Many babywearers are nervous about laundering their carriers and so put off doing so. But when dirt builds up in the cloth of your carriers it damages the fibers, reducing your carrier’s lifespan.
This is why it is important to regularly clean your carriers and to make it less nerve-wracking we’ve put together a video tutorial guiding you through preparing to wash through aftercare.
Before laundering carriers there are a few things to do. The first step is to check it over. Look for snags, holes, loose stitches, and stains. If you find a snag, repair it before proceeding. For holes and loose stitches, use your best judgement about whether it is something you can repair or whether it is something the manufacturer should cover.
To treat stains, Buncha Farmer’s brand stain sticks are the go-to stain remover in the babywearing community. It is used by dipping the stick into (preferably hot) water then rubbing on to stains. No need to rinse, just set it aside while checking other carriers. It is free from artificial dyes and fragrances, and it 100% biodegradable.
Author’s note: on this trip to Kelsey’s house, wearing my brand new white pants, I managed to get a ring of black currant juice smack in the center of my thigh. I am the reason I can’t have nice things. By the time I arrive, it is dried in. Brand new pants. I was super bummed. But Kelsey grabbed the Buncha Farmer’s stain stick and applied it. Before my eyes the stain went from dark purple to bright green to GONE. #notspons
Wool is a tricky fiber to wash but there are some simple guidelines that will prevent the cloth from felting or shrinking.
- Use tepid water, without any dramatic temperature changes through out the washing process.
- Avoid agitation of the cloth, use slow gentle pressure to coax water and detergent through material to release dirt.
- Do not use Woolite. It is a misnomer that Woolite is for wool fibers. Hair conditioner is ideal.
- Completely drain water and press cloth to release excess water before refilling to rinse. Do not wring cloth.
Machine Washing and Drying:
Detergents that contain fragrance, dyes, or optical brighteners should be avoided. Aside from the issue of unnecessary chemicals building up on your carrier and possibly causing allergic reactions in wearer or wearee, they can damage or stain the fibers of your carrier Optical brighteners can leave sneaky yellow stains that show up in sunlight and they are permanent.
It is recommended to wash carriers in cold water to prevent shrinking which can do more than just make a carrier smaller– on structured carriers uneven shrinkage can put strain on stitching, causing damage. Depending on your washing machine select for the most gentle cycle, which may be “gentle” or “handwash”. If possible you can select to switch off agitator or for no spin cycle, depending on what kind of carrier you are washing. For example, loose structured carriers or buckle carriers, not having the agitator running will prevent damage. However, if this is not an option on your machine, you can place structured carriers inside of a mesh bag or large pillow case. For ring slings, cover the rings with a sock to prevent damage to the inside of your machine if you cannot shut off agitator or spin cycle.
It is not recommended to use laundry additives, such as fabric softener or dryer sheets. These products are unnecessary and coat the fibers of fabrics with chemicals to make them feel softer (more slippery) but prevents them from behaving like natural fibers should: wicking moisture. The chemicals in these products build up on fabrics damaging the fibers and creating stains– not to mention being ingested by LO’s chewing on carriers.
Soft, static-free fabrics are easy to achieve when you avoid over-drying fabrics. This can be achieved by air-drying or by stopping a machine dryer when items are almost dry, as Kelsey describes in the video, and then steam-ironing. Choose the lowest heat setting available on your dryer, and then only set it for half the normal cycle time, checking to see how dry the item is before running it longer. With some dryers you can select for what percent dry you want your item, aim for around 75-80% dry to reduce static.
Hand washed items and items that are machine washed without the spin cycle will contain more water than spun items. To remove this excess water, lay the carrier flat on bath towels, cover it with more towels and tightly roll the towel-carrier sandwich, pressing on the roll as you go. Unroll it and then you can allow the item to air dry.
Carriers need to be supported while drying to that they do not warp or stretch, and this included wraps. Drape carriers over multiple clothes lines, drying rack dowels, or the backs of chairs– or as Kelsey demonstrates in the video, use a half-wall. Whatever surface you choose to support your drying carriers, ensure that it will not transfer stain or ink onto the carrier, and that it will not snag it. If you find that your carrier feels stiff after air drying, you can use an iron (at the correct setting for the fabric) to soften it.
If you have any questions or things to add with regards to cleaning carriers, please let us know in a comment below!