Washing and caring for wraps and carriers – why so much ado about it? It is just a long piece of fabric with or without some buckles, isn’t it…? Well, it is not such an ordinary piece of fabric. It must have specific properties and be much more durable than, for example, your corduroys – after all, we carry those who are the most precious to us in the whole world in that “piece of fabric” and it requires special and somewhat more delicate care. This article will be long because I will try to mention everything I know about caring for the woven wraps and carriers. However, the basics can be summed up into 5 points:
- WASH FIRST: it is necessary to wash and iron most woven wraps before tying them for the first time (on the other hand, it is not necessary in case of most carriers);
- CHECK FIRST: before washing a new wrap, check it closely for any flaws, stains etc.;
- USE A SUITABLE DETERGENT ONLY: you will find the reason and a basic list of recommended detergents below; however, if you are not sure what to use, wash the wrap in water only;
- CHECK THE TAG: wash and iron the wrap always only according to the instructions on the tag;
- NO DIRECT SUNLIGHT: never ever let the wrap dry in direct sunlight.
CARING FOR A WOVEN WRAP
You can apply the above-mentioned five crucial points to most of the newly bought woven wraps. Lets talk about it point by point and mention some exceptions.
- WASH FIRST
Most brand new wraps are sold in “loomstate”, i.e. just as they left the loom, and need to be washed before the first tying. Not that the wraps are soaked in something chemical and harmful (they should not be anyway, because they are produced to be used for children and therefore all the materials must follow certain norms) but because the washing and ironing are the last two steps of the manufacturing process. Before being woven into a wrap, the threads are treated by a substance that closes their surface so that they easily slide on each other in the loom – logically, these threads that are “waxed” do not hold together in the weave and if you tie such an unwashed wrap there could be shifts in the weave. When the wrap is washed, the threads become a bit “hairy” again, they will not be that slippery and will hold together in the weave much better, therefore the weave will become denser and stronger. Besides, the threads shrink, the wrap shortens to its post-wash length, it becomes thicker (it is well visible if you fold the wrap) and its weight will rise (see the note below).
If you just had a mini-heart attack because you were not patient enough and you tied your beloved wrap before washing it first – breeeeeathe…! It does not necessarily mean that you certainly ruined the wrap forever. If it is not a very thin “spider web” made of thin threads with delicate blends and you did not wear it unwashed for a long period of time, one tying and short wearing probably did it no harm – and there is no need for hysteria you can sometimes see in different babywearing groups in various social networks. However, you better wash your loomstate wrap before tying it first next time.
Post-wash shrinking of a woven wrap: pre-wash left – 77 cm wide, post-wash right – 72 cm wide (Indajani Binni Rayado Natur wrap, 100% cotton).
Post-wash shrinking of a woven wrap: the weight of a woven wrap usually increases post-wash and the volume of the folded wrap visibly increases – pre-wash above, post-wash below (Indajani Binni Rayado Natur wrap, 100% cotton).
And what about the weight, i.e. the number that tells you how thick the wrap is? There are three different weights (or terms) you need to know – “pre-wash” weight, i.e. weight of a brand new wrap in loomstate, “post-wash” weight, i.e. weight of a freshly laundered and dried wrap (mainly in case of very fluffy and heavy wraps this number can be much higher than the pre-wash one) and the third – weight of a broken-in wrap. This weight is, in my opinion the one and only “real” weight of a woven wrap. As I wrote above, the wrap shortens and shrinks after washing from the pre-wash to its post-wash length and after being properly broken-in and warn, it stretches a bit again and gains it final, “operational” length and weight (do not worry, the differences are not too big even in case of the most stretchy woven wraps; it is usually something about 10 to 15 centimetres and similarly the weight does not differ more than a few dozens). The most important information you should take from this – if not stated otherwise, the manufacturer usually declares the post-wash weight in most cases.
As you could probably guess, not all the new wraps are in loomstate, but are “ready to wear (sometimes you can encounter the abbreviation “RTW”), i.e. they are in their final, already shrunk state and therefore, simply, ready to be worn. These are, for example, Artipoppe, Oscha or Kenhuru wraps. According to my knowledge so far, Wild Slings, ROAR and Storchenweige wraps come in some kind of not-really-loomstate but not-really-RTW-state either, i.e. they are somewhere half-way. It means that you can safely tie them right after you open the box but it is still recommended to wash them before wearing them for the first time (i.e. they are not RTW in the strict sense of this term). But as always – if you are not sure if your wrap is RTW, you better wash it following the tag. Good news – a more or less comprehensive wash and care instructions usually come together with the wrap and they specify quite clearly if the wrap needs to be washed first. If it is not specified – wash it!
- CHECK FIRST
You have your new wrap in your hands and now you know if it needs to be washed before you tie it for the first time – but before you wash it (or tie it), check it carefully for any flaws! If you washed it and only then found some flaws or irregularities you probably could not return it and/or get a refund. There are certain flaws that come from the process of manufacturing (skipped threads or badly sewn hems) and your “improper” care obviously could not cause it. In case of pulls and torn threads it is not so simple and the manufacturer could claim that they were caused by washing and wearing.
- USE A SUITABLE DETERGENT ONLY
One sweet secret – if you wash a brand new wrap for the first time you can wash it in water only. Otherwise, remember this mantra: “a delicate liquid detergent without optical enhancers”:
- delicate– not meaning “sensitive” in the sense “suitable for washing the children’s clothes” but sensitive to the threads – forget usual detergents such as Persil or Ariel (although some of them do not even contain the terrifying optical enhancers) that are aggresive (therefore so efficient) and can damage the threads;
- liquid– the detergent should not contain any solid particles that can deposit on the threads and (again) damage them;
- without optical enhancers – these are chemicals that change the UV light waves so that they enhance the blue light and minimize the yellow light – i.e. the colours seem brighters and white looks whiter. If you read the contents of “usual” detergents, you can find some optical enhancers in most of them (sometimes under different names, such as optical lighteners, optical brilliants, optical bleachers etc.). Over again – they damage the threads and moreover, they can cause fading of colours. Given the woven wraps are usually died with delicate dyes suitable for children they are much more prone to fading than your usual laundry.
So what specifically is suitable what is not? If you do not run a non-toxic household, the easiest thing you can do is to go to the DM drugstore and buy this detergent:
Denkmit Ultra Sensitive Fein- und Wollwaschlotion: https://www.dm.cz/denkmit-tekuty-praci-prostredek-na-vlnu-ultra-sensitive-p4010355363374.html – it is suitable for all the materials including wool and fine fibres such as silk. After all, most of the DM liquid detergents are suitable for washing of the woven wraps:
- Denkmit Colorwaschmittel Ultra Sensitive: https://www.dm.cz/denkmit-praci-prostredek-color-ultra-sensitive-p4010355484321.html – universal;
- Denkmit Wollwaschlotion: https://www.dm.cz/denkmit-tekuty-praci-prostredek-na-vlnu-hedvabi-p4010355487391.html – for wool and silk;
- Denkmit Feinwaschlotion: https://www.dm.cz/denkmit-praci-gel-na-jemne-pradlo-p4010355387387.html – for fine fibres but not suitable for wool and silk;
- Denkmit Fresh Sensation: https://www.dm.cz/denkmit-praci-gel-na-synteticke-pradlo-fresh-sensation-p4010355558657.html – primarily for washing of synthetic fibres and functional clothes but you can wash wraps without wool or silk in it, too;
- Denkmit Colorwaschmittel: https://www.dm.cz/denkmit-praci-gel-na-barevne-pradlo-p4010355484260.html – suitable for colourful fabrics (but not fine fibres) and can be used for washing of woven wraps without wool or silk;
- Denkmit Colorwaschmittel Lotus-blüte & Aloe: https://www.dm.cz/denkmit-praci-gel-na-barevne-pradlo-lotosovy-kvet-a-aloe-vera-p4010355484307.html – suitable for colourful fabrics (but not fine fibres) and can be used for washing of woven wraps without wool or silk.
What you should avoid in the DM drugstore: Denkmit White Sensation: https://www.dm.cz/denkmit-praci-gel-na-bile-pradlo-p4010355296245.html – for washing white laundry, containing optical bleachers; and Denkmit Vollwaschmittel: https://www.dm.cz/denkmit-praci-gel-univerzalni-p4010355484246.html – contains optical enhancers.
There are other “usual” non-eco liquid detergents you can already have in your closet and in which you can wash your woven wrap in:
- Perwoll Sport ActiveCare Advanced: https://www.dm.cz/perwoll-praci-gel-sport-activecare-advanced-p9000101327502.html – not for wool and silk;
- Perwoll Wool & Delicates: https://www.dm.cz/perwoll-praci-gel-wool-delicates-p9000101327786.html – for wool and fine fibres including silk.
In case you want to use an eco-friendly (or almost-eco-friendly) detergent, following can be recommended:
- Frosch Sensitive with aloe vera: https://www.dm.cz/frosch-praci-gel-sensitive-s-aloe-vera-p4001499159510.html – not for wool and silk;
- Ecover Zero: https://www.dm.cz/ecover-praci-gel-zero-p5412533405576.html – not for wool, silk or bamboo (contains citric acid);
- Ecover Woll- und Feinwaschmittel: https://www.dm.cz/ecover-praci-gel-na-vlnu-a-jemne-pradlo-p5412533003437.html – for wool and fine fibres including silk;
- Sonett olive gel for wool and silk: https://www.econea.cz/sonett-olivovy-praci-gel-na-vlnu-a-hedvabi-10-l/ – for wool and fine fibres including silk;
- Yellow and Blue liquid detergent from soap nuts with lanolin: https://www.bioneeds.cz/praci-gel/yellow-blue-praci-gel-z-mydlovych-orechu-na-vlnu-1l/– for wool.
In wraps with wool and silk it is necessary to use a suitable detergent only. On the other hand, if the wrap does not contain wool it is not advisable to detergent with lanolin – it is good for the wool but not for other blends because it covers the fibres which is not desirable at all.
There are many other detergents suitable for washing of the wraps and making a complete list here is not necessary in my opinion. What I must emphasize is this – not everything “sensitive” or “eco” is suitable for washing of woven wraps!As I already mentioned, for example Persil – do not use even Persil Sensitive; also the traditional “infant” detergents such as Lovela or Batole are not suitable (the contain optical enhancers and moreover, Lovela is not a very efficient detergent itself anyway). Recently, it has become more and more popular to use two alternative ecological “detergents” – soap slime and soap nuts. Do not use the slime because it tends to precipitate on the fibres (and also in your washing machine). In case you use the soap nuts, the laundry could become grey over time and moreover, according to several tests, their efficiency is the same as if you washed your laundry in water only. And of course, you never ever use fabric conditioners for the wraps (they tend to cover the fibres).
And one important take-home message: if you are not sure if your detergent is suitable for washing of a wrap, wash it in water only!
Similarly as in the previous note about “tying first, washing next of a loomstate wrap” – if you already washed your wrap in an unsuitable detergent, again, it does not mean that you ruined it for good! One washing (well of course, if you did not toss the wrap into a bucket of chlorine bleach) will not ruin the wrap, but next time, be sure to use a suitable detergent.
- CHECK THE TAG and 5. NO DIRECT SUN
Now we already know with what detergent to wash the wrap – now it is the right time to check the tag with the wash and care instructions every wrap should have. An important note in the beginning – always wash the wrap separately(so that there is no risk of damaging the wrap with a zipper or accidentally dying it) and free, meaning do not put it in any laundry mesh bag (the dirt would not be properly washed out).
- temperature– it is necessary to follow the tag in case of the first washing and use the maximum allowed temperature (i.e. the one you see on the tag) so that the wrap can shrink properly and thus the manufacturing process can be completed. However, it is not necessary to use this temperature when washing the wrap every time! There are many cotton wraps with the tags that say “60°C” – but it only means the highest temperature the wrap can endure, but 60 is still 60 and if you washed the wrap like this frequently it would not probably be in a very good condition after some time. In case of second and every other washing (if the wrap is not extremely dirty or you did not scrub the hospital floor with the wrap ) it is sufficient to wash it at 30°C (in case of pure cotton 40°C is tolerable if it makes you feel better). Hand washing and caring for wraps with fine blends will be a subject of a separate section of this article.
- spin drying– generally as low as possible; not even every type of cotton can be spin dried to the max (not that it would necessarily harm the wrap’s properties but the cotton can become somewhat hairy which does not look too good mainly in wraps with a highly contrast combination of colours). Usually, 400-600 spins per minute are enough so that the water does not drip from the wrap. Wraps with wool and silk should not be spin dried in a washing machine at all – just squeeze them in towels (you will find step-by-step instructions below).
- drying– it might be quite surprising but it is possible to tumble dry some wraps; these are usually all-cotton wraps but I have already encountered some blended wraps that can be tumble dried using programs for fine fibres. In case of some extra-tough wraps it can also help very much with the process of breaking them in. However, tumble drying of a woven wrap is not something you should do constantly and frequently. It wears out the threads and makes them thinner – a frequently tumble dried wrap would get damaged much faster. Most wraps can be hanged and dried on a dryer “accordion-style” but do not ever hang the wrap over one string only in sharp angles. Moreover, the less of the wrap you leave hanging down, the better. And pretty please, do not use pegs! They hurt the wraps so much! Firstly, the peg bends the threads of the wrap and secondly, it can hold the wrap inadequately stretched in that place. Wool and silk are exceptions, again – you need to dry them flat (see the section bellow). Regardless of the composition of the wrap, never dry it in direct sunlight (yes, the colours may fade, not really surprising) and do not put it directly on a heater.
- ironing– ironing (from both sides, if you are extra-meticulous) is also a part of the manufacturing process of a brand new wrap. Always use the maximum temperature declared on the tag. Generally, cotton wraps can be ironed to the maximum and with steam (it is not only okay, on the other hand – it is desirable); in case of linen and hemp wraps it is necessary, mainly during the process of breaking them in. Wool and silk – bellow again. The last thing I wanted to say about ironing – do not ignore it!It is not an aesthetical matter only; if you do not iron your wrap (mainly if it contains threads that are prone to be broken such as linen or hemp) permanent folds and wrinkles could develop. These folds are less resistant, over time these spots can wear out and the threads can tear here.
“Accordion style” drying of a woven wrap.
Permanent wrinkle caused by insufficient ironing, with torn threads.
Tips & Tricks:
- it is not necessary to wash the whole wrap every time – in case of “local dirt” (for example if the baby spits on the wrap) it is sometimes enough to hand wash the afflicted spot only (sometimes it is enough to use a wet cloth – but be careful with blended wraps, if you do not rub such a wrap with the cloth very gently, the threads might felt in these spots). Sometimes pure water is enough, sometimes the dirt is more resistant and it is advisable to use the gall soap (but be careful here, it is better to check if it will not bleach the wrap’s colours first, for example on some tiny spot on one of the tips of the wrap);
- it is not necessary to wash the wrap every time after all– if you sweat through it or it catches some odours and you hang it after wearing it and give it some airing, there is a chance the odour will fade itself. Mainly wool and most types of silk are total miracles in this aspect; on the other hand, most artificial fibres tend to hold the odours in much more, according to my experience (but they are usually easy-care, in contrast to the woolen and silk wraps);
- if you wash a ring sling, it is advisable to put a tight sock on the rings – it will protect both the rings and your washing machine;
- air dehumidifier – my best friend for any wrap drying! You just put it under the dryer (or in the same small room, for example a bathroom), switch on the “drying” program and any totally soaked woolen wrap will be dry the next morning, I guarantee!
- it is not necessary to iron the wrap after every wearing– besides the blends that are extra-prone to wrinkling (hemp and most types of linen) it is usually enough to straighten the wrap with your hands and hand (over the door or stair-rail for example). There are also some great easy-care blends that do not need to be ironed basically at all (specifically polyester which you can find under the name “Repreve” in some wraps) or just minimally (bamboo, wool).
Caring for woolen and silk wraps
Most wraps containing wool (not only merino, but also lambs wool, cashmere, angora, yak, camel or alpaca wool) and silk require much more delicate maintenance than all-cotton ones! Some types of wool (usually named “superwash” or TEC, i.e. “total easy care”) and silk can be washed in a washing machine, but of course using a programme and a detergent suitable for such blends (be careful, there are different names of silk – for example tussah, bourette, schappesilk etc.; the only type you do not need to worry about is “art silk” because it means “artificial silk”). Anyway, mainly in case of wool, you need to trust your washing machine. Some machines do not fill the drum with preheated water but they warm it up directly inside the drum – it means that the poor sheep washed in 30°C water gets slapped with cold water when being rinsed and will reward you with shrinking and felting. If you are not sure how your washing machine works you can try to wash woolen socks in it as a trial, for example; however, not every wool is the same. I am repeating myself but I need to say this – if you do not trust your washing machine, hand wash the wrap!
Hand washing, or “do not ignore the hand in the bathtub”! If the tag says “hand wash it”, it really means it! It does not mean a thing that your washing machine has such a symbol, too, mainly in case of wool. Not that these programs are not delicate enough – most of the “wool programs” are mechanically very delicate and the wrap very lazily turns over inside the machine like three times every 10 minutes; the problem is the changing temperature (as I wrote above). Just a remark – if there is a “hand in the bathtub” sign and a “30°C in a bathtub” sign, it does not mean “choose, if you want to hand wash the wrap or wash it in the machine at 30°”, but it means “hand wash at 30°C”.
If you are still looking for step-by-step instructions how to hand wash a wrap, your search is over. I had a similar problem quite recently but thanks god for all the experienced wearers on Facebook! So here you are:
- pour 30°C water into the bathtub (I measure it with a baby bath thermometer) – just enough to soak all the wrap in it and ad a little bit of a suitable detergent (really just a little bit – you will not rinse the woolen or silk wrap too intensely, so do not use too much of the detergent so it can be rinsed easily); if you wash a brand new wrap, pure water is enough;
- put the wrap into the water and squeeze it a bit (with the focus on a dirty spot if necessary)
- leave the wrap in the water for a few minutes, drain the water and squeeze the excess water out of the wrap as it lies in the tub;
- pull the wrap out of the tub like a bunch, i.e. do not pull it like a roap (such a wet wrap is very heavy and by pulling it you could damage the wet threads) – if you washed the wrap in water only, the process of washing is over; if you used a detergent, proceed to the next point;
- pour fresh water into the bathtub again, now a little bit colder than previously (my estimate is about 25°C), squeeze the wrap in it gently again and pull it out of the tub like in the previous point;
- if necessary in case of excess detergent, repeat point 5.
Woolen and silk wraps cannot be spin dried, without any exception and it does not matter if you can wash the wrap in the washing machine or not. The reason is the same as why you should not pull the wrap as a “rope”, also spin drying means friction and possible felting of the threads, or the threads could break. Instead, put the wrap on some towels on the group and roll it as a burrito and gently squeeze the water out.
Woolen and silk wraps need to be dried flat because (you can only guess) otherwise the heavy hanging animal fibres could stretch inadequately and get damaged if hanged to dry. You can dry them either on towels on the ground while changing the towels from time to time (it will speed the process of drying) or flat on a dryer. Do I have a 5 metre long dryer? No, I do not. I dry the wraps flat folded in half and during the drying I pull the wrap back and forth now and then so that the fold is not in one place all the time. After the wrap is partially dry, you can put it on a dryer “accordion style”.
Ironing – again, be gentle and follow the tag. When ironing silk, it needs to be a bit damp (or use a damp cloth) and on the lowest temperature, if necessary – well broken-in silk wraps sometimes do not need to be ironed at all but mainly during the process of breaking in (especially some high-weight tussah pieces) it is basically necessary. Wool usually does not require being ironed at all (a big advantage is that most woolen wraps are soft straight out of the box and do not need to be broken in) – if they do need to be ironed, use the lowest temperature without steam just as in case of silk.
Tips & Tricks:
- if you have floor heating, you can use it to speed the drying not only of woolen and silk wraps;
- iron with automatic temperature regulation! Such an ingenious thing! It truly changed my view of ironing as an annoying (and in case of delicate fabrics potentially harmful) task. These irons have sensors that recognize the composition of the fabric and adjust the temperature according to that (I have no idea how they do it, but it REALLY WORKS!). I personally have great experience with Philips iron which I can recommend by hundred percent.
Hand washing of a woven wrap: step 1 – 30° C water in the bathtub.
Hand washing of a woven wrap: step 2 and 3 – soaking the wrap into the water and gentle squeezing.
Hand washing of a woven wrap: step 4 – draining the water.
Hand washing of a woven wrap: step 5 – pulling the wrap out of the bathtub as a bunch, after squeezing the excess water off gently.
Drying of a silk/woolen wrap: towels prepared on the floor.
Drying of a silk/woolen wrap: spreading of the wrap on the towels.
Drying of a silk/woolen wrap: rolling the wrap into the towels.
Drying of a silk/woolen wrap: the wrap rolled into the towels – now we squeeze the excess water out.
Flat drying of a woven wrap on a dryer: folded in half, minimum of the length of the wrap is hanging down on the sides; it is necessary to pull it back and forth now and then during the process of drying so that the fold is not in the same place all the time (Woven Bliss Lineart Silver Linings wrap, 50% cotton, 30% tussah silk, 20% viscose).
Breaking in of a wrap
I mentioned a little bit about the process of breaking in of a wrap in our article about choosing of the first wrap. What does it mean and what does it take? Most brand new wraps are not soft, pliable and pleasant to tie and must be worn a little bit to reach their final tying and wearing properties (I like to compare it to the feeling you have when you wash your jeans – they are not pleasant to wear for the first time after washing, either). The length and effort you need to put into this process depends on many factors – mainly on the weight of the wrap, its composition and the type of its weave. Generally, the thicker the wrap is, the longer and the more demanding the process of breaking it in will be. Very thin wraps with the weight about 200 gsm are broken in very quickly while on the other hand, it is virtually impossible to break in most of the super-thick wraps with the weight about 400 gsm into somewhat pleasant and wearable state. As to the composition, some blends generally do not require to be broken in at all and make the wrap amazingly soft straight “out of the box”, for example merino, bamboo viscose or polyester, but even some types of cotton basically do not need to be broken in. In this case I cannot say with absolute certainty what particular type of cotton this is, but usually these soft cottons have attributes like “combed”, “Egyptian”, “pima” or “supima”. However, speaking from my experience it mostly depends on the particular manufacturer and what cotton they use (for example, Kenhuru cotton is renowned for being very soft and pliable even if the wrap is brand new). On the other hand, there are blends that require quite a lot of effort before the wrap is sufficiently broken in – hemp, most types of linen and tussah (mainly in case of high weight wraps) and also some high weight all-cotton wraps with thick and dense weave (for example, the Polish Luluna is “renowned” for such wraps).
How to break a wrap in fast and easy?
- wear it intensively – frequent tying is more efficient than just wearing the wrap for long hours;
- wear it with a heavy load – the heavier your wearie is, the faster your break the wrap in;
- sleep on the wrap – put it under the bed sheet, sit on it during the day, wiggle on it while driving your car;
- iron it frequently – in case of cotton, linen and hemp always with steam;
- braid it – make giant braids out of the wrap; you can sit on the braids, let your kids jump on them or use a rolling pin (what really helps to break the wrap in is not the time spent in the braid but the process of braiding – the more times you braid it and unbraid it, the better);
- pull it through the sling rings;
- make a swing out of the wrap.
Never ever tie, braid or pull a damp wrap through the rings, mainly in case of some more delicate blends (in my opinion some more hairy blends should not be pulled through the rings at all)!
Braiding of a woven wrap.
Pulling the wrap through the sling rings.
Storing of a wrap
After every wearing it is advisable to hand the wrap, let it “breathe” and dry before folding it and put it in your closet. Moreover if you hang it and straighten the wrap by your hands you can spare your time you would otherwise spend ironing it.
If you want to store your wrap unused for a longer period of time, you need to put it in a place without direct sunlight, or/and in a cloth bag, and secure it against pests (for example put little bags with lavender between the wraps). If you store the wraps folded, you should unfold and refold them from time to time, especially the wraps with linen and hemp. If you want to store a wrap for a really long time (“for grandkids” etc.), the best thing you can do is not to fold it at all but to roll it like a piece of carpet on a long carton roll, for example.
CARING FOR A BABY CARRIER
The five points (1. wash first, 2. check first, 3. suitable detergent, 4. check the tag, 5. no direct sunlight) named in the beginning of this article are, somewhat modified, applicable to the maintenance of most of the baby carriers, too.
However, right in the beginning, sticking to the point nr. 1 is usually not necessary. You need to realize that the manufacturers make the carriers out of the fabrics that are already washed and shrunk and it does not matter if they use “ordinary” fabric or a woven wrap. And after the carrier is sewn it should be washed again to shrink the sewing threads – hence, all the washing should be the manufacturers responsibility (and if not, they should specify it clearly in the instructions). In case of mass-produced carries such as Tula, Manduca, Ergobaby, Kokon etc. in which you can assume on longer storing it is necessary to treat them against pests, mechanical damage or fading of colours (but as all the products for children the substances used must meet the norms and the carriers should be “ready to wear” anyway), washing them first is advisable but not necessary before you try the carrier on for the first time. As to the small scale manufacturer, I would not personally wash the carrier at all – any washing, same as in wraps, makes the carrier less durable.
The second point, “check first”, applies on carriers, too, of course, without exceptions – before you put the carrier on for the first time (or before you decide to wash it before wearing it), check it carefully – all the stitches, gaping threads, potential pulls and torn threads, also check all the buckles if they hold fastened properly and if the straps and thread for the regulation of the back panel and should straps work as they should.
The third point about the suitable detergent applies to the carriers, too. However, most carriers are made of pure cotton (or some other more or less easy-care fabrics with linen or hemp) so in their case you do not need to be as cautious as in case of wraps.
I need to mention something about the properties a suitable wrap for a conversion carrier should have – what is an ideal “conversion wrap”? A high-weight all-cotton wrap with dense weave. Why? Because the wrap converted into a carrier must endure even more than a wrap itself – not only that it can wear out in the most exposed places but that on a relatively small surface, mainly in the sutures, it is under very big stress and tension. Another aspect, similarly important one but not everyone realizes it, is the maintenance of the carrier. “High-weight” means ideally over 280 gsm – of course, there are carriers made of thinner wraps and the carriers are very soft but they are not that durable as carriers made of thicker wraps, of course. “Thick dense weave” – this is easily explainable, too – the carrier should be durable and a wrap that is prone to pulls in the first place is not suitable to be converted to a carrier. Repairing the pulls and torn threads on a carrier is not easy at all, not talking about the fact that it is not easy to sew a carrier from a fluffy wrap with loose weave (in some places you need to sew through 8 layers of the wrap!).
And why all-cotton? Because cotton endures “everything”, its maintenance is easy and generally speaking is the easiest material to sew. Blends that can be used without much problems for a wrap conversion are the polyester and viscose threads (in wraps you can usually find them under the names like Repreve, which is recycled polyester, or Tencel, which is a type of viscose) and lurex. With some hesitation also linen and hemp can be used – but why hesitate? These are quite usual “wrap converstion” blends, right? Because the linen and hemp threads tend to break in the exposed places and also in case of the smooth and slippery kind of linen the weave can loosen in the sutures (which I have personally seen several times in carriers made by renowned manufacturers).
As to the animal blends, i.e. wool and silk, some small scale manufacturers refuse or at least hesitate to make wrap conversions out of these wraps (or they do not give you guaranty for damage of the wrap). Firstly, sewing a carrier from such materials is uneasy – it slides, twists, does not hold its shape; moreover because of the constant tension the weave can get loose in the sutures (similarly to what I mentioned in case of the linen wraps). The second reason is the maintenance of such a carrier – if you want to wash a wrap conversion made of a woolen or silk wrap, you usually need to hand wash it and in any case, it cannost be spin dried. Therefore it will dry for a very several days (remember, there are 8 layers of the wrap in some places) which is not good for the animal threads at all, being damp for such a long time and will probably smell unpleasantly. Bottom line, even if the manufacturer is willing to make you a wrap conversion out of a beautiful, but “unsuitable” wrap, consider it carefully if it is something you really want.
Thread shifts in the weave of a woven wrap with linen on the shoulder straps of a carrier.
Point nr. 3, “check the tag”, applies to carriers, too, of course. Most carriers can be machine washed in 30°C water at a “delicates” program and spin dried (preferably low spins). Before you put your carrier into the washing machine, buckle up all the buckles and put a tight sock at least on the biggest one on the waist belt – you will prevent them from being damaged in the drum of the washing machine. It is not advisable to put the carrier into a pillow case although some manufacturers recommend it. The reason is clear – the carrier cannot be washed properly because the pillow case will hold in the dirt. If you want to protect your carrier anyway, use a big enough laundry mesh bag.
I already mentioned the problem with drying of a carrier. Because of the number of layers that need to dry plus all the padding, it is advisable to considerately speed up the drying somehow – by putting the carrier close to a heater (but not directly on it!), on the floor heating or (ideally) using an air dehumidifier. Same as any wrap, do not dry your carrier in direct sunlight!
Same as any wrap, you should leave your carrier “breathe” and dry after every wearing (mainly the waist belt that is usually the place you sweat through the most) before folding it. As to its storing, follow the rules for the wraps, too – no direct sunlight, in a cloth bag, securing it against the clothes-moths.
One quite important this – how to fold a carrier? Unbuckle the shoulder straps (if possible), fold them on the upper part of the back panel and roll the back panel down to the waist belt – then buckle up the waist belt around the “roll” made out of the shoulder straps and the back panel. What needs to be stressed out – do not ever fold a hard waist belt! In case the carrier with such a waist belt is not worn, prevent unnecessary bending of the waist belt anytime. Otherwise the waist belt could get damaged and the carrier would be unusable.
The last remark in the end – some babywearing beginners could be mislead into thinking that a second hand carrier is better because it is “broken-in”. Yes, some carriers made of thick cloth (for example Manduca) or extremely thick woven wraps can become softer and more pliable with some wearing and it could fit your wearie a bit better, but generally speaking, in contrast to wraps, carriers do not gain better properties with wearing – in reality, they are not “broken-in” but just “worn”.
Folding a carrier step by step: 1. put the carrier on the floor facing down, 2. unbuckle the shoulder straps, 3. fold the shoulder straps over the upper part of the back panel, 4.-5. roll the shoulder straps into the back panel, 6. buckle the waist belt up around the rolled shoulder straps and back panel, 7. folded carrier (Madame GooGoo Standard).
I could not write this article without information I gained over time thanks to experienced babywearers from several Facebook babywearing groups – mainly Moderní nosičky (i.e. Modern Babywearers) and Nosíme děti (i.e. We Wear Our Children). Hereby I want to thank all of them for giving me advice and guiding me through my first months and years of babywearing!