Like most others, parents across the country are looking for bleach-based cleaners and other chemicals that kill the virus to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. But there is one area of family life, in particular, where parents need to pause before using those powerful cleaners: child seats.
Moms and dads who want to clean their children’s car seats should follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions, such as using a mild detergent and water. Those harder cleaning products could damage the car seat, meaning it might not protect a child in an accident.
Sarah Tilton (director of consumption at Britax Abogacía) said “There are so many cleaning agents out there that it is impossible for any car seat manufacturer to test every chemical or makeup of cleaning agents to know how it reacts or affects any of the components [of the car seat],”
Tilton cautioned, “We do not recommend cleaning the car seat in any method other than that provided by the car seat manufacturer.”
Dish soap or even baby soap is best for cleaning some parts of the car seat, but before you roll up the sleeves the first thing you should do is read your car seat owner’s manual. If you can’t find it, there’s always an online version through the car seat manufacturer’s website.
If you are going to clean your child’s car seat, it is important that you also tackle the interior of your car. After consulting the CDC guidelines on how to protect children from Coronavirus COVID-19, Tilton recommended the following to clean car seats (any child safety seat, not just Britax):
Cleaning the fabric of the car seat
This is where things get a little complicated. Many parents will want to throw the fabric cover of their car seat in the washing machine, but this could affect the fabric’s flame retardants. Consult the owner’s manual for recommendations on how to wash the fabric seat cover. Some will allow machine washing at a specific temperature setting, but others may only recommend hand washing. Be sure to also check the drying recommendations.
Cleaning the base of car seats
Use the hottest water you can tolerate and mild soap to clean the plastic base of the car seat. Be sure to rinse the soap with clean water. Dry the towel on the base, or if it’s a warmer day, let the car seat dry outside in the sunlight.
Cleaning the car seat harness straps and buckles
Again, follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions, but Tilton said not to use the washer to clean the harness strap, nor to iron or bleach it. When cleaning the buckle, Tilton said it is important that the cleaning product he uses does not lubricate the buckle.
For parents who have machine washed their harness or possibly damaged it in some other way, Tilton recommends contacting the car seat manufacturer to purchase a new one. And if you machine washed the seat cover of your car when you shouldn’t, he said to contact the manufacturer and let them know of your mistake. They will tell you if you can buy a replacement part or if you need a new car seat.
Fit and finish
Once you have finished cleaning your car seat and the interior of your car, it is a good time to make sure your car seat still adjusts to your child’s height and weight, and to check the harness fit .
After reinstalling your child’s car seat, check the installation. If you’re not sure if you’ve done it right, Britax is offering one-on-one virtual car seat consultations, again, for any brand of car seat, not just Britax.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, “no one is checking seats,” said Tilton. Installation can be difficult for parents, especially new parents, and who couldn’t use a little help in making sure their children are as safe as possible in the car?