While there’s no way to make washing a mountain of baby laundry fun, there are little tricks that will make it bearable. And luckily, new parents like nothing more than sharing their hard-earned words of wisdom.
I received two pieces of baby laundry advice when I became a mom that I’ve since gifted — and this advice is so good, I do consider it a gift — to every new parent I meet. The first: Because newborn poop is so thin that it gets everywhere, invest in a bunch of washable changing pad liners. Or, if you’d rather go for something disposable on your most bleary-eyed days, get a bunch of puppy pee pads from the pet store. (Apologies to the planet, but occasionally convenience wins when you’re running on two hours of sleep and baby is on his fifth blowout of the day.) The second: Use waterproof mattress pads and crib sheets in three alternating layers so you can quickly pull off pee-, barf-, and/or poop-covered (it will happen) bedding in the middle of the night and have a fresh set ready to go.
Read on for more tried-and-true pointers from people who’ve been there.
1. Simplify sorting with one color palette.
“Buy things that are a similar color: If you’re starting from scratch with baby clothes, sheets, and blankets, it’s easier to do the frequent loads of laundry required with a newborn or infant if everything is around the same color. For my second baby, we tried to stick to whites and light-colored items. Everything dirty went into the wash together, and we didn’t worry about sorting. (That is, if you care about sorting things, which I have cared about since my mom turned all my whites pink when I was a kid.)” — Melissa Maleske, Chicago, mom to a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old
2. Use folding as an excuse for watching TV.
“I never thought I’d be the type of person to do laundry multiple times a week, but here I am. And it’s actually a lot more manageable than blocking off an entire day of marathon laundry. I do two to three loads over the course of the week and then try to fold on a night when I can relax with an audiobook or stream something.” — Steph Pituc, Minneapolis, mom to a 2-year-old
3. But remember that folding too carefully is for chumps.
“Don’t worry about folding your baby’s clothes too well. Like many others, I got really into the Marie Kondo-style folding to maximize space. After doing our baby’s first load of laundry, I spent lots of time folding everything neatly. By the third load, I ditched that and just folded everything in half once, and sloppily.” — Michael Sewall, Chicago, dad to a 2-month-old
4. Buy a lot of onesies, and buy them cheap.
“In terms of having a boy, you get a whole lot more leaks. They have different parts and they spray out. Every night he has a wet onesie. I have to wash so much more often [than I did with my daughter]. Under 1 year old, they grow out of clothing so fast, it’s just ridiculous. I like getting it cheap, used, or on consignment and giving it new life with soap and laundry bars.” — Nicole Musillami, La Grange, Illinois, mom to a 7-month-old and a 5-year-old
5. Take advantage of sunlight to revitalize yellowed whites.
“My daughter loves blueberries and raspberries. Even with a bib, you can’t control it. I use Dreft Laundry Stain Remover spray. It gets anything out of everything. And then I put [the clothing] in the sun. Especially whites — breast milk or formula spit-up yellows the clothes, but I leave [them] out all day and [they dry] pretty white. It’s literally the best.” — Rachal Baillie, Manalapan, New Jersey, mom to a 16-month-old
6. Find out right away if new clothes are going to shrink.
“A friend provided this piece of advice to pregnant me that was valuable: When gifted clothing, especially for babies, wash it immediately so you know how much it shrinks.” — Marisa Bassett, Rhode Island, mom to a 5-year-old
7. Know that it will become a habit — eventually.
“My husband is very committed to cleanliness in the house. When my son was born, we did laundry basically every day. We have a laundry hamper in our son’s bathroom, and so at night we take his clothes, put them in the hamper, and then give them a wash. [Now] we do that every two or three days, whenever it’s full — in-unit laundry is obviously a privilege. All of those things combined with a general ethos that clean is good has made it a habit at this point.” — Tyler Greene, Bay Area, dad to a 2-year-old
8. Take babies along for the ride.
“For apartment living without an in-unit washer/dryer, wear the baby in a carrier to do laundry. [Mine] both loved being in the carrier. It did mean I needed to find some crazy angles to reach the bottom of the top loader. A fun hamper can get a toddler into helping put the dirty laundry in the right place. We feed the froggy!” — Kerry Middlemas Bartlett, Hudson, Ohio, mom to a 6-month-old and a 4-year-old
9. Treat stains immediately.
“I gift every new mom with a few OxiClean Max Force Gel Sticks because that shit gets the shit out of the shit! Also, because I had that, I learned the importance of rinsing and treating as quickly as possible, if you want to save the outfit. I also love my Woolzies [dryer balls], only found when pregnant and researching sensitive baby stuff. I’m a basic-level laundress, so these discoveries made me feel like Martha Stewart.” — Jennon Bell Hoffmann, La Grange Park, Illinois, mom to a 7-month-old and a 4-year-old
10. Breathe: The laundry might not be as bad as you think.
“I’d heard lore about how terrible it would be. It really wasn’t. There was a lot of it, but the clothing was so small we’d throw it in with ours. We always wash baby clothes in cold water, so we only put it in with nicer clothes, like blouses and pants, not towels and sheets, which we always did in a hot wash. It was a bunch of stuff, sure, but it didn’t feel like a lot because it was itty-bitty clothing.” — Zoya Arora, Ames, Iowa, mom to a 2-year-old, with another baby due in October