Don't be intimidated with your new collection of organic cotton wear and Merino blankets for your baby. They're super-gentle on your little one's skin, but also tough enough to be passed on to the next generation of charming rug rats in your family! All they need is a little bit of TLC. Our friends at babywear specialists Babu share their top tips for washing those delicate items.
First things first: check the garment's label for any instructions. Most babies' clothing has instructions on their labels such as "Hand Wash Only", "Low Heat", and "Dry Clean", among others. Following these is your best bet to avoid damaging the fabric. However, these instructions and information can be limited at times. Types of detergent that you can use, specific water temperature, and drying methods are usually not mentioned. Nevertheless, looking the tags will give you some clue where to start!
A wise mommy from somewhere once said; separate your light-coloured clothes from your dark ones. This piece of wisdom should be taken into heart when dealing with organic cotton. Due to the absence of chemical colour fixatives, it is natural for the dye in them to bleed during the first few washes.
There are two reasons as to why you have to choosy about the detergent to use:
Detergent or washing powder should not be a problem if your baby does not have very sensitive skin or any allergies. It's also good to choose liquid varieties since this is more soluble than powder and would rinse out more easily.
Interestingly, home-maker extraordinaire, Martha Stewart mentions using mild bath soaps such as Lux and Ivory. And, if you've got time on your hands, you can try natural cleaners such as baking soda and borax.
For organic cotton garments specifically, fabric conditioners, optical brighteners, and stain guards should be avoided since these will leave residue that will affect its quality in terms of absorbency and odour.
As you may very well know, organic cotton does not undergo a bleaching process; meaning natural oils and wax still coat the fibres when they reach you. This is why pre-washing is a necessary step for organic cotton garments. Skipping this might affect the garment's ability to absorb moisture.
Organic cotton garments can be washed in hot water without a problem. However, it's a totally different story with Merino wool. Keep the water under 30° Celsius to prevent felting and shrinkage of the garment.
Bleach will be tough on organic cotton and Merino wool. It will ruin the natural colour and weaken the fabric. If you find it necessary to whiten your wool, opt for hydrogen peroxide instead. Yes, both fabrics are tough but they need proper care to last for years.
At this point, you must be wondering what to do with strong odours or stains that remain in the delicate fabric of your baby's clothes if bleach and strong detergent are no-nos. Simple. Rinse the clothes more or increase the water level to get rid of the pee and poo smells. To get rid of strong detergent smells, reduce its quantity used in the pile. This might not be necessary for Merino though, because it is naturally resistant to odours.
In the case of Merino wool, hand washing is the best way to go. No vigorous rubbing here though. Soak your Merino in warm water with mild detergent for a few minutes, do a bit squeezing, and rinse with more warm water to get the soap out. Machine wash is also possible but you have to make sure to use a gentle cycle. If your washing machine does not have that setting, choose the one that is suitable for knits.
While washing with hot water does no harm to organic cotton garments, overheating them in the drying process will cause shrinkage. Conventional cotton is treated to prevent this but organic cotton is not. So, to dry these teensy clothes, it's best to hang them up. If that's not an option, don't turn on any of the heat settings on your dryer.
For Merino, the most important thing to remember at this stage is: do not wring it! Get rid of excess water by squeezing it. Or roll it up in a white towel and let this absorb the water from your garment. Don't hang it either unless you want to have pointy, deformed shoulders. Instead, lay it on a flat surface, maybe mesh if you have it, and let it dry there. Give it a bit of hand to help it get back in shape, especially for larger pieces.