Dear Home-Ec 101,
I’m a brand new mom and I need to know if it is okay to wash clothes that have suffered through a diaper leak with the rest of the baby clothes. How do I make sure that poop (sorry!) doesn’t get all over the washer and the rest of our stuff without resorting to throwing away the outfit?
Pooped in Pooler
Babies. Sometimes it’s a really good thing we are designed to find them cute, because they can cause us as caregivers to deal with things that we would normally cause us to lose our lunch over.
This won’t be the last poopy outfit you deal with.
I guarantee at some point during the next two years, you will throw at least one outfit away, maybe even something of yours, due to a diaper blowout.
One of my kids’ first real explosion was on the way to the photographer’s for baby pics. So I changed the baby, bagged everything up to deal with at home, and congratulated myself for being so prepared.
Guess who exploded again, but this time in the waiting room?
So guess who has first baby pics in a clean diaper and not much else? That kid. Guess who was a hot mess of I’m never going to get this right? This mom.
Airports, car seats, man oh man all the car seats, the crib, the carrier, the carpet… there isn’t really a baby-safe surface that hasn’t had this contamination. You sort of become immune to it at some point.
Anyhow, enough storytime.
Baby clothes are tiny and unless you overload your washer they can agitate freely in the washtub. Rinse as much of the solid matter as possible out of the clothing. If you aren’t running the load immediately go ahead and soak the item with a tiny bit of mild dish detergent (or liquid laundry detergent) applied directly to the stain in cold water. Give it a good swish, wash your hands and wash it with the next load of laundry.
Rules for running a load of laundry with the casualties of a diaper blowout:
- RINSE the items involved thoroughly
- SOAK the item if time allows in COLD water
- Do not overload your clothes washer
- Use the largest load possible for your machine
- Inspect the item after washing for residual stain. Spot treat with additional detergent and rewash if stain lingers.
1. This removes as much solid particulate matter as possible. Detergent works by surrounding particles and bringing them into solution (the water in your washing machine.) Pre-removing what can simply be rinsed away reduces the number of particulates that have to be suspended in the water by a limited number of detergent molecules
2. This gives the detergent time to work into the stain and surround those remaining particles. Cold water prevents any proteins from denaturing -changing into a structure that may be impossible or exceptionally difficult to remove.
3. The clothing articles need to be able to move freely so the water and detergent molecules can move around and between the fabric’s fibers.
4. The more water the more movement opportunity for the clothing items AND the more particles that can be brought into solution and not left on the clothing. Think about stirring salt into water. There comes a point where the solution is saturated and no more salt can be dissolved. This is the same with detergent and the particles it is trying to bring into solution. The issue is trickier than the salt in water solubility as detergent molecules are sticky and will cling to your fabric and yes, the inside of your washer if there is not enough solvent to keep it in solution.
5. This circles back to items 2. and 4. You don’t want any leftover protein molecules to denature -change structure – in the heat of the dryer. There may not have been enough detergent available to completely remove the stain, it could have been so deeply embedded in the fibers that it needs another run through the wash.
Unless someone in the house is ill, the clothes washer and dryer are enough “disinfecting” for the average home. Obviously, wash your hands well after handling soiled clothing.
Enjoy the new minion.
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