We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.

Coronavirus Read our latest advice

Child car seat safety

How to clean a child car seat

By Lisa Galliers

Article 3 of 4

You need to clean you car seat to avoid potentially harmful germs. Here's how to do it...

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

You'll need to clean your child car seat even if your baby hasn't been sick or had another accident while you've been out and about in your car. 

Germs lurk everywhere on your car seat, so that's where our guide to cleaning a car seat comes in. We've pulled together our experts tips on how to do this so you can get your car seat stain-free and back safely in place in your car quickly and easily.

Six steps to clean your child car seat

1. Check the instructions

Find your instruction manual and check how the covers come off. If you've lost the instruction manual, head to the internet and download a new copy, or check what to do online, if you prefer to save paper. 

2. Take a photo or a video

No, not for Instagram. It's so you can remember exactly how to put the car seat back together after you take it apart. The is vitally important if you need to clean more than just the top covers, such as the harness for example. If you put the car seat back together incorrectly, or forget a part of the harness, it could affect how well the car seat performs in a crash. 


1 in 3children are not properly strapped into their car seats*

3. Wash the covers

Remove any harness pads, or removable seat liners, then remove the covers. Always check the care labels for your baby or child car seat before you wash them. Each car seat can have a different set of instructions, don't just stick them in your washing machine on your usual program. Check what temperature they need to be washed on, and double check for any other specific instructions, like using a specific detergent. 

And some car seat covers are hand-wash only, which makes cleaning up in-car spills or bodily fluid incidents much trickier. 

Our child car seat reviews highlight those covers which are machine washable or hand wash, and our car seat experts also rate how easy the car seat covers are to remove from the seat. 

4. Clean the harness

The harness plays an important part in helping to keep your baby or toddler safe and secure in a car seat. But using harsh chemicals or detergents to clean it can affect how it works and potentially damage the fabrics. This may then also affect the way it performs when you need it the most – in a car crash. 

So, before you reach for the bleach to kill off those sick bugs, check your car seat instructions and follow these to the letter to help keep your car seat working the best it can. 

5. Put it back together again

Making sure your car seat has been put back together again properly is vital. Check back to the photos you took in step 1, and makes sure all parts are put back together exactly as they were before you started. Make sure you replace the harness correctly and put back all the extra padding, such as the harness shoulder pads.

6. Fit the car seat back into your car

Even if you buy the safest possible child car seat for your little one, if it's not fitted correctly, it won't offer the best protection for your child in a crash. 

If you're unsure of how to fit the car seat back into your car, head to our video guides on how to fit a child car seat where you can watch a video for baby car seats, rear-facing or forward-facing car seats, and even those fitted by the car's seat belt or Isofix, to help refresh your memory. 

Read your car seat instructions again, and head to the internet to watch your car seat manufacturer's installation video.

Common fitting problems with baby and child car seats include: 

  • twisted seatbelts
  • loose harnesses
  • not all Isofix points being connected .

Our advice is to make sure you check all these when putting your car seat back. 

* From Child Seat Safety survey February 2018.