Consumer Reports: Cleaning your child's car seat

The coronavirus pandemic has a lot of us on a disinfecting spree. For many surfaces, experts recommend a bleach solution as one good defense against COVID-19.

But, bleach and other disinfectants may not be best for your child's car seat, as car seat manufacturers are pretty specific in allowing only mild detergents on many car seat components.

Parents are following public health recommendations, using bleach-based and other disinfectants to kill the coronavirus on surfaces around their house, everything from countertops to cabinets.

But one surface that should not be cleaned with those same harsh chemicals is a child's car seat.

"When it comes to car seats, each component must withstand high forces and repeated use in order to keep kids safe during a crash so you don't want to use any cleaners or disinfectants that could compromise any of the seat's components in any way," said Consumer Reports Auto Safety Engineer Emily Thomas.

So what should you use? To find out what you need refer to your car seat's owner's manual. There you'll find washing and drying instructions that are specific to not only your car seat model but for each of the seat's components.

If you no longer have your manual, many offer an online version or you can get a replacement from the manufacturer's customer service.

Most manufacturers say it's OK to machine wash and air dry the car seat cover, but you should never put the harness in the washing machine. Instead, follow manufacturer instructions to clean the harness by-hand.

Most specify using a mild soap and water mixture. Plastic components can also be wiped down with mild soap and water as well.

If you have already cleaned your car seat incorrectly, reach out to its manufacturer for replacement covers and parts.

"So with all of us stuck at home with our kids and not traveling anywhere. It really is the perfect time to clean our child's car seat," Thomas said. "And it's also a great opportunity to make sure that your child's car seat still fits them properly. So review the height and weight guidelines and make the appropriate adjustments necessary."

You can visit Consumer Reports for a car seat installation check-list, so you know your child is safe.

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