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Is your child car seat dirtier than your toilet?

We found gut bacteria and worse when we dug into the dirt

You might want to clean your child car seat before you buckle it up for a trip this weekend.

Our investigation into bugs and germs on child car seats has revealed a grim range of bacteria lurking on them, which could potentially make you or your baby ill.

We took swabs from around the buckles, harnesses and headrests of a range of baby and child car seats – the parts touched regularly – to see what germs we’d find. Our lab experts then compared the samples to swabs taken from household toilet seats

Each seat was tested for a range of bacteria including MRSA, E.coli, Staphylococcus and C.difficile – bugs and germs that in large enough quantities could potentially make you or your baby ill.

Gut and faecal bacteria

Our investigation revealed both toilet seats and child car seats with gut bacteria and faecal bacteria lurking on them. It may not be unusual to find either of these bugs around a toilet seat, but on a car seat it indicates that they aren’t as clean as they should be.

We found 30 different types of bacteria on the car seats we tested, spread over the three swabbed locations, compared to 16 different bugs on the toilet seats.

Finding a bit of poo on a car seat may not come as a surprise to any parent who’s had to deal with a nappy explosion while travelling up the M1. Neither of these types of potentially harmful bacteria should be found on a clean surface.

Bugs could cause sepsis

We found high levels of gut bacteria Enterobacteriaceae (pictured above) and Enterococci on the car seat. Both of these, our microbiology lab experts tell us, are associated with opportunistic infections. This means they could cause problems – potentially as serious as sepsis – for anyone with a less robust immune system, such as very young babies with a cut or a scratch where the bacteria could enter the body.

How to clean a car seat

If you haven’t cleaned your child car seat in a while, the results of our investigation show it could well be time.

The best way to ensure your car seat won’t make you or your baby ill is to keep it as clean as possible. Before you jump in the car and head off, give your child car seat a decent clean. Here’s how to do it easily and put your car seat back together safely:

  • First read the instructions
    This is so you know exactly what parts come off and how.
  • Take a video or pictures
    This is so you can remember exactly how to put your car seat back together again after you take it apart.
  • Wash
    Read the care labels and the instructions.
  • Pay careful attention to the car seat harness
    The harness plays a vital part in helping to keep your child safe and secure in their car seat, so make sure you follow instructions.
  • Put it all back together again
    Use the video or photos you took earlier, your car seat manufacturer’s website, and instructions to make sure it’s all put back together exactly as it was when you started.
  • Fit it back into your car
    Download our 10 essential fitting checks or head to our free car seat fitting video guides to help refresh your memory on how to fit your child car seat back into your car.

Get more tips to rid your travel car seat of bugs and germs by reading our how to clean your child car seat guide.

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