Both babies and parents reap tons of benefits from babywearing, but just like everywhere else your baby hangs out, the inevitable mess of childhood can take over.
Like most people, you want to look sharp when you go out, so knowing how to tackle that big grape juice stain on your favorite wrap can be a lifesaver. It’s not just your baby, either! Just like clothing, your carrier is something you wear, so it needs to be laundered occasionally. As most baby wearers know, however, carriers and wraps need to be washed carefully – you can’t always toss them in with the sheets or socks.
One of the key points we want to begin with is this: NEVER ASSUME.
Even if other soft structured carriers you’ve had could go right in the washer, it doesn’t mean this one can. Even if your last wrap could be washed in warm water and dried with other items, it doesn’t mean your current one won’t shrink and become useless. Double check every single time, and consult the Internet if all else fails. Different manufacturers may even have varying instructions by model due to fabric and construction, so never, ever presume your carrier’s washing instructions based on past experiences!
Soft structured carriers
Soft structured carriers are a super popular pick with parents. They’re very easy to use, and they often have additional features that make them more convenient. Privacy panels can allow mothers to breastfeed discreetly, convenient zippered pockets make storing items on the go a cinch, and sun and weather hoods keep baby’s delicate head protected from the elements. There’s a lot on the market, and some can be pricey, but they’re very safe, versatile and adjustable.
Soft structured carriers are able to be washed, and most but not all can be directly placed in the washing machine. Using the dryer for carriers of this type is never recommended, as buckles and straps can be damaged and the overall integrity of the carrier can be impacted. These carriers often have padding, which means air drying can take a significant amount of time. Have a backup carrier ready for a few days after fully laundering your soft structured carrier to give it the necessary time to dry.
Between wash, the best way to clean up soft structured carriers is with spot touch ups. This allows you to tackle stains and messes as they happen without taking the carrier out of commission for a long period of time.
How to wash soft structured carriers
- Spot cleaning: To spot clean, take a bit of warm water mixed with a small amount of baby’s laundry detergent and use a washcloth to tackle small to medium sized messes. This is how to clean baby carrier straps. Blot dry and air dry thoroughly.
- Laundering: Always look for manufacturer instructions first. Typically, the best process is to wash the carrier on the delicate cycle in cold water with baby’s laundry detergent and air dry. Drying may take more than one day. Always avoid bleach, fabric softener, brightening detergents and heat drying.
Wraps and ring slings
A classic baby wearing pick, parents have been wrapping babies for many centuries. A woven wrap is a great way to achieve a secure carry for babies and toddlers. Although there is a learning curve, once parents master tying a wrap, it feels like second nature. It’s a carrier that’s versatile when it comes to carrying positions, which makes life easier and more comfortable for both wearers and babies. They’re available in a lot of different colors and fabrics, plus they’re typically not too expensive, so matching them to your personal style won’t break the bank.
Ring slings are very similar to wraps in style and construction, but can be a bit easier to put on. Their only downside in comparison is that they are less versatile for carrying, but they’re a great quick pick that can be very fashionable and is similar to a wrap to care for.
Because of the variety of materials that wraps can be made of, washing instructions can vary pretty widely. Manufacturers typically include washing instructions, but if they don’t, even knowing the fabric your wrap is made out of can go a long way in helping you understand how to clean it while preserving its appearance and function.
Some wraps can be tumble dried, but many more cannot. Unless your wrap comes with washing instructions that specifically indicate tumble drying, it’s best to avoid it. Another best practice? Use a lingerie bag, especially if it’s getting thrown in with other items. It will help avoid tangling and achieve a more even, thorough wash for your wrap.
How to wash wraps
- Spot cleaning: Unless it’s a pretty small spot, it’s typically easier and more effective to launder a wrap than spot clean. For fabrics like silk or cashmere that require dry cleaning, cold water with ultra-diluted gentle detergent is the way to go.
- Laundering: As always, manufacturing instructions should be your first priority. If they’re not present, laundering based on your wrap’s fabric is your best bet. For ring slings, always remove the ring before washing and set it aside. If your wrap or sling not made of silk, cashmere or wool, your best bet is a cold water wash on the delicate cycle with baby’s laundry detergent. If it IS made of silk, cashmere or wool, please see our section on understanding fabric types for more information. As we mentioned, never tumble dry your wrap or sling unless the manufacturer indicates it. Air drying will prevent shrinking and damage. Bleach, fabric softener and brightening detergents should also be avoided.
Understanding fabric types and washability
Often, the thing that determines the way garments should be washed is their fabric. Some textiles are extremely forgiving, preserving their integrity and color through repeated washes. Others are very delicate and must be handled in a precise way in order for them to keep their color, texture and weave. Generally, manufacturers will make it clear what materials are used in the construction of carriers. Knowing this will give you a better idea of how to clean it. Here are some key takeaways and washing instructions for four of the most common carrier fabric types.
- It’s super soft and fine wool made from pashmina or cashmere goats, and it’s often used in slings and wraps because of its comforting texture
- Because it’s a delicate animal fiber, it can NEVER be machine washed – spot clean or dry clean only
If you absolutely have to clean it at home, hand wash it gently in cold water and do not scrub, just swish it through the water
- To preserve the fabric’s integrity and appearance, ring it out gently by wrapping it in a towel; it must be air dried flat, never ironed.1How to Shop, Clean, and Care for Cashmere So It Lasts for Years
- Super cozy and warm, wool is pretty durable but caring for the fabric incorrectly leads to unsightly felting
- When washing at home, wool should be hand washed in cool water with gentle detergent
- It’s best to maintain the water temperature in order to preserve the fabric’s integrity
- Scrubbing to wash and ringing or twisting to dry can cause felting, so dab and press instead.23Washing Silk
- It’s easy to care for, plus it’s a lot more forgiving than most other carrier fabrics
- You can spot clean or launder it without much effort, and it generally costs less than other picks
- It’s generally a safe bet to wash it in cold water on the delicate cycle with mild detergent and air dry it
- You technically CAN tumble dry it, but we don’t recommend it – it’s a natural fiber, which means shrinking is always a possibility4Best practices flow chart
- Check your manufacturer’s instructions
- If they’re not present, consult the Internet and/or try to determine the fabric your carrier is made of
- If specialty fabric is used, aim for spot cleaning or dry cleaning
- If no specialty fabric is used, machine wash in cold water on the delicate cycle with mild detergent and air dry
Knowing how to wash your carrier properly can save you money and make life a lot easier. It can prevent you from causing accidental damage to an essential item that can be costly to replace. You’ll also feel more confident wearing your baby in public, knowing their carrier is clean, comfortable and looking and smelling great.