Tips & Tricks for Spring-Cleaning Your Child’s Car Seat



Estimated Reading Time 3 Minutes

Spring has sprung, so—chances are—you’re airing out rooms, changing over wardrobes for the season, washing away the layers of winter dirt everywhere you see it. That last one may include your child’s car seat.

Car seats (eventually) get gross by nature. They just do. They are the final resting place for piles of Goldfish crackers, raisins and toddler puffs the world over. They take the brunt of leaky sippy cups. They fall victim to diaper explosions and episodes of car sickness (though you obviously can’t just wait until spring to deal with this last one).

But you can’t just toss a car seat into the washing machine, so how do you deal with your child’s disgusting ride? We’ve got the tips and tricks you need to make it…well, not like new but at least way less revolting.

First things first: Not all car seats are created the same, so while the tips that follow are relevant for many models, you should still check your seat’s manual for that specific brand do’s and don’ts. Also, car seat cleaning isn’t a quick task—it requires some degree of disassembly, as well as drying time, so schedule this job for a day when you won’t need the seat for at least half a day.

What you’ll need:

Warm water
Clean towel
Wash cloth
Mild soap
Vacuum
Air duster (like the canned air you might use to clean a computer keyboard)
Baking soda
Soft bristled brush

What to do:

1. Remove the car seat from the car. Once you’ve removed the car seat, flip it over and remove any debris from the bottom with a soft bristled brush.You can also use an air duster (like a keyboard cleaner) to remove crumbs from the nooks and crannies, like the centre buckle and where the straps are inserted.

2. Look for debris in the locking mechanisms. Clean these with water and a damp cloth only, and towel dry to prevent rust from forming. Do not use any bleach, harsh soaps, detergents, solvents or abrasive cleaners.

3. With the seat out, take the opportunity to vacuum the car’s upholstery where your child’s car seat was sitting. You’ll probably find lots of goodies under there! Note: If you notice a lot of debris and/or liquid where the seat usually rests, you can get a seat protector to place underneath your child’s car seat. Just make sure it’s made by the same company that makes your car seat, or that it’s specifically approved for use with your car seat.

4. Remove the cover from the shell, if you are unsure how to remove it, check your car seat manual for instructions. Hand wash or machine wash only in a front-loading machine or top loader with no agitator, using a mild soap or detergent. Do not use bleach or hot water to wash the cover. Line dry or air dry.

5. Dampen a soft cloth with warm water and mild soap; wring thoroughly so it is not dripping wet. Wipe the outer plastic shell of the seat clean and towel dry.

6. Harness straps should only be cleaned with a damp cloth. Do not saturate or soak the straps. (Note: Harness straps should never be run through the washing machine because the process can make them less effective. Strap material is made from fabric that is approved for its weave, give, etc. and vigorous washing can damage it. If your straps are so soiled that you can’t keep using them, contact your car seat manufacturer to order new ones.)

7. To remove odour from straps, make a solution using 4 tablespoons of baking soda and one quart of warm water. Dampen a cloth with the solution and wring so it is not dripping. Wipe the straps and allow to air dry. Repeat if necessary. Sunshine is also a major odour and bacteria killer, believe it or not, so plan this task for a nice, sunny day and let everything dry outside.

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