It is essential to keep your baby’s car seat clean to ensure their safety and health. Car seats tend to accumulate spills, food, crumbs, dirt, germs, and stains if not cleaned regularly. However, you don’t need expensive tools or products to keep your car seat clean. This guide will provide you with detailed instructions on how to properly clean both fabric and non-fabric parts of infant, convertible, and booster car seats.
What You Need to Clean a Baby Car Seat
Before getting started, gather the following suggested supplies:
- Mild dish soap or gentle baby body wash – Look for plant-based, non-toxic brands like Seventh Generation, Charlie’s Soap, or Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented Pure Castile Bar Soap. Avoid antibacterial chemicals.
- Handheld vacuum – A vacuum designed for automotive detailing with a brush and crevice tool will effectively remove loose dirt. Or try a Black & Decker Dustbuster designed for small liquid spills.
- Spray bottles – One for water and one for mixing cleaning solution. Look for BPA-free empty reusable bottles.
- Washcloths and microfiber towels – Have lots of clean cloths and super absorbent microfiber towels on hand to scrub the seat and wipe away residue.
- Soft-bristle toothbrushes – Great for gently scrubbing in crevices. New or gently used brushes are recommended.
- Isopropyl alcohol – Helps dissolve stain residue on buckle cracks a damp cloth can’t reach.
- Cotton swabs – Swab hard-to-reach crevices with alcohol and lift trapped gunk.
- Baking soda – Mix with water to make a paste for gently scrubbing plastic shell stains.
- Sensitive skin laundry detergent – If the seat cover is machine washable, use an allergen-free natural detergent.
- 5-gallon bucket – Useful for dunk washing covers by hand.
- Drying rack – Find a space indoors or outdoors protected from dirt and dust to air dry all car seat components thoroughly after deep cleaning.
Optional Specialty Cleaners
- Upholstery cleaner – Water-based formulas safe for baby gear fabrics.
- Car seat-specific foam cleaner – Purpose-made cleaners for car seat fabric and straps.
- Automotive interior detailer – Interior car cleaners lift stains off plastic shells.
- Baby gear disinfectant wipes – Kill germs on frequently touched areas.
Safety Checks Before You Start Cleaning
Take a few quick safety precautions:
- Check Expiration Date: Cleaning won’t renew an expired seat’s safety, so check the label or manual for the expiration date before scrubbing away stains on old chairs.
- Review Instruction Manual: Study the car seat manufacturer’s cleaning instructions before mixing any cleaning solutions or scrubbing. This will tell you if covers are machine washable and what products are safe to use.
- Inspect for Damage: Give all seat parts a visual inspection as you clean. Look for cracks in plastic, torn fabric, frayed straps, or damaged buckles that need replacement—document concerning areas with photos. You may need to discontinue the use of overly worn seats.
- Assemble Cleaning Supplies: Make sure all products are non-toxic and approved explicitly for use on baby items. Read ingredient lists to avoid harsh chemicals. Have paper towels handy for wiping away residue.
- Choose a Good Location: Clean the car seat in a roomy location for laying out parts to dry thoroughly after deep cleaning sessions. Near an outlet is also helpful for plugging in the vacuum and accessories.
Tips for Regular Car Seat Cleaning
Implementing consistent light cleaning as soon as stains occur will limit build-up requiring heavy-duty scrubbing.
- Do Quick Spot Checks: Periodically run your hand along the crevices of the seat to brush out accumulated cracker crumbs, dried juice drips, and dropped snacks.
- Vacuum Regularly: Use the brush or upholstery attachment on your handheld vacuum 2-3 times per month to keep the seat surface and crevices free of everyday dirt and debris.
- Spot Scrub Stains: Immediately tend to wet stains by blotting up excess liquid, then using a damp cloth with a dime-sized drop of gentle soap and warm water to surround the stained area. Scrub gently outward from the center until the stain lifts. Rinse with clean water and pat dry with a clean towel.
- Sanitize with Wipes: Keep a travel pack of baby-safe sanitizing wipes explicitly designed for baby gear in your car door’s side storage. Give soft plastic areas like buckles and harness pieces a wipe down every 1-2 weeks to kill lingering germs between deep cleans.
- Check Before Each Drive: Do a quick safety check of all straps, buckles, and harness parts, looking for trapped particles, sticky spots, and other sources of discomfort against your child that might have accumulated since the last ride.
How to Deep Clean Baby Car Seat Sections
For more stubborn messes that require extensive scrubbing, break down cleaning by car seat section using the methods below:
a. Seat Fabric Covers
Tackle the soft goods of your baby gear first. Car seat fabric covers tend to attract the most stains from leaky diapers, dropped snacks, car sickness, and more. Consider these options for thorough cover cleaning.
Machine Wash Removable Covers
If possible, based on your car seat model, unzip the outer fabric cover and remove it from the plastic shell to machine wash.
What to Wash Covers With:
- Cool or lukewarm water
- Allergen-free sensitive baby laundry detergent
- Extra rinse cycle
- No bleach
- Gentle or delicate cycle
How to Dry Covers:
It’s critical that covers are completely dry before being reattached to the car seat base. Thoroughly air-drying on a rack is best. Do NOT put back on the seat base while damp.
Hand Wash Fixed Covers
Not all car seats allow complete removal of the padded cover attached to the plastic shell. For fixed covers:
- Two buckets for washing and rinsing
- Mild liquid soap
- Terry cloth rags
- Soft bristle scrub brush
- Fill one bucket with lukewarm water and a small amount of gentle soap
- Fully submerge the cover section
- Agitate stained regions with a cloth rag or scrub brush
- Empty dirty water and rinse cover thoroughly in the second bucket
- Drain dirty water and repeat rinse until residue-free
- Lay cap flat to air dry indefinitely before reinstalling
No matter if the cover is removed or fixed, passed through the washer, or hand scrubbed, follow up with a vacuum session before putting it back on the seat frame.
Why Vacuuming Matters:
The vacuum brush will lift and extract the debris stirred up deep in the fabric during the wet cleaning process for a fully refreshed cover ready for your baby’s delicate skin.
b. Seat Strap Harness System
The network of straps securing your baby in the car seat often conceals an abundance of problematic stuck-on substances requiring some finesse to remove.
Target Trouble Zones:
Food bits and dried liquids tend to get trapped in strap crevices, the underside of chest clips, tongues, and inside harness adjustment pieces.
Cleaning Method Steps:
- Fill a bucket with warm water and a teaspoon of sensitive skin baby wash
- Separate straps from seat anchors
- Submerge strap entirety in wash solution
- Use a soft bristle brush to gently agitate the strap length for 1-2 minutes, covering all sides
- Rinse thoroughly under warm running water
- Insert crevice tool of vacuum to extract excess moisture
- Air dry completely for up to 2 days before reinstalling
c. Plastic Components
Don’t overlook all the non-fabric sections of your baby seat needing cleaning attention, including the plastic shell casing, buckles, adjusting clips, and moving parts.
Target Tricky Locations:
The nooks of buckles, beneath adjusting buttons and around swiveling pieces, catch dirt over time. Scuff marks also develop on smooth plastic from shoes rubbing against the shell.
Stubborn Stain Scrub Paste Recipe:
For built-up grime deposits, try this effective abrasive paste:
- Sprinkle baking soda directly on the soiled region
- Mix a few drops of water into powder to form a thick scrub paste
- Applying paste to stains with an old toothbrush
- Let the paste sit for 3-5 minutes
- Wipe clean with a damp, lint-free rag
- Repeat as needed until the staining lifts
Disinfecting Regimen: Since plastic house moving parts are frequently touched by parents and children, routinely disinfect with:
- Spray isopropyl alcohol generously on the mark
- Let the solution soak for 2 minutes
- Flip components upside down to air dry for at least one full day before handling
Deep Clean the Entire Seat
If tackling a complete car seat overhaul, follow this expanded sequencing:
- Clear away loose debris with a vacuum
- Mix warm water and soap to scrub fabric cover stains
- Use detail brushes and cotton swabs dipped in alcohol to lift grime from plastic crevices and hardware
- Remove the fabric cover for thorough machine washing or hand washing if fixed
- Scrub baking soda paste on stuck-on stains on bare plastic shell
- Vacuum base and recesses again now exposed without cushions
- Thoroughly rinse and dry components, then carefully reassemble
Following these best practices for compartmentalized cleaning while also integrating basic maintenance washes into your routine helps preserve safety and cleanliness.
Extra Cleaning Jobs
In addition to routinely cleaning the baby seat itself, extending your cleaning efforts to other soiled items in the car’s cabin makes rides more pleasant.
Detail Car Interior
Give your backseat upholstery, door liners, seat belts, and floor mats some attention each season using an automotive interior detailing spray cleaner and microfiber cloths to remove embedded dirt and odors from inevitable leaks.
Wash Car Seat Toys
Like play items at home, plush toys hanging from car seat handles also require regular cleaning maintenance. Check toy tags for washing instructions and replace items showing excessive wear.
Clean Travel Gear
Don’t forget the extra travel gear accompanying you and your baby on drives, including diaper bags, stroller baskets, portable highchair components, and other cargo carriers. Periodically scrub these down thoroughly with fragrance-free soap along with some sunlight to disinfect and freshen naturally.
Hiring Car Seat Cleaning Help
If, even after reading this extensive cleaning guide, your car seat requires more help than you can give it yourself, seek professional assistance. Some baby specialty cleaning franchises offer car seat cleaning among their offerings, often with eco-friendly plant-based solutions. They may also provide advanced drying systems to ensure complete moisture removal before returning the seat to you.
Adding Car Seat Cleaning to Your Routine
While it might seem overwhelming at first, adding brief car seat cleaning steps into your regular lifestyle habits will ensure this critical baby gear stays fresh. A few extra minutes tending to messes during weekly vehicle cleanups, monthly laundry days, and seasonal deep cleans all help preserve safety and cleanliness long-term. Print or save this handy guide for any time your car seat needs to be refreshed.
Keeping your baby’s car seat clean should be an essential part of your childcare routine. While it may seem like a daunting task at first glance, breaking the process down into manageable steps makes it approachable. This comprehensive guide has outlined effective cleaning methods for all areas of the car seat, along with safety best practices. Implementing regular light cleaning when messes occur, periodic deep cleaning sessions, and washing all car interior fabrics will keep your baby’s environment fresh.
You might even consider integrating car seat cleaning with seasonal deep cleans of your home for accessible habit-building. With the proper supplies and these step-by-step instructions, you can keep your baby’s car seat scrupulously clean for safer, healthier, and more comfortable travels. Applying newfound cleaning know-how consistently over time will help preserve the integrity and longevity of this vital baby gear investment.
As you delve into the world of car seat cleaning, ensure you’re equipped with knowledge on not just baby car seats but also general car seat care. Explore our comprehensive guide on ‘How to Clean a Car Seat‘ for a holistic understanding, from harness straps to dealing with tough stains. Whether it’s your baby’s seat or the family car, maintaining cleanliness is key to safety and hygiene. So, let’s navigate through the intricacies of car seat cleaning together!