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How to Properly Clean a Gross Stroller or Car Seat

Someone using an upholstery cleaner on a car seat.
Nomad_Soul/Shutterstock

There’s no denying that babies and toddlers are grubby creatures. Between spit-up, snacks, and muddy boots, your child’s stroller and car seat are bound to get messy. Here’s how to keep them clean.

Strollers and car seats are made for messes and accidents. They come with removable padding, straps, and buckles, making cleaning them a breeze. The real challenge is figuring out how to wash everything, and then put it all back together.

Trust us, though, having a clean stroller and car seat is totally worth the effort. We’ll walk you through how to do it.

Take a “Before” Picture

Taking apart and putting together strollers and car seats might seem intuitive, but it’s not. Plenty of parents end up frustrated and struggling to Velcro and snap everything back into place.

That’s why we recommend you take a picture or video before you disassemble everything. Otherwise, you’ll be staring at your final attempt thinking, Did that pad really sit on top? or Where does this strap go?

Another idea is to take off each part and set it on the ground as an “exploded diagram.” You can hand wash things right there and keep them on the side on which they belong. You can also take a picture of your diagram.

If all else fails, you can find YouTube tutorials on dismantling, cleaning, and assembling most strollers and car seats. Just make sure you type the specific model, design, and year it was made to find the correct video.

Remove Everything

It’s quite surprising how many parts on your child’s stroller and car seat are removable, including all the pads, buckles, snaps, and cushions.

If you’re stuck, research the specific brand online. The video above provides a basic overview of how it’s done on a standard stroller. This video shows you how to remove the covering of a Britax infant car seat.

Don’t forget to turn the stroller or car seat over. Be prepared to find Cheerios and unrecognizable lumps of forgotten snacks smooshed down in there. We suggest starting the cleaning process outside so you can easily sweep away the debris and gunk.

Wash, Wash, Wash

First, check the label to see which cycle and detergent are recommended. Even if handwashing is recommended, most soft parts can withstand the gentle cycle with a baby-safe, delicate detergent. If in doubt, though, follow the instructions and handwash.

Never use the dryer—it’s easy enough to air-dry everything outside.

All other parts, you can scrub in the sink, bathtub, or outside with the hose. Use a firm scrub brush or an old toothbrush on stubborn stains.

An electric power washer is also highly effective at tackling months of built-up dirt and grime. However, you’ll probably want to skip a gas-powered washer—unless you can adjust the PSI, it’ll likely be too powerful. Just don’t overdo it, or you might damage the material.

You can also use a carpet and upholstery cleaner with a hose attachment, like this Bissel DeepClean model. The video below shows you how to use one of these to deep clean your car’s upholstery, but the techniques can be applied to child safety seats, as well.

Plus, if your kid messed up her car seat enough to need this kind of cleaning, there’s a good chance the actual car upholstery could use it, too!

In addition to the fabric of the seat or stroller, don’t forget to pay attention to the non-fabric parts, like handles and wheels. You can spray everything with a hose, or wipe them clean with a gentle cleaning solution.

Mold Problems

Sometimes, strollers accidentally get left outside in the rain. Even if it’s tucked away on your front porch, mold and mildew can creep in over time.

Start with a full wash cycle, as described above. If it’s still moldy, there are some different approaches you can try.

Lemon Juice

Thoroughly douse the moldy area with some lemon juice, sprinkle on some salt, and then let it sit in the sun for several hours.

Rinse it off with cold water, and then try another complete wash cycle, either in the washing machine or the tub with a delicate detergent.

White Vinegar

Vinegar is excellent at removing nasty mold stains. In a spray bottle, combine three parts of white vinegar with two parts of water and shake it up.

Spray all the moldy spots, making sure the fabric is fully saturated. Let sit for a couple of hours, and then wash it thoroughly.

Bleach

Most care labels on car seats and strollers advise you not to use bleach. However, if you have an incurable mold problem, it’s a solution that’s bound to work. Just be prepared that some discoloration might occur. You can do a spot test on an area that’s not visible before proceeding.

To make your solution, mix two tablespoons of chlorine bleach with one quart of water. Add the soiled materials, and then let them soak for 30 minutes.

Alternatively, you can add the bleach mixture to a spray bottle, gently mist the area, and then let it sit for 30 minutes.

Rinse with cold water and immediately wash with a delicate detergent. Make sure you do any bleach cleaning far away from children.

Regular Maintenance

After you’ve done a thorough deep clean, you’ll want to stay on top of things with regular cleanings. This means pulling out those car seats every few months, and cleaning the inside of your car, too! It’s amazing how far a Cheerio can fly. You can just use a damp cloth to do spot cleaning, as needed.

We suggest storing your child’s stroller in a sealable stroller bag, or inside your home, if possible. If you take your car seat on a plane, definitely store it in a travel bag to keep it clean.

Avoid messy accidents by limiting the amount of snacks and drinks your child can have in his stroller or car seat. Alternatively, get yourself a handheld vacuum, so you can stay on top of crumbs.

To minimize nasty odors and keep your child’s stroller and car seat smelling ultra-fresh, try this Fabric Refresher spray.


It takes some time and effort to keep strollers and car seats clean, but that extra elbow grease is so worth it when everything looks (and smells) good and fresh!

Jill A. Chafin Jill A. Chafin
Jill A. Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »

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