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Your kid's car seat is dirtier than you think

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

The dos and don'ts of cleaning a car seat

One of your most trusted pieces of baby gear — your car seat — may be grosser than you think.

When you take your baby for her first car ride, your car seat is usually brand spankin' new. But over time, it can become disgusting. In fact, it may be harboring more bacteria than most toilet seats.

We got down to the basics with Allana Pinkerton, who has been a certified CPS instructor for over 12 years and is currently a Global Safety expert for Diono. Kids spend hours in their car seats. Shouldn't they be clean? She tells us why car seats can be dirtier than a toilet seat and what we can do about it.

"Life happens!" she explains when I ask how car seats get so dirty. And as a parent, you've probably noticed yourself how dirt and gunk seem to build up on your child's safety seat. She says, "If you feed your child in the car seat, odds are pretty good that food will end up getting on the fabric, harnesses and in all the cracks and crevices."

She also notes that natural oil from our bodies and our hair can shed onto the seat, sticking to the fabric. And don't discount the swirling air that deposits dirt when you open the door to take her in and out — even if you don't see it, it's there.

Cleaning a car seat isn't difficult, but you have to know how to do it properly. All car seats come with specific instructions on how to remove the cover and clear instructions on how to clean it. "Many covers can be hand-washed or machine-washed on a gentle cycle, but soaking harness straps is usually a no-no," she says. Soaking harness straps could compromise the integrity of the material that is designed to keep your child safe in the event of an accident — which is exactly what you don't want to do. She also cautions that parents should not use harsh or abrasive cleaners on any parts of the car seat, and definitely don't take a hose to it to wash it off, as it can damage some of the more delicate parts. A mild soap and water should be all you need.

Cleaning on a regular basis is encouraged. She recommends that moms and dads try to clean the seat at least once a month to help cut down on the inevitable buildup of goo and other questionable bits that find their way into the seat. Another alternative is hiring a car seat cleaning service to do the deed for you. If you do, make sure they have a good reputation and are CPST certified. "Plus, there are usually flame retardant chemicals on the seat that are required by law," she says. "Using certain techniques and cleaners can strip the flame retardants from the seat, so be sure and ask how the cleaning will be done before using this type of service."

Yes, your car seat is probably dirtier than it looks. The good news is that with a little work, you can keep it clean.

More on car seats and child safety

A mom’s guide to car seat safety
Evenflo Embrace 35 car seats recalled over danger to babies
Graco recalling over 400,000 additional car seats

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