Smiling mom with baby in car seat

How to get stains out of car seats in 8 steps

If you’re a parent, you’ve learned first-hand that kids can be quite messy. And the car isn’t off-limits when it comes to messes of all kinds. If you’re wondering how to get stains out of car seats, keep reading.

Since car seats are designed to keep your baby secure, it’s important to clean all of the parts in such a way that won’t damage or compromise them. That’s what we’ll discuss in this article. 

You’ll learn how to carefully clean your baby’s car seat to do away with stains plus what to do when that pesky stain just won’t go. Let’s take a look. 

How to get stains out of car seats

First and foremost, always check your car seat manual for specific cleaning instructions. Below, we’ll offer the basics for thorough cleaning to get everyday stains out of car seats, but you should follow your own seat’s specific instructions. 

That said, to get everything squeaky clean, turn to a little bit of elbow grease and these proper cleaning techniques that won’t damage your car seat. 

Baby in car seat and young child in a booster seat

1) Don’t wait

When it comes to getting rid of car seat stains, don’t wait to clean things up. The longer the stain sits, the harder it will be to get rid of it.

Obviously, you won’t always be able to drop everything and give the car seat a thorough cleaning, but don’t put it off. The sooner, the better. 

2) Remove the car seat

Many car seat fabric covers need to be air-dried instead of tumble-dried. That means if you only have one car seat for your precious cargo, you need to clean the car seat at a time when you won’t need it for several hours. Air drying can take a while. 

When you’ve found a good time to clean, start by removing the car seat from the car. If yours is too much of a pain to take out and reinstall, skip this step and carry on to the next step. 

With a travel system car seat (also known as a car seat stroller), like the Bugaboo Turtle One by Nuna or Turtle Air by Nuna, removing the car seat itself is a cinch since it’s made to move effortlessly from your stroller to your car and back again. 

Mom taking travel system car seat out of car

The car seat comes out of the car base with the push of a button. Perfect for cleaning or an easy transition to your Bugaboo stroller!

The Bugaboo Turtle One by Nuna is compatible with all of our current strollers, from the all-terrain Fox 3 to the Lynx, our lightest full-size stroller. Take your pick.

After cleaning or strolling, the Bugaboo car seat clicks back into place when you put it on the base. Keep in mind that you can purchase extra car seat bases separately for seamless travel no matter which car you’re taking. 

3) Vacuum

How to get stains out of car seats: start by vacuuming

Start the cleaning and stain-removal process by vacuuming or picking off the crumbs or bigger pieces of the mess. A handheld vacuum makes this super easy.

4) Take the fabric off

 Remove the fabric cover to get stains out of car seats

Next, remove the fabric from the car seat. Pay attention to the various parts. For example, with the Turtle Air by Nuna, you’ll also need to remove the foam from the insert before washing the fabric. 

This car seat offers premium materials, ultra comfort padding, and a Merino wool insert that make your baby feel like they're traveling first-class. But this seat isn’t designed only for comfort. 

All of the materials have been carefully developed and meticulously tested so that they efficiently absorb force and protect your little co-pilot. All of that in an ultra-lightweight design that makes transporting your baby easy for you. 

Confidence and ease for trips near and far. 

5) Wash the fabric

How to get stains out of car seats: wash the fabric cover 

Assuming the unwanted stain is on the fabric, washing is the key step to getting it out of the car seat. Your user manual will tell you if you should hand-wash the fabric cover or if you can throw it in the washing machine. 

Whether you wash by hand or in a machine, use a mild detergent — no bleach allowed!

Use a sponge to target the stain. With a bit of soap and water, rub the stained fabric in a circular motion. If you’re washing by hand, be sure to rinse the cover in clear water after.

6) Wipe down the rest

For the rest of the car seat, you’ll do a wipe-down with a wet cloth. Using water and soap, wipe the car seat shell, handle, and harness straps.

To clean the buckle, steer clear of soaps, solvents, or lubricants. Simply rinse it with warm water. As we mentioned earlier, the car seat has a big job to do: keep your baby secure on every adventure. Cleaning the buckle improperly could cause it to malfunction. 

To rinse the buckle, swish it in a cup of water without getting the straps wet. 

7) Dry everything

With the whole car seat wiped or washed, all that’s left to do is to let everything dry. From buckles to straps and everything in-between, this means laying it all out to air dry.

Check your car seat label to see if you can tumble dry the fabric. For example, the Turtle Air by Nuna shouldn’t be tumble-dried or ironed. For more tips on cleaning this car seat, click here

If you aren’t sure, stick with air drying. Twisting the fabric to wring the water out is a no-no, too. 

8) Reassemble and reinstall

Baby in clean car seat

Since your baby’s wellbeing is the top priority, we have to mention this final and very important step: reassembling and reinstalling the car seat. 

Once again, you’ll want to refer to the manual to put the car seat back together or install it in the car. If you’ve misplaced your manual (it happens to the best of us), find it online by searching your car seat’s brand and model. To read our car seat installation guide, click here

Then, all that’s left to do is put your baby in the car seat and off you go!

Tips for stubborn stains   

When you’re dealing with a stubborn stain that just won’t go, what can be done? Here are a few dos and don’ts if a regular cleaning didn’t take care of the mark, splatter, smear, or spot.

Parent handling the straps and buckles of their baby’s car seat 

Don’t wash the straps

If the straps are sporting a stain, it can be tempting to put them in the washing machine. Resist the urge! They shouldn’t be washed unless your car seat guide specifically indicates otherwise. 

The straps are essential in keeping your baby secure, and you don’t want to do anything that will damage them.

Don’t use steel wool

Another don’t: Don’t break out the steel wool. Steel wool can be great for cleaning other household items, but it’s abrasive and can compromise the car seat harness.

Do try cleaning with vinegar

For tough stains on the fabric cover, try vinegar (unless your manual recommends against it). Here’s how to go about it:

  • Make your own vinegar solution with one cup of vinegar and one cup of water along with one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid or laundry detergent.
  • Apply the vinegar solution to the stain and use your fingers to rub it in.
  • Let it sit for anywhere from five to 20 minutes.
  • Rub the fabric together.
  • Give it a good rinse before washing the whole cover by hand or in the washing machine.

Apply baking soda

When it comes to how to get stains out of car seats, another trick is to apply baking soda. Make a paste by mixing baking soda with water (one part baking soda to two parts water). 

Then, apply the baking soda paste onto the stain and let it sit before rinsing it off and washing the fabric as usual.

Purchase a new cover

When all else fails, check to see if your car seat manufacturer sells the fabric covers separately. This allows you to do away with the old, stained cover and start over with a brand new one. 

Car seat stains be gone

Mom with baby in a clean car seat

When you’re adventuring with your tiny partner in crime, messes are basically unavoidable. But now that you know how to get stains out of car seats, you’ll be ready to tackle the stains that come your way. 

Since car seats, such as the Bugaboo Turtle One by Nuna and the Turtle Air by Nuna, keep your baby secure in the car, they must be cared for in certain ways to avoid damage. To fight stains, start by cleaning the car seat with the appropriate techniques we listed in this article. 

Remember: Don’t use bleach or steel wool, don’t wash the straps, and try vinegar for tough stains on the fabric cover. Car seat stains be gone in three…two…one!