Laundry and the Great Diaper Blowout

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?
Thanks,
Pooped in Pooler

How to wash clothes with poop on them

Heather says:

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?

Yup.

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 story time.

Baby clothes are tiny and unless you overload your washer they can agitate freely in the wash tub. 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 the load of laundry with the casualties of a diaper blowout:

  1. RINSE the items involved thoroughly
  2. SOAK the item if time allows in COLD water
  3. Do not overload your clothes washer
  4. Use the largest load possible for your machine
  5. Inspect the item after washing for residual stain. Spot treat with additional detergent and rewash if stain lingers.

Why?

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 amount 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 needs 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.

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5. This circles back to item 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.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.



3 Comments

  1. Tante Cindy on March 12, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    This is a little addendum to the cold water recommendation. If you live in the northern tier of states, in the winter do not use just cold water. The water that comes out can be as cold as 40 to 45 degrees F. That is so cold it can inhibit the effectiveness of your detergent. Use what I would characterize as cool or room temperature water. In other words, turn on both taps as you run water into the container in which you will be soaking the stained laundry. The water should still feel cool as is runs over you hand, so a bit of hot with the cold from the tap is all you need. If you want a more direct sense of the water temperature you are trying to obtain, half fill a liquids measuring cup with the coldest water from your tap on a winter morning. Let it sit on the counter for at least two hours. Then, stick you fingers in there and get a feel for the temperature of the water. Finally, when you pour out the water, do so over the inside of your wrist. Focus on how it feels. You should find it easy to there after run cool water for soaking clothes of any sort. Keeps this in mind if your state has a border with Canada. 🙂

  2. Betsey on July 10, 2014 at 9:35 am

    I also cloth diaper and was surprised to find how easy it was, and how everything came out. If babies are exclusively breastfed, there’s no need to get rid of solid waste, as it’s all immediately water soluble. Once they have started solids (and I haven’t been down this road yet!) you need to rinse off/scrape.

    Also, the sun is your friend when it comes to poop stains. It’s amazing – just leave clothes/diapers out in the sun, and the stains disappear (from clean clothing, that is).

  3. Robyn Hornal on June 28, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Poop happens. My daughter and her 1m old were just here for a 1w visit so we were dealing with much the same thing. When said daughter (and son) were small we chose to use cloth diapers and soaked them in a mild solution with Dettol. Solid waste has to be rinsed off the clothes as soon as possible. Then they go into a Dettol soak, but not with the diapers. If they’ve been rinsed and soaked, there’s no reason they can’t go in the washer with the rest of the clothes and laundered as you normally would. ‘Spit up’ has to be rinsed out ASAP as well.

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