Washing Slings and Baby Carriers

After a short intermission of failing to wash, our washing machine is once again operational (more or less). This weekend I’ll be churning through all of the library slings to give them a freshen up and I thought I’d post with some general slingy washing and cleaning info.

If you only have one sling, you’ll find you’ll need to plan in when to wash it as most will need to be hung dry and so will be out of action for a day at least.  I’d always recommend having at least 1 cheap spare sling for emergencies if possible.

Soft Slings and Carriers; Wraps, Pouches, Ring Slings and Mei Tais


When and how to wash: Wash your soft slings whenever they need it.  For mei tais you may find that the main areas to get soiled are the straps – to avoid getting the whole thing wet you could always sponge clean the straps using warm water and liquid detergent.

All cotton, linen and hemp slings (whether woven, stretchy, ring, mei tai, etc.) should be absolutely safe to wash on a normal cotton cycle at 30 or 40 degrees using non-bio liquid detergent (I use Ecover Delicate).  Some cotton and linen slings can be washed at hotter temperatures, though do check the label. Avoid powder detergents and those with optical brighteners as these are more harsh on the fibres of your sling’s fabric and will reduce the life-span of your sling.

To prepare your sling: For ring slings (and others with rings such as the Close/Caboo Carrier), unthread the sling from the rings and pop a sock over the rings to stop them clanking about inside your machine. You could secure this with a rubber band.  Alternatively you could pop the sling into a pillowcase or cloth bag. I’d also recommend bagging mei tais to prevent the long straps from tying temselves up in knots during the wash. Most wraps are fine to just bung in, though the thinner long ones (like 5.2m Ellaroo wraps) do have more tendency to spaghetti tangles than others.


After the wash: All slings can be hung to dry on the line and some can be tumbled on a cool cycle. For cotton, linen and hemp woven wraps, cool tumbling with dryer balls can be a great way to soften them up, especially when new. For soft slings with padding, make sure the padding is not twisted or folded while drying – you may wish to hang the sling on a hanger to dry to help it hang nicely.  You may find that padded mei tai straps and pleated styles of ring sling shoulder can take a couple of days to dry completely.

Most non-stretchy slings can be cool ironed (while slightly damp for the best results). Cotton and linen slings should be able to withstand hotter temperatures and steam ironing, though again do check the label. I would never bother to iron a stretchy carrier!

Notes: The longer you use your sling without washing, the softer and more mouldable you’ll find it gets (imagine jeans after a few day’s wear). If your soft sling is starting to feel saggy or less supportive, then you may find that washing it helps to tighten it all up again – this is most noticeable with stretchy slings.

Even if you’re in a hard water area and washing tends to initially leave your sling feeling a bit ‘crunchy’, it’ll soon soften up again with more use. Older woven slings that have been well used and appropriately washed tend to be the most comfortable and easy to use!

Some slings, particularly woven wraps and more premium ring slings may be made from special fabrics like silk, wool, bamboo, merino, alpaca….. Follow washing instructions for these slings very carefully as you can spoil the wrapping qualities of the sling if it is washed incorrectly. Not all slings made from special fabrics will be hard to wash and most manufacturers will have washing information on their websites so check the manufacturer’s instructions before purchasing if this is a worry for you.

Soft Structured Carriers

Soft structured carriers are usually safe to wash on a cool gentle cycle using liquid detergent.  Many instructions advise you to avoid washing your more structured carrier regularly as, over time, washing can affect the integrity of the padding, webbing and buckles.  I’d always recommend popping your structured carrier into a cloth bag or pillow case to offer it and your machine some protection during washing.

Do not tumble a soft structured carrier – these should be air dried on a line or rack. Make sure that the straps are straight and not twisted for drying – you may find that it’s best to hang on a hanger to help preserve the shape of padded areas. Soft structured carriers can take 2 or 3 days to dry completely due to the padding and more reinforced areas holding water. I try to only wash mine completely when the weather is warm and breezy and perfect for quick drying 🙂

I usually recommend that you avoid machine washing structured carriers unless completely necessary (so in a nappy failure or complete-jam/juice/ice-cream-coverage-type situation). As with mei tais, you’ll find that the parts that get most grubby are the shoulder straps and the top edge of the carrier. Sponge clean these areas and other spots as necessary using warm water and liquid detergent (washing up liquid is fine).

You can get removable strap protectors and even slip covers for some structured carriers that will protect the carrier itself from spills, stains and dribbles and that you can more easily wash in the machine.

Framed Carriers

Obviously carriers with metal framework cannot go in the washing machine, though some have covers or components that are partly removable for washing. Sponge clean other areas as necessary using warm water and liquid detergent and air dry.

If you have any doubts at all about whether a particular detergent or cleaning method is sutiable for your sling, then get in touch with the manufacturer to ask – they should be more than happy to help 🙂

© 2012 South London Sling Library