How to Wash Your Sakura Bloom Silk Ring Sling
Posted on March 16 2017
The Sakura Bloom manufacturer’s instructions for washing a silk ring sling can be found here: http://sakurabloom.com/pages/care.
For elaboration and the sake of science, I've described these steps with additional details based on my experience, to answer common questions.
BASIC HOW-TO WASH
Pull the fabric out through the rings until the rings are empty save the part stitched on.
If machine-washing, put a baby or toddler sock around the rings. If hand-washing, this is unnecessary. Choose a sock you don’t need. It’s possible a sling will bleed color when wet, especially dark or saturated colors.
Wash baby carriers by themselves. This protects both the carrier and other garments, from each other. They can tangle on each other and pull in the washing machine, creating undue strain on seams. They could bleed or otherwise affect each other. I’ve learned this the hard way, so trust me on this. Wash it alone.
COLD WATER WASH
This is a must for silk slings. Warm or hot water could cause shrinkage of the fabric, color loss / fading, and perhaps other terrible things such as zombies. Stick to cold water out of the tap.
Soak in cold water in a bowl, or launder gentle cycle in washing machine.
HANG TO DRY
Hang to dry indoors. Too much sun can fade silk slings, and is not recommended by the manufacturer.
If desired, tumble in dryer on NO NO NO heat, with a sock around the rings, and a handful of wool dryer balls to soften the fabric.
Iron (preferably steam iron) on silk setting, both sides of fabric. The sling will be wrinkled after washing. While you don’t have to iron it, it will look better, and help “set” the fabric after a wash. I detest ironing, and don’t iron anything except my baby carriers. The fabric seems to wear better when ironed after a wash.
DETAILS and FAQ
No detergent or soap is necessary unless you think it is (sick baby slobber, vomit, poo, food stains, the like). If detergent is desirable, choose a naturally-prepared LIQUID laundry detergent. Powder detergent can harm certain natural fibers, causing the fibers to deteriorate and tear. While we are discussing this, also use liquid detergent on linen Sakura Bloom slings. I have seen large rips in linen baby carriers (Sakura and others) from being washed a few times in powder detergent. The linen fibers literally disintegrate.
The liquid detergent should be free from bleaching agents, color brighteners, optical brighteners, softeners, fragrances, essential oils, and according to silk sling gurus, “enzymes.” I personally have had luck with Seventh Generation, Ecos, and my fav is the store-branded Whole Foods liquid detergent, which has less than ten ingredients and is primarily made from soap nuts (a nut which grows on a tree that creates soap when wet). Actual soap nuts are also safe for silk slings.
Avoid detergents like Dreft, Tide, Downy, All, and anything you wash cloth diapers with. Even if it’s “free and clear” there’s a chance it contains harsh chemicals that could discolor or damage the fiber strength of silk. Detergents designed for cloth diapers (such as Rockin’ Green) are powerful in many cases, and can damage silk/linen/hemp fibers.
I typically use vinegar in laundry as a fabric softener, and with baby carriers to help sanitize them. Since vinegar is an acid, and certain acids are used for dye-ing silk slings, I was curious how things would go. For the sake of science, I used a bit of vinegar (maybe a couple tablespoons) in the wash cycle with the silk sling. It seemed to dull the reflective properties of the sheen slightly, which washing in water only didn’t do.
Of all the stains mamas experience with babies, perhaps the most feared is the newborn poo blowout. Especially with a light-colored sling, this could seem like the end of the sling. Never fear. I have removed newborn poo from many a baby carrier, including one shown in this post. For this post, I scavenged (politely requested) a poopy diaper from my neighbor’s breastfed newborn to demonstrate with. Since the bright yellow poo didn’t show up on the deeply-colored silk, I did a side-by-side with a non-Sakura Bloom, pale-colored ring sling I have. My personal favorite stain remover for baby carriers is Fels-naptha bar soap. In my town it’s sold at Walmart, in the section with other laundry stain removers. I’ve heard many rave reviews of Buncha Farmers. The “Original Dawn” dish soap that is blue colored, has been tried and tested with many natural fibers of baby carriers, and is considered reliable and effective by the experience of the general babywearing community. Fels-naptha cost me $1 and has removed every stain from my baby carriers, including newborn poo, so I haven’t personally tried anything else.
For spot-treating the baby poo in these photos, I first smeared baby poo on the sling. You can skip this step. There was also blackberry jam on the sling from a prior incident. First step in cleaning the spots was rinsing with cold water. Next I rubbed a corner of the Fels-naptha soap into the spots until white and sudsy. I scrubbed lightly with my finger tips, rubbing the soap into the fabric and all around the stain. I rinsed with a little water, rubbed on more soap, scrubbed with my fingertips again. At least half the visible stain came off in this manner. There was also a noticeable yellow tint to the pale-colored fabric, from the Fels-naptha soap itself. Then I washed the sling in my washing machine as per above method. It emerged stain free.
If you’ve seen a secondhand Sakura Bloom for sale with the description “never washed”, you may have wondered, like me, “WHY???!!!” (I think “WHY?!” after I think “GROSS!”). Here’s some reasons why people might not wash silk slings:
- It’s possible for any fiber to shrink when washed. Silk slings may shrink slightly in width or length, when washed, especially the first time.
- It’s possible for silk fabric to “lose its sheen” or reduce the amount of shimmer and iridescence, or have a slight change in color hue.
- Washing can soften the fabric and make it more pliable. Some people prefer what they call the “crunch” of a new silk sling, that is stiff and grippy.
EXPERIMENTING FOR SCIENCE
Purple Elm Baby sent me a brand new Sakura Bloom silk sling to wash, for the sake of science and this post. Here was my method and my results:
First cold water wash, in a bowl, hang to dry, iron.
Smeared with newborn baby poo. Spot-treated with Fels-naptha soap. Laundered in my old-fashioned top-loading center-agitator washing machine, using a tiny bit of vinegar. No detergent used since it already had the vinegar and bit of Fels-naptha soap.
Tumbled in the dryer with NO heat and about twelve wool dryer balls. I’m not a personal fan of silk because it feels too stiff and too rough for my taste. I was trying to see how much and how quickly I could soften it, using the most effective “breaking in” method I’ve tried (tumbling no heat in dryer with a whole bunch of wool dryer balls).
Softened noticeably from brand new, but wasn’t what I would call “soft” based on my experience with a wide variety of baby carriers. Also not even remotely in the same category of soft as Sakura Bloom Theory brand new, or Sakura Bloom Chambray broken in. Also, the sling retained its odd silk smell, despite all this treatment. (Note that I have a highly sensitive sense of smell.)
Washing your Sakura Bloom silk ring sling should be simple, not threatening. If you are worried about washing a new sling due to “resale value” for the few people who prefer never-washed slings, I would personally recommend not to worry. Those people can buy a brand new sling. Most people don’t have that particular preference. Sakura Bloom ring slings hold their value relatively well, with a healthy market for washed (clean!) secondhand slings.
Hot water. Powder detergent. Chemically-based detergent. Vinegar. Bleach. Hot dryer. Stress.
Wash your sling when it needs it. Wear your baby. Love and be happy.
– Joy Crampton
Joy has been married for thirteen years, is a mother of two boys (ages five years and two years) and has been babywearing since her first son was a few days old. She is a professional photographer and blogger in San Antonio, Texas. You can read more of her writing on her babywearing review blog www.carefreecocoon.com
(photograph courtesy Melanie Swan)