How To Clean a Pack ‘N Play: Spot Clean to Deep Clean

Baby travel crib

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Having a pack ‘n play or travel crib around can be a lifesaver for parents and caregivers. They give your baby a safe place to nap or play wherever you go, and some even have bassinet or changing table attachments. But as amazing as this piece of baby gear can be, you may be wondering how on earth you’re supposed to clean it.

If you’re a parent, you know that babies and toddlers can be germ magnets. And you know that they’re bringing those germs into the pack ‘n play with them, especially if you’re using it every day. Add some dirt, spit-up, and snack crumbs to the mix, and you could end up with one dirty play yard.

The good news is that cleaning your child’s pack and play isn’t as complicated as you might think. It usually only requires a few household items that you probably already have on hand. Whether your play yard needs a spot clean or a deep clean, here’s how to clean a pack ‘n play (and keep it that way).

Why Cleaning Your Pack ‘n Play is Important

It’s important to clean your pack ‘n play regularly to keep your baby healthy. That’s because cleaning and disinfecting your home regularly helps prevent the spread of illnesses. Often, simply cleaning items in your house with regular soap and water is enough to kill bacteria and viruses. So, even if your baby’s been sick, disinfecting isn’t always necessary.

Along with preventing illness, cleaning your pack ‘n play will help to prevent dirt, spit-up, and all kinds of other grime from building up. If your baby spends a lot of time in their pack ‘n play, whether they’re playing or sleeping, they’ll bring dirt, oils, and sometimes even food crumbs with them. Cleaning their pack ‘n play will give them a comfortable, sanitary place to sleep and play.

How Often Should You Clean Your Pack ‘n Play?

To prevent germs and dirt from building up in your pack ‘n play, it’s a good idea to clean it regularly. But how often you clean your pack ‘n play will depend on how frequently it’s used. If you only use it once in a while for a sleepover at their grandparents’ house, you’ll need to clean your pack ‘n play a lot less often than if you use it every day.

If your baby sleeps in their pack ‘n play on a daily basis, you’ll want to wash their sheets frequently. Sleep experts recommend washing sheets once a week to remove dirt, body oils, and dust mites. If you’re washing your baby’s sheets once a week, this would also be a good time to give the entire pack ‘n play a quick clean.

Along with giving your pack ‘n play a quick wipe down once a week, it should be cleaned anytime it starts looking dirty or after an illness. If you start to notice some build-up of dirt or your baby spits-up frequently, spot clean it as needed. You should also clean your pack ‘n play if your baby or someone else in the family has been sick.

Sleeping baby in a travel crib.

What You Need To Clean Your Pack N Play

You’ll want to clean your pack ‘n play with gentle household cleaning products to help keep your baby healthy. Graco recommends only cleaning your pack ‘n play with regular soap and warm water. It’s important not to use bleach or other harsh cleaners on your pack ‘n play—these aren’t good for the pack ‘n play or your baby.

The AAP warns against using chemical disinfectants and sanitizers since these can be harmful to children. Instead, they recommend using less toxic household products for cleaning, like baking soda, vinegar, and liquid soap. However, you should still use caution with these products, especially around young children, since they aren’t always non-toxic.

Depending on which cleaning method you use, here’s everything you’ll need to clean your pack ‘n play:

  • Liquid dish soap
  • Baby safe washing detergent
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Spray bottle
  • Wash cloth or soft bristled brush
  • Towels

Keep in mind that with regular cleaning, you may only need soap and water to keep your pack ‘n play clean.

How to Spot Clean Your Pack ‘N Play

Spot cleaning is the best way to clean your pack ‘n play. All it takes is a damp cloth, soap, and warm water. This method reduces any risk of damaging or warping your pack ‘n play, since it won’t be soaking wet. If you spot clean your pack ‘n play regularly, you shouldn’t need to do any of the more extreme cleaning methods.

Along with spot cleaning your pack and play regularly, use pack ‘n play sheets or a mattress cover to help keep it clean. These are often machine washable along with your carrying bag and will prevent you from having to deep clean the pack ‘n play mattress.

Here’s how to spot clean your pack ‘n play:

  1. Open up your pack ‘n play and remove the mattress.
  2. Use a washcloth to wipe down the rails and sides of your pack ‘n play with warm water and soap. Tougher messes may require some elbow grease.
  3. If you use sheets, a mattress pad, or waterproof mattress cover, remove these for washing.
  4. Wipe the pack and play mattress clean with soap and warm water.
  5. Once you’ve wiped the pack ‘n play clean, it just needs to air dry. Putting it in a sunny spot will help it to dry quicker.

Make sure you let your pack ‘n play dry thoroughly before putting it back together and folding it up. This will help to prevent mold, mildew, or a smell from remaining moisture. If your pack ‘n play was particularly dirty, you may need to repeat the entire cleaning process a second time.

How to Scrub Your Pack ‘N Play

While spot cleaning is the best method for cleaning a pack ‘n play, it may need to be scrubbed from time to time. If your pack ‘n play is stained or has some especially stubborn messes, gently scrubbing it might get the job done.

To scrub your pack ‘n play, you’ll need a soft bristled scrubbing brush and warm soapy water. Vinegar or baking soda can also be helpful for removing especially tough stains. It’s best to scrub your play yard outside or in the garage on a warm, sunny day.

Here’s how to scrub your pack ‘n play:

  1. Open your play yard, removing the mattress and any accessories. You can cover the ground with clean towels or a tarp to help keep your pack ‘n play clean outside.
  2. Begin by scrubbing your pack ‘n play with a soft bristled scrubbing brush and warm soapy water. Avoid using harsh chemicals—the pack ‘n play cleaning instructions may recommend soap and water only.
  3. For particularly tough stains, you may want to use vinegar, baking soda, or a combination of both. These are generally safe on fabrics, but you can test an inconspicuous area first to be sure.
  4. Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle, and spray the surface evenly. Additionally, a paste made from equal parts vinegar and baking soda can be rubbed into the stain. Let it sit for up to a half hour, then wipe clean with a damp cloth.
  5. If you’re outside, you can then spray your play yard down with the hose to rinse off any cleaners. Just try not to soak the mattress, because it could become warped or ruined.
  6. Use a towel to absorb any excess water. Then, leave the pack ‘n play out in the sun to air dry completely. 

This process should effectively clean stubborn messes and lift stains. It can take awhile for your pack ‘n play to air dry after scrubbing it, so make sure it’s completely dry before packing it up.

Pack-n-play crib with toys.

How to Deep Clean Your Pack ‘N Play

If your pack ‘n play is extremely dirty and spot cleaning won’t get the job done, you may need to do a deep cleaning. While this method usually isn’t recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions, it could save from having to buy a brand new pack and play altogether.

To deep clean your pack ‘n play, you’ll need to fill a bathtub with warm water and soap or baby laundry detergent. You may want to add vinegar and baking soda for some additional cleaning power. It’s important to note that some playard mattresses are made with materials like cardboard that could be ruined from soaking.

Here’s how to deep clean your pack ‘n play:

  1. Fill a bathtub with warm water, half a cup of detergent, and a quarter cup each of vinegar and baking soda. Add these while the tub fills so everything is evenly mixed.
  2. Separate the pack ‘n play mattress from the playard.Then, place the entire pack ‘n play, still folded, into the bathtub. Check what materials the mattress is made from to decide if you should add it to the tub or leave it out.
  3. Soak the pack ‘n play in the bathtub for at least an hour. If it’s not completely submerged, you’ll need to rotate it partway through.
  4. Drain the tub and rinse your pack and play clean. You can do this by running the shower or taking the pack and play outside to spray it down with the hose.
  5. Pat down the play yard and mattress (if it was soaked) with a clean towel before leaving it out to air dry. It’s best to do this on a sunny day to help with drying.

Remember to only use this method as a last ditch effort to save your pack ‘n play. Even the best pack ‘n play could be ruined by submerging the entire thing in water. However, some parents have had success with this deep cleaning method.


Can washing a pack ‘n play warp it?

It’s always best to wash your pack ‘n play following the owner’s manual to prevent any warping or damage. For example, the Graco Pack ‘N Play should only be spot cleaned using warm water and soap. Some play yards might include materials like cardboard in the mattress that could be ruined or warped from some deep cleaning methods.

Can I get a replacement pack ‘n play mattress?

If your pack ‘n play mattress is warped or no longer usable for any other reason, you may be able to purchase a replacement mattress from the manufacturer. Typically, you’ll need the model number and manufacture date, which are usually found together somewhere on your pack and play. If you have a Graco Pack ‘N Play, you can find more information on replacement parts here.

How do I remove mildew from a pack ‘n play?

If your play yard was packed away with moisture on it, it could have some mildew. Fortunately, mold and mildew can be removed using equal parts water and vinegar. First, use a spray bottle to evenly distribute the vinegar solution on problem spots. Then, wipe with a damp cloth or soft bristled scrubbing brush. Air dry your pack ‘n play in the sun if possible—sunlight can help to kill mold spores.

How do you clean a pack ‘n play with bed bugs?

If your pack and play has bed bugs, you’ll want to avoid using chemical sprays that could be harmful to your child. The best cleaning solution for bed bugs on a pack and play is to use heat to kill them. To do this, you can deep clean your pack ‘n play in the bathtub with hot water and baby laundry detergent.

How To Clean a Pack 'n Play Quickly & Effectively

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