Monday, April 21, 2014

The Proper Care and Use of Baby Carriers

Happy Monday, Midland's Babywearers!

I hope everyone had a great Easter, filled with family, fun, and food. It was the perfect end to a much needed Spring Break. Did wearing your baby or toddler make your Easter easier? My kids love to play and be passed around at family gatherings, so I don't get to wear them much in those cases. But I sure wore my youngest out during some marathon shopping on Saturday!

Over in our Facebook Group, we've noticed that lots of you are getting new "fluff" - new wraps, new buckle carriers, and even some Mei Tais. Some of these are brand new carriers, some are pre-loved and new to you. We love seeing all of your new fluff, but we're sure many of you are left wondering, after a weekend out, and seeing your lovely new carrier get some heavy use, how do I wash this thing? Or maybe you're wondering if you need to wash it before you use it at all?

The good thing about baby carriers is that they do not, under normal circumstances, need frequent washing. This helps the fabric last longer, and the colors in certain fabrics stay bright and true. Washing your carrier every so often - usually when you find them noticeably dirty or smelly - is an excellent time to go over your carrier carefully to make sure that there are no safety issues or flaws that need repair. Some of these flaws (in the case of pulls and thread shifting in woven wraps) can actually be repaired by washing. It's very important also to check your carriers regularly in any case to make sure they remain a safe option for your baby. This also should be done every time you buy or sell a used carrier. From a buyer's perspective, you want to make sure you received a quality carrier with no safety issues, and you should definitely wash before use if your family has any allergy or sensitivity issues. From a seller's perspective, you want to make sure you notice any flaws so you can disclose them before selling, and washing is just a good idea before you go to sell. We'll go over how to wash and what to look for safety and cosmetic wise for Buckle carriers, Mei Tai, and Woven Wraps.

Buckle Carriers/SSC (soft structured carrier)

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Brand Spanking New (bought at retail or advertised BNIB - brand new in box)

Do you need to wash it? I think this is optional. My family doesn't have any particular sensitivities or allergies, so I don't wash new buckle carriers before using. However, you should definitely go over even a brand new carrier to make sure all of the stitching looks firm and tight, that there are no lose spots in the seams, especially at the weight bearing corners (where the body of the carrier connects to waist band and shoulder straps). Also look at all of the plastic buckles and pieces to make sure they are whole, without cracks or warping.


Do you need to wash it? I would recommend washing it at your earliest convenience. Even when advertised from a smoke free, pet free home, I have noticed in some cases that a scent still clings to the carrier, and I'm sensitive to scents. Also, some postal carriers smoke and that can leech through to their packages. Both before and after you wash it, I would inspect it for any flaws, so that these can be brought to the attention of the seller if any exist.

If you find a flaw, regardless of whether you bought new or used, DO NOT WASH THE CARRIER. Bring it to the attention of the seller, and discuss what remedy could be made. If you buy new, a full refund or exchange is usually appropriate. If you buy used, you can certainly return and expect a full refund. I really don't recommend asking for a partial refund - these are usually difficult to negotiate and generally no one walks away pleased from this transaction. If the flaw you find is cosmetic - a mark or stain on the carrier that is not obvious, or loose thread where it does not affect the structural integrity of the carrier - still mention it to the seller as an FYI.  In most cases with buckle carriers, you do not find major issues.

Washing: all carriers come with washing instructions, and sometimes these vary. These instructions are general tips and tricks that apply most for most SSC. Tighten all your straps as much as you can (especially if you are using a washer with agitator) and use a mesh laundry bag if you have one.
This will help prevent things getting tangled. Wash on cold with a detergent that is free of optical brighteners. If you cloth diaper, whatever detergent you use in that case would also be appropriate for your carriers. Liquid or powder detergent? for SSC it doesn't really matter. Mostly you want to pick a gentle but effective detergent that will not cause the fabric to fade too much. That is the most common "flaw" I see in used SSC - faded fabric. This is no safety issue, but will affect the resale value of your carrier. Wash on cold, using the gentle/handwash cycle. Do NOT use fabric softener. Ever. On ANY carrier. Yes, it's that serious. Fabric softener does carrier fabric no favors, or you either. Skip it. All of the fabrics used on buckle carriers are pre-washed and already soft, and will soften more with use and wear, no additional artificial softening is needed.

Drying - line or dry flat. Due to the padding in the waist and shoulders, these should not be dried in your dryer. You may need adjust and straighten the waist and shoulder padding prior to laying flat or line drying if they got twisted in the wash. Using a dryer will only exacerbate the twisting, and some of the materials used in the padding are not dryer-friendly.

Ironing - only if you want to. I don't like to iron and have never bothered to iron a SSC. If you smooth the fabric of the body prior to line or drying flat, ironing shouldn't really be necessary.

Mei Tai

Minde - in a wrap conversion MT
Brand New

Do you wash it? Up to you; I might be more inclined to wash a brand new mei tai, since it is all fabric and no webbing, unlike an SSC. Especially if it has been converted from a woven wrap, as washing woven wraps tends to only make them better. Inspect all of the stitching when you receive it.  and inspect the fabric for any thin spots or loose threads.


Do you wash it? I always wash any used carrier prior to use, so, yes, I would. Especially if it has a noticeable scent. Inspect it before and after washing for any flaws, and bring these to the attention of the seller immediately.

How to wash it:

All of the same instructions apply for Mei Tai  that apply to SSC. If your Mei Tai has been converted from a woven wrap, follow the washing instructions appropriate for woven wraps of that fiber blend. If there is no padding or foam in the waist or shoulder straps (this varies between brands and makers, some of whom offer wrap straps and no padding waist) you may be able to dry in the dryer on the settings appropriate for the fabric's fiber blend.

Ironing - especially for the straps, I would iron these after washing, on the settings appropriate for the fiber. Often when washing the straps can get rolled and wrinkled, and ironing them will make it easier to use.

Woven Wraps:

This could be the longest care section - but I will try to keep it concise. I'll link to some excellent resources if you want more of the nitty-gritty.


Do you wash it? Yes. Before you ever wear it, you need to wash your woven wrap. Nearly all manufacturers insist on it. They do not wash it prior to you receiving it - it comes to you fresh off the loom from the seamstress who cut and hemmed it. Washing is needed to tighten the weave. It will also help start the breaking in process, or softening of your wrap. Like with any carrier, check for flaws before and after you wash it. You are looking for pulls, thread shifting, weaving flaws, holes, anything that doesn't look quite right. I'll discuss flaws in more detail below.


Do you wash it? I would, but before you wash it, measure it. The most common complaint I see from buyers is that the wrap isn't the size they thought they bought. If the seller washed before selling (and if they measured PRIOR to washing) it is very possible the wrap shrunk a few inches during the washing and drying process. The wrap will stretch a bit with use again, so this is no fault of the seller. If the measure is significantly different from what you were sold (more than 6 inches) - bring this to the attention of the seller like you would any other flaw. You can ask for a refund, offer to try to sell or trade it yourself for the size you actually want, or the seller may offer another solution. Other than that, inspect and wash it like you would any other carrier.

How to wash it

I'll talk about the basic fibers. For blends, wash according to the most "picky" fiber. So if it's a cotton/linen blend - wash it like you wash linen.

Geckos 100% cotton - Lending Library addition)
Cotton: I always recommend cotton for new wrappers. It's the easiest to care for, because you've been washing 100% cotton things forever, and caring for a woven wrap is not that much different. Wash on cold, using whatever detergent you have that is free of optical brighteners. Add some dryer balls if you have them (if you don't, you totally should get some. They are an awesome replacement for fabric softener, which you will not be using, right?), and you are good to go. Many people hang dry until 50% or more dry and finish in the dryer. Cotton is pretty forgiving, but obviously, the more gentle you treat it, the longer it islikely to last.

Linen Feathers- Lending Library addition
Linen: This fiber is also fairly easy to care for and a favorite for warm weather. Wash on cold or warm at most, using liquid detergent. It is said by some manufacturers that powder detergent crystals can wear and create breakage on linen fibers so are not recommended. Dry on low, or line dry. Linen likes to be ironed, since it is prone to wrinkling. It's best to iron when it's mostly, but not completely, dry.

Silk: Whether it's tussah/wild silk or not, silk is a lovely fiber and not that difficult to take care of. Be gentle with it, and it will be your friend. Lukewarm water is best - cold water will cause the silk to dull. Hot water will shrink the fibers. Handwash or use the handwash setting on your washer. Hang dry out of direct sunlight, and iron on low.

Natibaby Hemp Clovers

Hemp: Hemp loves heat and it's a very durable fiber. Wash on warm or hot, using liquid detergent. Dry on low, and especially on a hemp blend, iron, iron, iron! Hemp really benefits from ironing - it will straighten out the fibers and the heat helps soften and break in the fibers.

Wool Snowflakes - Lending Library additon
Wool: Wool is so soft and can be great no matter the weather - it breathes well and will keep you warm in cold weather and cool in summer heat. The biggest fear with wool is felting, which happens if you dry it in the dryer. For any other fiber, if you dry on warm once or twice, it's no big deal (shrinkage is the biggest issue with other fiber blends and often the wrap will stretch out again with use, so it is no big deal in the grand scheme of things). If your wool wrap felts, it can no longer be used as a wrap - the fibers are broken beyond safely wearing. However, if you know what NOT to do, caring for wool is straightforward and you will love wrapping with it. It needs to be handwashed in lukewarm water, preferable with a wool-friendly detergent, and dried flat.

Bamboo: Bamboo is soft, thin, slippery. Like silk, it prefers lukewarm water. The most important thing to remember about bamboo is that it does not like to wet for a long time - the maximum amount of soaking time allowed is 40 minutes. When you wash, handwash or use the lightest, shortest setting on your washer. Dry on no heat or line/hang dry. Iron while damp.

There is a handy chart HERE with more discussion about the various fibers and blends.
Also, check out the various manufacturers websites to learn more about fiber care, and what the symbols on your wrap tags mean.


Here are some links on flaws found in woven wraps, including pictures and how to fix them (and if the even need fixing. Some things are truly cosmetic).

Marsupial Mamas has a comprehensive article, including wrap care
My favorite resource for pulled threads, nubs and slubs, and a variety of other things that are within the realm of normal for wraps - found here - and how to fix them

Breaking in a Woven Wrap

What's that, anyway? Breaking in a wrap is just like breaking in your favorite jeans - new and stiff in the store, once broken in, they are soft, buttery, floppy, and fit and mold to you like a glove. That's the end goal with woven wraps, too. But how do you get there? Especially when some wraps feel like cardboard fresh out of the box? Or worse yet, like mesh in your porch's screen door? (yes, it's true for some wraps, especially linen and hemp blends).

1) Wash it. See above on how. If your wrap tolerates it, dry it in the dryer. With dryer balls - I buy mine on Etsy, but you can make your own easily. The more the merrier. And seriously, the MORE the MERRIER. They will soften your wraps (and all your other clothes), and your kids will steal them to play with; you can never have too many. Because your kids will steal them to play with. And they will get lost in the corners of your fitted sheets, and your spouse will forget to put them back in the dryer, and your kids will steal them to play with.

2) Wear it/Use it. The more you use your wrap, the softer it will get. And it will get soft, even the scratchiest linen or the most stubborn of beastly hemps, eventually. You can speed up the process a bit though, keep reading.

3) Sit on it. Some call it Butt Magic. I fold mine and sit on them as I work on the computer. Unfold it, fold it again a different way, and sit some more. Sit on it as I'm crocheting, reading, or watching TV. I don't know why, but it works. Also, sleeping with it has the same effect.  No folding necessary, unless you are using it as a pillow.

braid- this is a linen/bamboo blend
4) Braid it/Crochet it - see Youtube video here,. This works not by braiding it and leaving it, but braid it, unbraid it, braid it, repeat. the constant use of the wrap as the fibers pull against each other is what works to soften it. Honestly, I don't use braiding as breaking in method, but to store and/or display my longest wraps. My folding never stays done.

5) Unconventional methods: Including use as a hammock or swing.  - Many of you have already done the hammock method and we love seeing your pictures!

Hammocks - not just for kids!
No matter what carrier you have, or are looking to purchase, knowing how to care for them, and what problems to look out for is vitally important to making sure your carrier lasts you a long time and will resell at a great price. There are woven wraps (especially Didymos) that have been in use and loved on for 20 years or more, and still have lots of life yet. Carriers like these do not really ever expire, if they are well cared for; they will last you as long as you could hope to use them.


Upcoming Events

We hope to see all of you., and your well cared for carriers (new and old!)  at one of our upcoming events.

Thursday, April 24th - at the LDS church on Broad River Rd. We'll discuss what to wear, and  how to stay cool, in the South Carolina heat.

Saturday, April 26th - we will be at the Natural Baby Expo/Great Cloth Diaper Change from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. We will have the Lending Library available to show, and will be happy to introduce you to, or trouble shoot, any carriers you have questions about. We will also have fundraising items available for sale - including suck pads (these are great for keeping your SSC or Mei Tai looking new), critters made by Quietmoon Reflections, and child-sized amber necklaces.

Coming up in May:

More Warm Weather Wearing - Saturday May 10th - at the LDS building on Assembly street

Ice Cream Social - the day and time is TBD - come vote in the Facebook group. A decision and event will be scheduled soon.

Nursing and bottle feeding while Babywearing - we are partnering with La Leche League on Thursday, May 22nd at our usual weekday location- to talk about how to accomplish this important skill.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thanks for the tips about "how to wash it".
    That's what I'm looking for.

    Thanking You
    Free Baby Cares Books