washing newborn clothes

How Early Should You Wash Newborn Clothes?

If you’re going through your “nesting” period then you’ll be frantically trying to get your house prepared for the arrival of your new bundle of joy. That preparation includes arranging and washing clothes for your newborn.

That leads to the question, when is the best time to wash newborn clothes? You may even be wondering whether you need to wash them at all, especially if they are new. 

Here we’ll tell you everything about washing your newborn clothes. You’ll learn when best to wash the clothes, why washing the clothes is important, and all the other key bits of information. 

Let’s start by looking at why washing newborn baby clothes is important. 


Is it Important to Wash Newborn Clothes?

If you need a one-word answer, it is “absolutely”.

The reason is that the immune system of newborns is still developing, and their skin is very sensitive, so newborns cannot tolerate much.

Since you have no idea of what might have come in contact with the clothes, you must wash them before your newborn will wear them. 

You don’t want something in the clothes to irritate the skin of your newborn. This could be anything from germs, bacteria, chemicals, and even dust.

This applies to clothes purchased new and not just hand-me-downs given to you by family and friends.

Many people easily understand why hand-me-downs should be washed but do not grasp why new baby clothes should be washed. It is easy to understand that dust and chemicals from strong detergents may be nestling in hand-me-downs.

While it is often reasoned that newborn clothes are ready to be worn it’s not always true, as you can’t tell what chemicals are nestling on the new clothes. 

You also don’t know the condition in which the clothes have been stored. It’s best not to take any chances. 

washing newborn clothes


Washing Newborn Clothes Too Early

The important thing is to ensure that your newborn babies’ clothes are free from irritants (dust, chemicals, and germs) before your bundle of joy wears them.

However, if you wash them too early, irritants may accumulate on the clothes again. So, the best time to wash your newborn clothes is when the due date is close.

Some services advise expectant mothers to wash their baby’s clothes 4-6 weeks before their due date. The reasoning is that mothers should not wash too early, but should also not worry about washing baby clothes when they should be resting and preparing for delivery.

However, you’ll need to take great care to store the washed clothes. 6 weeks is a long time for washed newborn clothes to be sitting around and if incorrectly stored, so all that washing could be for nothing. 

For the clothes to retain that freshly-washed goodness and feel, it is best to wash them as close to your due date as possible.


The Best Time to Wash Clothes

best time to wash newborn clothes

You must wash your newborn clothes before they wear them, so waiting until you deliver will be too late. Conversely, you don’t want to risk being caught out by an early birth, so it may not be best to wait too close to your due date before washing. 

Washed baby clothes will retain the freshly-washed goodness and feel for only up to 6 weeks, so washing the clothes more than 6 weeks before the due date is too early.

Six weeks to the due date is the maximum time and it’s best to do it as close to the birth as you can, within reason. There is also the chance that you will go well beyond the due date, which complicates matters further.

If you want to wash all your newborn clothes in one go, then 2-3 weeks before the due date would be the most sensible time. This mostly avoids the risk of going into labour early and having no clothes washed but also means that if you go over the due date, you’ll still have fresh clothes.

You could also take a split-wash approach. This would involve washing a few items 6 weeks before your due date so you have them ready just in case you have an early birth. If you don’t, then you can wash all of your newborn clothes much closer to the due date. 


Can You Wash Newborn Clothes in the Washing Machine?

Wash Newborn Clothes in Washing Machine

Most babies’ clothes are machine-friendly. However, some may be so delicate that they’ll require handwashing. It’s always best to look at the label first and see what the instructions are. 

Using an aggressive setting when a baby’s cloth requires hand-washing will quickly degrade the clothes. It’ll also change the texture of the cloth, and may make it irritate the skin of your little one.

Thankfully, modern washing machines often have settings for baby clothes and also handwashing. This means you can put them in the machine and not worry about ruining the clothes. 

So, check the prints on labels to determine whether the clothes are machine-friendly or not, and wash accordingly.


Tips for Washing Newborn Clothes

Tips for Washing Newborn Clothes

Here are some tips for washing your newborn clothes so that they are irritant-free, feel fresh, and are ready to grace your babies’ delicate skin.

1. Check for specific washing instructions

As earlier mentioned, while some baby clothes are machine-friendly, others are not. Other items like swaddles have specific washing instructions for them to be irritant-free.  So, read the prints on labels for these instructions and act accordingly.

2. Use a baby-friendly detergent

Detergents for baby clothes are specially formulated taking into consideration their sensitive skin. They are usually milder with fewer chemicals. Check out our roundup of the best hypoallergenic laundry detergents for some good options.

3. Wash baby clothes separately

At the newborn stage, do not throw baby clothes with other clothes in the machine. You do not want irritants crossing from other clothes to your baby clothes. You may also need to put your baby clothes on a gentler setting which may not be suitable for adult clothing. 

4. Don’t put baby socks in the washing machine

Because baby socks are very tiny, they can easily get stuck in the hoses or vents. It’s best to not throw them in on their own but there is a workaround. You can put these small items into a washing bag so they get clean without risking any accidents. 

5. Skip fabric softeners

Fabric softeners are great for making clothes less scratchy. However, you may want to skip them when washing your newborn clothes as baby clothes are already designed to be soft, with the delicate skin of your baby in mind.

Fabric softeners can irritate sensitive skin, so you should skip them when washing baby clothes. Fabric softeners can also make cloth nappies lose their absorbency and cause skin irritation.



washing newborn clothes

It doesn’t matter if your baby’s clothes are new or passed down, you should wash them before your baby wears them.

Washing your baby’s clothes ensures that they are free of irritants and bacteria. You want to wait as close to your due date as possible so that the washed clothes still feel fresh when your baby wears them.

However, with the possibility of an early birth, it’s best to wash your baby’s clothes about 2-3 weeks before the due date. 

Read our guide on how to wash baby clothes for tips on doing laundry once your baby is born.