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No need to clean your baby’s clothes separately. And most people don’t need to invest in a special “baby” detergent. In most cases, you can toss their clothes in with the rest of the family’s stuff. If your baby has allergies, eczema, or you’re simply worried that regular detergent may cause problems, use it to wash one or two baby items and then check their skin for irritation after they wear them. If they do have a reaction, baby detergent could be a good investment. Or look for a soap that is hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. You can wash the whole family’s clothes with that.

This calls to mind one circumstance, i.e. if you wanted to use baby detergent for the baby but didn't want to wash the whole family's clothes with baby detergent.

Are there any other circumstances under which the clothes should be washed separately?

2 Answers 2

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We did not wash baby clothes separately due to my inability to quickly find any research-based evidence to do so. Soiled (with poop, vomit, or anything super dirty/contaminated) clothes were a rare exception.

Other than that, we used fragrance-free detergents for the entire family based purely on my dislike of commercial fragrances. We also do not use fabric softener sheets for a similar reason, and also because the clothes do not really need them.

AFAIK, there are few, if any, studies that show the presence or the absence of any long-term good or bad effects of many common commercial fragrances on infants or adults. I wonder how these are regulated and standardized - the labels are usually sadly missing this important info...

REFERENCES:

(somewhat relevant, but do not answer the question about long-term effects)

Detergents and other laundry products are generally effective and safe for all the family, but use carefully according to the maker's instructions and keep out of the reach of children. Rinse thoroughly to remove detergent residue from fabrics. If handwashing clothes, dissolve detergent before immersing hands. Wear rubber gloves if possible. Wash, rinse and dry hands thoroughly after contact with detergent. If a baby or parent has eczema, it may be necessary to try different products to see which one the client can tolerate. A non-perfumed, non-enzyme product may be found less irritating.

Scowen P. Advising parents on washing babies' clothes. Prof Care Mother Child. 1996;6(6):161-2. PMID: 9077252.: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9077252/

Laundry detergents that are free of fragrances and dyes should be recommended to patients with sensitive skin. To ensure mildness of these products, manufacturers typically conduct patch testing. A new method, which is more discerning than patch testing, called Detergent Mildness Index (DMI), has been described previously. Using the DMI method, 12 sensitive skin/baby laundry detergents, representing the top 85% of the marketplace, were evaluated. The product [redacted by Timur Shtatland]1 was found to be the mildest liquid laundry detergent.

Coope-Epstein J, Zirwas MJ, Calderon A. Evaluation of the Relative Mildness of Commercial Sensitive Skin and Baby Laundry Detergents. Skinmed. 2020 Jan 1;18(1):14-16. PMID: 32167450.: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32167450/

1 See the URL above for the product name. I redacted it here because I do not want this post to give the appearance of spam, no matter what the authors of the article did. :)

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    +1. As a person with a medical inclination, I usually recommended fragrance free detergents, and to double the final rinse for baby clothes if the child had any skin problems, even temporary ones.
    – anongoodnurse
    Nov 7, 2021 at 18:10
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    There are also detergents that have very little scent; if you're on a budget these can be cheaper than the totally fragrance-free ones. They're what I use anyway, and used for baby stuff. You can also use less detergent than stated, especially if you're using a pre-wash for very dirty items.
    – Chris H
    Dec 21, 2021 at 13:45
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    @TimurShtatland I'm always very sceptical of arguments like "if you can afford to buy X you can afford a better version of X" because they can be applied to almost all your expenditure and you'd have to be super-rich to keep up. All normal people have to prioritise, but those priorities may be forced, and certainly if there's actual evidence of a problem for a baby, that's top priority. Based on what I can buy, fragrance-free is 2.5× more expensive per unit weight, and probably less effective (my normal choice has useful enzymes) meaning I'd need more.
    – Chris H
    Dec 21, 2021 at 14:14
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    @ChrisH I agree with you here: "certainly if there's actual evidence of a problem for a baby, that's top priority". When it comes to living below poverty line, all my experience is not recent, and not very extreme. Perhaps we can ask for advice medical professionals who have experience with poor patients and their parents, or just ask other users with more experience of living while poor... I would treat my own advice in this matter with a huge grain of NaCl, I agree with you here as well. :) Dec 21, 2021 at 14:31
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    @ChrisH - "if you can afford to buy X you can afford a better version of X" just sounds like materialism to me, not common sense. Some things that are better for your health or that of the earth are more expensive initially, but profitable in the long run. (Plastics are cheap, but over the years have caused so many problems for humans using it as containers for food/beverages or clothing - gynecomastia in boys, UTIs in females, etc. Better (for those who can afford it) to use more natural materials, but there are risks to everything.
    – anongoodnurse
    Dec 21, 2021 at 20:45
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We washed most things together, but due to having a septic tank waste we used the simplest detergents (fragrance free, bio degradable) as others can kill the natural bacteria needed in the septic tank.

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