We’ve all been there. You’re riding in the car with baby and suddenly you hear or smell something not-so-mysterious. You are suddenly wondering which is worse – staying in the car, or dealing with whatever just happened back there. Kids are messy, and whether it’s bodily fluids, food, or milk, eventually your child’s car seat will need a good cleaning. It’s very important, however, that you are aware of the proper ways to clean it. Your child’s seat is truly an engineering marvel that is designed to save his or her life in case of an accident. Mishandling the important components of the car seat can damage their integrity and potentially cause injury during a crash. Always read the manual for your particular model, too. Here are some universal tips for safe ways to clean your child’s car seat:
The Basic Clean
Wipe up any large matter with a damp cloth – you might want to reconsider your kitchen sponge. Most new models now have removable cloth seat covers. If yours is removable, see the manufacturer’s suggestions on laundering. Typically, it involves a gentle wash cycle, being mindful to not use water warmer than 140°F. Crumbs and other questionable items will remain in every crack of the plastic base, so be sure to wipe or vacuum this area, as well.
The MUST Read
Dealing with the straps is where things get tricky. These tightly stitched seat belts are the cornerstone of the car seat’s safety. If wiping them off isn’t enough, you may very gently use a mild soap to remove any stains. You may be thinking… that seems obvious enough, but don’t go to the cleaning cabinet for the usual supplies.
When you think of a “mild soap,” brands that you would feel comfortable using on your baby should come to mind. Aside from the fact that these straps will be in close proximity to your child and for extended periods, chemicals (even natural ones!) can damage the fibers on a molecular level. I often use vinegar on food stains around the house. A few tablespoons in the laundry will remove that musty smell from towels, but the car seat is a huge exception. You should never use vinegar on your car seat, as it could ruin the straps. Peroxide, bleach, and salt are also substances that should never come in contact with the car seat straps.
Do not scrub the straps, either. If the mess is so far gone that wiping will not suffice, contact the seat manufacturer. You may be able to purchase replacement straps, without the expense of a whole new seat. If the fibers ever look frayed or unwoven, it is definitely time for new ones. Some companies will even send you new straps for free!
Seat belts should never be completely submerged in water and should NEVER be put in the dryer. The fibers are designed to stretch and then compress during a crash to help the body slow down more gently. If they are wetted and dried improperly, this elasticity could be reduced if you were to ever need it.
Fresh air is a great fix for lingering odors. A day out on the deck might be the extra help you need, without compromising your car seat’s safety. When everything is dry and fresh, reassemble it and get your baby out and about for more fun!
Allot Some Time
If you have a particularly messy situation on your hands, know that it might take awhile to clean. Before you get the car seat road ready again, all the parts need to be re-assembled and completely dry to ensure they are safe and comfortable for your baby. In such situations, consider having a spare car seat that you can use and safely install in your vehicle while your other is temporarily out of commission.
Keep Your Priorities
You looked at what felt like 100 different car seat models and read all the user reviews, product specifications, and safety ratings to ensure that you bought the best, safest, the most comfortable car seat for your baby. Don’t be hasty when it comes to cleaning it.
What do you think, mamas? Any other car seat cleaning tips?