How to Properly Wash Car Seat Covers

Car seats are essential for safely transporting children in vehicles. The covers on car seats easily get dirty from spills, stains, and regular use.

It’s important to know how to properly clean car seat covers to keep them looking nice and your children safe. This article will discuss everything you need to know about washing car seat covers.

Can You Wash Car Seat Covers?

Some people wonder if washing car seat covers is necessary or safe. The answer is yes – not only can you wash car seat covers, you should wash them regularly. Here’s why:

  • Dirt and stains accumulate on seat covers from daily use. Regular washing keeps them clean.
  • Odor and bacteria build up in fabric over time. Washing sanitizes and deodorizes.
  • Manufacturer instructions for most seat covers recommend washing.
  • Washing extends the lifespan of covers by removing grime that can degrade fibers.

So regularly washing your seat covers is vital for hygiene and performance. But how you wash them makes all the difference…

Can You Machine Wash Car Seat Covers?

Luckily, most car seat covers are made from fabric that is machine washable. However, you need to be careful about water temperature and wash cycles to avoid damaging the material.

Here are some tips for machine washing car seat covers:

  • Use a gentle cycle to avoid too much agitation
  • Wash in cold water to prevent shrinking or fading
  • Use a mild detergent – avoid bleach and fabric softener
  • Air dry covers instead of machine drying

Always check the tag on your specific covers for the manufacturer’s washing instructions. Some may have more delicate fabric that requires hand washing.

Preparing Covers for Washing

Before tossing car seat covers in the washing machine, some simple prep steps are recommended:

  • Vacuum covers to remove loose dirt and debris. This prevents particles from grinding into the fabric during the wash cycle.
  • Spot treat stains. Use a specialized auto upholstery cleaner or a mix of gentle dish soap and warm water. Lightly dab the stain, don’t rub vigorously.
  • Check care tag instructions. Some covers may have special washing requirements.
  • Close zippers, hooks, straps. Secure all fasteners so they don’t catch on other items mid-cycle.
  • Wash in mesh bag. This prevents friction damage to the covers during washing.

Proper prep helps maintain the covers while maximizing cleaning results. Now let’s look at the best washing methods.

Washing Machine Settings

When using a washing machine to clean car seat covers, there are some key settings to choose:

Cycle Selection

  • Gentle/delicate cycle: This slower agitation reduces stress on fabrics.
  • Cold water wash: Hot water can damage cover materials – stick to cold.


  • Mild detergent: Harsh detergents can fade dyes or degrade fabric. A mild soap prevents this.
  • Less is more: Don’t overload with detergent – excess suds can cling to fabric.

Drying Method

  • Air dry is ideal – avoids heat damage from the dryer. Lay flat or hang up.
  • Low heat tumble dry if air drying isn’t possible. Use lowest heat setting.

Following these guidelines provides a gentle, effective wash to lift stains without harming the seat covers. Check on them periodically for any issues.

How to Wash Car Seat Covers by Hand

For car seat covers that are not machine washable, hand washing is your best option. Here is a simple process for effective cleaning:

Supplies You’ll Need

  • Mild liquid detergent or delicate soap
  • Soft brush for scrubbing stains
  • Large sink, tub, or bucket for washing
  • Clean towels

Steps for Hand Washing

  1. Fill your sink or tub with cool water and add a small amount of mild detergent.
  2. Fully submerge the cover in the water and let soak for 15-20 minutes. This helps loosen dirt and stains.
  3. Use a soft brush to gently scrub any stained or soiled areas. Avoid harsh scrubbing.
  4. Drain the dirty water and refill with clean cool water to rinse the covers thoroughly.
  5. Drain again and gently press water out of the covers with clean towels.
  6. Lay flat and allow to fully air dry before placing back on the car seat.

Hand washing with care allows you to fully clean the covers without risk of damage.

Avoiding Damage to Seat Covers

Certain washing mistakes can ruin or shorten the lifespan of your seat covers:

Hot water can cause fading, shrinking, or misshaping. Always use cold water.

Bleach can discolor fabrics and degrade fibers – skip it.

Overcrowding the washer leads to wrinkling and tearing. Wash just 2-3 covers at a time.

Over-drying causes covers to become stiff or cracked. Remove immediately when dry.

Unsupervised drying can allow heat damage if machine stops early. Monitor covers.

With proper care, quality seat covers can last for years. Avoiding these common mistakes helps maximize their durability and appearance.

Alternative Car Seat Cleaning Methods

While washing is preferred for thorough cleaning, other methods can help maintain seat covers in between washes:

  • Vacuuming – Picks up loose dirt between washes. Use brush and crevice tools.
  • Steam cleaning – Helps sanitize and deodorize covers. More effective on cloth upholstery.
  • UV sanitizers – Portable wands use UV-C light to kill germs and bacteria without chemicals. Not suitable for stains.
  • Foam cleaners – Spray on foams lift some stains and offer light cleaning for delicate fabrics.
  • Leather wipes – Pre-moistened wipes clean, condition, and protect leather seat covers.

For quick touch ups or deep sanitizing, these methods help keep covers fresh between washes. But launder regularly for a thorough clean.

How to Dry Car Seat Covers

It’s important to fully dry car seat covers before putting them back on the seat. Wet covers can lead to mold and bacteria growth.

Here are proper methods for drying covers:

  • Air drying outside or in a well-ventilated area is best to avoid mold. Lay covers flat.
  • Can machine tumble dry on low heat if fabric allows. Remove immediately when dry.
  • Drying in direct sunlight can help sanitize and remove stains. Avoid if fabric prone to fading.
  • Point a fan directly on covers indoors to speed drying time. Rotate covers for even drying.
  • Never put damp covers back onto the car seat! Always fully dry first.

If you ever detect mildew smells from your car seat, wash and thoroughly dry covers before further use. The odor can indicate mold growth.

Read our full guide on how to properly dry car seat covers.

How to Clean Tough Car Seat Stains

Kids can create some challenging stains on their car seats! Here are some tips for getting out the toughest stains:

Food Stains

  • Scrape off any dried or stuck on food particles before washing
  • Pretreat with stain remover or ammonia before washing
  • Use warm (not hot) water when hand washing to dissolve food particles
  • Repeat washings if stains persist

Drink Stains

  • Blot up excess liquid immediately after spills
  • Rinse stain under cold water right away to prevent setting
  • Pretreat with stain remover and wash promptly
  • Use an enzyme-based cleaner like OxiClean to break down sugars

Dirt and Mud

  • Allow mud to fully dry before scraping off excess
  • Pretreat mud with stain remover or detergent when dry
  • Wash multiple times if needed to fully dissolve and remove mud

Grease and Oil

  • Blot away any liquid immediately
  • Pretreat with dish soap or degreasing agent like Dawn
  • Use warm water and scrub vigorously with soft brush

With some extra effort, you can get your car seat covers looking fresh and new again after dealing with those inevitable kid stains!

Maintaining Child Car Seats

Child car seats – also known as safety seats – require extra care and washing precautions:

  • Check manufacturer guidelines – some may recommend not washing.
  • Spot clean only – avoid submerging entire seat.
  • Air dry fully before re-installing – moisture can impact safety.
  • Clean buckles and straps with mild soap and water only.
  • Do not use chemical cleaners or bleach – risks child’s exposure.
  • Replace at expiry – washing cannot extend the safe lifespan.
  • Consider disposable seat covers for easier cleaning between kids.

Child seat safety is the priority – only wash according to guidelines for your particular model.

Best Practices for Washing Car Seat Covers

To recap, follow these best practices whenever washing your car seat covers:

  • Read care tag and follow any special instructions
  • Pretreat stains for better stain removal
  • Wash on gentle cycle using cold water
  • Use a mild detergent, less is more
  • Air dry covers to prevent heat damage
  • Check child seat manuals before washing
  • Spot clean leather, vinyl, and delicate covers
  • Replace damaged covers that cannot be fully cleaned
  • Wash covers regularly – every 1-2 months – for freshness

Proper washing ensures your covers stay looking new while protecting your car’s upholstery.

How Often Should You Wash Car Seat Covers?

Car seat covers will need washing whenever they get noticeably dirty or stained. For light use, that may mean every 2-3 months. With frequent use, washing every month or so is a good rule of thumb.

Here are some signs it’s time to clean your car seat covers:

  • Visible stains from food, drinks, dirt, etc.
  • Strong odors coming from food or drink spills
  • Accumulation of crumbs in crevices
  • General feeling or appearance of uncleanliness

Washing car seat covers regularly will also help remove bacteria and keep your children healthy. If your children are sick, wash covers right away to prevent the spread of illness.

Signs Your Seat Covers Need Replacing

Even with regular washing, car seat covers do eventually wear out. Here are signs it’s time to replace your seat covers:

  • Fading, thinning fabric
  • Permanent stains that won’t wash out
  • Irreparable rips, tears, or holes
  • Broken zippers or straps
  • Smells musty despite washing
  • Doesn’t fit securely on seat frame
  • Overall dirty, dingy appearance

Replacement covers can give worn seats a brand new look again. Plan to get new covers about every 2-4 years with regular use.

Tips for Storing Car Seat Covers

Proper storage between uses will help keep your car seat covers clean longer:

  • Store in a clean, dry place – avoid damp garages or basements where mold grows
  • Fold or roll up loosely to allow airflow and prevent creases
  • Place covers in a sealed plastic bin or bag to protect from dust and pests
  • Store removed covers separately from the car seat itself
  • Check on covers occasionally and wash or air out if smelling musty
  • Consider extra seat protector mats/pads to allow washing covers less often

With some care when storing, your covers will stay fresher longer before needing a wash!

Best Practices for Washing Car Seats

While this article has focused specifically on washing the removable covers, here are some reminders on cleaning the full car seats:

  • Always check manufacturer guidelines for washing the seat itself
  • Spot clean messes on the plastic shell as needed with mild soap and water
  • Vacuum loose dirt/debris from crevices frequently
  • Deep clean the seat with warm water/soap every 3-6 months or as needed
  • Never submerge the car seat or get areas like buckles excessively wet
  • Install seat to dry fully before re-attaching covers or using again

Proper washing of both the covers and seat will help ensure safety and cleanliness.

When to Replace Car Seat Covers

Over time, car seat covers will show natural wear and tear. Here are some signs it may be time to replace your covers:

  • Fading, thinning or ripping of the fabric
  • Unable to get stains or smells out fully after washing
  • Covers have endured many years of use
  • Not as snug or tight fitting around car seat base
  • Missing attachments like straps or hooks

Replacing worn out covers will give your car seat a fresh look and keep your child comfortable. Check for replacement cover options from the original manufacturer.

FAQs About Washing Car Seat Covers

How often should I wash car seat covers?

Ideally, wash car seat covers every 1-2 months with regular use. Wash immediately if they get heavily soiled. Light spot cleaning can be done between washes as needed.

Can you put car seat covers in the washing machine?

Most car seat covers can be washed in the machine on delicate cycle using cold water and mild detergent. Avoid very high speed spins that could damage fabrics. Always check tag instructions.

Should you air dry or tumble dry car seat covers?

It’s safest to fully air dry seat covers flat to prevent heat damage from dryers. If you must tumble dry, use the lowest heat setting and remove covers immediately when finished drying.

How do you clean faux leather seat covers?

Use mild soap and water to spot clean faux leather. Avoid submerging the entire cover. For tougher stains, use a small amount of leather cleaner applied sparingly to the stain only. Condition afterward to restore sheen.

What is the best way to clean neoprene seat covers?

Hand wash neoprene covers in cold water using mild detergent. Rinse thoroughly and air dry. Avoid machine washing, wringing out, heat drying or dry cleaning neoprene covers.

Keep Your Car Looking Fresh

Protecting your car’s upholstery is easy with washable seat covers and proper laundering techniques. Follow these tips to lift stains, eliminate odors, and refresh dingy covers. Taking the time to properly wash your covers helps maintain that like-new appearance year after year. Your fresh, clean car interior will look and smell so much better.

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