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How To Clean Vomit From a Child’s Car Seat

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Here’s how to clean vomit from your child’s car seat and other car surfaces, plus simple tips for prevention!

If you’re a first time mom you may be surprised at how quickly your child’s car seat gets dirty.

And while you might be able to deal with sippy cup stains and cracker crumbs, vomit takes it to a whole other level!

Thankfully, we’ve put together some helpful tips for cleaning vomit stains and ways to prevent them in the first place!

Below, you’ll find the best methods for cleaning vomit from a child’s car seat and car interiors, plus ideas to manage and prevent car sickness.

RELATED: How To Travel With A Car Seat On A Plane

How to Clean Vomit From a Child’s Car Seat

Rear facing gray, blue, and black child's car seat in a car.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to cleaning vomit from a child’s car seat.

Make sure to pay special attention to the instructions on how to clean vomit from car seat straps. These tips will help keep your car seat functional and safe for your child!

1. Remove solid matter.

First, you’ll need to remove any solid matter from the seat.

You can use several paper towels to scoop up the waste.

Or you can place your hand inside a plastic bag and use your hand to scoop up the waste. Invert the bag so the waste goes inside and tie it off before throwing it in the garbage.

2. Wash removable pieces.

Next, uninstall the car seat and remove any detachable cloth pieces and throw them in the wash.

This is the easiest way to thoroughly clean the car seat coverings.

Just be sure to follow the washing machine instructions provided on the car seat.

3. Hand clean the car seat shell.

While the car seat covers are in the wash, work on cleaning the shell and harness.

Handwash the car seat shell with soap and water. And use a toothbrush or small scrub brush if needed to get into the nooks and crannies.

4. Hand clean the car seat straps.

Clean the harness straps with mild soap (like dawn) or baby bath soap. But, try not to get the straps soaking wet.

If needed, remove the buckle and wash it separately by soaking (just the bottom piece) in a cup of water and swishing it around.

Do not put the car seat straps in the washing machine. And don’t be tempted to use harsh cleaners like bleach, vinegar, pet cleaners, Oxiclean, or even Febreze.

NOTE: Car seat straps are made with sophisticated webbing designed to slightly stretch but not break in an accident. This reduces the amount of force transferred to your child.

If the straps are submerged in water, exposed to harsh chemicals, or spun in a washing machine, they will prematurely stretch and won’t perform as intended.

5. Dry.

Finally, let the fabric, shell, and car seat straps dry in the sun during daylight. This will help get rid of any lingering vomit smell.

If you still notice the smell of vomit, you can try soaking the removable cloth pieces in borax with a little bit of laundry detergent. Then wash them again as normal.

If you can’t get the vomit smell out of your straps, some companies will replace harness straps for free or for a small charge. Check with the manufacturer to determine your options.

How to Clean Vomit from the Seats of the Car

A person uses a steam cleaner to clean light and dark gray car seats.

Once you’ve removed your child’s car seat, you may notice vomit on other car surfaces that you need to clean.

Before cleaning your car’s interior, open all the windows to let fresh air circulate.

You may need a face mask or rubber gloves depending on the type of cleaner you choose to use.

Cloth Seats

It can be fairly labor intensive to clean vomit from cloth car seats, but with a little patience, you can get it done!

1. Remove solid matter.

First, remove any solid matter the same way you would from your child’s car seat.

2. Remove excess moisture.

Next, try to clean and remove as much remaining moisture from the vomit as possible.

You can blot the vomit spots with a paper towel or use baking soda.

If you’re using paper towels, be sure to blot and not rub. Rubbing can push the moisture further into the seat and make it harder to clean.

For baking soda, apply a heavy layer to the seat and leave it to sit for at least 30 minutes. During this time, the baking soda will absorb moisture and odors from the seat.

After it sits, use a vacuum cleaner to remove the powder.

3. Clean.

Next, use a clean cloth or clean rag to remove stains and discoloration. If you have a wet vac or can rent a heavy-duty steam cleaner, you can use these during the cleaning process, too.

It may take a few different types of cleaners to fully remove stains, so don’t be afraid to try a few different things.

Here are some easy options:

  • Store-bought upholstery cleaner
  • Enzymatic cleaner
  • A DIY cleaning solution from household products

If you want to make your own cleaning solution, make sure you have a clean spray bottle on hand.

You can use 3 drops of dishwashing liquid, 1/8 cup of white vinegar, and 1 cup of warm water. Or, a mixture of 2 cups of hydrogen peroxide plus 2 drops of liquid dish soap.

Spray your cleaner of choice onto the affected area and use a wet cloth to gently wipe the car upholstery. Rinse the cloth and repeat the process until the stain disappears.

If you have a wet vac or steamer, use these instead of a wet cloth and repeat the cleaning process until they produce clean water.

4. Rinse.

For best results take a new clean wet cloth and lightly rinse the entire seat surface to remove any rings left from your cleaning products.

5. Dry.

Let the seat air dry. Or, use a hair dryer on a low setting to speed up the drying process.

5. Deodorize.

Green tree car air freshener hanging from a review mirror behind windshield.

If you notice any lingering smells, you can spray the seat with an odor eliminator. Or, use a car air freshener.

Leather Seats

It’s a lot easier to clean vomit from a traditional vinyl, plastic, or leather car seat.

Simply remove any solid materials and wipe excess liquids with a damp cloth (not wet). Then apply an approved interior stain remover or leather cleaner and conditioner to remove smells and discoloration.

Or you can use a homemade solution of 1 cup of baking soda with 1/3 cup of water. This forms a paste that you can apply to the affected area and wipe clean.

Perforated Leather Seats

If you have perforated leather seats you can use a damp cloth, interior stain removers, or leather cleaner and conditioner as above.

However, you should not use baking soda.

If you see any remaining cleaning solution in the tiny holes of the seat, you can suck it up with a vacuum. Or engage the seat’s heating or air conditioning function to dry them out.

Under the Seats

If you find any vomit under the seat, you can use a carpet cleaner and the cleaning instructions for cloth seats, above.

If your child has projectile vomited, there may be a lingering smell from the hard-to-reach areas of the car. Be sure to fold down the seats and remove the carpet lining from the area where the child threw up to make sure that you’ve truly cleaned all of the vomit.

An enzymatic cleaner will help with the smell in those hard-to-reach places.

Prevention

Yellow, mint green, and dark tan plastic bibs stacked on top of each other.

Now that we’ve discussed how to clean vomit from car seats, here are some simple prevention tips!

  • If you or your child regularly get car sick, try taking a motion sickness medication before long car rides. Or use these non-medicated bands.
  • For toddlers and older children, keep a small bucket or large cup nearby so they can catch their throw-up and keep it from getting on the seat.
  • Have babies wear a bib with “a catcher” at the bottom.

You may not always be able to prevent throw-up, so it’s a good idea to keep some cleaning essentials on hand.

Add these items to your car emergency or first aid kid:

  • Paper towels
  • Extra baby wipes
  • Regular hand towel
  • Garbage bags
  • Gallon-size Zip Loc bags
  • Extra change of clothes
  • Air freshener

FAQs

How can I get the smell of vomit out of my car?


When cleaning vomit, use odor-eliminating cleaners, an enzymatic cleaner, or household cleaners made with white vinegar, peroxide, or baking soda. You should also roll the windows down to allow fresh air to circulate.

If the vomit is already cleaned, spray the cleaned area with a cloth odor eliminator like Febreze. Or, add a car air freshener to your rearview mirror or air vents.

How can I clean vomit from other parts of the car?


First, remove any solid matter and excess moisture.

For cloth surfaces, use upholstery cleaner or a homemade cleaning solution with ingredients like warm water, baking soda, dish soap, and white vinegar; a wet cloth; and a wet vac or steamer if you have it.

Apply the cleaner and gently wipe, wet vac, or steam clean the soiled upholstery. Repeat until the stain is removed and/or the water runs clear.

For leather, vinyl, or plastic surfaces, use a damp cloth and an approved cleaning solution, leather cleaner, and conditioner, or baking soda and water.

Use a soft brush or toothbrush to clean crevices.

Want More?

A parent straps a yawning baby into a gray infant car seat.

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Your Turn

Did we answer all your questions about how to clean vomit from a car seat? Let us know if we missed anything in the comments!

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