What’s the best way to wash my baby sling or baby carrier?

25 Mar

Many parents want to know the best way to wash their baby sling or baby carrier (or to keep it clean in the first place). The answer depends on what type of sling or carrier you have. Here are some general guidelines:

Baby slings and baby carriers are not like clothes, but more like outerwear or other types of baby gear like car seat covers or stroller covers. In other words, they generally don’t need to be washed frequently, because (presumably) both you and baby are wearing clothes while you’re wearing baby in the sling or carrier, so the carrier stays relatively clean and protected from general body grime. Keep reading for more on how to care for your carriers and how to keep then looking clean and new.

Because baby slings and baby carriers are made of fabric, washing them will cause fading and pilling of the fabrics over time. Dark fabrics such as brown or black are especially prone to fading (just like blue jeans!) Especially with darker fabrics framing a lighter, decorative print, you run the risk of dark fabric dye lifting off and staining the decorative print. It’s better to avoid washing your baby sling or baby carrier at all unless you have a major bodily fluids disaster (e.g. baby vomits or has a leaky idpaer) or other major accident. For minor drool and spit-up, spot clean as needed with water and a clean, non-linty washcloth.

If you do need to wash your carrier, read and follow all manufacturer instructions, especially for specialty fabrics like silk, hemp, wool, linen, or any blends. For slings or carriers made from cotton, wash on the delicate/handwash cycle with cool water with an extra rinse. I prefer free and clear detergent with no optical brighteners or other additives that can deposit on fabrics. Never use bleach or fabric softeners. Wash slings or carriers separately from other laundry. Use a Shout Colorcatcher sheet for any dark carriers or carriers being washed for the first time to help minimize re-deposition of fabric dye. Dry on low heat or hang to dry.

Here is how I machine-wash and dry specific types of baby carriers:

  • For buckle carriers: buckle all buckles and remove any removable pieces like chest clips, support belts, sleeping hoods or hood rests. Dry on low until damp and then hang to dry the rest of the way.
  • For mei tais (Asian-style baby carriers): wash the mei tai a very large pillowcase or mesh sweater bag to minimize strap twisting. Dry on low until damp and then hang to dry. Iron the straps while still slightly damp to get any wrinkles out.
  • For ring slings: unthread the sling from the rings and wash the ring sling in a very large pillowcase or mesh sweater bag to minimize twisting and banging of the rings. Dry on low.
  • For stretchy wraps: these are the exception to the rule, because they can be washed and dried normally as you would a t-shirt. For dark colors, I would wash on cold, separate from other clothing, for the first wash.
  • For hybrid stretch wraps: (Wrapsody Baby Bali Stretch): wash the wrap in a very large pillowcase or a mesh sweater bag.
  • For woven wraps: it’s especially important to follow manufacturer instructions, as some wraps have pre-shrunk fabric and others are meant to shrink to the correct length after the first washing. In general, dry only on very low or better yet, hang dry to avoid shrinking.

Follow these simple rules to keep your baby sling or baby carrier clean:

  • Don’t drop your sling or carrier on the floor, or the floor of a car. When it’s not in use, keep it up off the floor and away from pets.
  • If you eat or drink while babywearing, first of all be very, very careful to protect your baby from hot food or hot drink! (It’s definitely best not to eat or drink anything hot enough to burn baby while babywearing.) Turn your head to the side away from baby when you’re eating or drinking. Tuck a dishtowel over the carrier to keep it clean, and drink from a travel mug or water bottle to minimize any drink spills.
  • The biggest grub factor for baby carriers is usually when baby is teething and turns her head to suck and gum on the carrier straps. If you have a two-shouldered carrier like a mei tai such as a BabyHawk, CatBird Baby, or Kozy Carrier, or a buckle carrier (aka soft structured carrier) such as a Beco Butterfly 2, Beco Gemini, Boba 3G, ErgoBaby Carrier, BabyHawk Oh Snap, or Pikkolo: Buy a pair of teething pads (aka drooling pads or sucking pads) to keep the straps clean. Beco and Ergo both make types that will work for any buckle carrier. These can be easily removed and washed and will keep your carrier straps clean.

Finally, please keep in mind that baby slings and baby carriers are meant to be worn and used! They will break in and start to look loved over time, so if they fade a little, or a get a stain you can’t get out, that’s OK — it just shows that you are using your sling or carrier as it’s meant to be used. Your baby certainly won’t mind what your carrier looks like, as he or she will just be happy to be close to you!

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