How *NOT* to Clean Your Car Seat

Kids can be pretty gross!  There are times when being a parent feels like you’re living in a frat house.–Your roommates wake you up at all hours of the night, often by screaming; they lack the ability to make sound decisions and they barf in the most inconvenient places you can imagine, often without any warning at all.  It’s no wonder with all the puke (and let’s not forget poop!) that you often feel as though a hazmat suit would be real handy to have around.  But instead, we’re lucky if we have a pair of dish gloves handy.

As luck would have it, sometimes the inconvenient place where something explodes is in their car seat.  GROSS!  That’s obviously something that’s gotta be cleaned up!

So quick!  What do you do?!   Your inner-Clean Freak is screaming for you to kill all the germs!  Sanitize the seat!  Make it sparkly clean again!  But with what?

Bleach on seat
Stain Remover?! Bleach? NO!!!
Good ol' reliable Baking Soda paste?! NO!!!
Good ol’ reliable Baking Soda paste?!
NO!!!
Oooh! Vinegar! That's gentle, right? NO!!!
Oooh! Vinegar! That’s gentle, right?
NO!!!
Flame torch?! What?! ARE YOU CRAZY?!
Flame torch?
What?! ARE YOU CRAZY?!

No.  And in case we weren’t clear–N-O.  No!  You may not use ANY of these methods to clean the harness of your car seat.  They may work wonders on your counter tops, laundry or garage, but this is a life-saving device we’re talking about here!  It needs to be treated with care!  Why, you ask?  Because all of these things can cause irreparable damage to your harness (the same goes for your seat belts, by the way!).

No bueno
No bueno

Car seat harness webbing and seat belts are typically made out of nylon or polyester.  These materials aren’t as indestructible as you might think.  All of these products (along with tea tree oil and other essential oils, harsh soaps or detergents, Lysol,  Fabreeze, the washing machine, garden hose, steam cleaner, pressure washer and many other products) can cause warping and/or deterioration of the webbing and/or overall integrity of the car seat.  The damage can be so bad (even though it will likely not be visible) that the car seat could fail to protect your child in a crash.

Now before your inner-Clean Freak totally loses it, take a deep breath.  There ARE safe and effective ways to clean a car seat.

Yes, folks. It's just that simple. Baby wipes &/or a small amount mild dish soap on a damp (not soaking wet!) sponge or washcloth are safe to use on a harness or seat belt.
Yes, folks. It’s just that simple.
Baby wipes &/or a small amount mild soap on a damp (not soaking wet!) sponge or washcloth are safe to use on a harness, car seat shell or seat belt.
A small amount of mild soap on a damp sponge/washcloth is approved by most manufacturers.
A small amount of mild soap (such as original blue Dawn or baby shampoo) on a damp sponge/washcloth is approved by most manufacturers.
Baby wipes are also safe to use according to most manufacturers. (We find that H*ggies or P*ampers usually work well.)
Baby wipes are also safe to use according to most manufacturers. (We find that Huggies or Pampers usually work well.)

And of course, there’s always Mother Nature’s incredibly safe and effective bacteria-killer…

The sun! Yes! The sun. Seriously. Try it.
The sun!
Yes! The sun. Seriously. Try it.

Now what if you’ve already soaked your harness in bleach or ran it through the washing machine?  Well, we’d advise you to stop using the seat immediately and contact your car seat’s manufacturer.  They may be able to send you a replacement harness.  Unfortunately, not all harnesses are replaceable, so we regret to inform you that these are mistakes which may end up costing you a new seat.  (Incidentally, this is another reason why we strongly discourage people from using a rented, borrowed or used car seat.)

Should you need a new seat and you think you’ve come up with the brilliant solution of preventing messes and stains before they even happen by using a stain-preventing spray such as Scotchguard…

You guessed it. NO!!! These are highly flammable and corrosive. You don't want it anywhere near your car seat.
You guessed it. NO!!!
These are highly flammable and corrosive. You don’t want them anywhere near your car seat.

Above all else, we can’t stress this enough.–Check your manual!  If you lost it or tossed it, download a new one or contact the manufacturer and ask for specific cleaning instructions!  A good rule-of-thumb though, is that if it’s not something that you’d clean your own child’s face with, you probably shouldn’t be cleaning their car seat with it either.

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Published by SuperCarSeatGeek

I am a Pennsylvania-based, nationally-certified Child Passenger Safety Technician who is passionate about improving child passenger safety, and lowering associated injuries and deaths. I have been certified since 2011 and have additional training in the safe transportation of children with special health care needs.

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