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How to clean your dirty car seat, including the harness

How to Clean Your Nasty Car Seat Cover

by Regan

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How to clean your dirty car seat, including the harness

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My little man, Dub has a longer than average torso which means that he outgrows his car seats faster than is typical. He is only four years and eight months old so I’m not ready to put him in a belt-positioning booster yet, but he is right at the top harness slots of his Diono Radian so it was time to buy him a new harnessed booster seat for our second car and sell the Radian. 

Once the old seat was taken out of the car and placed next to the new seat that was ready to be installed I realized how NASTY they were. Yuck! I can’t sell them like this so I would have to clean them. If you’re wondering how to clean a car seat, including the pesky harnesses, this is how to get ‘er done. 

How to clean your dirty car seat, including the harness

Here is the dirty duo. Not only was there goldfish stuck in the crevices, there are stains, labels yellowed with schmutz and grime, filthy harnesses, and disgusting foam pads underneath. I’m kind of horrified that I had my kid sitting in these things for so long and I probably should have cleaned them sooner. But alas, I’m not perfect. 

First, check your car seat’s manual for washing instructions, of course.

The first step was to get rid of the spill stains and try to get the labels clean again. Look how yellow the bottom of the Radian label is. Gross! So I applied some Dawn dish soap, rubbed it in and let it sit for about an hour or so. 

How to clean your dirty car seat, including the harness

Both of mine seat’s manuals recommended handwashing with mild soap. The Radian can be washed in a front loading machine only, but I have a top loading HE machine so chose to handwash it since I was washing the other cover anyway. *note: never wash the harnesses in the washing machine.

How to clean your dirty car seat, including the harness

After the Dawn did its magic I filled the bathtub with tepid/warm water and a mild laundry detergent. After putting the covers in the tub, I rubbed them together, swished them around, and let them soak for a few minutes. 

How to clean your dirty car seat, including the harness

After that, this is what the water looked like. Pretty foul, right? I rinsed the covers using the shower and did a repeat wash with more laundry detergent because, eew.

How to clean your dirty car seat, including the harness

After washing, I dried them out in the sun. Oh yeah, you probably want to make sure you wash your covers on a sunny day. Putting them in the dryer is not recommended. 

While the covers were drying on the deck I went out to wipe down the inside of the seats and clean those filthy harnesses with warm water and more Dawn dish soap. Note how clean the water is at this point. 

How to clean your dirty car seat, including the harness

How to clean your dirty car seat, including the harness

How to clean your dirty car seat, including the harness

That filth is mostly from the harnesses of both seats. I knew how dirty the Radian harness was, but it’s hard to tell (and easy to ignore) how dirty they are when the harnesses are black.

How to clean your dirty car seat, including the harness

Now I have two sparkly clean car seats ready to find a new home. But really, clean those car seats more often than I did. I will definitely be cleaning my existing seats more often now that I know just how dirty they really are. 

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1 comment

Jocelyn Black August 10, 2015 - 11:45 am

Thanks for these tips. We do a lot of eating in the car from going on errands. This means that there are a lot of spills. I appreciate the information on how to clean the car seat. I’ll have to try this soon.

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