How to Clean a Baby Car Seat Properly? Best Tips & Tricks in 2022

Family trips always bring joy to parents and kids. However, things might get pretty messy with spilled snacks and beverages in the car seats. And you need to know how to clean a car seat correctly.

Here's the deal: prepare the cleaning supplies and follow the guidelines to clean your child's car seat thoroughly.

So, if you're an experienced cleaner or need help, the guide will show you the step-by-step procedure for correctly cleaning the entire car seat.


Cleaning a Baby Car Seat: Best Step-by-step Process

Whether this is your first time or you have cleaned seats, here's what you need to know when keeping your child's restraints fresh.

how to clean a baby car seat cover

1. How to clean a baby car seat: pre-cleaning steps

Before embarking on cleaning, you need to follow the instructions below for a detailed cleaning process:

- Check the car seat manual

- Clean instantly for the best results

Checking the car seat manual

When cleaning a baby's car seat for the first time, you need to refer to the car seat manual. The manual provides specific cleaning instructions, multiple cleaning methods for the proper washing process, and car seat safety tips. Most car seats come with manuals, but you can also find them online at their specific websites.

Your car seat might render unusable if you apply the wrong cleaning products or use inappropriate methods for that particular seat. For instance, you'd like to use a pressure washer and clean the baby gear instantly, but the car seat manufacturer disagrees since it might ruin the cover. So, with correct instructions, you will finish the job quickly.

Cleaning instantly

To clean a car seat correctly, remove the spills and stains instantly. If you let them dry for a long time, their removal will only be more complex. Dry messes might wait, but wet messes require immediate action.

You can use wipes or rags to remove the stains as soon as possible. At least pre-soak the car seat cover when you don't have much time. Pre-soaking prevents spills from drying up and setting in.

2. Spot clean vs. deep clean

There are two methods to clean a car seat: spot cleaning and deep cleaning.

Spot clean procedure refers to treating only the part of the material that has stains on it. You can use wipes, a microfiber cloth, a towel, or similar items to clean the problematic area. It's a short-term solution.

Deep cleaning is the complete process of washing a specific seat. The method includes machine-washing on a gentle cycle and air drying under direct sunlight. However, when the seat is hand-washed, you must use mild soap and warm water to remove all the dirt and debris.

3. Keeping your car seat clean: a complete procedure

Below you can find the step-by-step process to clean car seats:

Step 1: Gather your cleaning supplies

You must collect specific cleaning products to clean your baby's car seat. These include:

  • A sponge or a damp cloth for wet spot cleaning
  • A small bucket of warm water
  • A soft towel and baby wipes to remove debris
  • A gentle soap or a baby shampoo such as Johnson & Johnson's Baby Wash or Dawn Dish Soap
  • A small handheld-vacuum cleaner

Step 2: Clean everything you can

how to clean mold off a baby car seat

Remove as much debris as you can before cleaning all other parts. Then, apply a soft cloth/cleaning towel or baby wipes. It's even better if you use a vacuum cleaner.

Step 3: Remove the car seat cover & padding

Take off the removable padding and the fabric cover for quicker cleaning. As car seats come with removable covers, start from the top. Remove all buttons and clips to unfasten the fabric cover.

Refer to the manual to check the specific instructions for washing the cover on the delicate cycle of the washer with cold water. Then, apply a mild detergent and rinse it thoroughly. Don't use the dryer if you will machine wash the car seat. You will compromise the quality of the car seat parts when putting them in the dryer.

If the cover isn't machine-washable, it requires a hand-wash. First, apply a sponge to clean all stains and spots until they fade away. Next, apply mild soap and rub gently, using a circular motion.

Step 4: Clean the buckles and harness

Use a gentle detergent and warm water to wipe down the car seat harness as much as possible. Although harsh cleaners, such as bleach, might be a quicker option, it is not recommendable. Harsh chemicals can harm the materials, weaken the webbing, destroy the components, and compromise car seats.

In addition, abrasive cleaners might also irritate your baby's skin. You shouldn't use natural cleaners, such as vinegar or baking soda, since they harm the car seat components (decolor, damage fabrics, and leave odors). A mild soap is your best option.

Cleaning buckles is pretty straightforward. You can place the crotch buckle in the warm water and wipe off debris that might be stuck in corners and grooves. But, again, consult the manual since each manufacturer has different rules on keeping the car seat buckles clean.

Step 5: Clean the car seat frame

When cleaning a dry mess, use a vacuum cleaner. It will remove all debris and dirt and clean all hard-to-reach places. Next, use warm water and mild soap to clean the entire car seat frame.

Next, apply a clean cloth to the end to remove any soap residue, and towel dry any excess moisture. If the seat has a plastic base, you can apply a baby-safe detergent, damp cloth, and warm water.

Step 6: Air dry the car seat before the assembly

Place your car seat in the fresh air to air dry once you finish cleaning. Air drying in the sun will preserve its freshness and help eliminate odors left behind the cleaning - if any. Hang the removable cover to dry thoroughly, and leave it be.

If you can't remove the cover, leave the entire seat in the sun to dry completely. It might take more time than it would when disassembled, but your seat won't collect mildew or mold. It's recommended to leave the car seat for a few hours or even the whole day to dry thoroughly.


When you have an odor and bodily fluids issues, you can re-wash the seat and let it dry in the sun. However, with persistent smell, please contact your car seat’s manufacturer for guidelines or car seat replacement parts.

Step 7: Reassemble the car seat

Once the seat is completely dry, put the seat back together. Follow the instruction manual to reunite the parts.

Ensure the seat cover fits all aspects and that the harness straps are installed correctly. Otherwise, you will compromise your child's safety and comfort.

If the harness straps are loosened or installed incorrectly, the system cannot protect your child in a car accident.

4. Prevention tricks for cleaning a seat

It's almost impossible to always keep your seat clean. Luckily, there are multiple things you can do to protect the restraint and avoid greater messes. Here are some valuable tips:

how to clean a graco baby car seat
  • Always keep baby wipes in your car within reach. This step will help you use them immediately after an incident instead of searching within your bag. You can also encourage your little ones to use the wipes and place them in visible places.
  • Bring a cleaning kit for family trips. Paper towels, soft towels, travel-size baby wash, and bottled water are always valuable, as you can spot clean the seat until you reach the final destination.
  • Use snack containers to prevent stains and spills. Please place them in the back seat, close to your children, and ensure they're easily accessible and easy to open. The containers keep food and beverages out of the seat and prevent spills and stains.
  • Bring a pack of vomiting bags. They are leakproof and odorless. If your kids are prone to motion sickness on longer road trips, the bags will be helpful, preventing mess.


Is it safe to wash a baby car seat?

Yes, it is safe to wash baby car seats, as most manufacturers state.

However, you should refer to the seat manual and check if you can clean the restraint by machine or hand wash. Avoid harsh chemicals in both cases.

What cleaner is safe to use on car seats?

You should use a mild cleaner, such as baby shampoo, mild detergent, or dish soap, as these won't harm the structure and components of the seat.

How do you clean car seats without removing them?

You can apply laundry detergent. First, mix hot water and laundry detergent if you don't have a specific upholstery cleaner or detergent. Finally, rinse the detergent and remove all the stains with a towel and cold water.

How do you clean vomit from a Graco car seat?

To clean the vomit from any Graco seat, follow the steps below:

  • Follow the instruction manual - if the manual allows, you can wash the seat in a machine, on a gentle cycle, but cannot place it in the dryer. If not, you must clean the seat using mild soap, warm water, a sponge, or a cloth to remove the stains.
  • Disconnect the harness straps.
  • Unfasten the plastic flaps and pull them out from under the seat.
  • Use gentle detergents, and never use bleach.
  • Once the process is done, re-attach the parts, and reassemble the seat.
  • Ensure the harness is not twisted and pull it on to ensure it's securely reinstalled
  • Use mild soap and water to clean plastic and metal parts.
  • Clean harness straps with a washcloth, but don't immerse them in water.

How often should you clean a baby car seat?

You should clean a baby car seat once a week, or once every one and a half weeks.

how to assemble baby car seat after washing

Can you wash the car seat covers in the washing machine?

Yes, you can wash the seat cover in the washing machine if the instructions allow it. Many manufacturers explain the process in manuals, so refer to guidelines to avoid complications.

What chemical can I use to clean car seats?

You can use only mild detergents, soaps, and baby shampoos mixed with warm water to clean car seats. Please do not use harsh cleaners such as bleach, as they will damage the seats.

How to Clean a Baby Car Seat: The Bottom Line

We hope you found the article helpful and learned essential tips on cleaning car seats effortlessly.

Always consult instruction manuals, as manufacturers explain the step-by-step procedures inside. Please do not use bleach and similar cleaners since they can damage the seats.

Avatar of Kathy Warner

Kathy Warner

Kathy is a busy mother of two and a CPS technician for more than eight years. Her mission is to awaken parents to the importance of child passenger safety and show them the right practice. You can read more about her here

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