SOLVED! How to clean vomit from car seat

Kids puke! There are no two ways about it.

When using a car seat, the reason can be due to travel sickness, weather or simply having a bad stomach. Children can vomit without prior notice and with no regard for their surroundings. Unfortunately, this can a lot during travel and often parents find themselves asking how to clean vomit from the car seat? Some even go as far as thinking about buying a new one.

The ideal way to get rid of vomit and its smell from the car seat is to first uninstall the seat, then remove its covers and wash them according to the manufacturer’s guidelines and then clean the shell of the seat using non-chemical-heavy fluids (e.g. warm water).

Note: The following points should be used as a guideline and for every step, the manufacturer’s guidelines should be read with utmost care. This is not something where you should be cutting corners and getting lazy

1. Gather the following materials

  • Paper Towels
  • Baby Wipes
  • Warm Water
  • Toothbrush
  • Vacuum Cleaner (not necessary if isn’t available)
  • Garbage Bag

2. Uninstall the Car Seat

Once you have collected all the necessary items that you’ll be needing to fight the stench of vomit, uninstall the car seat from your car and bring it someplace where operation cleanup can take place.

3. Remove the Car Sear Cover and wash it

Due to the sheer amount of competition in the car seat industry, almost all manufacturers design their seats to make the covers easily removable. Most of them even use it as a unique selling point as well.

Modern car seat covers nowadays are machine washable and dryer safe. This makes our job a lot easier as you can just throw the covers in the machine and have them cleaned up.

Tip: Take pictures of your car seat from all sides. They will help you if you get stuck while trying to reassemble the seat.

Note: Read the manufacturer’s manual to make sure that the covers are machine washable and dryer safe. Pay close attention to what type, if any, detergents or soaps can and should be used.

4. Clean the Shell with wet wipes and toothbrush

Once you’ve got the covers off, it’s time for the shell or the car seat body to be cleaned! Due to the nature of the material used, it is often easy to clean it. Although it can be time-consuming.

If you have a vacuum cleaner, you can use it to remove any large chunks of leftovers. If not, then you should either use wet wipes or paper towels with warm water to thoroughly clean the skeleton of the car seat. Since the design often has small compartments or holes which seem unreachable, this is where a toothbrush comes in handy.

Cleaning the shell is a time-consuming task, but a necessary step towards a smell-free-car-seat.

Tip: Clean the shell and place it under direct sunlight. Not only would it help with the drying process, but it can also get rid of the excess smell.

Note: If you wish to use a detergent, only do so if the manufacturer’s guidelines allow it.

5. Clean the Seat Belts / Harness (READ CAREFULLY)

The ideal and safe way to clean the belts is to simply use a wet sipe or a paper towel with warm water. Gently rub the seat belts and let them dry.  

You should,

  • NEVER put the Harness in a washer
  • NEVER use chemical heavy cleaning detergents
  • NEVER try to apply force while cleaning/rubbing

The reason is that by using chemicals, it can cause the material of the seat belt to weaken and lose its shape i.e. expand or shrink. Moreover, it can cause irritation the next time it comes in contact with the skin of your child.

6. What about the Buckle?

Another tough question a lot of parents are face is how to clean the buckle? As with the other parts, the buckle should also be cleaned with wet wipes or papers towels using warm water. If there is something stuck inside, you can use a pair of tweezers to reach inside and remove it.

Note: Readers Manual should have more info regarding the allowed procedures.

7. Reassemble the seat

Once you’ve cleaned and sun-dried the car seat, the final step is to reassemble it. As mentioned in a tip above, if you’ve taken pictures of the car seat before disassembling it, they can come in handy if and when you get stuck.

Additional Tips:

  • Sun-drying a car seat and the fabric goes a long way in removing odor and helping everything smell fresh. Use this technique to your advantage.
  • Most car seat manufacturers are aware of the fact that sometimes, some components are just not safe to be reused, and therefore, they often offer free/paid replacement parts. You should always opt for this option if you’re unsure whether the part is compromised.

Final Words

If you take anything from this guide, it should be fact that the readers manual is the holy grail when it comes to car seats.

Different manufacturers use different materials and have different designs, therefore in terms of advice, there is no one size that fits all. You should never take any advice you see on the internet (including this article) without referring to your Manual.

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