How to Remove Pesky Baby Stains

Baby clothes with stains next to soft-bristled brush and baby toys

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Baby stains are a fact of life when you've got a little one in the house. Babies are adorable, but they produce an amazing amount of dirty laundry from the very first day they arrive. Here's a how-to guide to laundry stain removal and, specifically, how to get the baby stains out.

Keep in mind that this should be used as a general guideline for baby laundry, but you should always double-check the specific laundering instructions for common fabrics for baby clothes.

Stain Removal Preparation

First, if there are any remnants of what has stained your baby's clothes, like food or spit up, you'll want to scrape them off before you begin treating the clothes for the laundry.

Then, soak the newly stained item in cool water, as this can help loosen the stain.

Next, depending on the type of stain, you'll want to treat it in different ways.

Baby clothes soaked in white tub with cool water next to soft-bristled brush and detergent cap

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Removing Protein Stains

For protein stains—including formula, breast milk, most food stains, leaky diapers, and spit-up—you'll need a small amount of an enzyme cleaner, such as Wisk Laundry Detergent or Era Plus, and a soft-bristled brush (an old toothbrush works well).

The enzyme cleaner will digest the protein of the stain. If there is any remaining stain on your baby's clothes, treat it with an all-purpose stain remover like Shout or Spray 'n Wash, then launder it in the regular wash cycle.

Baby bottle with protein formula spilled on blue bib next to soft-bristled brush

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Removing Greasy Stains

Oily or greasy stains—including baby oils, creams, and petroleum jellies—require cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb the oil.

After 15-20 minutes, scrape off the powder, apply a combination pre-treater, and toss it in with your laundry.

Baby oil cream on knife removing greasy stain next to small bowl of cornstarch

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Fruit and Vegetable Food Stains

Fruits, veggies, jams, juices, and berries are a little more challenging, but they too can be conquered.

To pre-treat, create a vinegar solution of one part vinegar and two parts water and apply it to the stain with an eyedropper. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then apply a combination solvent and wash it in your regular wash cycle.

In the case that your baby really loves berries, many parents find that Shaklee's Laundry Detergent does wonders for berry-stained laundry and doesn't need an additional pre-treatment. Sounds like a win-win!

Vinegar and water solution poured on fruit and veggie stain on blue baby bib

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Drying or Bleaching Stained Clothing

Remember, before throwing those freshly washed baby clothes in the dryer, check them over carefully for remnants of the stain. Once they've gone through the dry cycle, the stain is much harder to get out.

If the pesky stain persists, do another round of pre-treatment and wash again. If the stain is on white fabric, dip a small section of a white washcloth into a bleach solution (follow the instructions on the bleach) and dab the area to carefully remove the stains. If the outfit has other colored fabric on it, use extra caution not to get any bleach on the colored fabrics to avoid ruining them. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Before tossing it in the wash, carefully rinse out the bleach, using extra caution not to get any bleach on the outfit's colored fabrics. Then wash the garment as usual. Check the label before using bleach, because some white fabrics can turn yellow when using bleach. 

Preventing Baby Stains

The best way to conquer baby stains is to avoid them in the first place (which is often easier said than done!). Bibs are a great way to protect clothing from food, milk, and juice stains. Waterproof plastic bibs with pockets that catch food bits, like Bumkins Bibs, are fantastic for protecting clothing from food and liquids. Plus, they're easy to rinse and launder. 

If possible, remove your baby's clothing prior to mealtime, especially if it's a light-colored outfit or your little one is eating a particularly messy meal, like spaghetti or berries. Or designate an old T-shirt that's okay to get stained for your baby to wear during mealtime.