Do You Really Need To Pre-Wash Baby Clothes Before First Wearing?

Preparing for your baby to arrive can be a stressful time, no matter how much you want to thrive during the bliss of pregnancy – though we know all too well that it is not as simple as that.

Whilst you clean the house from top to bottom and make sure every part of the home has been baby proofed, one thing still remains a mystery: should you pre-wash the clothes you have ready and waiting for your newborn?

Whilst the majority of us are unlikely to even think about putting new clothes in the wash, scare stories involving hand-me-downs have certainly caused a ruckus with a number of expecting moms.

Do You Really Need to Pre-Wash Baby Clothes Before First Wearing

From dust and debris particles, to who knows what else they might contain, washing secondhand clothes before the baby arrives is only a natural thing to do.

Some moms prefer to wash store bought clothes too because of the handling that happens to the garments before they arrive in-store. Not only that, other people will have picked up and touched the clothes you have bought, making it a breeding ground for germs, right?

Whilst this might sound scary, it actually may not be a bad thing. Let us look at why.

Is A Pre-Wash Needed?

Before the baby arrives, it can cause the parents to enter a stage of panic even though they have both been preparing for the newborn’s arrival for the last 8 months.

Suddenly, the baby’s arrival is on the horizon and new questions might have entered their minds with one of those being to do with having to wash the baby’s store bought clothes.

Whilst it might seem obvious due to how many hands the clothes have touched, it actually is not necessary to. It is another stressful and time consuming thing to tick off a to-do list that does not need to be done.

So, breathe in and out slowly, let us tell you why.

Why It Might Be Unnecessary

Unless you are really worried about skin irritation, the process of washing a baby’s clothes bought from the store is not worth the hassle, especially when you are already anxiously waiting to give birth.

It also does not make you a bad parent if you do want to skip this step because it has its advantages. One of these is helping your baby to build up its immunity. We do not get a strong immune system by avoiding all germs, we have to be exposed to them – just think about your own childhood rolling around in the grass and climbing trees.

Even though unlikely, some babies do have a mild skin reaction. This is easy to spot because they will have red, perhaps bumpy and itchy skin in patches. If your baby does develop a reaction, then you will know to pre-wash them the next time you buy or receive something new.

What About Hand-Me-Downs?

You could state the same theory of building up an immune system to secondhand clothes, but it is more likely that parents will want to wash these before their baby wears the garments because another child has worn them.

However most, if not all, people will pre-wash the clothes before giving them to another person.

If you buy baby clothes from a yard sale or from somewhere like ebay, they could still have pollen or dust attached to the fibers no matter if they have already been laundered.

With that being said, it may still be worth pre-washing the clothes just to be on the safe side.

Again, if you do not want to wash the clothes, then it is up to you, but always make sure that your baby’s skin is healthy and irritation free.

Why Do People Pre-Wash Baby Clothes?

The reason people want to wash the clothes before their baby puts them on is because of the fear of chemicals that may have contaminated the fibers, and any germs that may be present.

Whilst this might sound a little extreme, it is natural to be on high alert, especially when a newborn is involved.

A lot of clothing manufacturers use a resin called Urea Formaldehyde to coat new clothing. This helps to preserve the color and the texture of fabrics before you wash the clothes, making them look extra great in-store.

Also, darker colors may have dyes that include azo-aniline which are sometimes used in synthetic fibers such as polyester, acrylic and many others. All this can transfer onto the skin of a baby and cause a slight reaction.

Whilst likely to not harm the baby, except for itchy patches on the skin, it can be worrying and bothersome as a parent.

Step-by-Step: How To Pre-Wash Baby Clothes

If you are looking to pre-wash the clothes ready for the arrival of your baby, even just for peace of mind, here are a few tips to make the job easier during a stressful time.


Whilst it might sound obvious, always remember to follow the labels correctly to avoid ruining the clothes, and make sure you add the correct colors together to avoid something white turning pink – we have all done it. Also, make sure all the snaps and buttons are put together to prolong the life of the clothes.

Anything delicate like bibs and socks need to be washed within a suitable mesh bag to make sure they do not get lost somewhere within the machine.

Baby Safe Detergent

Probably the most important step: choosing a detergent. The right one will compliment your baby’s skin rather than damaging it. Most babies have sensitive skin so at this stage it is a good idea to avoid any extra unnecessary ingredients like dyes and perfumes which keep clothes smelling and looking lovely.

There are detergents available that are natural and include no fragrance. They are also suitable for the whole family, making it a great go-to for everyone.

Whilst you do not have to take this route, it is always best to be on the safe side in case they do have an allergy and then you will need to rewash all the clothes and buy a new detergent.

Finishing Steps

When washing the clothes, always use a gentle cycle. Right now there are no hard to remove stains, so the washing of the clothes should be pretty simple.

Lastly, just like when you began, you will need to follow the instructions on the care label to see how to dry the clothing without damaging them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Wash My Baby’s Clothes In The Washing Machine?

It is perfectly fine and safe to wash a baby’s clothes in the washing machine. Just make sure to use a detergent that is safe for sensitive skin, and to put it on a gentle wash.

How Long Do I Need To Pre-wash The Baby’s Clothes For?

Because parents will be worried about the build-up of bacteria on the baby’s clothes, use a gentle 30 minute or more wash to kill any bacteria.

Even though you may want to use a particularly hot wash, always refer to the instructions on each item of clothing so you do not damage them before the baby has even had a chance to wear the clothing.

Should You Pre-wash Baby’s Clothes?

For peace of mind, yes. The reason being, if you are worried that your baby will have a skin reaction, even though mild, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Washing the baby’s clothes will remove most, if not all, the bacteria and chemicals that may harm your baby’s skin.

Final Words

Deciding to pre-wash your clothes or not to pre-wash your clothes can add to the stress when preparing for your baby’s arrival.

Whilst it might give parents peace of mind to take the time out to wash the clothes, others may see exposing their baby to potential germs as a way to build up their little one’s immune system.

It is difficult to know whether your baby will have sensitive skin which may cause them to react to unwashed clothes. With this in mind, whichever way you decide to go is the right way. Just remember to do what you feel is best.

Stephanie Creek