how to clean baby car seats | Baby Journey

A Simple No-Frills Guide on How to Clean Baby Car Seat

All baby gear, including baby car seats, can get messy, so I am here to help you learn how to clean baby car seats in several simple steps. It doesn’t require too much effort, but the right technique and right products will save you time on seat maintenance.

If you have ever ridden your baby in a car seat, you know how quickly the car seat can turn into a messy disaster due to bread crumbs, juice stains, pukes, melted chocolate, etc.

But, before I guide you through the cleaning process, let’s see why regularly cleaning the car seat is important for your baby apart from cleaning baby stroller.

Why Do I Need to Clean My Baby’s Car Seat?

A car seat is one of the most important things related to the baby’s safety. Being part of the travel system also makes it the strongest magnet for dirt!

Piled up dirt on car seat parts and covers can irritate your baby’s skin, and lead to infections. Moreover, your child shouldn’t sit in the dirt, not even for several minutes.

Besides, when not cleaned regularly, the baby car seat can develop unpleasant smells, which will make all rides uncomfortable for your baby and you, and adds to the reason why baby hates car seat.

Fabric Car Seat vs. Leather Car Seat

A fabric car seat is softer and cooler but it can collect pet dander and dust more than a leather car seat. On the other hand, a leather car seat is durable and simpler to clean than a fabric car seat.

But, when it comes to leather baby car seats, you need to choose the cleaning products wisely, to prevent leather damage.

Fabric car seats allow you more scrubbing and harsher cleaning products. But you should clean a leather car seat with mild cleaning products suitable for leather or home-made vinegar-based solutions.

The drying process of the leather and fabric car seat is different as well. You should avoid placing the leather car seat in the direct sun for drying because the color may fade.

How to Clean A Baby Car Seat?

Now, let’s break the cleaning process into several steps. Before you start cleaning, I suggest you check the manual to look for cleaning instructions. For example, some manuals prohibit the use of aggressive detergents or disinfectants. Still, you can deep clean even the dirtiest car seats in less than an hour.

First of all, prepare the following things for cleaning:

  • Vacuum
  • A bucket with water
  • Cleaning rag, cloth, and toothbrush
  • Mild soap or home-cleaning solution
  • Screwdriver or toothpick
  • Cotton pads

First Up: Vacuuming!

You can start by vacuuming the car seat inside the car and vacuuming the backseat of your car. Once you have completed vacuuming, you can detach the car seat from the base and detach the base, turn it upside down to remove all the bread crumbs that might get stuck in it when feeding baby in car seat.

If you own a leather car seat, vacuuming is an important step. That way, you will remove the dirt and debris that might scratch the seat while you scrub.

Vacuuming the car seat and the seat in your car is the first step! -  How to clean baby car seats | Baby Journey
Vacuuming the car seat and the seat in your car is the first step!

Cleaning the Seat Parts Separately

The next thing you want to do is to clean every part of the seat individually. Baby car seat cleaning is simplest if you can wash it outside. But, if you live in an apartment, you can do it in the bathtub.

Place the car seat on a firm surface and start with the straps.

i) How to clean infant car seat straps?

Because the straps play an essential role in a potential crash, they need to be cleaned carefully. I suggest you use only water and a toothbrush to remove all the dirt that can pile up in the straps, nooks, and crannies.

You shouldn’t submerge the straps in the water if the manufacturer hasn’t listed it as a safe way to clean it. Because of it, make sure to clean the vomit and yuck as soon as it happens on straps.

Ultimately, if your straps are extremely dirty, you may contact the manufacturer to get new straps. - How to clean baby car seats | Baby Journey
Ultimately, if your straps are extremely dirty, you may contact the manufacturer to get new straps. Source:

ii) How to clean the crotch buckle?

The crotch buckle is the easiest part to clean. Use soap and water to clean it. Hang the buckle as soon as you rinse it to prevent the water from collecting in tight spaces.

iii) How to clean the fabric or leather cover?

Most of the modern car seats come with a removable cover. Conveniently, most of the fabric covers are machine washable, but you should still check the manufacturer’s instructions. Moreover, while the cover is washing in the machine you can clean other parts to save time.

If the cover isn’t washing machine safe, you can hand wash it in the sink, using mild detergent. Don’t strain the cover too hard, and let it air dry.

On the other hand, use a damp cloth submerged into the water and vinegar solution for leather covers. Gently go over the cover and use a towel to dry it. If the cover has some hard stains, you need to wipe it stronger on those parts. Let the leather cover air dry.

iv) How to shampoo car seats?

If you have been wondering how to wash baby car seat and clean it thoroughly, you will be surprised by the simple technique you can apply. You can apply it even if the covers aren’t removable.

Prepare a gallon of warm but not too hot water, a cup of vinegar, and dish soap. Mix all the ingredients in the large bucket and use a brush or a toothbrush to scrub the seat. If the seat isn’t overly dirty, you can use this Biokleen non-toxic cleaner.

Go over the entire car seat and rinse it with clean, cold water. Rollover your car seat to let the excess water evaporate sooner.

v) How to clean plastic parts?

To clean plastic parts, use warm water. For tight spaces, you can put a cotton pad on the screwdriver to pick the stuck dirt. The alternative for the smallest holes and crevices is a toothpick and a cotton pad on the top of it.

Getting Stains out of Car Seats

The best way to prevent stains is to spot clean your baby’s car seat regularly. But, if you failed to clean the mess and it left an ugly stain on the seat, there is a way around how to get stains out of car seats.

One way is to use a product specifically created to remove the stains from the fabric. But, avoid cleaning products with toxic and harsh chemicals because your baby’s skin might get in touch with the fabric.

A better way to remove the stains is to use white vinegar and baking soda. You can spritz the stain with a tiny amount of white vinegar and sprinkle the baking soda on top of it. Let it sit for as long as it is dry. Vacuum the baking soda leftovers and clean the seat as you would normally do.

Hard stains might need some elbow grease and detailed work with a toothbrush.

Spot clean car seat after the mess to prevent hardcore stains! - How to clean baby car seats | Baby Journey
Spot clean car seat after the mess to prevent hardcore stains! Source:

How to Clean Puke out of Car Seat?

Children puke especially during bumpy rides. The first thing you need to do when the puking accident happens is to use something absorbent to soak the vomit up. It could be helpful to have paper towels or a piece of cloth in the car that you can use for cleaning the vomit.

Next, sprinkle baking soda on the seat, let it sit for at least 15 minutes, and rinse with cold water.

Vinegar is also helpful when it comes to dissolving the vomit on the car seat. The procedure is the same, but you should use white vinegar sparsely instead of the baking soda. Rinse it with water and let it air dry.

Neutralizing the Smell of Urine or Vomit from the Car Seat

Lastly, you can remove the stains and the dirt, but the unpleasant smell might be more challenging to eliminate.

The dish soap, baking soda, and lemon juice are effective against the vomit and urine smell. Apply the tiny amount of dish soap on the dampen washcloth and rub over the vomit spots over and over until the smell is gone.

Besides, you can use baking soda on top of the smelly spot and a tablespoon of lemon juice to remove even the strongest smell.

How to Dry Car Seats?

Drying the car seat might take a bit more time, especially if you have thoroughly shampooed and rinsed the seat. However, you can shorten the process up with the towels that will collect the excess water.

Wipe the water from all surfaces using a dry towel. Next, you let the seat air dry in the sunlight. Keep in mind that it will take a couple of days until the seat is completely dry and ready for further use and travel in the car.

If you want to speed the process up, you can use a fan or a blow dryer.

Turn the fan and direct it to the car seat. Let the fan do its magic and dry the seat sooner.

Using a blow dryer is also convenient, but I recommend using it only after you have dried the seat in the sun or front of the fan. You can direct the blow dryer on wet parts, and avoid directing it on the plastic parts when working in high temperatures.

Putting the Car Seat Back Together

When the seat is fully dried, it’s time to reassemble the parts back into one piece. Piecing the parts back shouldn’t take too long if you remember clearly how the car seat parts are supposed to fit, or if you are already familiar with the whole process.

In case it’s your first time reassembling it back, the carseat manual is your savior. Make sure the straps go in the right places, and that the cover returns back to its original position. You definitely don’t want any room for errors here as tiny mistakes may jeopardize your child’s safety in using the car seat.

Maintaining the Baby Car Seat Clean Longer

The best way to ensure simple maintenance on your baby car seat is to get the one with a removable and machine washable cover. Additionally, you have to regularly spot-clean the car seat and clean every mess immediately to prevent hard stains and the development of an unpleasant smell.

A bib is a must-have for infants when it comes to eating in the car. Not only will it prevent your baby from ruining the clothes, but also the infant car seat. Keep a few extra bibs in the car for emergencies! Bibs provide great protection when the baby drools, spits, or puke during the ride.

Keeping the cleaning wipes within hand reach and cleaning every mess as soon as the baby makes it is one way to simplify car seat maintenance. Also, having disposable vomit bags on the backseat and keeping the snacks in the food containers (or establish a no-food rule in car!) might help you keep the car seat clean for longer.

The one way to keep your car seat clean for longer is to forbid food in the car! - How to clean baby car seats | Baby Journey
The one way to keep your car seat clean for longer is to forbid food in the car! Source:

Baby Car Seat Cleaning Tips & Tricks

Generally, cleaning the car seat isn’t challenging, but it takes a while until it gets into your routine.

I recommend you cleaning the baby car seat when you are 100% sure that you won’t be going on a ride for a couple of days. The seat needs to be completely dry when you install it back in the car.

Furthermore, disassembling a car seat might seem easy, but putting it back can be challenging. You can help yourself by taking a before picture of the baby seat that can serve as a visual guide when the seat is ready for use again.

Also, I would like to share my favorite home-made cleaning solution, which is effective and safe for washing car seats.

It consists of 1/4 cup of vinegar, 3/4 cup of warm water, and one tablespoon of dish soap. The easiest way to use it is via a spray bottle. If you want to improve the smell, put a few drops of essential oil in the spray bottle.

Additional Baby Car Seat Cleaning FAQs:

Let’s address some of the most common questions you may have about car seat maintenance.

Should I wash my car seat before use?

While washing baby clothes before first use is obligatory, it isn’t the case with car seats. The baby’s skin won’t be in direct touch with the car seat because of the clothes.

But, if you want to be completely sure that the seat is hygienic you can wipe it clean with a wet cloth to remove dust and potential dirt.

Can I pressure wash car seats?

Yes, you can. It can be a quick and easy way to clean the car seat. However, it wouldn’t be my first choice for the cleaning technique of the baby car seat. The strong pressure may cause damage to some parts of the car seat, and the water leftovers may cause some parts to rust. It can compromise the seat effectiveness in a car crash.

I would rather wash it traditionally, one part of the car seat at a time. It will also need less time to dry than if you used a pressure washer.

How do I disinfect my infant car seat?

Avoid harsh chemicals when washing the car seat. You can clean the bacteria and germs with a damp cloth soaked in a baby soap solution and water. Wipe all parts of the seat and let the seat air dry.

Watch the video on a thorough process of cleaning the baby car seat below:

How much does it cost to clean car seats?

Washing the car seat by yourself won’t cost you a single dollar. You can use the things you already have in your home, such as baking soda, dish soap, vinegar, etc.

It is the only way you can be sure that the seat hasn’t been cleaned with toxic chemicals or abrasives that can damage the seat, and compromise your little one’s safety.


Washing a baby car seat can be a routine task if you keep maintaining the seat frequently and clean the mess as soon as it happens.

Still, if you need to deep clean a car seat, you can complete it in less than an hour, starting from the base and cleaning each part of the seat individually.

Never use harsh chemicals, and clean the seat with a natural cleaning solution such as vinegar, baking soda, and water. Dish soap or mild baby shampoo are suitable products for cleaning the baby car seat.

Do you have any questions about baby car seat cleaning? What is your on-the-go car seat cleaning routine? Feel free to share your tips with me!

how to clean baby car seats | Baby Journey