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Babies go through a lot of laundry, between multiple changes a day and soiled crib sheets, to burp blankets and cloth diapers. Caring for a baby means typically more loads (or at least more frequent washes) that you'll want to factor into your schedule, but that's not the only thing to consider. You also want to find a gentle baby-friendly laundry detergent and keep your little one's delicate skin in mind.
However, whether you're a new parent, have another little one on the way, or are shopping for a baby shower, you might not know what type of detergent is best. "When a baby presents with a skin rash that appears to be a contact irritation, one of the first questions I ask [is], 'What laundry products are you using?'" says Dr. Katy Gibson, a pediatrician and the creator of Unfolding Motherhood, an online community aimed at educating mothers. As Dr. Gibson explains, the detergent you pick doesn't have to be specifically formulated for babies, though baby soaps tend to have fewer potentially irritating ingredients. She tells The Spruce that a hypoallergenic detergent with the "Free & Clear" label is a good place to start. The label tells you the product doesn't contain dye or fragrance.
With all of her tips in mind, we rounded up standout detergents that are tough on baby messes and gentle on sensitive skin. Here, the best baby laundry detergents for you and your family.
Best Overall: Babyganics 3X Baby Laundry Detergent
Not ideal for cloth diapers
Who else recommends it? Bob Vila, Babylist, and Insider all picked Babyganics 3X laundry detergent.
What do buyers say? 86% of 3,400+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 5 stars.
Our number one pick for a baby laundry detergent is Babyganics, a triple-concentrated formula made with the sensitive skin of little ones in mind. Pediatrician and dermatologist-tested, the formula doesn't contain any fragrance, dyes, chlorine, sulfates, or optical brighteners, chemicals sometimes used in detergents to make colors and whites appear brighter. Instead, this plant-based laundry detergent calls on the power of enzymes to clean dirty clothes, bed linens, and towels while tackling tough stains and addressing stubborn odors.
Since you only need to use about half of a capful of the concentrated soap, the price per load is also very reasonable. It can also be used to pre-treat stains in clothes before washing. Now, this product is not the most ideal for washing cloth diapers, but will otherwise be a standout in your laundry routine.
Best Budget: Purex for Baby Liquid Laundry Detergent
For households on a budget, we recommend Purex for Baby Liquid Laundry Detergent. This dermatologist-tested detergent is hypoallergenic and free of dyes. You might enjoy its light fragrance that's formulated to be gentle enough for delicate skin. However, if you'd prefer your detergent to be fragrance-free, it's not the right pick for you.
Notably, the price per load comes out to less than half of most other baby detergents, which is ideal. Fill up the cap to the level one marker for a regular load or higher for heavily-soiled loads, according to the product listing.
Best Splurge: The Laundress Baby Detergent Gallon
If you're going to splurge on your baby laundry detergent, go with this gallon-sized option from The Laundress. Thanks to the highly-concentrated formula, you can expect to get over 250 washes out of a single bottle. Plus, the pump makes it easy to dispense the exact right amount for each of your loads. The scent is complex yet balanced, so if great smelling laundry is super important to you, this detergent should be your pick. (However, if you want to steer clear of fragrance, it's not the pick for you.)
For increased stain-fighting, many of our editors also swear by The Laundress' Stain Solution. One editor uses it to get stubborn stains out of her toddlers' clothes.
Best Unscented: The Honest Company Baby Laundry Detergent
Can be hard to achieve clean smell
In the unscented category, we're big fans of The Honest Baby Company's baby laundry detergent. In addition to being fragrance-free, the plant-derived formula is designed specifically for sensitive skin. A blend of four stain-fighting enzymes tackles tough, pigmented messes. Enzyme-based cleaners such as this one are best for fighting protein-based stains, which include everything from baby food to diaper blowout messes and spit up.
It can be hard to achieve a clean smell with this detergent. However, rest assured, your baby's clothes will be free of spots when they emerge from the washing machine.
Best Scented: Noodle & Boo Ultra-Safe Laundry Detergent
For those who like a mild scent, we suggest Noodle & Boo Ultra-Safe laundry detergent. The brand's signature Crème Douce fragrance is built into this detergent, and will leave your baby's clothes smelling light and fresh. Plus, the plant-based formula does an excellent job of addressing stains and odors. You need about an ounce of product per load (about two capfuls), and the detergent comes in small, 32-ounce bottles that make it easy to hold and pour into your washer.
The only downside to this product is that it's expensive and doesn't have a great value per load. However, it is pediatrician-approved.
Best for Cloth Diapers: Tide Free & Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent
Suitable for all laundry
Cloth diapers can be tough to clean, but Tide Free & Gentle is up to the task. The enzyme-based formula has the ability to tackle diaper-related messes—an essential for getting as many uses out of your cloth diapers as possible. It also does an incredible job of washing clothes and linens, including adult garments and household textiles, thanks to its special blend of enzymes and biodegradable surfactants. It is free of dyes and perfumes and available in two different formulas depending on your washing machine: regular or high-efficiency.
Best Pods: Dropps Sensitive Skin & Baby Detergent
Available in different amounts
If you're partial to laundry pods because they're more convenient, go with Dropps. The brand's Sensitive Skin & Baby Detergent Pods are unscented, free of dyes and optical brighteners, and gentle on delicate skin. The powerful surfactants effectively draw dirt and other stains out of fabrics, then emulsify the mess so it rinses down the drain. Plus, they're available in different amounts, so you can try them out or stockpile them in your laundry room. (You can purchase a pack of 36, 64, 160, or 240 pods.)
Dropps also sells their pods in compostable packaging, so if you're concerned with the environmental impact of all the laundry detergent bottles you'll go through with the extra laundry, you can breathe a sigh of relief.
Best Powder: Charlie's Soap Fragrance Free Laundry Powder
Safe for septic tanks
Not as convenient as pods
Charlie's Soap is highly recommended by Dr. Gibson, who says it's a favorite among cloth-diapering moms. This powdered laundry detergent only contains four ingredients and is free of perfumes, dyes, and optical brighteners. It is also concentrated, so a little bit goes a long way. In fact, the company suggests using two-thirds of a tablespoon per load, or one tablespoon for large or heavily soiled loads.
Unlike some powdered detergents, it's even effective in cold water cycles—although to sanitize fabrics, you'll still need to use hot water, It is biodegradable, safe for septic tanks, and leaves no residue on your clothes. It may, however, be a little less convenient to use than a pod.
Best for Newborns: Dreft Stage 1: Newborn Liquid Laundry Detergent
Free of dyes
Not ideal for cloth diapers
The best option for newborn laundry is Dreft Stage 1. This pediatrician-recommended and dermatologist-tested detergent is dye-free, specially formulated for newborns, and unlikely to irritate your baby's skin. We also like that it can be used to hand-wash delicate items. It is also conveniently formulated to work in both regular and high-efficiency washing machines. Just bear in mind that you might want a slightly more robust formula if you're washing fabric diapers. Also, this pick contains fragrance. Although, you may find the scent to be pleasing and welcomed in your home.
Best for Sensitive Skin: All with Stainlifters Free Clear Detergent
Works at any water temperature
Not ideal for removing stains
All Free Clear laundry detergent is not specifically formulated for babies, but is great for sensitive skin and not too expensive either. This detergent truly checks all the boxes. It's free of dyes and fragrance, hypoallergenic, 99 percent plant-based, and effective at any water temperature. Plus, it can be used in any washing machine.
Our tester used this on her family's laundry and noted that it kept her family's clothes looking clean, but didn't work as well at removing tough stains. She said it delivered on its promise to not irritate skin, but is definitely lacking built-in fabric softener and a pleasant scent. Otherwise, it was a top-notch addition to her home.
Best Eco-Friendly: Seventh Generation Sensitive Skin Baby Laundry Detergent
No brightening agents
Seventh Generation Free & Clear contains 97 percent plant-based ingredients and has no dyes, perfumes, or artificial brightening agents. This laundry detergent was formulated to be gentle on delicate skin and, thanks to stain-fighting enzymes, it is tough on various baby messes, including fruit puree, milk, baby formula, and inevitable diaper blowouts. It is also Safer Choice certified, meaning that it's a gentler choice for humans as well as the planet. While this pick is on the expensive side, you can feel good about how your selection is not just helping your family, but also your environment.
Our top pick for a baby laundry detergent is Babyganics (view at Amazon), a triple-concentrated, plant-based, fragrance-free, and hypoallergenic formula that calls on powerful enzymes to clean clothes and tackle stubborn stains. If you're looking to stick to a budget, Purex for Baby (view at Walmart) is also an excellent choice. The dermatologist-tested formula comes out to just pennies per load, but does contain fragrance.
What to Look for in Baby Laundry Detergent
According to Dr. Gibson, laundry detergent is a common source of irritation for babies, "as an infant's skin is much more sensitive to irritation." That being said, you'll want to look for a formula with gentle ingredients unlikely to cause a reaction. This includes plant-derived enzymes and biodegradable surfactants, such as myristyl glucoside, potassium cocoate, protease, and amylase.
The "Free & Clear" label
Dr. Gibson recommends looking for a detergent with "Free & Clear" in the name or somewhere on the label. This tells you the product is free of fragrance and clear of dyes—both of which may be a cause of skin irritation. Some baby detergents are lightly scented. This doesn't necessarily mean your child will have a reaction. However, if you're concerned about potential irritants, a "Free & Clear" formula is sure to be milder.
"Choose a detergent that is hypoallergenic," advises Dr. Gibson. This typically means the product doesn't contain common allergens, such as artificial dyes and perfumes. Though, it may imply the formula simply contains fewer irritating ingredients. A person could react to virtually any chemical, natural or synthetic. The term doesn't guarantee a product will not cause a reaction. It only means that it's less likely to.
What are the most important ingredients to consider?
The most important ingredients to consider when buying baby laundry detergent are actually those to avoid. To minimize the risk of skin irritation or an allergic reaction, you'll want to look for formulas free of fragrance, dyes, optical brighteners, bleach, and other synthetic coloring agents. Additionally, Dr. Gibson advises against using fabric softeners or dryer sheets when doing baby laundry.
At what age should you stop using baby detergent?
There's no official age to stop washing your child's clothes and bedding with baby detergent. In fact, many baby laundry soaps are suitable for adult clothes and household bedding.
Dr. Gibson tells The Spruce there's no need to separate your little one's clothes from your own or use separate detergents. "You hold babies close to you, and they will have their face snuggled up to your clothes, blankets, sheets, etc.," she explains. "It makes it much easier for you to do laundry as well."
Can you use regular detergent on baby clothing?
When shopping for a baby-friendly laundry detergent, you don't necessarily need to purchase a detergent specifically designed for babies, according to Dr. Gibson. Many laundry detergents labeled "Free & Clear" are suitable for the whole family. Since these formulas are free of fragrances and dyes, they tend to be gentle on sensitive skin, but also powerful enough to clean various messes and fabrics.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Theresa Holland is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, cleaning, textiles, and lifestyle within the commerce space, and has been writing for The Spruce since 2019. For this, she interviewed Dr. Katy Gibson, a pediatrician and the creator of Unfolding Motherhood. She also researched various formulations, scoured user reviews, and read through the ingredients lists of dozens of detergents before landing on her final picks. As a toddler mom, she has personally tested several products on this list and is particularly fond of Babyganics, Tide, All, and Seventh Generation.