42 answers

4 Year Old Breastmilk Stain Removal?

This is a good one--hope someone can help!

I went digging through my daughter's old newborn clothes today (she is almost 4), and the entire bin appears ruined. :( Several years ago, I carefully washed, dried, and folded everything 0-6 months and put them away in a Rubbermaid storage bin and up into the attic. Today when I started pulling items out, every item which is light pink or white has horrible yellow stains all over the collar and shoulder areas. I could not believe my eyes. My first thought was that something seeped into the bin or water damage of some sort, but it could not be since some clothes were not even touched and others were severely stained. Also, the stains are only on the collar and shoulder areas of all the tops/onesies/rompers.

My second thought is maybe breastmilk has something in it that even though you wash it and it comes clean, something stays in the fibers forever? My daughter had terrible acid reflux/spit up as an infant and it honestly looks like wherever spit up or breastmilk may have once been, it came back. Could heat exposure (in the attic) or just the passing of time have brought back former spit up stains like this?

The real kicker is that nothing in the 6-12 months bin has this problem. Coincides with the fact I stopped nursing around 8 months and she quit spitting up around 6 months? I am no detective ladies, but I am trying to figure this out!

Anyone have any suggestions? I have washed and oxi-cleaned the whole lot, but to no avail. The stains remain.

On a side note, I am crushed. Some of those clothes are so special to us and we can remember exactly where she wore them and how she looked. The whole reason I was looking through the bins was for a special tribute I was going to make using some of her cutest newborn clothes and my own. Not to mention they could have all been used/worn again when I put them in there...

Help! Thanks in advance~

R.

12 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Hi ladies!

First off, thank you all so much! The number of responses and amount of information was overwhelming! Oxi Clean seemed to be the most consistent method recommended and it is a product and method I am familiar with...so here is my story.

I used about 8 big scoops of Oxi Clean Powder, filled the garden tub with scalding hot water, and just threw everything in. About 6-8 hours after that, I added more scalding water and more powder. Less than 24 hours later...right now...every stain is gone! I do not see any discoloration or changes to the fabrics. I was a little worried about the concentration of Oxi Clean and it damaging the clothes, but everything looks okay.

Now for drying in the sun...wow a clothesline would be nice right now! Never thought those words would come out of my mouth!

On a side note, I am going to store these clothes in a closet inside the house from now on and see what happens. I still find it strange that none of the burp cloths or bibs had any stains on them, but maybe the fibers in these items are specially designed to prevent this? Maybe we really are getting what we pay for in some cases!

Thanks so much again to everyone for your war stories and helpful insight!

R.

Featured Answers

If I were you I would use oxi-clean. You can buy it in a powder. Dampen the clothes and put the powder right on the stains and wash. I would put the amount in the wash load along with the clothes that has the powder on them. I would probably buy some Zout and spray it on the clothes along with the oxy-clean and hopefully the stains will come out. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I've had good luck with white vinegar. I was given clothes with dark stains and yellow spots also. The vinegar worked wonders. Now I use a combo of Spray N Wash and white vinegar. It works well. My grown kids even bring me things to remove stains. It doesn't seem to harm any fabric thus far.
Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I had the same problem w/ my kiddos clothes. I sprayed the spots with Dreft Stain Remover or Totally Toddler, let it sit for a few minutes and then soaked it in OxyClean (a whole scoop in the bucket). It took days of soaking, but most of the stains have come out. I don't know if they are gone for good or if they will come back up after awhile. I've also read that drying them in the sun helps. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

I know you've had so many responses you don't need any more. I just wanted to help clear up the stain mystery.

It is indeed proteins staining the clothes, in addition to the milk protiens it's the proteins found in the stomach fluids that are staining the clothes. (This is why both ERA, Folex and Oxi-Clean work.) That's why it doesn't matter what you feed your kid, the spit up will stain. And this is why that which comes out the other end stains too.

Also, plastic will always out-gas some kinds of volatile hydrocarbons. These react with the proteins in the fabric and cause the change in color. Especially in a nearly air tight situation. This is why you don't use plastic to store natural fabrics/paper long term.

This is also one of the reasons(non-acidic materials is another) why scrap-bookers use very special materials to keep their treasures safe over time. I'm not sure what type of plastic is used for those page sleeves, but you can bet they've found one that out-gases something that won't react with the proteins in the papers and inks. And because the book isn't stored in an air tight container, the hydrocarbons can escape.

Glad you got the clothes clean, you've got more determination in that way than I do.

3 moms found this helpful

R.,,
I had the same problem and used BIZ Powder Detergent, but you must use a cupful in a dishpan or large bowl and let them soak for a couple of days. They will be bright and like new. For insurance, treat with stain remover before soaking.I usually rub the stains occasionally as they soak.
Most washers don't get all the chemicals out in one wash, and with time they get yellow again. IN MOST CASES THE BIZ SOAK WORKS GREAT! It won't damage fabrics at all. I've used it for 32 years successfully.

2 moms found this helpful

I had the same thing happen with my son's clothes! He was a preemie, and on iron fortified vitamins. He also had terrible reflux, and was on zantac for over 9 months. I completely breastfed him for 9 months and then continued morning, evening, and bedtime until he was a little over a year. When my due date for my daughter got closer (he was 5 1/2) I started going through some of his clothes to pull out nuetral colored onesies that she could use. I have saved all his infant clothes wanting to make a quilt with them. I had washed everything before putting it all into boxes as well. We kept the boxes in a closet in the house, and yet when I puled his clothes out a lot of them had stains on them, and the stains were all neat the collar area. I thought it was because the vitamins had mixed with the milk and stained them. But now I'm wondering if it has something to do with the actual milk!! It's interesting to know that it didn't just happen to us. I haven't tried anything to remove the stains. I'll have to cut pieces out of the outfits to make a quilt anyway, so I just figured I would cut around the stains. I haven't noticed if the same has happened with my daughter's clothes yet since I haven't gone through any of them, she's not quite 2. Good luck, I hope you can find something to get the stains out. My sister swears that if you mix 1/2 water to 1/2 ammonia then add 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar that will get out any stain. I haven't tried it yet though. Let me know if you find something that works!
J.

2 moms found this helpful

I had the same problem w/ my kiddos clothes. I sprayed the spots with Dreft Stain Remover or Totally Toddler, let it sit for a few minutes and then soaked it in OxyClean (a whole scoop in the bucket). It took days of soaking, but most of the stains have come out. I don't know if they are gone for good or if they will come back up after awhile. I've also read that drying them in the sun helps. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

Rachael,

Try Mean Green, you can buy it at Walmart or the Dollar Store. I spray it on my girls clothes and toss them in the washer when I find stains or sometimes I let it soak a few hours. Or try vinegar and let it soak for a few hours or a day and then wash. My baby had an outfit that had mold/mildew all over it from sitting wet. My mom poured apple cider vinegar all over it and let it soak in water for a few hours. She did do a small amount of scrubbing after it soaked, then let it soak for a few more hours. It looks fabulous. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I'm sure that the breast milk just reappears magically when you least wnat it to. It happend to my dtrs old clothes. ...?the disadvantage of breast feeding? ... :)
Who knows.
Then I was not aware of FOLEX (found only at Lowe's).
Granted it is a carpet spot remover but I use it also as a laundry stain remover.
So far, I haven't had a adverse reaction with any clothes that I have used it on.
It got the breast milk spitup out of my 2nd dtrs clothes. Another stain that never seems to go away is sdrool when kids are teething...it works on that too!! It got the tar out of my carpet from our moving dolly and grease out of hubbys clothes.
I use it on any and all stains.

1 mom found this helpful

Yes it's breastmilk. Oxygen bleach (not chlorine bleach) and the sun. Try several washings.

1 mom found this helpful

If I were you I would use oxi-clean. You can buy it in a powder. Dampen the clothes and put the powder right on the stains and wash. I would put the amount in the wash load along with the clothes that has the powder on them. I would probably buy some Zout and spray it on the clothes along with the oxy-clean and hopefully the stains will come out. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I was in the same boat when I was expecting my 2nd daughter! Take a bucket and put a couple of scoops of OxiClean in it. Put a few items of clothing (3 to 4) and soak for about 24 hours. Line dry and see if the stain came out, if not repeat until it comes out and wash as normal (you can even put a few scoops in the laundry as well). This worked for me and the stains came out of most of my daughter's clothing. I also use this method with all tough stains. OxiClean is a lifesaver!

1 mom found this helpful

Hello R.,

I have not had your exact experience, but I have had stains that needed to be removed. When my first daughter was born, she became very ill. I had a favorite shirt that I borrowed from a friend that ended up with every bodily fluid on it (I do mean EVERY fluid) and some ketchup and hot sauce. It was a few days before I got to it and I thought it was trash. I poored ERA directly on each stain and rubbed it in. I let it soak in the washer for about 1 hour and then washed it. I do not remember if I had to repeat once or twice, but EVERYTHING came out. I wore the shirt with my twins 3 years later.
Secondly, I had a brand new MAROON Satin pillow case that got mixed in with a load of clothes. All of our clothes turned pink. Including my husbands camo shorts. I thought they would be mine now. I went to the store (Hobby Lobby) and purchased RIT Stain or Dye remover. It took some soaking and a couple of washes, but you would never know that his camo shorts were once green and PINK. Everything returned to its original color. Including white under garments.

1 mom found this helpful

I've had good luck with white vinegar. I was given clothes with dark stains and yellow spots also. The vinegar worked wonders. Now I use a combo of Spray N Wash and white vinegar. It works well. My grown kids even bring me things to remove stains. It doesn't seem to harm any fabric thus far.
Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

There is nothing that you can do. I know that is not the advice that you are wanting to hear but there is absolutely nothing that you can do. I had the same thing happen.

A.

Hi
I feel your pain. Back in the winter I did the same for my son's clothes and found that a lot of the light/white clothes had yellow stains. I was able to bleach the white stuff and get some of it out...the colored stuff I tried bleach for unbleachables. I don't think it's breastmilk, b/c I didn't nurse my baby. I think it is time...however I understand the frustration b/c it happened to somethings and not others. Anyways, this worked for me, so maybe it will help you.

I did the exact same thing! Someone told me to put lemon juice on the stains and lay them in the sun to dry. It seemed to work on some of the items. Good luck!

Hi R.,

I had the same problem when I got my oldest daughter's clothes out for my new baby girl. I believe it is the spit-up. I see you tried oxiclean--have you tried the powder version? I think that works best. I basically put all of the clothes in the bathtub with a couple of scoops of the powder and let them sit in the water for at least a day. Amazingly, all of the stains came out!

Good luck!

I think it has something to do with the protein that's in breastmilk that makes it stain so. I would try vinegar or OxyClean or both (just not at the same time!).

For my tough stains, I use Oxyclean spray directly on stain and leave for 15-20 minutes, and then rinse. If stain is not out, I spray and leave for another 15-20 and rinse. I left overnight before and it ate a hole through fabric (100% cotton), so be careful. You mentioned that you used Oxyclean in wash. The Oxyclean spray seems to work better for me..but be careful.

Another stain remover that I love is called "Waltrips A to Z" They sell at Wal-Mart. It is in a white spray bottle with yellow and purple writing. Try the same 15-20 treat and rinse and see if that works. Keep me posted.

I am very curious about this! I'm responding so I can get the list of other responses!

AC

Did anyone mention Dreft the laundry soap??? It is amazing, it is the only thing
that would remove stains from my kids clothes, especially the breast milk.

I hope that works for you,
K.

I recieved hand-me-downs from my niece (in storage for 2 1/2 years)and they had lots of stains. I soaked them in a bucket with a mixture of the powdered Oxy clean and water. I soaked them for several days/week and then poured the oxy mixture and clothes in the washer, added soap and washed. It worked great. I was a little nervous because my sister in law wanted them back so I tried it first with clothes I knew wouldn't be a great loss.

I think the bucket says to only soak overnight but that wasn't long enough. It took several days!

S.

Hi R.,

I don't have a solution for the stains, but I just wanted to say that, although I don't know what kind of tribute you were hoping for, you can still use the clothes as mementos. I have a few special items that I'm keeping for my kids, but the rest of the clothes that hold a special memory for me, but are too stained or worn out to use again, I'm saving for a quilt. Only portions of the outfit have to be used, but the memories are preserved.

Hey -
I can't help you with getting the stains out, but I was recently doing some research on the best way to store a quilt. It said to NEVER put them in rubber type containers or in the attic. I assume saving clothes that are important to you should follow the same rules as quilts, so you may want to look that up on the internet. It gave some good guidelines on the proper way to store clothe.

Good luck!
L.

I've always had good luck with Biz...spray w/spray n wash, soak in a sink or bucket with the biz(wherever you can get the most concentration) in the hottest water you think will not ruin the clothes. You may have to respray and use some elbow grease. Wash as you normally would but add some more Biz to the water..don't dry again in the dryer until you are sure the stains are gone, it will only set them in more. Good Luck D. G.

well, I was going to tell you to try oxiclean, but looks like you already have. I will tell you my situation. My kept my oldest daughter's clothes the same way. I washed them and carefully put them away in rubbermaid containers. 5 YEARS later I was getting ready for my 2nd daughter to be born. And I was the same way as you...I was crushed when I pulled out all of the 0-3mo, and 3-6 mo. clothes! Almost all of them had yellowed. BUT, I had small bins of oxiclean everywhere. I used the baby oxiclean I believe. I mean they were in every bathtub I had, everywhere. My husband thought I had completely lost my mind, with the nesting going on inside of me too! But I just couldn't stand to lose those clothes. I couldn't afford to buy more, and like you said, they were special to me and I wanted my 2nd dtr to wear them too. So, anyway, saying all of that, all the stains came out with a little work, a toothbrush, some dreft spray (available at Target), lots and lots of soaking (like maybe 24 hours or more!) and some of that ultimate care clorox bleach...test it first to make sure it won't take out of the color. It will work it you use it on the underside and keep the water running. Of course, it will work great on whites. I might have used vinegar too.

I hope you get it out and that the clothes are salvaged. I know they are special to you. Oh, and don't dry them in the dryer until you are satisfied with how the stains came out. I think I only had to get rid of one outfit that was stained beyond repair.

I have a 10 year old daughter and a 9 year old son. When I found out I was expecting again, I got out their old clothes that I had saved for them. I was also sad to find stains that were not there when I had stored them. I sent some of my daughters "fancy" dresses to the dry cleaners after not being able to get the stains out my self. This seemed to work, but one of the dresses with delicate lace did not fair so well. Good luck, and if you find a trick that works let me know.
A.

Well, I've had the same problem. What I discovered was that the milk from the spit up (my son spit up CONSTANTLY and in massive amounts) eventually oxidizes over time, thus the yellow stains on the collar areas. Unfortunately, I did not have good success getting them out. For items that are mostly white, I bought some clorox bleach pens and bleached the areas. That worked. But for colors or lighter/printed fabrics, I had no success. I tried the vinegar and setting out in the sun. I tried oxyclean, but I used the spray and wash kind, not the powder and soak for days. So, if you have success with any of these techniques, please tell me how!! I ended up throwing away alot of my sons clothes, but if it happens again with my second sons stuff, I'd like to be able to salvage some of it. Thanks, and good luck!

I found the same problem about 6 months ago when I went to pull out hand-me-downs for my new daughter. I'm interested in what you find out, because I ended up not being able to use LOTS of cute clothes. I was bummed.

I had the same issue with clothes that people loaned me and clothes that I was going to give away. I think it is the spit up but I'm not sure. Some of them I was able to clean after soaking them in oxi-clean over night. But some I soaked for 24hrs and never could get the stains out.

sorry I don't have the answer

C.

Hi! No suggestions on stains- I have trouble with them too. But I noticed you're a full time MBA student and a mom of a four-year-old and I wanted to offer you some encouragement. I completed my full-time MBA back in 1998 when I was still single and it was HARD. I cannot imagine trying to juggle motherhood with it. Best of luck to you and let me know if you need anyone to empathize!

I'm not really sure if this is breastmilk or not...I recently opened some of my son's containers and found the yellow stains on a lot of his nicest things. I don't really have any advice on this one, I tried to re-wash some things and nothing worked. Let me know if you are able to remove the stains!

And might you be the R. A that I know????

The protein in breastmilk stains will reappear after time. This happened with all my sons clothes also. You can try to get the stains out but I tried all of the things that have been posted so far and nothing has worked. My son also had reflux and spit up all the time on everything. Mine were only in storage for less than a year and the protein stains showed back up. :( Best of luck to you and I hope you are able to get them out.

washing in vinager water a time or two should help! My best friend that has five kids does that and her clothes look great for all the kids!

Try Dawn dishsoap. Just apply a small amount to each stain rub in with water and wash as normal. More than likely they were grease spots from the fat in the milk. We would have similar grease looking stains on our clothes from my DD when she was breastfeeding and this worked. If that doesn't work try sunning them. Just hang outside and see if the sun can get the stain out.

R.,

You may have done this but the best thing I've found for set in stains ... even yellow stains that seem to appear after clothes have been in storage is to soak them in OxyClean for several hours ... for colors or whites. Try soaking them in it overnight. If that doesn't do it, rinse and re-soak for 24 hours or so. Be sure and put at least two scoops in a small bucket / sink. I've saved several heirloom outfits with similar stains that you've described and also many a white shirt with chocolate stains, coffee stains and milk stains, using this process. As a matter of fact, I have some soaking now!

Good luck ... hope this works for you.

P.

The same thing happened to me but it seems to me Dreft took it out not regular laundry soaps just dreft. But I could be wrong.

R.,
Not long ago, I "mamasourced" that very question about my expensive crib set that I was hoping to re-sell. There's a yellow tint that they get when the clothes are aged that is next to impossible to get out.
I did the oxy clean thing too to no avail. Someone did suggest to me that sunlight seems to work. You might try washing them again and letting them dry outside in the sunlight. It's worth a shot! Best of luck. Let me know how it turns out for you. I'm still trying to get some yellow stains out of my daughter's clothes as well.

Hey there,

The EXACT same thing happened to me-only I discovered the stains at 3 years when I had my second child. Mine were stored in bins in a closet and labeled by size. I too, had carefully treated stains, washed, dried and folded the clothing also before packing it away. I too was horrified by the yellowish stains in areas that I KNEW hadn't had them when I packed them away. Yes, my conclusion was that it was breastmilk stains that had been in the fibers of the material. I breastfed my firstborn a full year so the next bin of clothing size 6 mo to 9 month also had stains but not everything since my daughter hadn't spit up as much by then.

I took the outfits I simply could not live without and tried straight bleach on the stains when the clothing was white-like collars. Once the stain disappeared I immediately flushed it with cold water (being careful to keep the bleachy water from touching the colored part of the outfit below and quickly tossed it in a washing machine already half full of hot water.

It worked on a few things but the colored items like pale pink and such-those I couldn't get it out of without compromising the original shade of color.

I have since learned that BIZ is supposed to work wonders on things tlike grease stains and spit up-something to do with enzymic action I think-but I have not tried it. Of course, at the time I discovered our ruined baby clothing I had a 3 year old and a newborn to juggle so I didn't really have the time to try and fix all the clothing.

As horrible as it sounds, I actually tossed most of the ruined clothing. I figured no resale shop or garage sale buyer would want something that stained and even the thrift shops have their standards...

I sure hope you're able to salvage the clothing. I know how upsetting it was for me and how shocking since I'd been so careful to treat stains and wash them and all before packing away. It just seemed so wrong! Please update us all if you learn something that works-ok?

My second born had acid reflux BADDDDD and I did put away a few of her things but I imagine they'll end up the same way and I'm a little afraid to look. She's 3 now and the oldest is 6...

R.,

I'm sorry this happened to you - it happened to me too but it wasn't breastmilk. I've been told that when you put clothes in plastic boxes and the lack of air or something puts those yellow stains on the clothes. I saved all of my daughter's clothes and I had triplets almost 5 years later - granted, they were all boys but since I didn't know what I was having with my daughter I had a bunch of neutral clothing for 0-3 mos - almost all was ruined.

I'm sorry and good luck.

Hi -- I had really great results with Totally Toddler (ToysRus) and Kids-N-Pets (TARGET).. Spray to saturate stain, wait about an hour and wash in Tide with Bleach. It usually got everything out. Good Luck :)

Another great stain fighter is called Totally Toddler. I have been using it for the past 12 years. It takes out blood, formula, breast milk, poop, grass, mostly anything. Just spray on before washing and it's gone. I love this stuff!

Here's the link:
http://www.totallytoddler.com/

This happened to me too!!! You can use OXI clean (there is one specifically designed for tough stains)and soak the items in your tub or a large bucket (the process could take up to 10 + hours)!!! Washing alone did not work for me!! Continue to check the items and stir the water. Good Luck and Happy Soaking :)

I had the same problem between my first and second. I sprayed with spray and wash and then put OxyClean directly on top and let it sit for a few days then soaked in a mixture of OxyClean and water for a day. It worked like a charm! My favorite outfits were able to be worn again. I didn't waste my time with the onesies that I didn't care about, just the special ones.

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