Washing your carrier is an important part of increasing the longevity and utility of your baby carrier. However, improper care or too frequent washing can void warranties, cause even more staining, shorten the lifespan of your carrier or even compromise the structural integrity of your carrier. Here are some basics on carrier care as well as some information on further reading.
Let’s start off easy: easycare woven wraps. The name says it all. Most manufacturers that tout their carriers as easy care, mean it (depending on your definition of easy care of course). For the purposes of this blog post, easy care will mean you can wash your carrier as you would your regular laundry. You can use the same soap, the same washer settings, the same dryer settings. This is true of most, if not all, cotton wraps. Wash it, dry it, wear it- easy peasy. Usually woven wraps labeled easy care are 100% cotton, although some may include other fibers like superwash wool.
Now, once you venture into fibers outside of cotton, you’re entering into special care territory. Here’s a quick and dirty bullet list of general do’s and don’ts for various fibres.
- Do NOT use powdered detergent: Linen, hemp, natural bamboo
- Do NOT tumble dry: wool (will cause felting), silk, bamboo
- Do NOT wash with hot water: Bamboo, silk
- Do NOT wash with cold water: hemp, silk
- Do NOT use detergents with enzymes: Wool, silk
- Do NOT use fabric softener: any fiber
- Do NOT use bleach on ANY carrier. Bleach will compromise the integrity of any material. Don’t do it.
- Handwash only: silk, bamboo viscose, wool (unless its superwash wool)
Now, there may be many other uncommon fibers that have specific care instructions such as kapok, seacell, seaweed, cashmere, etc. Please consult the carrier’s manufacturer for specific washing instructions.
Resources on fiber care
Caring for Your Carriers by BWI of Kitsap
Washing and Care by Fiber by Babywearing 102
How to Wash Your Woven Wrap by Wrap Your Baby
What do the symbols on wash care labels mean?
Ring slings are typically made with the same fibers and materials as woven wraps and so you should follow similar care instructions as with woven wraps. However, you will want to protect the rings in the washer and/or dryer. Simply tuck the rings into a sock or wash the sling inside a garment bag or pillow case to keep the rings from damaging your machines and vice versa.
Nearly all manufacturers of buckle carriers will say the same thing: “spot clean only.” But let’s be real. When your baby has the most epic of diaper blow-outs there is no spot cleaning that thing. It’s going to need a serious machine clean. Here are some general guidelines for cleaning most canvas buckle carriers.
- Handwash if possible. This really is the way to cause the least amount of wear and tear on the buckles, seams and webbing. All that agitation in the washing machine will take its toll. However, if you’re not machine washing it every week, then don’t sweat it. For seriously messy blow outs though, a quick rinse in the shower or tub before putting it in the machine will probably help (just like with clothes).
- Buckle all the buckles. This is in the same vein as place a sock over the rings of a ring sling. Doing this will reduce the chances of things snagging or catching in your machine and damaging the carrier and/or your washer. Loosen all the buckles on the webbing as well.
- Bag it. For an extra measure of protection, place the fully buckled carrier inside a pillow case or garment bag. This will further protect your webbing and straps from getting caught on the agitator of your machine. If you have a front load or low profile agitator, this is probably less of a concern.
- Gentle cycle. Use the most gentle cycle your machine has. Also avoid using too warm or hot water. If you’re washing your carrier pretty quickly after a mess, cool water should be sufficient for getting out stains.
- Detergent. For canvas carriers, whatever detergent you use with your regular laundry should do the trick, but don’t use too much. If you have a set in stain, some generally safe stain removers include blue Dawn dish soap (a dab will do it), Buncha Farmers, or whatever stain remover you use for clothes. Do not under any circumstances use bleach on any baby carrier. If you have a wrap conversion carrier, follow the guidelines in the section for woven wraps on fiber care.
- Skip the dryer. If you accidentally forget this one time, your carrier will probably be fine. Most dryers aren’t going to get hot enough to cause damage to your buckles or webbing. But you may run into issues with warping or shrinkage of the canvas or fabric portion of your carrier.
General care guidelines for all carriers
- Inspect for damage. Although this is something you should practice regularly anyway, definitely inspect carriers after any deep cleaning. Check for snags, set in stains, broken buckles, shifted threads, etc. Certain damage (stains, shifted threads, small snags) may be merely cosmetic and will only affect the value of the carrier if you hope to re-sell it someday. Other damage may compromise the safety of your carrier and may or may not be able to be mended. If you’re worried about possible damage or regular wear, ask your local VBE.
- Do NOT use bleach! I said it before and I’ll say it again, just don’t use bleach.
- Avoid optical brighteners. Okay, so some people will tell you optical brighteners will ruin (RUIN!) your carrier. They won’t. But they may cause staining, especially in certain fibers. Most people won’t even notice these “stains” unless they want to dye their carrier. Optical brighteners are particles that are deposited into fibers to make the light reflect and make them appear “brighter.” Usually labels will say something to the effect of making your clothes appear brighter and most detergents have them unless it explicitly says optical brightener free on the packaging. As a general rule, its a good idea to avoid these types of detergents for your carriers but if all you’ve got on hand is Tide, then one time probably isn’t going to hurt.
- Only wash as often as necessary. If a spot clean will do it, then just wash out a spot. If you use the carrier mostly around your home and aren’t cooking, sweating, eating or otherwise doing things that might cause odors or stain causing agents to drip onto your carrier, then you really don’t need to wash it at all. Give it the ol’ sniff test and if it looks and smells fine, then you’re golden. But again, there will be those days that you will be doused in spit up, poop, urine, breastmilk, food items, dirt and anything else and your carrier will just need to take a big dip.
- Check your warranty. Some manufacturer warranties will forbid a certain type of washing method, such as using a washing machine. This doesn’t mean you can’t wash your carrier in a washing machine, it means that if it is damaged during the wash or at a later date, the damage will not be covered by the manufacturer warranty. If that concerns you, then by all means follow the manufacturer instructions. But just because a manufacturer insists that a carrier can only be hand washed doesn’t mean its going to dissolve if you need to run in through your Whirlpool. Keep in mind that most manufacturer warranties only cover certain types of damage, are only good for a year and don’t transfer ownership if you’ve purchased your carrier second hand. So if your warranty has already expired, then don’t sweat it!
What other carrier tips and tricks have you picked up? Share them in the comments!
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