How to Clean Your Car Seat + A Couple Tips
Happy Friday, y'all!
This week, in case you didn't know, is National Child Passenger Safety Week! It also happens that our car seats have gotten past the point of ignoring the nasty. So, in order to give some attention to both Child Passenger Safety and to the grime on our car seats, I spoke with a friend who is a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician to bring you the most accurate information on how to properly clean your car seat, and also give you couple tips on making sure your child is as safe as possible when riding in the car.
We have the Britax Marathon Click Tight car seats. And before you ask - yes, we know about the recall. No ours haven't been affected by the problem. Yes, we ordered the resolution kit. Our kids are safe, and I obsessively check the seats every time they're buckled to make sure everything is secure. :)
Our car seats, just like our strollers, get used. And let's be honest - kind of abused. Even if you don't let your kids snack in the car (we don't), crumbs attach to clothes and spread like bed bugs. I find Cheerios in places the boys have literally never even been. Not to mention, they spit up, drool, wipe their hands after playing in the dirt, blow out, blow spit bubbles, blow...chunks. It happens, guys. Luckily, our car seats are mostly on the lesser side of the bodily fluids scale but still, they're dirty and could use a good cleaning.
Firstly, I removed the covers (check with your manual for the correct way to do this!).
Now here's the thing, guys... some manufacturers do not recommend machine washing your seat covers, Britax being one of them. Knowing that, and also doing my own research aside from the manufacturer's advisement, I machine washed my covers. GASP - I know. I know. But it was a personal choice I made with confidence that I was not compromising the safety of my children or the effectiveness of our car seat. I washed them on the delicate cycle with our regular detergent and no fabric softener. I did NOT however, machine dry them. That can not only shrink the cover and affect the fit, but that's what can affect the flame retardants on the cover. So make your own call on how to wash the cover but DO NOT machine dry.
I machine washed them on the delicate cycle, then I let them sun dry outside for the afternoon to help remove and lingering stains or odors, then inside overnight to make sure all of those layers were completely dry.
While those were washing and drying, I moved my attention to the seat and harness. Our ClickTights have seats that lift up and underneath those seats, I found a bunch of little dirt particles and crumbs. So, I took our trusty little Dyson and vacuumed up any crevices and nooks that could be hoarding food remains....
and then I wiped the frame down with a cloth lightly dampened with soapy water (Method Dish Detergent + Water).
After that, I moved onto the harness. I chose not to remove our harnesses because these seats are relatively new and haven't had anything catastrophic happen to them. If you do need to remove the harness - please consult your manual for how to do this correctly.
I used the same soap + water solution to wipe down the harness with a lightly damp cloth. A couple places took a few swipes, but they came clean relatively easily. I did the same with the chest clip and the crotch buckle. It's important to note - I did NOT submerge my harnesses, and I did NOT spray any solution directly onto them. That can seriously affect the harness and its flame retardants, so don't do it. A lightly dampened cloth will do, and don't scrub.
Then, I just let them dry in the car since I didn't uninstall my seats to do this. If my car wasn't 2 months old, I would have removed the seats to clean under them. In this case, I did not. If your harness is really dirty or smelly, remove the harness (again, manual!) and after wiping it down, let it hang out in the sun with your cover to dry. That will do more than you may think to get pesky stains and smells out.
Then, after everything was dry, I reassembled them, and triple checked everything with the manual to make sure it was put back together properly and safely.
A couple things to know about cleaning your seat:
- Do NOT. I repeat, DO NOT, submerge your harness completely to soak it. If your harness is that far gone, try calling your manufacturer for a replacement harness (some are even free!). If your child is particularly prone to car sickness, try looking for a car seat with an available replacement harness.
- Most buckles can be submerged in water for cleaning, but not the fabric harness. The best way to do this is to remove the harness, and dip the buckle in a cup of water. Don't remove the buckle from the harness, that would actually destroy the seat.
- Do NOT scrub your harness with a tooth brush, or an abrasive.
- There are no chemical products currently approved for use on car seats and their harness. So, put down the Lysol, the Febreze, even the essential oils. Just say no, no and no. Clek does have their own cleaner available, but any other brand does not, and they don't approve of any other products to be used. Stick with mild soaps or no soaps if possible, so as to not tamper with the flame retardants,
(Want to pin to remember for later? Here you go - just click the little "P" in the upper left hand corner when you hover over the image.)
A few things about safety
- 90% of car seats are used incorrectly, either because of installation or usage. Do everything you can to not be one of these statistics!
- Read your manuals! And re-read them often! And read your vehicle's manual - OFTEN! As your child grows, your car seat needs will change and so will your installation and use of the seat.
- Get your car seat checked! Seek out a Certified Tech (find one at cert.safekids.org) to check your installation and use. Some techs provide this service for free, others charge for this service. But there's really no way to put a price on your child's safety so even if you have to pay for it, do.
- While using a car seat that's not brand new isn't necessarily bad, remember these two things. 1. If you're not 150% sure the seat hasn't been in an accident, don't use it. 2. The biggest problems with used car seats are that if they've been cleaned according the manufacturer's directions, they're never really able to be cleaned very effectively or sanitized. So a used seat is either unsafe (because they weren't maintained properly) or it's dirty.
(Again, to pin this image, hover and click the P in the upper left hand corner)
Now, I know this is a lot of information - but car seats are so important to make sure you're doing right. They have our kids' lives in their clutches so it's our jobs as parents to make sure they're as safe as possible. So, if you're at all worried about your installation or use, tomorrow is National Car Seat Check Day. There are tons of free events all over the country, so seek one out, and get checked! Lots of moms groups also provide these services - so ask your local friends. in addition, lots of hospitals offer this to new moms and babies - so get your seat and base checked before you leave!
After everything was dry, I put it all back together per the manual's instructions and my seats were ready to go.
Happy Friday, y'all! I hope your weekend is amazing and I hope you'll give your car seats a little love in honor of Nation Child Passenger Safety Week!
P.S. For Denver Mamas - there's a FREE class tomorrow (9/19/15) at the Highlands Ranch Babies R Us. No need to register, just show up at 11 and prepare to be Seat-ucated.