How To Clean a Car Seat Like a Pro

If you have ever seen a child’s car seat, then you are not surprised at the interesting things you can find stuck in the crevices. Most of them are unidentifiable food and toy pieces here and there. Cleaning a child’s seat is undoubtedly frustrating as you reach into tiny crevices where your hands don’t fit. But if you have the right game plan, then it can be a relatively painless job. 

We’ve come up with the right tricks and tips to ensure you get the job done and clean the car seat. Leaving it a mess leads to two problems. A dirty child that needs to get cleaned eventually and even more of a mess in the car seat. Not delaying the problem comes with great rewards.

How To Clean A Car Seat

Learning to clean a car seat is not as simple as wiping it down because different messes call for different methods. You aren’t going to approach cleaning vomit off the fabric the same way you are going to take toys out of the cupholders. 

That’s why we have divided this piece into sections that directly address your problem. Let’s start with the tough ones.

How To Clean Pee From Car Seat

How Often to Clean the Baby’s Car Seat

Before getting into the specific scenarios you may encounter, it’s worth knowing how often you need to be cleaning your car seat. Note that any mess needs to be cleaned up as soon as possible. We will stress that it decreases your chances of future issues. 

Regular cleaning and maintenance, such as wipe-downs, should be done about once a week.  A lot can happen in a single sitting, so it’s worth doing a quick check every day to make sure no major messes have occurred. 

Deep cleans don’t need to be done weekly as long as you aren’t having major messes. If the seat is relatively clean, you can do a deep clean and wipe it down every 10 days to two weeks. Even if the seat looks clean, you still need to do a deep clean to eliminate bacteria build-up. 

How Often to Clean the Baby’s Car Seat

How To Clean Pee From Car Seat

The younger your kiddo is, the more likely you will deal with the occasional accident in the car seat. The good news is that cleaning pee from the car seat may be one of the easiest clean-ups compared to sticky food residue.

Note: This applies to cloth fabric child seats. Leather and suede will need special cleaners as the materials listed below can ruin suede and leather. 

What You Need:

  • Absorbent paper towels or rags
  • Baking soda
  • Mild dish soap
  • Vinegar
  • Cleaning gloves
  • Bowl

We recommend using homemade remedies to avoid any harsh chemicals or toxins getting left behind on the fabric. Since this comes into direct contact with your baby’s skin, natural products are better. 

Step-By-Step Cleaning

  1. The first thing you need to do is blot the mess. Put your cleaning gloves on and use absorbent paper towels that you can throw into a trash bag. If you want to be eco-friendly, you can use a rag or cloth and simply throw it into the washing machine after being rung out. 
  2. The blotting takes some time, so while you are doing this, it doesn’t hurt to open the windows and let the seat air out if you are keeping it in your car. Removing it is the best way to get the smell out. The seat should be damp at most, and no paper towel or cloth should be required to get soaked after blotting. 
  3. Mix together 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, 2 cups of warm water, and a tablespoon of dish soap in a bowl. Once the solution is mixed, grab a clean rag or microfiber cloth that does not shed and soak the rag in the solution. 
  4. You can also use a spray bottle directly on the surface, but with whichever method, scrub the affected area with the solution. If you see that there is leftover residue, you may need an additional rag that is lightly dampened to wipe away residue. 
  5. Let the car seat dry for a bit (recommended outside in the sun and wind) and apply a pinch of baking soda to the area to get rid of any lingering smell. 

Keep in mind that urine sets in fast and that delaying getting the mess up can keep the smell lingering for longer than you want. Getting to it ASAP is the best approach. It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to clean up. 

How To Clean Vomit From Car Seat

It’s worth giving vomit its own section because its after care is slightly different. Having said that, we don’t have to treat the two all that differently. We don’t need to get extensive into detail like the last section. All the steps used to clean up urine should be repeated for vomit.

Here is the difference. 

  1. Vomit is a little thicker than urine, so you will want to spend more time scrubbing and making sure that you get up the entire mess. 
  2. You will need to make sure you do a deep clean to see if the vomit goes into the nooks and crannies. You can use a spray solution that has antibacterial properties to wipe down this section. 
  3. For areas you can’t quite see, you may need to use a vacuum that works well with wet surfaces to ensure there is nothing hiding. 
  4. Use more baking soda for the smell. 
How to Clean Car Seat Straps

How to Clean Car Seat Straps

Since the car straps are likely to be hit with vomit or, at the very least, touched with sticky hands, it’s worth spending some time on this section and getting a good clean. You can also apply this section to clean the shell of your car seat as well as the buckles. 

What You Need:

  • Gentle dish soap or baby shampoo
  • A microfiber cloth or rag 
  • Warm water

You may be surprised to see such a short list, but most people make the mistake of using harsh and abrasive chemicals on the outer shell, straps, or buckles. You don’t want to use anything abrasive (including white vinegar) for this part because it can damage the child’s seat. This can impair its natural safety function, so at most, it’s a simple wipe-down with safe products. 

That’s why we recommend combining some water with a gentle dish soap that doesn’t have antibacterial properties or the best option for baby-safe shampoo. Simply rinse down with a cloth for the outer shell to scrub any tough areas. Wipe down the straps a number of times, and you can even get into the buckle areas that may have a sticky residue. It’s important not to get too much water into the buck to avoid rusting.

How to Clean a Baby Car Seat Filled With Food

How to Clean a Baby Car Seat Filled With Food

The best way to approach this issue answers the same question as how to clean car seats at home. When there is a lot of food and sticky messes from a baby or a young child, you want to ensure you have the space to get the car seat out. If you are wondering how to fully clean a car seat, this is the way to go. 

What You Need

  • A microfiber cloth or rag 
  • Warm water
  • Gentle dish soap or baby shampoo
  • A vacuum
  • A bucket 
  • Gloves

Step-By-Step Cleaning

  1. Put on your gloves because the first step is removing anything you can by hand and putting it into the trash. Vacuums are great, but if you can avoid putting sticky or too big food in the vacuum, you risk clogging it less. 
  2. Dive deep into the nooks and crannies, pull any food you can out by hand, and throw it away. Run the vacuum for anything that doesn’t seem to get up. If you are encountering sticky substances early on, it’s worth doing the wipe down first, then the vacuum. 
  3. For sticky spots, dab your absorbent and non-shedding cloth or sponge into a solution mix of warm water and a few pumps of mild dish soap or baby shampoo. Scrub the cloth material and the plastic parts with this mix. If the mess isn’t coming up, you can use a slightly more abrasive bristle brush to tackle the problem. This should do the trick. 

This is the best way to clean a child’s car seat. You may need to alternate between using the vacuum and trying a more damp approach with a cloth. When people ask, “what is the best way to clean cloth car seats?” It’s important to know this is different from cleaning leather. Let’s take a look. 

Can car seats be washed?

Common Questions To Circle Back To

Learning how to clean different materials for car seats is certainly among some common questions. And sometimes, we all fall into the trap of wanting to throw everything into the wash. Let’s address some of these common concerns. 

How to clean leather car seats 

Leather and suede have to be treated entirely differently than cloth because water stains can be an issue for both of them. While having these materials may be a luxury, they aren’t entirely child-proof. When it comes to your leather seats, the first thing you should do to them is have a baby-safe protectant applied. That way, you reduce the risk of stains setting in. 

For leather, some people have recommended mixing ¼ cup of olive oil with ¼ cup of vinegar and gently rubbing the seat free of any stains or food. Suede, however, cannot take this same approach. For suede, you can use equal parts distilled water and alcohol and use a small damp amount on a microfiber cloth. Suede is among the trickiest to clean. 

Keep in mind that you want to wipe off any residue with a dry towel with both materials. Never use any abrasive solutions or even sponges or brushes. This can ruin the material, especially when it is wet. 

Can car seats be washed?

Car seats can be washed by hand with all of the guidance and instruction above. However, do not throw the entire car seat into the washing machine. Some advice on the internet is that floats around are to hose down the car seat. However, we don’t recommend that for one reason in particular. 

Car seats have a lot of padding and can be tough to dry. Using damp cloths reduces the risk of mildew or any bacteria growth if it doesn’t dry properly. Hosing the seat down also doesn’t necessarily get rid of the bacteria or mess. 

Can I Have My Baby’s Car Seat Professionally Cleaned?

Some cleaning companies that come to tidy your house may offer to clean things like your car and your baby’s car seat. It is worth checking with your cleaning company that they are using baby-safe products. It’s also important to ask for a price because some messes are tough to clean, and if they work by the hour, they may add up quickly. Some mums and dads just prefer to get the job done themselves. 

Remember that if you take your baby seat out of the car for the cleaners, avoid storing it in dusty areas like the garage. If you do put it in, make sure it sits in a clean area on top of a towel. 

how to clean a car seat

It May Be Time To Upgrade

If you are repeatedly asking yourself, “How do you clean a dirty cloth baby seat?” the mess just doesn’t seem to get fixed. It may be time to upgrade your car seat for the baby. While most messes can be cleaned up, some are just a lost cause. And repeated build-up can lead to skin irritations and rashes for your baby. At this point, you can upgrade the car seat. This doesn’t happen often but is recommended for the situation. 

The steps listed above for various situations put you in the best possible situation to clean up almost any mess your kid has. And remember, the faster you get to work, the better chances you have at cleaning the mess up. Most importantly, remember to check the seat when you take your child out of the car. This will help you keep track of how often you need to clean. 

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