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Published on February 27th, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans


Natural Clothing for Your Eco Baby

Baby outfits are among the cutest, most endearing inanimate objects in the world.  In every culture, miniature versions of adult tops and bottoms and baby-specific ensembles delight new mothers with their diminutive charm.

As you go in search of the perfect baby outfits for youngsters you know, consider some alternative materials that do not sacrifice cuteness for planet-friendly style.  Launder tiny clothes in an eco-friendly way to protect baby’s gentle skin and to preserve these items for someone else’s tot to treasure.

Baby Clothes

Eco Fabric Options

First let’s explore the eco-friendly fabrics available.  Baby’s skin is highly sensitive so the choice of fabric is significant.  Itchy, poorly spun weaves can irritate skin and sometimes—if they’re chemically treated with dyes or bleaches—cause rashes and allergic reactions.  Here are the softest picks:

Organic cotton is a great choice for babies just beginning a life of eco-friendly consciousness.  Organic cotton fabric is:

  • much more breathable than its conventional counterpart, as chemicals used to treat conventional cotton render fabric unable to breathe, causing the fabric trap heat
  • much less likely to cause rashes thanks to its purity
  • longer-lasting, which means many babies-to-be can benefit from the pleasures of a single outfit!

Bamboo-based fabric is hypoallergenic and naturally flame-resistant, which makes it ideal for baby sleepwear.  Thanks to its natural properties, it does not need formaldehyde to keep it from being flammable, unlike most conventionally treated fabrics.

Soy blends retain warmth while transmitting moisture effectively.  Soy has been called “vegetable cashmere” thanks to its incredible softness, which makes it perfect for baby’s sensitive skin.

Durable hemp fabrics are remarkably absorbent and soften the more they are used.

Now that we’ve identified some suitable fabrics, how do we take care of them?

Caring for Baby Clothing

Always wash new clothing, conventional or alternative, before using.  Many parents wash baby clothes with the same dye-free, fragrance-free detergents used for adult clothes without any adverse effect.  If your baby’s skin is particularly sensitive and prone to allergies, a baby-specific detergent might be needed, but otherwise regular detergent appears to work just fine.

Washing and Drying

  • Avoid using pure soap as it leaves a residue on the fabric that can limit its absorbent qualities.  Fabric softeners, even the fragrance-free kinds, have a similar effect on material.
  • Line-drying baby clothes, though good for the environment, may not be the best way to dry baby clothes, as it tends to make them stiff and potentially irritating to baby’s skin.

Bleaching and Stain Removal

Natural means of bleaching and removing stains are ideal for baby clothes.

  • Bleach whites with sunshine—at least 5 hours of direct light will do the trick.  Simply take still-soapy clothes outside and let the sun do the work.
  • Apply lemon juice to stains and follow the same process to remove all but the toughest stains.
  • When dealing with breast milk stains, soak the clothes with a natural enzyme product to break down the fat before laundering. These products are available at most health food stores and are typically biodegradable and chlorine-free.
  • Tea tree oil can disinfect any clothes that might have been exposed to germs.

Though taking care of baby clothes seems like an affordable process, acquiring baby clothes made from organic materials may be harder on your wallet.  Babies grow notoriously quickly and clothes are often outgrown well before they have been worn in.  This can only work to the advantage of parents who support the sustainable practice of recycling clothing.

Baby Clothes, Recycled

Recycling options exist for parents who want to buy and to sell baby clothes in order to make good reuse of their child’s outgrown clothing.

The Conscious Child offers parents an arena in which they can sell and buy baby clothes at fair prices.  The Web site has separate categories for organic and conventional clothing, but organic is preferred, as few conventional items are even available for sale.

Some communities host group baby clothing sales for parents

Church or community-related programs set up a yard sale of sorts, inside or out, that provide parents with a chance to pass on their children’s ensembles to people who need them.  Some patience and tenacity may be required to find the organically grown treasures that you prefer, but even if these elude you, participating in this recycling effort can only help you in your effort to reuse…

If you’re a go-getter, organize a clothing swap with fellow parents

Network amongst the parents you know, set a date and time, and swap!  Some easy and appropriate ground rules, like bringing only clean, gently used items, will make the process even more pleasant.  An event like this will give parents a chance to hang out with other grown-ups, and perhaps more than just clothing will be traded.  The exchange of  helpful tips and shared experiences support a strong sense of community among parents.

Baby furniture and baby equipment rentals are common enough…. What about renting baby clothing?

The idea makes sense: babies outgrow items quickly and leave barely used clothing behind.  Why not pass them around at an affordable price to get more mileage out of them?  Then, parents are not encumbered with boxes of clothing that cost a small fortune.  In Germany, one innovative, eco-friendly company called Luette-Leihen has taken this notion and created success—some compare it to a Netflix for organic cotton baby clothes.

All things considered, some baby clothing pieces are too sentimentally valuable to give away or recycle.  Here are some interesting ways to reuse these items so you can hang onto to them for memory’s sake…

Reuse Ideas

What to do with those items that simply must stay within the family?  Here are some useful and creative ways to recycle those baby clothes into original and personal mementos for baby or the whole family to use.

Keepsake Quilt

Make a quilt from squares of baby clothing you have cut to size.  A simple block quilt pattern works well if you want to adjust how much space goes to each fabric.  If this project seems intimidating but the idea of a keepsake quilt is exactly what you want, send your baby tees to one of these companies and they will make it for you: Wild Zipper, Keepsake Theme Quilts, and Too Cool T-shirt Quilts.  (The last one makes wall hangings too!)

Lightweight Blanket

This is an easier version of the keepsake quilt.  Cut up squares of equal size and sew them together into a light cover the size of a double sheet.  Recycle a soft old sheet by sewing it onto the back of your squares as a lining.  To make a small throw for baby’s crib, simply cut a pillow case in half for an easy, appropriately sized covering.


Throw pillows or baby pillows can be made by sewing all openings in a t-shirt or any other type of top (even a onesie), and stuffing it with some sort of hypoallergenic filling.  If you’re inspired, decorate the onesie with some button-eyes and a bow tied around a makeshift neck and voila!, you have a doll for a little one to enjoy.

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