On my first day running the household, the pile of laundry on the basement sofa was one of the two things that led me to ask the question what in the hell do I do now? The laundry has to be cleaned, but what do you need to know to assure that the laundry gets done, and done right? Because what your mother taught you before college is great for a steady diet of hoodies and jeans, but fails when applied to womens' and baby clothing.
Let's just spend this segment talking about washing baby clothing.
Even Before Washing Baby Clothing
Remember first that your infant has soft skin and absolutely no exposure to the fragrances and scents of many detergents. The various scents are the product of chemical additives to the detergents and are known to create itchy, uncomfortable rashes on the baby's skin; this is even after the rinse cycle removes the soap from the clothing. So you're going to have to use a detergent that is has no such additives. While I don't want to shill for any particular product, Dreft was the detergent of choice for years. There are now other products available for baby/toddler laundry.
Even Before Your Infant Puts On Clothing
Now that you've settled on a detergent, let me ask you some questions.
Think of that cute onesie that just came out of the packaging. Do you know where it was before it got into the packaging? Or that little dress that your mate rescued from the rack before another mother nabbed it. Do you know where it was laying before it was placed on the rack? Or even before it was placed in the shipping box in the Dominican Republic? Just how clean are most factories?
If the answers are less than appetizing, then you probably want to wash new clothing before it hits Junior's body. I didn't always wash the clothing before first use, but fell into the habit as I gained some control in the whole laundry process. So make it a point to do a wash of new clothing before putting it on the baby.
Making Sure the Clothing Survives the Wash
Great, so you're going to use an appropriate detergent and wash the new stuff. Now you have to make sure that it survives the laundry routine in decent enough shape for the kid to wear it. What do you need to know?
- Obviously, dark colors are washed separately from bright colors and whites. Even if brights and darks can go in cold water, don't mix them if you don't have to. Neither of them go in with the new white onesies.
- Check the tags to see what the material is since high-content cotton items will shrink in the dryer. Go to Wally Mart and invest a few bucks in a drying rack and you'll recover the investment when you get to actually dress Junior in the cotton outfits.
- Check the tags to discover what the drying cycle should be. Dryers have different temperature settings and tags specifying a low setting - Tumble Dry Low - mean that the item will probably shrink in the standard drying cycle.
- That precious frilly outfit that your Mother-in-law bought for your daughter should be washed separately from the denim and heavy fabrics. These heavier fabrics will batter the delicates and I've lost clothing to metal zippers/buttons tearing into lace and other delicate items.
- Keep an eye on the amount of clean clothing in the drawers/closet so that you can have things moving in a standard process. It actually is embarrassing to take the kid somewhere in clothing that's obviously dirty. What kind of parent are you anyway?
- If you're comfortable with the process, you can even get Junior into larger clothing by washing it first and then running it through a dryer so that it shrinks. I've done it successfully - and not - so it's only done if you have a sense of what to do.
- I'll bet you didn't know that there's an alarm buzzer on your dryer. If you can get the clothes out shortly after the buzzer notes the end of the drying cycle, you can elliminate many of the wrinkles in the clothing.
- Of course, you have to actually fold or hang up the clothing after getting it out of the dryer.
- Consider using a mesh bag to hold tiny socks so that they don't get stuck under the washer's agitator and add to the legend of the Missing Sock Zone.
If you think that it's more than you expected, you're right. What brought it home for me was the money lost on unwearable clothing and the look on my mate's face when her baby wouldn't wear that outfit that she adored.
So pay attention and work the process.
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