How to clean your high chair
Whether you’re just starting out on the weaning journey or are already well established, chances are that on your high chair you’ve encountered a fair amount of squashed carrot, mushed peas and the dreaded Bolognese stain.
Keeping your high chair clean is important because a dirty high chair can harbour a whole host of bacteria. In fact, a 2007 study by the Hygiene Council found that 60% of food trays on high chairs had coliforms – bacteria from faecal matter, raw meat, soil or unwashed vegetables – on them.
The frequency with which you should clean your high chair is up to you, but we’d recommend you wipe down the high chair tray after each meal, wipe or brush down the seat every couple of days and do a deeper clean of the whole chair at least once a month.
Look out for the dirty high chair hotspots – areas where you’re most likely to get food and grime caught. These include the underside of the food tray, between the seat cushion/padding and the plastic part of the chair, and the holes through which the high chair straps are threaded.
What cleaning products should you use?
If you decide to use a regular chemical kitchen spray, this will definitely remove stubborn dried-on food and kill bacteria, but you may want to wipe down the tray with plain water afterwards to remove any cleaning product residues that might be left. Babies and young children have very sensitive skin so shouldn’t be exposed to harsh chemical cleaning products.
For those preferring to go down the natural products route, many people swear by distilled white vinegar and lemon juice. Both are naturally acidic, which means bacteria won’t thrive in those environments. Similarly, a few drops of tea tree oil in a water spray will help to kill bacteria.
For marks and stains that need a bit more elbow grease, try mixing together a paste of lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). The latter is a natural abrasive stain remover and deodoriser.
How to clean the seat on a high chair
No matter how well covered up your little one might be, it’s inevitable that food will end up getting caught in the seat part of your high chair.
If your high chair seat is made of fabric, first check if it’s removable and machine washable – this can save a lot of time and effort. Be sure to follow the washing instructions carefully to avoid shrinking the fabric and not being able to fit it back on the chair.
If you can’t remove the fabric seat, vacuum up any crumbs using the narrow nozzle of your vacuum cleaner, making sure you get as deeply into the crevices of the seat as possible. Then sponge down any parts that are stained or grubby with warm soapy water.
Many of today’s high chairs have a padded rubber or plastic seat area, which is easy enough to spray with some cleaner and wipe down. If this part of the high chair comes away from the main plastic part of the chair, make sure you clean in between it as bacteria and food could get trapped there.
How to clean the straps on a high chair
High chair straps can be tricky to keep clean, especially as many are often quite pale in colour, meaning they stain easily. Look out for high chairs with dark straps, or removable strap covers that you can put in the washing machine at the same time as the padded seat part.
Many high chairs have removable straps, which you can then leave in a washing bowl with some bleach or washing powder. If you do wash them in bleach, make sure you rinse them out fully before reattaching.
If you can’t remove the straps, many parents we’ve spoken to swear by a paste of bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice. Work it into the straps before leaving for an hour and then scrubbing off using a stiff nail brush or old toothbrush. You could also use a standard laundry stain removal powder, once again made into a paste, and then scrubbed off.
Accessories to help keep your high chair clean
Removable tray inserts
Some high chairs have removable tray inserts, which mean you can lift out the tray, empty any food into the bin and then place in a dishwasher. Other high chairs have removable trays, which make it easier to take off and scrub over the sink.
A bib is a must-have when you’re weaning and some will help to keep your high chair clean, too. Bibs with an upturned lip at the end – known as a crumb-catcher – will help to catch some of the food that would have fallen into your baby’s lap.
However, to avoid any food falling onto the seat, there are some bibs that can be attached directly to the tray, completely covering up the gap between the tray and your baby.
Suction or magnetic bowls
It may be cute the first time your baby upturns his bowl of spaghetti and places it on his head, but it’s less funny if he or she starts making a habit of it. Look out for bowls and plates that have a suction cup on the bottom, to reduce the risk of your baby picking it up.
Some high chairs have magnetic trays that help to keep your child’s bowl in place. However, you will need to buy the specific bowls from the manufacturer that go with that high chair, and some aren't dishwasher-proof.
Be warned, some babies will simply see suction or magnetic bowls as a challenge to attempt a tug-of-war to pull the bowl off at all costs or simply scoop their food out with their hands.
These are mats that you place underneath your high chair to catch any food that’s dropped on the floor. While these won't necessarily keep the high chair clean, they will make it easier to clean up the surrounding area.
Table last updated in October 2020.
How we test for ease of cleaning
When we send high chairs to the lab for testing, as well as checking how comfortable, safe and sturdy they are, we also find out how easy they are to clean.
Our experts smear the tray, seat and harness with banana purée and Bolognese sauce and sprinkle the whole area with crumbs to find out where food can get trapped, such as the seams of the chair and any grooves or dips.
We check if the seat and harness straps are easily stained or whether they come out with a bit of vigorous scrubbing.
The cleaning test forms 25% of the final test score.
Coronavirus update - cleaning your high chair
The virus known as COVID-19 can be spread from person to person or by touching unclean equipment or surfaces. It's important that you wipe down your child's high chair after each meal to prevent them picking up the virus. Medical experts believe that while this version of the virus does not cause serious symptoms in otherwise healthy children, that your little ones can spread the virus around, so good hygiene is vital.
Use either soap and hot water to rinse the germs away, or a disinfectant to kill them. This should be done on the tray, seating area and high chair straps.
If you've previously opted for natural cleaning products such as tea tree oil or witch hazel, we'd recommend you switch to the products mentioned above, as there is yet no clinical evidence that natural remedies kill the virus.
Make sure you dry any surfaces thoroughly after cleaning. Dampness helps any remaining germs to survive and, if there's enough water, multiply.
If it's possible, we'd recommend machine washing the high chair seat cover on a regular basis.