How to Keep Your Toddler’s Clothes Stain Free

How to Keep Your Toddler's Clothes Stain Free

Because the thrift stores in Utah are picked clean of wearable toddler clothes, Johnny and I have resorted to buying the majority of Sally’s clothes new, although highly discounted. I typically stick to mega sales at Old Navy and Gap and occasionally buy pieces at H&M and at an on-sale Zara.

But if we’re going to put actual money into clothes for Sally, you better believe we’re going to save money by putting these clothes to good use. She will not be the only child who wears these clothes. These clothes will be passed on to any future daughters or nieces. And the only way that can happen is if they remain stain free.

Also, to save money, we don’t buy more clothes than Sally needs, and we often buy her clothes a size up. So her clothes get worn often and for up to six months, which provides for more opportunities for a stain to cling itself onto a piece of clothing forever. Still, I expect these clothes to stay in mint condition. I’m so very demanding.

A few nights ago, I walked into the laundry room to find Johnny doing a load of Sally’s laundry. “There are stains on everything!!” he said. It’s true. There are stains on everything. EVERYTHING. But by the time the dryer buzzes, there are no more stains on anything. And here’s how we do it.


  1. First, I start a load of warm water. Some of Sally’s clothes call for a warm wash and others call for a cold wash. But I initially put it all in warm water.
  2. Next, I pour in the detergent and a full scoop of OxiClean.
  3. Then I start sorting through the clothing. I spray each and every stain with Shout, rub it in, and throw it in the wash. This can take time since sometimes one shirt can be riddled with 10 stains of its own.
  4. Once I have all the clothes sprayed and thrown in the wash, I let them soak for an hour or more. This is the key. If I don’t let them soak, all my hard work is for nothing. By the time I actually start the load, the water has cooled.
  5. Finally, I dry them on the lowest heat setting and do a victory dance when those stain-infested clothes are magically stain free.

It works like a charm, every single time. Sometimes I wait over a week in between loads of Sally’s laundry, which means stains have been sitting, festering for days and days. But even the very worst stains come right out.

Also, a few times Sally’s clothes have been mistakenly thrown into one of our loads of laundry and haven’t gone through the proper treatment. When that happens and a stain is stuck in the clothing, I just soak it in a small tub of OxiClean as a last resort, which has never, ever failed me.

And that’s how I keep all of Sally’s clothes looking brand new. And now I’m interested… how do you other mom’s do it?

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  • Reply Deb @ Saving the Crumbs October 20, 2014 at 10:46 am

    I’m not a mom, so that means I automatically have significantly less experience in this area than the rest of you! 🙂 But my husband and I do have our own klutzy moments with food (bibs probably would have helped). I’ve found that washing an oil spot with super hot water and then sprinkling with baking soda to sit overnight gets out oil spots that have been there for years (which shows how lazy I’ve been). Also, working as a nurse I learned that hydrogen peroxide is like magic for blood.

    • Reply Joanna October 23, 2014 at 11:11 pm

      I had no experience with stains before Sally came along. From day one, though, she was staining her clothes on an almost daily basis! Oil stains are super tricky, and I’ve never had a method for getting them out so thanks for sharing! And we haven’t had any blood stains yet but knowing kids, I’m sure that will happen eventually!

  • Reply kelsey October 20, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Good tips – some of my favorite clothes of Roo’s have stains on them that I can’t seem to get out! I will have to try your soaking trick.

    • Reply Joanna October 23, 2014 at 11:20 pm

      I would spray them and soak them in a small tub. For really bad stains, I’ve even done it overnights. Good luck!

  • Reply Tara @ Streets Ahead Living October 20, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    As someone who stains my own clothes, this is a great tip!

    I do recommend NOT drying clothes if you can. Drying always sets in stains in my situation so I often hang dry my clothing in case a stain is not released. Air-drying also makes clothes last longer (high heat is bad for clothing) so it’s a win-win. I air dry inside my bathroom, hanging from the shower rod. Don’t need a yard. 🙂

    • Reply Kristin October 21, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      I’m with you on the not drying thing for stains & lasting purposes (& I don’t have kids)! I usually hang dry pants that don’t stretch out or fit perfectly as is, skirts, shorts, dresses & ALL of mine & my boyfriend’s shirts – t-shirts, tank tops, dress shirts, etc.. They all get hung on hangers & dry on my shower rod, but everything else like whites, towels, sheets, undies, etc. are dried in the dryer. I absolutely love shout & use it religiously on most of my clothes. I’m starting to actually treat all of our shirts in the armpit areas which is time consuming, but helps to get out the white deodorant left behind because little by little that stuff builds up!

      • Reply Joanna October 23, 2014 at 11:23 pm

        Shout is a crazy miracle spray, I swear! I don’t know what I did before that stuff came into my life. When you air dry, do the shirts dry wrinkle-free, or do you have to iron them afterward?

        • Reply Kristin October 23, 2014 at 11:50 pm

          Yes shout is amazing!! The shirts definitely wrinkle but when I hang them I try to smooth them as best I can. With t-shirts it’s no big deal becuase when you put them on they look fine, so I really only iron any nice shirts we have.

      • Reply Joanna October 23, 2014 at 11:53 pm

        I’ll have to give that a try then! Johnny’s been complaining about his shirts shrinking, and I have to iron all his nice shirts anyway!

        • Reply Kristin October 24, 2014 at 12:03 am

          Yes!!! Hang drying seriously keeps everything better looking & the same size, plus it’s less gas & electricity. I would love to be able to hang more things outside, but my neighbors are heavy smokers (we’re in attached single story little homes) so that’s never happening.

    • Reply Joanna October 23, 2014 at 11:22 pm

      That’s a good idea! I wouldn’t have thought of that for a place to dry clothes… do you hang them on their hangers first?

      • Reply Kristin October 23, 2014 at 11:58 pm

        I take the shirts out of the washer one by one & shake them out, then layer them flat on the dryer. Once I have all shirts I take that stack to the bedroom to gather my hangers & put the hangers in the shirts while still keeping them in their stack. Lastly I grab all the hangers, put them on the shower rod, then spread them out & make sure each shirt is hanging properly. I know it sounds like a lot, but I’m so used to doing it that it doesn’t bother me. Plus our shirts are lasting forever!!

  • Reply Kara K October 20, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    My magic combo is a paste made of dawn dish soap, peroxide and baking soda. Scrub and let sit!

    • Reply Joanna October 23, 2014 at 11:24 pm

      Very cool! Do you have a specific ratio of each that you use?

  • Reply Laura @ Making Baby Provence October 20, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Excellent post! Do you have any tricks for getting deodorant out of shirts? We seem to get it caked onto the underarms of our shirts, and we wash them regularly. It’s like it doesn’t fully come out. I don’t know how to get it out.

    • Reply Kristin October 21, 2014 at 7:19 pm

      I just left a reply to someone up a few comments about my new armpit regimen which includes spraying shout on the inside of the shirts & giving it a little scrub. It’s definitely time consuming, but I want our clothes to last so I’m going to try & continue doing it. Plus, I wash all our shirts in cold water – so the color doesn’t fade – which means there is no hot water to break down that deodorant so I think it really helps.

    • Reply Joanna October 23, 2014 at 11:26 pm

      I second what Kristin said! Shout seems to work for everything!

  • Reply Sarah October 20, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Ooo great tips!! I actually just bought some Oxi Clean for the carpets so I’ll have to use this on my little ones’ clothes!

    • Reply Joanna October 23, 2014 at 11:26 pm

      OxiClean is amazing. When Sally used to have blowouts as a newborn, it would get her clothes cleaned like nothing else!

  • Reply Amy @ Live Smart Be Frugal October 20, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Great tips! I will be sharing with all my friends with kiddos!

  • Reply Kristin October 21, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    I try to treat clothes as they come off the kid at bath time so they don’t set. It helps save money because then I don’t have to use laundry-specific products– although my eldest son has his own Oxiclean stick he’s supposed to apply to his grass-stained sports clothes. For the other kids, I first soak the stained area with cold water (or an ice cube for blood) from the WRONG side of the fabric and press a piece of paper towel or an old cloth diaper to the RIGHT side– otherwise the stain wicks into the fabric. If there’s oil or grease on the clothes, I rub a little dish soap on it. If there’s blood or anything protein-based, I put hydrogen peroxide on it. I might do both if I’m not sure what the heck is on it. I also do a cold pre-rinse and/or lukewarm soak on each load before the main wash (adding a cup of baking soda for stinky clothes, which is any load with my boys’ socks- blech). The only special laundry thing I use sometimes is generic oxygen bleach.

    If there is still a stain after washing, I put the clothes on the back deck to sun while still wet and spray them with water to keep them wet (I do not ever put clothing in a heated dryer as long as the stain remains!). The sun is amazing! It takes breastmilk-fed babies’ poop stains out in MINUTES! I wish I lived in a sunnier place!

    I HATE clothes shopping, so I buy one lot of used clothes (usually at least 10-12 outfits are stuffed in) per size range for cheap online twice a year for each of the little kids- Craigslist, ThredUp and Ebay are great for this. Even if only half the box fits and looks good, that’s enough clothes for a season and it’s worth it to me to save the aggravation of shopping. Grandparents fill in the blanks (usually NICE/church clothes!) for Christmas, Easter, family reunions and birthdays. We’re really blessed in that way.

    • Reply Joanna October 23, 2014 at 11:37 pm

      You’ve got a great method down pat! I really like that idea of treating them as soon as they get in the bath. Sally gets so dirty every day that I’ve had to go from an every-other-day bath to a bath every day! I’ll have to give some of your tricks a try!

  • Reply Debra June 12, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    We just gave birth to our first child and I remembered this post from when it was newly written! For some reason I cannot see the image included above your steps so I cannot tell what cleaning products you use. I have tried on my phone, iPad, and laptop with no luck. If it’s just my devices/Internet, could you just let me know the specific products you use in your stain-free regiment? Thanks!

    • Reply Johnny June 12, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      Fixed! Thanks for the heads up, and sorry about that.

  • Reply Tessa February 25, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Thank you so much for these tips! Question – when you said you start the load with warm water and let it soak for an hour or so, do you just leave the washing machine lid up so that the machine doesn’t keep going after the water fills up? Also, when you say a full scoop of OxiClean, do you mean the big scoop that comes in the container? That seems like a lot to use for every load, so I was guessing you probably meant a smaller amount? Thank you!!

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