How to streamline laundry when your baby starts eating solid foods? Talk amongst yourselves.

Spray n' Wash Stain StickGretchen’s kid has just started with solid food, and the laundry is looming. She wonders if you’ve got any laundry tips:

My baby has just started on solid foods and it’s really taking a toll on his clothing. We’re looking for low stress laundry tips that don’t involve lots of bottles of stuff and are easy on the environment and our lives. We prefer to do laundry only once a week, when we can actually fill up the washer. I thought we could throw it out to the hive and see how everyone else deals with this problem.

I’ve been feeding my kids solid food for ten years and I STILL need laundry advice.

But my general suggestions would be to first, concentrate on stain prevention, and then, on stain removal.

Stain prevention: We had good luck with molded soft plastic bibs (Baby Bjorn makes a good one), but that still leaves the shirt collar open to staining. My suggestion there would be a bleach-friendly “feeding wardrobe;” an oversized cotton undershirt that goes over whatever your baby is wearing at the time. The relatively close neckline will keep everything underneath clean. (Try to snag hand-me-downs from an older sibling or neighbor — or Goodwill.) You could even cut off the sleeves and most of the body to create a collar-only “dickey.” Keep a stack in the kitchen and change at every meal.

If your kitchen is warm, you can always feed topless (the baby, not you). (Or you if that seems entertaining.)

Stain removal: My product of choice: the Spray ‘N Wash Stain Stick. Unlike liquid stain removers, you can rub the stick onto a stain and then throw the item into the hamper, where it will sit patiently till wash day. You might want to have a separate basket/hamper for food-covered clothes so you can dump them all in to the washer together on wash day. Add color-safe bleach and baking soda to the wash for extra stain- and smell-fighting mojo.

For stubborn stains, try the Two-Step Stain Removal Presoak.

Who’s got more good “optimize the laundry” tips?

Nail brush makes a great laundry scrub brush for tiny clothes
More laundry tips: Favorite laundry basket brand and laundry strategy? Talk amongst yourselves.


  1. courtney says

    I kept our remover of choice (Spray and Wash) near the hamper, in the closet. Sprayed clothes when took them off rather than down in the basement a few days later. Use Borax and a color bleach product. Also tried not to get too worked up about it. Bought (and still buy) used clothes or cheaper ones at Target and Old Navy.

  2. Tera says

    I use Shout liquid on the food stains after I put her down for the night, then I toss them in the hamper. When I am sorting clothes on laundry day, anything I missed with shout, I spray with baby oxyclean then wash everything on hot.

    Works like a charm, so far

  3. Kristin Guidry says

    Since my DD pretty much refused to wear bibs at an early stage, I have a few larger shirts that I make her wear if she is eating anything staining. So what if they get stained. I used to take along one when we would go out for dinner (esp. to a pasta place) and put it straight over her dress or whatever she had on. They are usually hand me down shirts that might be stained already or just not to my liking. She is almost 5 now and knows where we keep them and will put one on if she sees pasta sauce or something is being served.

  4. says

    I used to keep a bucket of water and Oxiclean in the basement in which to toss stained stuff. Everything got left in there until laundry day, then washed as normal. It worked quite well.

    Like Tera I’m also a fan of the Shout liquid, rubbed on stains before the stained item hits the hamper.

  5. Rachel says

    I just figured it was baby clothes and I did not care if it was stained. Stains are not dirty, they just add character to an outfit.

  6. says

    For me? Oxyclean Laundry Stain Remover removed even old, set-in stains once I discovered it. Even carrots (which never used to budge before). My trick which has yet to fail me… was to spray the item when I dropped it into the hamper until it got washed (which could easily be a week later). If by chance, it came out of the dryer still stained (maybe I missed spraying something); I just spray it then and toss it in with the other dirty clothes until the next time I washed clothes. I’ve never had to wash it more than twice, and I think most of the time, I only have to wash it a second time because I forgot to treat it the first time around. Works miracles.

  7. Kim-Anh says

    I was a big fan of Built NY Tidy Bibs – they’re made of wetsuit material so they wash up easily and are dry by the next meal.

    For stains, you could just toss the soiled clothing in a bucket of water to prevent the stain from setting, or do a quick spot wash with dish detergent or hand soap to remove most of the stain.

  8. AmandaL says

    Large, plain white muslin-y dish towels (got a 6-pack at target for 2.99). Tied loosely around his neck (one wrap, like the beginning of tying your shoes, no bow. Even at 7 months, he could take it off with a hard tug just like his other bibs, or use those clips for napkins you can find). Big enough to cover most of his arms, and at over 3 ft tall, they still cover to the elbow, tucks in at the waist, and covers down to his knees. Who cares what happens to these? Unless he’s eating soup, it’s no big deal it’s not waterproof. and you can treat/bleach them, if you care about stains.

  9. Gina says

    Honestly, I have used Tide Free since my 3 yr old daughter w/sensitive skin was a newborn. I just put the liquid detergent on the stain and throw it in the hamper until wash day. I’ve even gotten old stains (from hand-me-down clothes) out using this “method”.

    By the way, you will have this problem for a long time. They get food all over even when they are old enough to feed themselves.

  10. Parent Hacks Editor says

    I am hearing that it’s OK to let liquid stain remover sit on clothing for a few days. Did I fall prey to marketing hype? Anyone ever have a problem there?

    And I’m going to try OxyClean.

  11. jess says

    Oxyclean is awesome.
    i hot soak with Oxyclean in a washtub, then add other stained items until the washtub gets full.
    I live in an apartment with a coin-op basement washer, so it takes days for me to get enough laundry for a load.
    I also use pretreat spray. I’m partial to Shout Super Strong (or whatever it is called – it comes in a blue trigger spray bottle). I’ve been successful in catching most stains. It’s the spilled juice that doesn’t show up until the next washing that gets me riled up.

  12. Parent Hacks Editor says

    Juice stains are a reason to give up juice altogether. OK, perhaps that’s a bit extreme, but laundry gets my blood pressure going.

    Actually, there *are* other reasons to reduce or give up juice — more than a few oz. per day is bad for teeth, bad for blood sugar, bad for empty calorie intake, big-time developer of the sweet tooth. The more water and whole fruit for kids, the better.

  13. says

    We have the absolute best results by simply using the “soak” setting on our washer. It simply lets the laundry soak for 2ish hours, agitating it here and there. It uses no more water than it would normally – just takes longer. So we do it before we know we’ll be out for a long time or overnight. I never use stain stick or anything more than the normal amount of detergent. We don’t even use warm water.

  14. JenO says

    Once my daughter started eating solid foods she started needing more baths so I put that bathwater to good use. Once she was done I would throw in any clothes from the last day or two that needed special attention and let them soak while I got her ready for bed. A lot of stuff came out on its own or I would scrub the clothes with soap once she was asleep and let soak all night. Worked like a charm and she thought it was hilarious when I filled the tub with dirty laundry.

  15. Janice says

    I HAVE had trouble spraying stain remover on stains beforehand. I’ve bleached spots into tan and pink shirts by spraying and leaving clothes to sit for a while. Shout Advanced actually warns on the label that this can happen, but I don’t think Zout has the same warning. My laundry procedure now is to separate stained clothes, pretreat with Zout right before washing, wash in warm water, and line dry to avoid setting the stain. Most things come clean on the first try. My stubborn stain pile is mostly the result of experimenting with other stain removers.

  16. Becky C. says

    Oxiclean also has the same warning that khaki/pastel colors may bleach, so watch out…
    I keep stain treater in the bathroom so I can apply immediately after removal from messy eater, otherwise it doesn’t get done until too late.
    We like the BumGenius bibs that go over the shoulders a bit (they also have long sleeve ones) That extra bit over coverage goes a long way.

  17. says

    I too am a fan of Shout, I buy it by the gallon and have one in each kid’s room as well as one in mine and we just spray things when we take them off. I also decided to use baby wipes instead of washcloths to clean up after a meal, I could rinse and re-use them better than a paper towel or washcloth and I didn’t need to worry about them staining.

    Breakfast was always eaten in only a diaper too, so I didn’t need to worry about them getting their clothes messed up right before we left.

  18. Steph says

    I have found that if I put the clothes in the bath with the kids that they can “wash” them for me. You wash the kids like normal, and they can squish them and fold them, etc with the bubbles in the tub. (they also like washing the walls of the shower, so one less chore I have to do!) And just before they get out of the tub, they can play “grape squishing”-empty most of the water out (or do it while the water is emptying) and let them stomp their clothes clean. Leave them in the tub til you get done with bed time and just toss them into the washer until youre ready to wash them for real.

  19. Alyson says

    My twins are almost 3, and they still strip off their shirts before every meal at home. Cheap AND effective!

  20. says

    I loved the IKEA “eating smocks” also and highly recommend them. Two for less than $5 … awesome. Also, in the early self-feeding, food-flinging days I would put my son, dressed, in the bath tub with this food friends (bath toys used to coax him into trying new foods” and I’d consider that the “presoak.”

  21. Sarah says

    Ok, I LOVE the idea of putting clothes in the bath with the kid. That’s happening at my house tonight.

    I just wanted to add my two cents (a little late, I know). I found that laundry got a little out of hand once our son started solids more because of quantity, not stains and whatnot. So, our rule around here is to do a load a day. We do cloth diapers, napkins, rags, etc. so it works pretty well for us with 1 kid. Diapers have to happen every 3ish days anyway, so if we’re doing a load a day, it’s not a hassle. A lot of our loads are towels/diapers so we keep the dirty ones in there. Our diaper station is actually on the dryer :) Plus, 1 load isn’t that time consuming so we can add each step it into our days whenever.
    Then, if we get to a day where there seems like there’s nothing to do, we do sheets or something that can wait a bit longer. Also, if we miss a day, it’s not a big deal either.

  22. says

    I love the idea of putting the clothes in the bath with the kids!

    My stain arsenal includes my mother-in-law’s “Stain Stuff.” It’s equal parts water, ammonia and Dawn liquid dishwashing soap. It gets out EVERYTHING! It even gets out dried-in grease spots.

  23. Altissima says

    In Australia, where the climate is mild to hot and sunny, we are more likely to hang washing on the line to dry rather than use a dryer. Many food stains such as beetroot, raspberry, turmeric etc will bleach naturally when left to dry in strong sunlight due to the UV rays. The UV also effectively sterilises clothes too.

    Especially useful for white material. Be careful with coloured fabrics as they may fade.

  24. Kat says

    Get ‘em naked. Most effective way to avoid stains is simply to have no clothes other than a dipe on them at all. Easy.