Blog: Spring Cleaning your Car Seat: the Dos and Don’ts
A clean home is on everyone’s mind these days – and it’s spring cleaning time for many of us. Child Safety Link is getting more questions on how to safely clean your car seats. What cleaning products are safe to use? Can you disinfect or sanitize a car seat? Find what you need to know to keep your car seat clean AND safe. Child Safety Link’s Child Passenger Safety expert Katherine Hutka answers these questions and more below:
Q: What questions do you get about cleaning your child’s car seat?
We have heard questions from parents over the years who wanted to know how to safely clean their child’s car seat after one of life’s messy events that come with the job of “parent”. Right now, however, we are getting more questions from parents about how to clean their child’s car seat when it returns with the child after a custody exchange or appointment. We are also getting questions from foster parents and agencies who transport multiple children about how to clean seats between children.
The most important thing to know is that you can’t use bleach, disinfectant, peroxide, vinegar, or other harsh cleaning products on (nearly) all car seats. These products can break down the fibres in the harness or cover, which may mean that the car seat can’t do its job and protect your child in a crash.
Your car seat manual is your guide for how to safely clean your car seat and the cleaning instructions are very clearly explained. If you are unable to locate the manual for your seat, search for your make and model on the manufacturer’s website or contact them directly for a replacement copy.
Before you start, make sure you have enough time to allow for proper drying time and time to put the whole thing back together correctly before you need to use it again. If your children are staying home right now – as mine are – now might be the perfect time!
I like to make sure I have the supplies, including the instructions, in front of me before I begin. I also take photos of the front and back of the car seat before I take it apart to help me remember what it looked like when using the instructions to reassemble it later.
- To start: vacuum up or brush off any loose debris or dirt. Most covers are at least partially removable (check your instructions).
- Hard plastic surfaces can be wiped down with a soft cloth and mild soap and warm water. Wipe soapy residue off with a wet cloth and towel dry.
- Once you have the cover off, use a cotton swab to clean out any deep grooves in the seat if needed.
Q: How do I clean my car seat’s cover?
Some covers are machine washable but others must be washed by hand. Check the instructions for temperature settings. Pro-tip: some manufacturers allow you to put the cover in the dryer on a low setting for 10-12 mins, but many others do not. We want to make sure that foam parts and plastic tabs aren’t damaged and that the cover still fits back on your car seat once it’s clean. When you cannot machine dry, squeeze the excess water out into a towel and lay flat to dry.
Q: How can the harness and buckle be cleaned?
Most car seat manufacturers do not allow soaking the harness straps and/or buckle in water or cleaning solutions. Your manual is the best guide for what your seat permits. When in doubt, reach out to the car seat manufacturer. Many manufacturers say that nothing stronger than a damp cloth and mild soap or detergent can be used to clean the harness.
If you are unable to adequately clean the harness, some manufacturers will have an option to purchase a replacement harness for your particular seat.
Always inspect the seat for damage or deterioration due to use. If you notice something concerning, take photos and reach out to your car seat manufacturer for guidance. They are the experts on their seats!
Q: How can I help keep the car seat from getting dirty?
- Remove wet, dirty, or soiled footwear before placing the child in the seat.
- Limit foods and drinks consumed in the seat and when this cannot be avoided, choose things that are easier to clean up and do not pose a choking hazard risk.
- If you have a particularly messy child, use a car seat poncho or large bib placed OVER the child once the harness is buckled and tightened securely in place. You can also keep spare bibs in the vehicle to replace them when one becomes soiled.
Q: Is it possible to sanitize a car seat that’s used by multiple children?
It’s best for each child to have their own assigned seat where possible. If multiple children who do not live together must use the same seat, you can clean it between children according to the manufacturer instructions. It is always recommended that you know how to remove and reinstall your seat properly. The car seat will also need to be adjusted between children to make sure it properly fits the child using it next.
Q: How can you protect multiple adults who need to buckle up children?
Since we have established that there is no safe way to use disinfectant, bleach, or other harsh chemicals, adults can wash or sanitize their hands before placing the child in the car seat and buckling the straps, and again wash or sanitize their hands directly after buckling a child into their car seat.
When in doubt, ALWAYS reach out to the car seat manufacturer for guidance before looking to the internet for ideas. Every manufacturer is different in what they permit and forbid when it comes to cleaning their seats.
Looking for more visual info on cleaning your car seat? Check out Child Safety Link’s recent interview on CTV Morning Live here!
Q: Where can I get more car seat information?
Parents and caregivers are invited to visit www.childsafetylink.ca where they will find child passenger safety information for every age and stage of child, including helpful fact sheets on each kind of car seat, checklists, and instructional videos. Follow Child Safety Link on Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with the latest news, trends, and recalls pertaining to child passenger safety. For questions about how to use your car seat, contact Child Safety Link at 1-866-288-1388 extension 1 (toll-free in Atlantic Canada) or 902-470-7324, or email ChildSafetyLink@iwk.nshealth.ca .