How To Clean High Chair Straps of All Kinds
- Dirty high chairs often harbor more bacteria than a toilet seat. These bacteria can include MRSA and Staphylococcus aureus (staph).
- High chair straps can be cleaned by hand, the washing machine, and even the dishwasher.
- Vinegar, baking soda, bleach, or Milton fluid can remove stains—but not at the same time!
Watching a baby learn to eat is exciting, adorable, and the source of many hilarious photos to show to their future spouse. Whether they’re smearing themselves with spaghetti, styling their hair with yogurt, or applying a soothing oatmeal facemask, the results are often cute and always messy. Unfortunately, once the meal is over, you’ll be left with one of the trickiest parenting conundrums—how to clean high chair straps.
Many parents before you have tried and failed, resorting to buying multiple spare sets, cutting them off, or embracing the orange, spaghetti sauce glow. But you don’t have to, and with this handy guide, your entire seat can be shining once again.
And keep in mind that these tips aren’t just for highchair straps! Think about those activity chairs, stroller straps, carseat and even wheelchair straps for kids with special needs. They can all use a little TLC and cleaning care periodically.
Why Your Child’s High Chair Might Need a Deep Clean
A 2010 study of 30 restaurants found more bacteria on their high chairs than their toilets. Restaurant high chairs harbor 147 bacteria per square centimeter compared to just 8 on the average public toilet seat.
While you might be thinking that you probably clean your high chair more frequently than your local diner, unfortunately, other studies have found home high chair hygiene to be lacking too. This 2007 study found Staphylococcus aureus on the infant high chair tray in 97% of homes sampled and MRSA in 26%.
If you’ve been putting off a high chair deep clean because the straps are too complicated, gross, or completely orange, today is the day to learn how to get them gleaming.
How to Clean Removable High Chair Straps
If your highchair is well designed, like the Stokke high chair, and has removable straps, you’re in luck. These are by far the easiest to clean, as they can be soaked overnight, thrown in the washing machine, or even put in the dishwasher!
The easiest way to deal with dirty high chair straps is to put them in a washing machine on your normal cycle. Make sure to put the straps in a mesh wash bag first—it’ll stop them from finding their way under the seal of your washer or tying your clothes in knots.
If your baby has had a particularly messy meal, there may be some stuck-on foods to deal with before putting them in your machine. Eliminate stuck-on food by scrubbing lightly with a nylon nail brush or a toothbrush with some water and dish soap.
If you don’t have access to a washing machine, or the manufacturer’s instructions for your highchair say to hand wash, the next best thing is soaking.
First, remove any stuck-on food with dish soap and a nylon brush or toothbrush. For really caked-on food or dried food, try scraping with a butter knife using gentle force. Be careful though—you don’t want to damage or weaken the strap.
Next, fill a bucket or basin with laundry detergent or dish soap and warm water. You can also add white vinegar and baking soda to deal with especially stubborn stains and odors. Submerge the straps and leave them for a few hours or, for really grimy straps, leave them overnight.
After soaking, rinse them thoroughly. It’s important not to leave any residues that might irritate your baby’s skin.
If you have a dishwasher, you might find that it’s the simplest way to clean your straps—particularly if your high chair’s tray is also dishwasher safe, as they can be put in together.
You’ll need to take care, as the hot wash on some dishwashers could cause the straps to become misshapen. If you’re going to try it, go for a cooler setting on your dishwasher or test on a spare strap first.
Finally, you’ll need to dry the straps to prevent them from bothering your baby and potentially going moldy. Unfortunately, most high chair straps are unsuitable for the dryer, so the best method is to air dry them.
Sunlight is a great, natural stain remover, so if it’s a nice day, hang them out to dry. If not, near a radiator or heating vent indoors is the next best option. Some manufacturers allow you to purchase spare straps, which might be useful while you wait.
How to Remove High Chair Straps
All of these tips might sound great, but if you can’t figure out how to remove the straps from your baby’s high chair they’ll be no good. If you’ve been wrestling with them for a few hours and only have a broken nail to show for it, don’t worry. You’re not the first parent to be defeated by the dreaded high chair straps and you won’t be the last.
Here are some tips:
- Check the manufacturer’s instructions. Often the manual will have instructions for removing the straps. If you’ve lost or thrown them out, try searching online. Most manufacturers upload PDFs of their manuals for precisely this reason.
- Try YouTube. If you’re struggling to remove the straps, someone else has likely had the same problem. If you’re lucky, they’ll have figured it out and uploaded a video walkthrough for other parents in need.
- Use a little gentle force. Sometimes you’re doing everything right but the folded part of the strap just won’t pass through the slot. Tell yourself that it must’ve made it through when it was first installed, and use a little more force.
- Contact the manufacturer. If you’ve had no luck online, call or email the manufacturer. Hopefully, they’ll be able to help, and if you’re really lucky, they might be able to send you a spare set of straps. Win-win.
Remember that there are two side to removable straps, though. You will have to remove them and reinstall them once they are clean. One trick is to take a photo of the straps before you remove them so that you have a reference guide when you are trying to get those straps back in place.
How to Clean Non-removable High Chair Straps
Frustratingly, for a product that’s guaranteed to get messy, some high chairs come with non-removable straps. Perhaps you’ve chosen a space-saving high chair or one that perfectly matches your decor and the only downside is the straps. Don’t panic—there are ways to get them sparkling too.
Try this method:
- Take the high chair outside or lay down a tarp or towel.
- Remove dried-on food by scraping gently with a butter knife.
- Soften stuck-on food particles with a wet paper towel and dish soap.
- Leave for 10 minutes. It’s even better if you can leave the wet paper towel wrapped around the strap.
- Gently scrub the straps with soapy water and a soft brush like a nail or toothbrush.
- Wipe with a clean damp cloth to remove dirt and cleaning residues.
- Allow the seat to air dry, ideally in the sun.
How to Remove Stubborn Stains
Some stains like raspberry, spaghetti sauce, or mold are too tough for normal cleaning. If your straps have changed color, try these:
- Make a paste of lemon juice and baking soda and leave it on the stain for an hour.
- Soak overnight in a mixture of white vinegar, baking soda, and detergent.
- Soak in Milton sterilizing fluid—this is a mild bleach.
- Soak in bleach and cold water for 30 minutes. But first check the label and do a patch test.
After each of these methods, rinse thoroughly with cold water.
Spot-Cleaning High Chair Straps After Meals
The best way to prevent food stains and your baby’s high chair straps from becoming a health hazard is to regularly clean them after each meal. This is especially important if your little one likes to suck or chew the straps.
After each meal, spray the high chair liberally with a non-toxic high chair cleaner spray and use a clean damp cloth to wipe the straps. If there’s any food stuck on, cover your hand with a soft cloth and hold it behind the strap. Then use a brush, soapy water, and a little elbow grease to scrub it away.
How Often Should You Clean High Chair Straps?
How often you need to clean your child’s high chair straps will depend on the type of meals you serve, whether you are spoon-feeding or baby-led weaning, and how messy of an eater your little one is. Some kids won’t want to waste a morsel of their dinner, and others are mini Picassos who seem to think food is paint.
However, the following guide will prevent gross food build-up and mold from forming on your child’s high chair.
|Cleaning Type||How Often?|
|Spot cleaning||After every meal|
|Washing||Once a week|
|Deep clean and stain removal||Monthly|
What to Avoid When You Clean High Chair Straps
While it might seem like you’ll need a chisel and blowtorch to remove caked-on food and get your child’s high chair clean, you do need to be a bit careful. Some cleaning methods can damage the high chair, irritate your child’s skin, or harm you.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Remember that Milton sterilizing fluid contains bleach and shouldn’t be used on metal.
- Don’t mix bleach with vinegar, ammonia, or hydrogen peroxide. It’ll lead to a dangerous chemical reaction and gasses that are toxic to inhale.
- Don’t use bleach on colored straps. It’ll lighten them or remove the color completely.
- If you have a wooden or antique high chair, bleach and white vinegar can both damage the finish.
- Ensure any metal parts are thoroughly dried. Leaving them wet could result in rust.
- Make sure your high chair is fully dry since damp surfaces encourage mold growth.
- Thoroughly rinse away any cleaning products before your child uses their high chair again.
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