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Cleaning A Kid's Car Seat? Don't Soak The Straps, Says Safety Advocate

Aug 08, 2023

Believe it or not, there are right and wrong ways to do this.

Is there anything more disgusting than your kid's car seat? That's rhetorical. You already know there isn't. At its absolute best, you're still dealing with crushed Goldfish Crackers and ice cream drips. At its worst? You can add in melted crayons and maybe an exploded diaper. While a more organized mom might tackle those messes on a case-by-case level, the rest of us ain't got time for that. The actual cleaning part doesn't even seem that challenging. It's removing the car seat from the car and then removing its cover that feels like a monumental task.

Sadly, your car is starting to smell, and that's probably the culprit. But how do you clean a car seat? Mamas all over TikTok, Instagram, and parenting groups love to weigh in on what you should "*never* do" when tackling that nasty beast — with TikToker @child_safety_advocate recently going viral for revealing a pretty surprising "never."

So, what can you do? How do you safely clean a car seat? It's a bit of a process, so let's break it down further.

Let's be real: Those webbed straps are sometimes the most disgusting part of the car seat. After all, your child's body isn't covering the bulk of them. And those straps and buckles come directly between your child and their snacks. Frustratingly enough, that webbed material is also the most fragile.

As @child_safety_advocate recounted in her now-viral video, "I sprayed down my daughter's car seat with a hose to clean it the other day. Soon after, I was looking through TikTok and saw a CPST [child passenger safety technician] saying that soaking straps ruin them and you need to replace it. I called Graco to check, and they said yes, soaking the straps makes the elasticity off and adds wear and tear."

While car seat manuals include this information, most moms in the comment thread readily admitted that they read the manual and still didn't remember that detail. So, the 4-1-1:

If you still have your owner's manual, start there. For many of us, that puppy went out with the trash as soon as we installed the car seat. No judgment. (People who keep and regularly return to manuals of any kind are a breed all their own, and, honestly, I'm a little jelly about their organization and follow-through.)

In the case of a car seat, keeping that manual is a really smart idea. It goes into all the ins and outs of the fifteen million ways to adjust that sucker so it's safe and comfy for your little heathen. It also goes to great lengths to help you clean it properly. You'll find:

If you know your seat's make and model, consider using Google to find your manual online. (You can probably find your car seat model in your Target Circle receipts, babe.)

If the hair on the back of your neck stood to attention in sheer defiance at the notion of using a manual: Heeeeeey! Wanna be mom friends? We're clearly cut from the same cloth. And don't worry, B. Nearly all car seat models come with the same directions.

You're probably never going to do this, but if you think you might, keep these tips in mind:

Dawn Powerwash is the universe's gift to parents. Full stop. There's nothing that magical little bottle of lovely smelling product can't do... except car seats. Well, technically, it can. Dawn Powerwash will absolutely clean your car seat. However, while the electric blue Dawn dish soap is safe enough for baby ducks, the additives in Powerwash make it a little too abrasive for the fabric of your car seat. Also, it creates a lot of suds, which, sure, people typically love. But when avoiding soaking a harness, making a bunch of suds is not the way to go.

Deirdre Kaye Cleaning Car Seat Straps Cleaning an Entire Car Seat How to Clean a Car Seat Without a Manual (Cover/Pad) How to Spot Clean a Car Seat Even More Car Seat Cleaning Tips The Verdict on Dawn Powerwash