Tips for Baby Carrier Care

time for sling cleaning!
mom carrying baby in a sling on her back

You’ve made the leap into the wonderful world of babywearing: congratulations! After doing your research as to what type of baby carrier will best meet your family's needs, the wearer's preferences, and your budget, you’ve chosen something lovely to hold your little one close. Whether it's a soft structured carrier, wrap, pocket or pouch sling, or ring sling, a carrier can be an investment, and like any other investment you want to protect it! Here's how.

Wear with care

Most new carriers will come with their own set of guidelines for wash and wear maintenance. Many also have instructional DVDs included, which will walk you through caring for your carrier. But what if you were thrifty and bought yours second hand or it was passed along by your friend? The labels may be removed and the DVD is long gone.

A simple consideration to start with is to be cognizant of what you are wearing under or on top of your carrier. Zippers, rough textured fabrics and sharp details can easily rip or wear down your carrier. However the most important considerations are the type of fabric your carrier is created with and how you wash it.

Wash with care

When it comes to washing, choosing a soap or detergent is important. Seek a soap that does not contain brighteners. Bleach should also be avoided, as it can damage the fibers in your carrier. Fabric softeners are another cleaning product that is not a friend to carriers, as they will reduce the life of the fabric. Softeners additionally can lessen the grip of some fabrics, which is key particularly with slings and wraps. Often it is best to wash by hand, but if you choose to use a washing machine then using the delicate cold cycle is recommended. Many natural baby laundry detergents that you would find on the shelf in specialty health food stores would be ideal for washing your carrier, as these are likely to be very basic ingredients that get the job done! For drying after your wash is complete, hang to dry/air dry is the best method for optimal care and longevity.

Special fabric needs

Cotton and linen like to be washed in cold water. Doing a light steam iron is also great for aiding in the fabrics longevity, by preventing wear and reoccurring crease lines.

Silk, wool, and cashmere are best hand washed in a lukewarm bath with an appropriate soap. Let them sit for a while with the soap, occasionally gently agitating the fabric by hand. Rinse, gently squeeze out any excess water, being careful not to wring your carrier, instead roll it in a towel and press to get even more water out. Next lay your carrier flat to dry. Silk is sensitive to sunlight and this is why silk blend slings and wraps should be dried in shade and stored in a dark place. Silk also needs to be ironed on a very cool setting.

Rings, buckles, and other gadgets

Ring slings will have metal or sometimes plastic rings, and these can create damage to both your washer and dryer as well as the carrier when washed. A quick and easy way to avoid this is to stuff the rings into a couple thick socks and secure with an elastic band before loading them into your washer. Many soft-structured carriers have belts, straps and buckles. Putting your carrier securely in a pillowcase or lingerie bag will help avoid tangles and snags in your machine. Also try to avoid washing your carrier with any other items that may have zippers or sharp details. These can snag your carriers fabric or increase pilling.

Wash before wear

For many slings and woven wraps the recommendation is to wash them before your first wear. If you’re buying new, ensure you check for that specific direction. This first wash will help to set the weave and shrink your fabric to its intended size. This is both for fabric durability and most importantly safety!

As a babywearing mama, I know that the tail on my favorite ring sling has often unexpectedly doubled as a kleenex, napkin, or towel for the swings at the playground. Washing it regularly has helped to soften the fabric, keep it looking fabulously fresh and keep my babe healthy. Happy washing and babywearing!

*Originally published October 7, 2016