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Cleaning Car Seat

The 6 Emotional Stages of Cleaning Your Kid's Car Seat

Most of my world is pretty clean and organized, mainly because I'm anal (at least according to my husband). All the beds are made before we go downstairs each morning, I clean the kitchen while I cook, and laundry is kind of my religion. But my car? That's a whole different story.

My kids eat constantly and occasionally have to be driven places (many of these places send them home with glitter- and glue-covered crafts), which has caused my car to become a crumby, sticky, disgusting pit (and month-old french fry receptacle). But my toddler's car seat is the absolute worst part of my car. We've owned this particular seat since he was born; his older sister pitted it out for about a year until she was big enough for a booster. I'll admit that I fast-tracked that transition because my little guy's old car seat was starting to making me gag, and knowing he was going to get a slightly less gross one soon made washing it seem like a waste of time.

A year and a half and countless car meals later, my mom finally called me out. "Don't you think it's time we cleaned that car seat?" she asked a couple of weeks ago. My inner monologue was saying something like, "Wouldn't it be easier to just buy a new one?" but instead I said, "Sure." And then I realized cleaning a kid's car seat is an emotional roller coaster.

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Here are the six stages you'll go through when you finally make the decision to clean yours.

  1. Denial. "His car seat isn't that dirty," you'll first tell yourself as you pick something hard and sticky off the plastic siding and realize that the clasp won't fully latch because there are so many crumbs stuck inside of it. Then you'll think, "I'll just wait until the next sunny day when we have absolutely nothing to do and the kids are behaving perfectly and my husband offers to clean it . . . " (i.e. never).
  2. Disgust. Next, something truly horrible will catch your attention. Perhaps a diaper blowout or vomit session has made cleaning an absolute necessity, so you have to deal with the fallout of either one. That, or an unidentifiable brown sludge will start oozing from a seam between the seat and arm rest (not that this happened to me).
  3. Resolve. "It's time," you'll tell yourself. It can't be put off any longer. You must wash clean this car seat. You might spend a few minutes looking for the manual or searching for helpful suggestions online, and then you'll decide to wing it and just start pulling that sucker apart.
  4. Confusion. Next, the questions arise. Does the cover even come off all the way? How long have those Trader Joe's stickers been at the bottom of that cup holder? What in God's name is that brown sludge? And then, after you've hosed and washed and wiped and scraped and dried, the biggest question will surface: how the hell am I going to get this thing back together?
  5. Pride. You got it back together! It looks and smells great. Your kid is going to be riding in style, comfort, and cleanliness. You win parent of the year!
  6. Disappointment. Five minutes after your triumph, your kid will inevitably spill a sippy cup of juice in the cup holder, wipe his sticky, sucker-covered hands all over the upholstery, and may or may not cry until you feed him an extracrumbly muffin. And that clean car seat? It will be but a distant memory.
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