The Mama Manual: How to Get Puke Out of a Car Seat

pukeinacarseatWelcome to the Mama Manual, where I will share my experiences (and YOUR experiences) about the things they just don't tell you when you become a parent. Things to get puke out of a car seat? Because face it, at some point in their childhood, your child WILL puke in their car seat. Sorry, but it's gonna happen.

Before we get started, let me tell you about my first car seat barfing experience. There we were, driving along as a happy family, and then I hear something strange from behind me. Something that sounds like retching, but surely, that can't can't be VOMITING IN THE CAR?!

Yes. Yes he was. As we were driving down the highway, my toddler was barfing all over himself, his car seat, and most of the car around him, and I was miles away from an exit and petrified of having to pull over on a busy highway. I also had zero idea of what to do if I DID pull over.

Welcome to parenthood. It's not all cute tiny toes and Eskimo kisses now, is it?

First, don't panic. Yes, it does look dire, and your first thought will probably be to just toss the entire car seat into your garbage can, but we all know those things are not cheap. So let's get through this together.

If it's just you at home, you're going to need to get some priorities. Number one will be getting the sick child into the house, cleaned up and assess what is causing the puking. Do NOT start to think about the vomit that is now soaking into your car. It's best to just push that out of your mind for the time being. But don't forget, time is of the essence with getting puke out of your car. The longer you wait, the more it will stink. Sorry, but it's true.

Once the child is cleaned and safe and don't need to immediately go see a doctor, you can assess the damage to your car and the car seat. Here's where it starts to (and continues to get) really gross...


Bring a garbage bag or a plastic bag with you, some paper towels, or cover your hands with two plastic bags and pick up the big chunks (I know, I know). But this way you can avoid getting big chunks of vomit in your washing machine. Try to either take a photo of how the car seat cover goes on, or take a mental picture (sans vomit) before you remove it. Remove the cover and all the padding. If you can stay outside and it's not freezing, hose that sucker down first outside. Throw that chunk bag right in the trash. You're almost there, mama, hang in there.

Sprinkle a thick layer of baking soda over the area you're cleaning if any got on the other seats, the floor of the car, etc. This will help absorb the odor of the vomit. Leave the baking soda for about 30 minutes, then vacuum it.

Next step, go inside and pour a glass of wine. (ed.note: only if you're not driving again OF COURSE). This is for you. Take a few sips, fortify yourself, then let's get on with it.

Before you toss the cover and padding in the wash, check the tags to make sure it is laundry safe. In my own personal experience, I have always machine washed (and dried on low) our car seat covers with no issues, but check to make sure first and if you are worried about it shrinking just hand wash it (yes that will be extra gross so that's your own personal choice) and hang it to dry. That being said, next time you buy a car seat you'll probably make sure it can be machine washed, am I right?!


Now, the really gross part, cleaning the base and all those lovely crevices that are now filled with vomit. Get some q-tips, a whole boat load of Magic Erasers, another bag to toss all that stuff in, and a natural cleanser like this one that is pet and people friendly. The q-tips are for those hard to reach places, and there's nothing like a Magic Eraser for the straps. Clean that thing up and down over and over and do the sniff test to see if you are missing any areas you might not see.

If you can remove the straps you can hand wash them and let them air dry, spot cleaning them as necessary. Head to google and see if you can purchase replacement straps if they are really gross, as lots of models have replacement straps that aren't that expensive.

Finally, after that whole ordeal is behind you, put together a little puke prevention bag and stash it in the car. They actually make barf bags you can buy for your car here and you can also put in a rolled up towel and maybe some wipes and a bottle of the baby safe cleanser as well. Oh, and have another glass of wine. You've earned it.