Whether it’s sticky from spilled juice or stinky from a diaper explosion, a dirty car seat is every parent’s nightmare. Here are 6 easy tips for cleaning your child’s car seat, as well as a look at what you can do to prevent a mess in the first place.
1. Don’t procrastinate.
Dry messes like cracker crumbs aren’t urgent, but wet messes should be addressed promptly—ideally before the mess dries. Promptly remove the car seat from your vehicle, and then take off the cover, straps, and buckles. It’s smart to keep a car seat cleaning kit stored in your car’s trunk for these kinds of occasions.
2. Read the manual for cover-washing guidelines.
Use baby wipes or a damp rag to remove as much loose material as possible from the car seat cover, then check the car seat manual for detailed laundering instructions. Most seats with removable cotton or synthetic covers can be washed in cool water on a gentle cycle, but your specific seat may need different care. After washing, flatten the cover and let it air dry.
3. Tackle smells with time in the sun.
If the car seat cover has an odor even after washing, place it outside in the sun for a few hours. To hurry the deodorizing process along, you can also lightly spray the cover with a homemade deodorizing spray made of 10 drops of tea tree oil, 10 drops of lavender essential oil, and 16 ounces of water.
4. Use a gentle soap to clean the harness and straps.
Never attempt to clean the car seat harness or straps in a washing machine, as this could damage them and reduce their effectiveness. Instead, dip a rag or soft cleaning brush into a bowl of cool water and baby-friendly detergent, and start gently scrubbing in small circles at the top of the harness, working your way down. Try not to soak the harness or straps; dampen them just enough to remove stains and loosen particles. Let the harness and straps air dry.
5. Wash buckles in tap water.
Dirty buckles don’t just look bad. They can also become safety hazards if crumbs or sticky spills keep them from latching properly. Before cleaning dirty car seat buckles, check your manual’s restrictions. If the care instructions allow, place the buckles in a cup full of warm water, taking care to keep any connected harness or straps out of the water. Gently shake the cup to help dislodge any food or other items trapped in the buckles. Remove the buckles immediately and let them air dry.
6. If all else fails, buy a replacement.
You want your child to be as comfortable as possible in their car seat, and that means it should be clean and odor-free. If the car seat can’t be cleaned safely, or if odors remain despite your best efforts, consider buying a new car seat or purchasing replacement parts. Most major car seat companies sell car replacement seat covers and harnesses. Never buy a car seat or replacement parts secondhand.
Preventing Future Car Seat Disasters
Let’s be honest; keeping a child’s car seat clean is nearly impossible. But there are a few things you can do to help minimize the mess and avoid potential catastrophes.
- Use a seat protector: Easy to clean and durable, seat protectors are a must-have accessory for any vehicle that transports kids.
- Keep a small trash bin in the back seat: A mini trash can is a lifesaver when it comes to keeping your kid’s car seat—and your car—clean.
- Stock up on baby wipes: Keep a few packs of baby wipes stored within your child’s reach and encourage their use.
- Buy multipurpose sickness bags: Purchase a pack of multipurpose sickness bags — they’re leakproof and odorless.
- Use snack containers instead of plastic bags: Help prevent snack spills by putting goodies in travel-friendly snack containers that are suitable for their age and development level.
Do you have a tip or trick for keeping your child’s car seat spotless? If so, share in the comments!
Featured photo credit: Child Car Seats via childcarseats.com.au