Water Carriers 101

It’s the stereotypical summer scene: lounging around at the pool or beach on a beautiful, carefree day. Add a baby/toddler/kid (or two), and suddenly this seems a little less idyllic, right? As with everything, there’s a baby carrier for that!

Why a water carrier?

Water carriers are baby carriers that are designed for use in or near the water. Why do you need a special carrier? Because regular carriers aren’t designed for use in water, wearing them wet can put extra stress on the carrier. Water carriers are made with materials that can better hold up to salt water or pool water. Also, a regular carrier can sag or stretch when wet in ways a water carrier won’t – so it’s safer for baby to be in a water carrier if you’re going to be splashing around. Water carriers also dry faster, since they’re made of quick-drying materials and use less padding.


Safety First

As with all babywearing, safety is very important. All of the same considerations that you would make for dry wearing should be made for water wearing – you want to make sure baby’s airway is clear and visible, that baby is in an ergonomic position, and that you and baby are both comfortable.

Also, the same as all babywearing, you don’t want to do anything while wearing that you wouldn’t do while holding baby in your arms. While water carriers are made to get wet, you don’t want to actually swim with them – wading and splash pads are perfect, but heading into deep water while wearing isn’t safe. A great rule of thumb is to stay no more than waist-deep in a pool and less deep than that in ocean waves. Remember, baby’s head will always be lower than yours so you need to be extra aware of where baby is in relation to the water.

We often rely on babywearing to corral multiple kids – wear the little one so we can attend to the older one – but when it comes to water wearing, you have to be incredibly cautious. If something happens with the older child, it’s easy to lose awareness of where baby is in relation to the water and accidently dunk them.


Picks from the Lending Library

So, how do you pick a water carrier? A good place to start is with which carriers you like on dry land. Whether you prefer a wrap, ring sling, meh dai, or buckle carrier, you can find a water-friendly version. Also, then, consider what you want to use it for. Mesh ring slings are a great, fast-drying option but aren’t ideal for carrying outside of water. A buckle carrier will provide more support for a carry on land as well as in the water.

In the lending library we have several to try out including the Connecta Solarweave and BityBean, which are both buckle carriers, a Water Onbuhimo by Cute Awaking, the Wrapsody Duo water wrap, and water-safe ring slings from Zanytoes and Comfy Joey.

Water Carrier Care

Water carriers need a little extra TLC to extend their life – salt and chemicals can be harsh on them. Once you’re done wearing, it’s best to rinse out the carrier in water and hang to dry. At the end of the season, wash according to the manufacturer’s directions before storing.

Cleaning Carriers: A How-to Guide

Kids are messy creatures and lots of daily life happens while wearing a baby carrier. It’s unavoidable that at some point you’ll end up having to wash a carrier. Knowing how to properly clean a carrier is important – incorrect care can damage the carrier or shorten it’s lifespan – but the process can also be intimidating. We’ve put together a guide to walk you through the process and make things as easy as possible.

Step 1: Decode your carrier’s care label

Most likely, your carrier will have a label with laundry symbols telling you exactly how the manufacturer suggests caring for it. The chart below translates what those symbols actually mean.

Laundry Symbols

If your carrier doesn’t have a label, check the manufacturer’s website for care instructions. If no wash information is available from the manufacturer, you use the chart below, put together by BWI of Kitsap Peninsula.


If your carrier is a blend of fabrics, wash according to the directions for the most delicate fiber.

Step 2: Pick the Right Detergent

Now that you know how to wash your carrier, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing it with the right detergent. It is recommended to use a liquid detergent free of optical brighteners and softeners. Wool and silk wraps require a special enzyme-free detergent for delicates.

Here is a list of recommended detergents for washing carriers:

  • All Free & Clear from Military Commissary ONLY (will have dog tags and say optical brightener free). All Free & Clear purchased elsewhere will contain optical brighteners and not be suitable for woven wraps.
  • Allens Naturally Laundry Detergent Liquid
  • Attitude
  • BabyGanics Loads of Love 3X*
  • Bio-Kleen Laundry Liquid
  • Bio-Vert
  • Charlie’s Soap Liquid
  • Citra Suds Liquid 2x
  • Country Save Liquid
  • Dapple Baby Liquid Detergent*
  • Eco-Max Liquid
  • Ecos Free & Clear
  • Ecover Liquid
  • Green Works*
  • Honest Company liquid detergent
  • Mountain Green
  • Mrs. Meyer’s detergents*
  • Planet
  • Seventh Generation*
  • Soap Nuts
  • Sport-Wash
  • Thirsties Super Wash*
  • Vaska
  • Wonderwash
  • Ecover Delicate
  • Eucalan
  • Kookaburra
  • Unicorn Fibre Wash

*contains enzymes– not recommended for washing silk or wool.

If you need to spot-clean a stain, try using:

  • Dish soap (some contain enzymes and can be harsh on fibers if using long term)
  • Buncha Farmers Stain Stick
  • Rubbing alcohol for ink stains
  • Hydrogen peroxide for organic stains
  • Sunlight

Step 3: Best Practice Tips & Tricks

Now that you know how to wash the carrier and what to wash it with, you’re ready to go – but a few more tips will make the washing process a little more gently on your carriers.

For Soft Structured/Buckle Carriers: Loosen all the webbing and clip all buckles. Remove any removable pieces like hoods or support belts. Place the carrier in a pillowcase or bag for delicates to wash to keep things from getting tangled or banging around too much.

For Mei Tais: Place the carrier in a pillowcase or bag for delicates to wash to keep things from getting tangled.

For Ring Slings: Unthread the carrier and use a pair of socks to slip over the rings to keep them from banging around.

This is how we recommend washing carriers – both your personal carriers and those from our lending libraries. If you have an additional questions about washing a lending library carrier, email us at centralnj@babywearinginternational.org.

Sources: Caring for Your Carriers by Babywearing International of Kitsap Peninsula, The Proper Care and Use of Baby Carriers by Babywearers of the Midlands, What’s the best way to wash my baby sling or baby carrier? by QuirkyBaby Blog