A child's car seat is being cleaned.

Keeping your kid’s car seat clean is essential to keeping them comfortable and happy on long car rides and road trips. On top of their own comfort, car seats are no small purchase, and the wear they go through over time can affect their performance and longevity. A worn-down seat can be a safety concern, but by taking the time to clean your kid’s car seat, you can keep them in good condition. 

Our team has researched and compiled recommendations for properly cleaning your car seat. We’ve got the scoop on everything from everyday household products to DIY deep cleaning. This guide will help you clean the stubborn stains and reach the small crevices that naturally fill with crumbs and grime.

Car Seat Cleaning: A Step-By-Step Guide

A child's car seat is being cleaned.

Cleaning your kid’s car seat doesn’t have to be a time-consuming or overwhelming task. The most important thing is knowing where to start and which cleaning products get the most effective results.

Read The Manufacturer’s Manual

Before cleaning your car seat, it’s not a bad idea to have a good understanding of your car seat’s user manual. Every car seat is different, but many manuals actually highlight specific instructions on how to clean your car seat. It also confirms whether or not the car seat padding is machine-washable, which is good to know for ease of cleaning your kid’s car seat.

Vacuum Where Possible

Before washing the car seat, grab a vacuum cleaner, ideally an easily maneuverable car vacuum. You’ll want one with a crevice tool for better accessibility. Vacuum out any crumbs, getting into smaller spaces that crumbs or debris may fall into and go unnoticed. This will make the cleaning process easier and prep the fabric areas for washing.

Car Seat Washing Process

After vacuuming and determining what parts of your car seat are machine-washable, the car seat cleaning process can begin. Below, we’ve highlighted some areas of your car seat that may need special attention to ensure the best quality, longevity, and performance.

What Cleaning Solution Should I Use?

A bottle of upholstery cleaner sits on a table.

While products like baking soda, upholstery cleaners, and bleach are often readily available as cleaning solutions, these more abrasive cleaners can actually affect the upholstery of your car seat, causing deterioration and wear over time.

With this in mind, the easiest solution to cleaning your car seat is dish soap, warm water, and clean cloths. A simple combination of dish soap and water in a spray bottle can get most stains out of car seats. It’s best to use this cleaning solution when you first notice stains to prevent them from soaking into the fabric, which can make them harder to get out. 

Try to keep excess moisture or soap suds from getting into the crevices of the car seat to prevent mildew or mold. Be sure to let all parts of the car seat air dry before reinstalling it into your vehicle.

Harness Straps

Your car seat harness straps are fragile and one of the most important parts of any car seat. The harness holds your child firmly in place and, in the event of a crash, the fibers absorb force and prevent your child from coming out of the seat. Because of this safety factor, it’s vital to ensure that if they need a good washing, you follow the right process.

If you need to clean your harness straps, we recommend using the above procedure: a cleaning solution of warm water and baby-safe dish soap. Use a microfiber cloth as needed to gently dab at stains. Be sure to let the straps air dry before putting your child in their car seat for their own comfort and to ensure the straps won’t build up any mildew or grime while in an enclosed vehicle.

Car Seat Padding

The fabric car seat padding may or may not be machine-washable, which is why it’s important to check the user’s manual before washing the padding. If the padding is machine-washable, you can use any laundry detergent to tackle tough stains or simply give the car seat padding a refresh.

Tackling Stubborn Stains

If needed, small amounts of stain remover can be used to spot clean. However, the sooner you can clean up a mess with dish soap and clean water, the better it is for the car seat’s quality and longevity. If a stain remover is needed, use a microfiber towel to dab gently at the stain.

You will want to wait until the area dries before attempting to spot clean the area again depending on the result. If you are not seeing a difference after the area has dried, you can follow the same method using a soft bristle scrub brush to spot clean tough stains.

How To Clean Car Seats: Bottom Line

Cleaning your child’s car seat can ensure longevity and continued performance. With simple household products of clean cloths, dish soap, and water, you can easily clean all areas of your car seat. This step-by-step informational guide highlights how to clean your car seat, tackle tough stains, and what parts of your kid’s car seat deserve special attention when cleaning.

Car Seat Cleaning: FAQ

Here are a few frequently asked questions about keeping car seats clean.

*Data accurate at time of publication.