Messy car seats? Oh no, not again! No matter how well-behaved your little tots are on the road, chances are a messy accident is bound to happen anytime.
It’s but natural – kids suddenly throw up, blow their diapers, spill food or drinks and bring on other kinds of mess while traveling. The car seats suffer from all these spills and mess, but luckily, you can easily clean and decontaminate your kids’ car seats and make them usable again.
How to clean car seat can be challenging at first, especially when you’re faced with a huge piece of gross mess. But we’re here to help you out. We’ll give you a walk-though on how to clean your car seats, especially the common Graco car seats that most parents use.
First off, you have to prepare your cleaning materials ahead of time. Stock up on the following cleaning essentials:
- Baby wipes
- Small clean rags
- A bottle of gentle soap or dish wash soap
- Mild disinfectant, if desired
- A source of fresh tap water
It is important to note that bleaches and other strong detergents should never be used for cleaning car seats. Bleach damages the materials used in the car seat, thereby making the seat weaker and prone to wear and tear.
As tempting as it may seem to scrub the soiled seats with an abrasive substance like a rough sponge, resist the urge to do so. Using abrasive cleaning sponges will damage the delicate fabrics of the car seat.
Pick your desired time to clean the soiled car seats. If it’s just minor spills with no apparent major cleaning needed, then you can clean it at night when the kids are asleep. But if the seat is covered in a sea of gross substances, you should clean the seat at the earliest possible time.
Make sure to have a spare seat ready in case you’ll have to thoroughly wash the soiled car seat overnight. The spare seat can be used in case you need to travel and your washed seat isn’t dry yet.
Removing Big Chunks of Mess
Once you have your cleansers at hand, proceed to cleaning the huge debris left on the seat. Use baby wipes or damp paper towels to pick off huge chunks of loose, chunky or sloppy substances.
Similarly, wipe off any removable debris from the harness, buckles and the fabric covers. Don’t scrub the debris; gently pick them up using wipes or damp towels.
When the big chunks of gross debris are removed, you’ll find it easier to clean the remaining small messes on the car seat.
Removing the Infant Car Seat
Now, after removing the big pieces of gross matter, it’s time to uninstall the car seat for further cleaning. For most car seat models, you should simply untie all the straps to remove the seat from the car. Refer to your individual manuals for specific details on how to do this.
For Graco car seats, remove the buckle first by inverting the restraints and pushing the retainers through the seat’s harness strap slot.
Next, loosen the lower anchor straps and move the connector away from the car seat. Disconnect the hooks by pressing the red button at the end of the device and simultaneously pulling the hooks off from the lower anchor.
Unfasten hooks and plastic flaps from the seat area of the seat pad and pull out the plastic flaps from underneath the infant car seat.
After loosening the buckles and straps, remove your Graco car seat from the vehicle.
Always remember to recline the vehicle seats as needed before removing the infant car seat. Also, apply pressure by placing one knee on the car seat for easier removal of the straps.
Thorough cleaning of the card seat and its parts
We will now proceed with cleaning the detached infant car seat. Here are the important parts we need to clean:
- Seat cover
- Seat body
- Car seat base
- Harness straps
- The safety buckle and its straps
Brush off visible dust and crumbs from the seat. Gently shake the seat to remove other crumbs that have accumulated on the sides and hidden areas of the seat.
If you have a small vacuum cleaner, you may use it to remove stubborn dirt stuck on the corners of the seat.
Next, take off the fabric seat cover and machine-wash it in cold water with a gentle soap. Use the gentle cycle on the washing machine.
Ensure that the seat cover is completely rinsed, then allow it to drip-dry afterwards to prevent distortions on the cover.
You may also choose to hand-wash the cover if it doesn’t fit in your washing machine. Just use mild soap and a clean, dampened towel or rag and make circular motions on the cover to thoroughly remove dirt and stubborn stains.
For the car seat body, thoroughly wipe and clean it with your rag dampened with cold tap water and some gentle soap. Wipe dry with a clean towel afterwards.
For the seat base, wash and scrub the plastic and metal parts with your gentle soap and damp cloth. Once you’re done scrubbing the accumulated grime and dirt off, rinse the base in running water. Pat excess water, then allow it to be completely air-dried. Spray with a disinfectant as desired.
For the harness, spot-clean surface stains with mild soap and damp cloth. Never attempt deep cleaning of the harness straps. In no way should the straps be hand-washed or machine-washed, because their tensile strength will be compromised and might pose safety risks for your infant when re-used.
If the harness straps are too soiled, worn out or damaged, consider getting a replacement instead of trying to deep-clean them.
For the buckle, prepare a cup of warm water and a damp towel. Take the buckle and wipe it with the towel, then submerge it in warm water. Press the buckle’s red button repeatedly and swish it around to remove dirt and debris from the inside. Once done, remove it from the water and dry thoroughly.
Re-attach the cleaned buckle to its strap and hang it on a clothesline to air-dry it completely. Air-dry the harness straps here as well. Allow them to be penetrated by sunshine and fresh air; never use a hot blower to dry these as it may also damage the strength of the straps.
Drying and Re-assembling the Seat
Allow all parts of the infant car seat to be thoroughly air-dried. All that’s needed is some sunshine, natural fresh air and one entire day to dry the whole seat.
Don’t worry about the odors that have stuck to the seat when it was still dirty. After you’ve soaped up all seat parts, you’ll just need to let it dry in the sun to eliminate all the odors and make the seat smell fresh once more.
If, however, mild odors persist, you may want to spray on some mild disinfectant on select parts of the car seat. Just avoid spraying it to the buckles and harness straps, as their strength will again be affected.
Return the parts together once all parts are completely dry. Basically, you’ll do the reverse process of what you did to dismantle the parts prior to cleaning. You may refer to your car seat manual for this, while Graco car seat users may view the complete manual here.
Ensure that the buckles and harness straps are securely in place and are fully functional once you’ve reattached them to the seat body and cover. You should hear a snapping sound if you’ve installed the buckles correctly.
In re-attaching the straps, always be mindful of their correct positioning. See to it that the straps are not twisted when you thread them back to the seat. Doing so ensures that they will work properly and that they’ll give ample protection for your child once the seat is to be used again.
Wrapping It Up
Car seats need to be decontaminated and cleaned to avoid the risks of bringing physical harm and germs to your child. You wouldn’t want them to fiddle around on dirty places, right?
Infant car seats can easily be soiled because of the messy nature of children. But luckily, most models, including the Graco car seat, can be cleansed and re-installed at home easily.
Simply follow the steps outlined above to clean your kid’s soiled car seat. Be mindful of the way you dismantle the seat parts, since that’s how you’ll figure out how to reassemble it once the seat is dry.
We hope this guide gives you the confidence to clean your tot’s car seats safely and correctly. Keep your kids safely tucked in their freshly washed Graco car seats.