Washing your baby’s clothes the wrong way can leave her more vulnerable to skin sensitivity or trigger an allergy.
Here’s what you should know, says Dr Stephanie Ho, consultant dermatologist at Stephanie Ho Dermatology.
Must I use only baby laundry detergent and fabric softener?
If your little one has sensitive skin or you’re worried about irritation or allergies from detergents, it is best to use a detergent or softener with a gentle formula.
These are often labelled “fragrance-free” and “dye-free”. The allergy or sensitivity is often caused by the scents or dyes commonly used in detergents and softeners.
A detergent that is marketed for baby use is usually free of perfumes, colours and preservatives, so it is preferred for your little one’s clothes.
Use only the recommended amount, and consider rinsing clothes twice to ensure all detergent residue is removed.
(Also read: Video: What parents must know about baby skin problems)
How often should I wash baby’s bedsheets and soft toys?
Weekly hot washes using water of above 55 deg C is recommended. Soft toys should also be cleaned every week.
As it is not easy to clean soft toys well, it’s best that you leave soft toys out of your baby’s cot if she has sensitive skin, eczema or allergies.
House dust mites – which can aggravate eczema – also accumulate in carpets, rugs or heavy curtains. Be sure to remove, replace or clean them as frequently as possible.
House dust mites are killed in water with temperatures of above 55 deg C. To ensure elimination, soak laundry for four hours in warm water with detergent before washing.
Baby has a rash! How can I tell if it was caused by the laundry detergent?
Laundry detergents contain substances that can cause two types of skin problems:
Irritation Red itchy rashes usually occur immediately after contact. With chronic exposure to detergents – for example, hand-washing clothes without gloves over a long period of time – you can become susceptible to itchy, dry, cracked and painful hands due to the irritating effects of detergent.
Allergic contact dermatitis Fortunately, a true allergy due to detergents is very rare – say, less than 1 per cent. It may be a result of the fragrances, dyes or preservatives in detergents, but it usually appears only after a few days.
Whether due to an irritant or allergy to detergents, red itchy rashes on the skin may appear.
Common areas affected are the arms and legs, especially at the folds of skin such as armpits, elbows or the back of knees, where clothes are in closer contact with skin.
If severe, these rashes may even become weepy and oozy, and antibiotics will be required to treat the infection.
Those with eczema may also be more easily affected. Take your baby to a doctor for an assessment.
Can I wash baby’s clothes with those of other family members?
Yes, if you have chosen detergents and softeners that are free of fragrance, bleach and dye.
They can be used to wash everyone’s clothes, including your young child’s. You don’t have to wash them separately.
Must I always wash baby’s new clothes before wearing?
Yes, because that would help remove potential chemical residues and reduce the risk of allergy.
I often layer a sweater over her romper. Must I wash the sweater after every use?
A sweater worn over other clothes doesn’t require a wash after every use, unless there are spills, sweat or contact with smoke.