Your step-by-step guide to stain and odor removal

Your step-by-step guide to stain and odor removal

Help! My baby’s clothes still smell like poop. How do I get it out?

Babies grow so fast, and with that, so do the messes.  Whether it’s figuring out how to get newborn poop stains out of that teeny tiny onesie (or your favorite hoodie), starting solids, jumping in mud puddles, or beginning potty training, it seems like there’s always a mess to clean up somewhere—and that means lot of laundry.

We wash hundreds of items per week, so we’ve gotten pretty good at stain removal, and we’re here to tell you that you can probably keep your clothes looking like new no matter what spilled on them.

Check out our comprehensive guide to stain removal:

Step 1: Act Fast

For stain and odor removal, the first—and most important—thing is to act fast! The longer the wait, the harder stains are to remove. When you notice a spill or stain, tend to it as quickly as you can. Brush off any residue, blot excess liquid and immediately soak the item in cold water. Avoid using hot water. It can cause the stain to “cook” into the food and set.

This method works for pretty much any stain whether it’s yogurt from breakfast, sticky poo on a cloth diaper or urine from a potty training accident.

If you’re not home when you notice the stain, change your little into a spare outfit (we recommend leaving one in the car and one in your diaper bag), then blot with cold water using whatever you have on hand (restaurant napkin, public park paper towels, get creative). Then, when you get home, proceed to step 2 (below).

And if all else fails and you’re just too busy, we get it. Scrubbing the stain with a disposable baby wipe is better than doing nothing at all. The key is to keep the stained area moist until you can give it a good soak then pop it in the wash.

Step 2: Pre-soak wash

  • Strong smells or stains: opt for a pre-soak ahead of your regular wash cycle. You can use a combination of natural stain removers or household cleaning products—just make sure they’re free from harsh chemicals and safe for your little one's skin. We recommend Branch Basics, but there are plenty of other options. For example, liquid dish soap works wonders on newborn poop, especially if they are breastfed.
  • For greasy or oily stains: Blot off any excess liquid and soak in cold water. Put a few drops of dish soap (we love Grove Co's and this Savon de Marseille Cube) on the stain along with a sprinkle of baking soda. Use your fingers to rub the fabric together and loosen the oil or grease. Let it sit for about an hour, then rinse the fabric. After rinsing, let the cloth soak in the water for another hour. Once the stain is gone, you can launder the item. If not, repeat the steps until the stain fades.
  • For fruit and vegetable stains: Treat the stain with lemon juice or a solution of vinegar (1-part white vinegar to 2-parts water) and apply it to the stain for about 5 minutes. If you are in a restaurant, ask for a lemon slice to set on the stain. After 5 minutes, rinse the stain with cold water and the stain should have loosened before you wash as usual.
  • For baby poop stains: Soak the stain with equal parts white vinegar and cool water. Vigorously scrub the stain well with a nail brush or old toothbrush, then blot the area with a cloth. Repeat until the stain is gone before washing as usual.
  • For bad odor: Pre-soak the clothing prior to washing as usual. We love Branch Basics Oxygen Boost which doesn’t contain dyes or fragrance. Or, if you want a less spendy option, you can use a simple homemade vinegar solution (1-part white vinegar to 4-parts water). 

Step 3: Wash and Dry

For this final stage, simply run a load of laundry per usual (or, follow the directions on the clothing’s care label). We recommend using cold water, a delicate cycle and your normal laundry detergent. We love environmentally friendly options, TruEarth Eco Strips and Branch Basics laundry concentrate. When your items are done washing, check them over to see if the stain is gone. If the item is still soiled, repeat steps 1 and 2 and run the clothing through an extra cycle. Once the stain is gone, you may begin your drying cycle. For energy savings and extra stain and odor treatment, hang dry the clothing in the sunlight outdoors or near a window. By the way, sun is a natural bleaching agent that can help fade any last stubborn staining.

While this may sound like a lot of steps, it gets easier after you do it a couple of times. And, while it may not always feel like it, we believe all those milestone moments are worth the mess.

Looking for a simpler way to dress your little one? Try renting! We offer curated clothing capsules in sizes preemie to 4T. And while we hope you try your best to take care of the clothing you rent from us so it can continue on to another family, you never need to worry about stains. Our memberships include rental protection so you don’t have to stress over every spill. We’re a mom-founded company and know that life gets messy. If you have a stain you’re unable to remove at home, simply return your rental and we’ll work our magic to get the stains out or repair any damage. Don’t worry, there are no extra charges for stains or damage. If we can’t repair the clothing, we’ll retire and upcycle it.

Want to be part of our community and get more tips to make parenting a little easier? Sign up for our newsletter here. We can’t wait to meet you! 

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