How to Remove Stains from Baby Clothes

6 minute read

There are some universal truths in the world—water is wet, the sun rises in the east, and babies are adorable mess-makers. Babies tend to dirty their clothes in dozens of ways, from baby food stains to poop stains, leaving new parents feeling as if they’re constantly doing laundry. You might also find your personal tried-and-true tricks to eliminating stains won’t work for your little one’s wardrobe. 

So how do you get stains out of baby clothes? Well, you start with this guide. 

Luckily, we have some great baby-safe cleaning products that are gentle on their skin and will clean anything from a baby bottle to a onesie with poop stains. We’ll answer your most pressing questions about how to completely remove stains from your baby’s clothing

Pre-Soak Stains Before They Set

While it can be cute watching your baby be silly and make a mess, it’s not as cute cleaning up afterwards. Learning how to clean baby clothes, and especially how to remove stains from baby clothes, is very important. Rather than waiting for a stain to set and potentially ruin your little one’s favorite onesie, you can take preemptive action with the following pre-soak strategies:

  • Preclean the stain with water – Light stains don’t need anything more than a damp towel to loosen them up and make your life massively easier. After carefully dabbing your baby’s stained clothes with a cool, damp cloth, you can toss them in the wash and watch the stains come out. But act quickly—the sooner you preclean the clothing, the more likely the stain will come out.
  • Use a pre-soak treatmentYou can use our ECOS plant-powered laundry detergent to pretreat light stains. It features a readily biodegradable formula and is made in our Climate Positive factories. All you need to do is rub the detergent directly on the stain and then toss the clothes into the wash. Keep in mind that protein stains such as breast milk, urine, or fecal residue will need another cleaning agent beyond H2O. For those, consider using an enzyme pre-soak treatment to clean the stain before washing.

We recommend using products that feature the Safer Choice logo. Safer Choice products are safer for the environment and perform just as well as traditional cleaners, minus the harmful ingredients. With Safer Choice, you can feel confident that every ingredient in your stain remover has been reviewed to meet some of the strictest criteria to ensure the health of you and your little one.

3 Pre-Soak Treatments Safer for Baby Clothes

When considering a pre-soak treatment for your baby’s clothes, think carefully before pulling one off the shelf of your laundry cabinet. Strong chemicals can attach themselves to the fabric of baby clothes and end up on your baby’s skin, potentially causing rashes and irritation. Instead, you need a gentle enzyme cleaner that has a safer formula.

While enzyme cleaners are effective, especially when pre-soaking, not every product is safe for use on your baby’s clothes. In fact, some of them can even be harmful to your baby’s delicate skin. 

So, what products can you trust to keep your baby looking fresh and feeling their best? You can make your own baby-safe pre-soak solutions using ECOS Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent with Enzymes and ECOS OxoBrite® Multi-Purpose Stain Remover.

#1 ECOS’s OxoBrite® Multi-Purpose Stain Remover

A pre-soak treatment you can trust is ECOS OxoBrite® Multi-Purpose Stain Remover. Its clean, unscented formula is chlorine-free and made with mineral-powered ingredients that won’t irritate your baby’s skin but will cut through stains.

  • Mix one gallon of water and a scoop of OxoBrite in a large container or bowl
  • Put your baby’s clothes in the mix
  • Let them soak until stains come out, up to 24 hours if needed

#2 A DIY Detergent Paste

Another option is to create your own stain removing solution by mixing ECOS detergent and ECOS OxoBrite® Multi-Purpose Stain Remover. Armed with these ingredients, you’ll want to follow the next few steps:

  1. Mix equal amounts of ECOS laundry detergent and OxoBrite to create a paste.
  2. Using a soft toothbrush or towel, cover the stain completely with the paste and rub it in.
  3. Let the treatment sit for at least 15–20 minutes, then wash as usual.

When Hand Washing, Try Warm Water

Between singing Wheels on the Bus for the hundredth time and squeezing in your own power nap when the baby’s finally down for theirs, we know that not everyone has the time needed to pre-soak clothes. Sometimes you just need a quick and easy solution with as few instructions as possible.

If this sounds like you, don’t worry. Pre-soaking isn’t the only method of tackling mild stains. When hand washing, you can also use warm water washes to gently release drool or formula stains out of clothes. 

Try these tips to get the most out of your warm water washes: 1

  • Don’t let the water become too hot – Keep the water temperature between 85 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Any hotter than that, and the water might shrink or damage clothes that aren’t made for higher temperatures.
  • Be careful about the stains you try to remove – With certain stains, using warm or hot water might actually make them more likely to stay in the fabric. For example, hot water may set protein stains, such as eggs or milk. If you’re using a warm water wash, be careful you’re not setting the stain you want to remove by mistake.
  • Supplement with a stain remover – When you’re in a rush, adding a scoop of OxoBrite directly to your wash is an excellent way to boost your stain removal power without pre-soaking.

To Save Stained White Fabrics, Embrace the Power of the Sun

There are some serious stain-fighting benefits to line-drying white baby clothes in the sun. 

When you leave your baby’s white clothes out to dry on a line, the UV rays from the sun can help keep that clothing in its best shape by:

  • Acting as a natural alternative to bleach
  • Stopping your baby’s outfits from discoloring
  • Preventing yellow stains from forming on your child’s clothes

Why You Shouldn’t Reach for Bleach

Bleach obviously isn’t healthy for your baby and shouldn’t be used on his or her clothes. It risks leaving a residue on the fabric that could transfer to your child’s skin and cause serious harm. 
Even in small amounts, bleach can cause:

  • Respiratory damage
  • Damage to eyes
  • Irritation and even burns to skin

Beyond that, bleach is also highly toxic to our ecosystems and can have unfortunate consequences for our planet. Particularly when it comes to our babies’ sensitive skin, it’s best to stay away.

But just because you can’t use bleach doesn’t mean you have to give up on restoring your baby’s onesies to their original bright whites. Instead, utilize the natural whitening powers of the sun—and baby-safe stain removers from ECOS.

Father line drying clothes while holding a baby

Tips for Preventing Stains on Baby Clothes

Between cereal spills and spit-up splotches, messes are an undeniable part of parenthood. Still, those messy moments can lead to some incredibly special memories. After all, there’s something undeniably adorable about a baby’s grin when her face is covered in her first-ever spaghetti and meatball dinner. 

To embrace those spills as facts of life and shake off any lingering laundry worries, try these preventative measures to help preserve your child’s clothes—at least through their next growth spurt:

  • Bib it up – You can never have too many bibs. Bibs act as textile armor to your baby’s clothes during meal times, helping reduce accidental spills and stains.
  • Load up on spit-up rags – Spit-up rags are ideal for helping protect your own clothes from your baby’s more substantial burps. However, they can also help you proactively work against stains. As soon as a spot appears, use a clean corner of a nearby spit-up rag to lightly dab the residue off of your baby’s clothes. The more material you can get off the fabric right away, the easier time you’ll have getting the stain out later.
  • Embrace the birthday suit – Who says your baby has to wear clothes all the time? When the weather allows, your baby can wear their birthday suit (and a diaper) to mealtimes. Worst case scenario, the spills land on them and not their clothes. Just know that bath time will probably follow suit. But hey, bathtime with your little one is much sweeter than any stain treatment.
  • Pay attention to baby clothes labels – Shopping for baby clothes is one of the most fun parts of parenthood. What’s not fun is buying the cutest outfit ever, only to discover your baby’s ensemble comes at the cost of a dry clean only laundering (believe it or not, such temperamental baby clothes do exist). Before you buy, take a look at the clothing tag and check out the directions. The easier it is to wash, the easier it’ll likely be to get stains out

Eliminate Stains From Your Baby’s Clothes with ECOS

Gentler products are better for your baby, but finding ones that work well can be challenging. That’s where ECOS comes in. Our plant-powered products are made with less chemicals that could irritate your baby’s skin or cause an allergic reaction. But they’re also designed to deliver an effective clean in one try, which will keep you from washing the same clothes over and over again and hoping to see a different result.