the washing machine.

For set-in formula stains, pre-treating the fabric with an enzyme-based stain remover can be particularly effective; let it sit to break down the stain before proceeding. Wash the garment in warm water, using a detergent that's effective against protein-based stains, and choose the warmest water setting recommended for the fabric type. After washing, air dry the garment to make sure the stain is fully removed, as the heat from the dryer might set any remaining stain, making it harder to remove later.

Yellow Stains

For new yellow stains, often resulting from spit-up or sweat, start by soaking the garment in a mixture of warm water and oxygen-based bleach, which is safe for both colored and white fabrics, to lighten the yellow spots. This pre-treatment is crucial for loosening the stain.

For stubborn, old yellow stains, extend the soaking time and consider adding a bit more bleach to the solution for enhanced effectiveness. After soaking, gently scrub the area if necessary, then rinse thoroughly. Wash the item in warm water, using a detergent that's effective on protein-based stains and the recommended amount of oxygen-based bleach to fully remove any lingering yellowness. Air drying is advisable to confirm the stain's removal, as the high heat from dryers might permanently set any remnants of the stain.

Food Stains

When addressing new food stains on baby clothes, promptly rinse the affected area under cold water to prevent the stain from setting. Apply a pre-treatment solution of stain remover or a mixture of water and mild detergent to break down the food particles.

For older, set-in food stains, soaking the garment in a solution of warm water and detergent can help loosen the residue, allowing for more effective stain removal. After soaking, gently agitate the stained area with a soft brush or cloth, then rinse thoroughly. Proceed to wash the garment according to fabric care instructions, using the appropriate water temperature and detergent. To ensure the stain is completely removed, air dry the article of clothing, as tumble drying may set any residual stains, making them more challenging to remove later.

Ink Stains

Tackle fresh ink stains by blotting the area with a dry cloth to absorb any excess ink without rubbing, which can spread the stain. Apply rubbing alcohol or a hand sanitizer to a cotton ball and dab gently on the stain, working from the outside in to prevent spreading. Rinse thoroughly with cold water before proceeding to wash.

For older, set-in ink stains, consider soaking the garment in milk overnight to help break down the ink, followed by a rinse in cold water and treatment with a mixture of laundry detergent and water. Wash the item as usual, checking the care label for the appropriate settings. Air drying after washing allows you to ensure the stain has been fully removed, as the heat from the dryer might fix any remaining ink permanently into the fabric.

Crayon Stains

For new crayon marks, first, scrape off any excess crayon with a blunt knife or spoon. Sandwich the stained area between layers of clean paper towels and gently press with a warm iron to melt and transfer the wax to the towels. Apply a stain remover or a solution of dish soap and water to treat the area before washing.

If dealing with set-in crayon stains, use a hair dryer to lightly reheat the wax. Repeat the paper towel and warm iron process to absorb as much wax as possible. Then, pre-treat with a stain remover or detergent mixture, washing the garment at the highest temperature the fabric can withstand. Air drying is crucial to confirm all traces of the stain are gone, as tumble drying may set any remaining wax or pigment into the fabric more permanently.

Mud Stains

For fresh mud stains, patience is key; allow the mud to dry completely before gently brushing off the excess to avoid embedding the dirt deeper into the fabric. Next, rinse the stained area from the back under cold water to push out as much mud as possible. Apply a stain remover or a mixture of laundry detergent and water to the stain, working it in gently with a soft brush or cloth.

If tackling older, set-in mud stains, soaking the garment in warm water mixed with detergent can help loosen the dried mud. After soaking, lightly brush the stain, rinse thoroughly, and then proceed to wash the garment following the fabric's care instructions, using the warmest water setting allowed. Air drying is recommended after washing to verify the mud stain has been fully removed, as the heat from a dryer may permanently set any remaining traces of the stain.

Grease Stains

Tackle fresh grease stains by liberally applying cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb the grease, letting it sit to draw out the oil. Once the powder has done its job, brush it away gently. For both new and set-in stains, dab the area with a mixture of dish soap and water, known for its grease-fighting properties, then work it in with a soft brush or cloth. Wash the garment in warm water, using the maximum temperature allowed by the fabric's care instructions to effectively dissolve the grease. Air dry the item to check the stain's removal success, as heat from the dryer can set the greasy stain permanently if any residue remains.

General Tips and Preventative Measures for Stains

Natural Solutions

Using natural stain removers offers a gentle, eco-friendly, and cost-effective option for treating baby clothes. These solutions minimize the risk of irritating your baby’s sensitive skin and reduce the family’s exposure to harsh chemicals.

  • Vinegar and Water Solution: Mix one part white vinegar with two parts water. This solution is excellent for breaking down mild stains and odors on baby clothes. Simply apply to the stain, let sit for 10 minutes, then rinse.
  • Baking Soda Paste: Create a paste with baking soda and water, using a 2:1 ratio. Apply this paste directly to the stain and let it sit for up to an hour before washing. It's especially effective for organic stains.
  • Lemon Juice: The natural bleaching properties of lemon juice work well on light-colored fabrics. Apply lemon juice to the stain and expose it to sunlight for several hours before rinsing.

Machine vs. Hand Washing

Decide based on the fabric's delicacy and the stain's stubbornness. Hand washing suits delicate items and stubborn stains, while machine washing is sufficient for durable fabrics and general care.

Drying and Final Care Tips

Always air dry after stain treatment to avoid setting stains. Sunlight can naturally bleach some fabric types, aiding in stain removal.


Employ preventative tactics like using bibs, changing baby clothes promptly after spills, and choosing stain-hiding patterns and colors.

In conclusion, tackling stains on baby clothes requires a blend of prompt action, the right cleaning techniques, and a bit of patience. From natural and homemade stain removers to the careful selection between machine and handwashing, this guide has covered a comprehensive range of strategies to address various stains on different fabric types. Whatever stain you're facing, the key is to understand the nature of the stain and the fabric's care instructions. By embracing these practices, you can navigate the challenges of stain removal with confidence, ensuring your baby's clothes remain as fresh and vibrant as your little one's adventures.

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