When you imagine becoming a parent, did you imagine dealing with so much poop, pee, and vomit? I mean, everyone knows there is going to be a little bit of gross bodily fluids... but the actual amount? It's kind of surprising. If your child's car seat has become the scene of the latest crime, don't worry — there are a few ways to get it looking brand new by knowing how to properly clean your baby's car seat. You know, so we can all pretend that blowout never happened. Hopefully by now you've developed a nice, strong stomach.
Most parents have experienced that fleeting moment of terror when you hear ominous sounds coming from the backseat. What end did that last sound even come from? Do I even want to look back there? In an ideal world, these messes are totally self-contained. In a convenient world, these messes only occur on your way home. Of course, the crazy world of parenting is rarely ideal, and only sometimes convenient. No matter how tragic the backseat of your car looks like right now, I promise you'll laugh about it one day. Maybe not right away... but eventually. In the mean time, get cleaning.
1. Consult The Car Seat's Manual
It is impossible to write a step-by-step guide that will apply to each and every brand of car seat, so your first step is to consult your specific car seat's manual. This manual should contain thorough and helpful instructions for cleaning your model. If you've misplaced your manual, you should be able to find the entire thing online with a quick Google search. The internet is a magical thing.
Because every car seat is different, this is the most important step. Improperly cleaning a car seat can render it unusable, or even worse, it could make the car seat dangerous. After you've consulted and followed the instructions in your specific manual, the following steps might be useful for getting your car seat super squeaky clean.
2. Remove The Car Seat & Gather Your Cleaning Supplies
You'll definitely want to take the car seat out of your car to clean it — no one wants to be hunched over in the backseat for this entire process. One it's out of your car, you'll want to gather everything you need to make it sparkle. For our tips, you'll need baby wipes, a bucket of water, gentle soap, clean rags, and whatever laundry detergent you use for baby's clothes.
It's important to remember that you shouldn't use any cleaning supplies on your child's car seat that you wouldn't want on their skin. In other words, make sure you're really using gentle soap, not bleach and abrasive chemicals.
3. Wipe Off Whatever You Can
Before you start getting into the nooks and crannies of the car seat, just focus on picking up any big, solid "debris." Use the baby wipes to give everything a thorough wipe down. You might be surprised by how much this helps, and how much easier it'll make the rest of your job.
4. Remove & Clean The Fabric Cover Of The Car Seat.
This is where your owner's manual will really come in handy, because the covers of car seats all come off a little different. Once you've gotten the cover detached, Moms Against Cooties suggests cleaning it this way: "Using a circular motion, rub a mild detergent into any noticeable spots or stains. Place the fabric cover in the washing machine. Wash it on delicate cycle with cold water and a mild detergent. Let the fabric cover air dry." It's important to wash it delicately and skip the dryer to ensure it doesn't shrink!
If your car seat doesn't have a removable cover, spot clean it with your detergent and water.
5. Scrub Down The Harness & Buckle
Now, it's time to clean the harness. The 501(c)(3) organization Car Seats for the Littles (CSTFL), an "education oriented organization, staffed by Child Passenger Safety Technicians," provides excellent instructions for this part of the process.
With your rags and bucket of water, give the entire harness a scrub down. If this is a messier job than water alone can handle, add your gentle soap. This is not a job for heavy duty cleaners like Clorox or Lysol, no matter how much you want to use them. CSFTL noted that abrasive cleaners and washing machines can ruin the webbing of your car seat's harness, making them less reliable and safe in an accident. But you'll hopefully be able to get the entire mess off the harness with a little bit of elbow grease. Plus, it'll smell much better.
Your manual will show you how to remove the car seat's buckle. Once you've got it off, CSTL says to, "Invert the buckle in a cup of tap water, keeping the webbing out of the water. Swishing it around will dislodge anything trapped in the mechanism."
6. Let Everything Air Dry & Re-Assemble
Put the car seat cover, harness, and buckle somewhere where it can all air dry. This will help get rid of any remaining odor, too. (Thank God.) Once everything is dry, re-assemble the car seat, and put it back in your car. Voila! Not only is your car seat (almost) good as new, but now you're a pro if and when another blowout occurs.