Do you have an older baby or toddler? Any parent with a self-feeding child knows how ridiculously messy it can be. Sometimes when you take the child out of their high chair at the end of meal, you’ll find that more food ended up beneath them than in their belly.
If you don’t clean your child’s high chair regularly, you can end up with caked-on crud and stained, grimy straps. In fact, I have a friend who’s high chair got so disgusting she actually took it to the self-car wash and used the industrial power sprayer to blast it clean.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to come to that. A little daily maintenance coupled with a regular deep clean can keep your child’s high chair clean and sanitary. Here’s what you need to know.
Isn’t Wiping Down My Baby’s High Chair Sufficient?
Watching your little one feed himself can be one of the most comical, rewarding, and cringeworthy activities you’ll engage in as a parent. It’s fun to watch them work so hard and learn an independent skill, but the resulting mess has no comparison in the world of parenting.
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If you’re not careful to clean up all the spilled, smashed, and ground-in food from your child’s high chair on a regular basis, you put your child at risk of being exposed to dangerous bacteria. In fact, a study of restaurant high chairs (which are not deep-cleaned on a regular basis to remove stubborn food particles) found that the dirty children’s seats harbored more germs than a public toilet seat (source).
Additionally, it’s quite common for accidents to happen and for high chairs to be exposed to fecal matter, urine, or vomit from your child. And when that occurs, you don’t want to clean it up with a simple wipe-down. You’re going to want to make sure you kill all the lurking bacteria.
How Does My High Chair’s Construction Affect the Cleaning Method?
Some are completely plastic while others have cushioned inserts.
These days most are made of plastic, though some may contain metal parts – particularly in the mechanisms that detach the tray from the seat. If you have an antique high chair, it may be solid wood.
Related Reading: What are the Best Booster Seats for Eating?
It’s important to assess the material and construction of your baby’s high chair to determine the best way to properly clean it.
You will want to avoid soaking parts of your high chair if:
- It is made of wood.
- The cushion is fabric.
- It has metal parts.
You will want to avoid using bleach if:
- Your high chair is made of wood.
- Your cushion is fabric.
How Often Should I Clean My Baby’s High Chair?
While you don’t have to spend hours a day cleaning your child’s high chair, there are some tasks you should do daily (or, even better, after every feeding session), while others can be done less frequently. One of the benefits of daily cleaning maintenance is that it prevents the high chair from becoming exceptionally dirty, making your deep-clean sessions easier.
Daily cleaning tasks include:
- Brushing off loose crumbs
- Wiping down the high chair to remove food particles
- Sanitizing the tray/eating surface
Weekly cleaning tasks include:
- Removing the chair and cleaning the seat below (if it’s a space-saving model)
- Cleaning the whole seat with a cleaning solution
Monthly (deep clean) cleaning tasks include:
- Disassembling the high chair
- Cleaning the cushions and straps
- Removing food from small crevices
- Eliminating stuck-on food
How Do I Clean My Baby’s High Chair?
1. Brush Off All Loose Crumbs (Every Use)
To prevent food from being ground into the cushion and safety belt, remove all loose crumbs after every feeding. Either gather them in a napkin or dish cloth to dispose of in the garbage, or brush them to the floor and follow up with a quick sweep or vacuum.
2. Wipe It Down With a Damp Cloth (Every Use)
After you’ve removed all large and loose food pieces, wipe the high chair down with a damp cloth using water only. Wipe all spaces that food can be trapped; doing this immediately after eating will prevent food from drying out and becoming a stubborn, stuck-on mess. Make sure you wipe down all of the following parts to help prevent food particle build-up:
- Behind the cushion (if it’s loose-fitting)
- In the cushion crevices
- Underneath the tray
- Sides of the high chair
- The release button
3. Disinfect The Eating Surface (Every Use)
It’s important to keep the tray or eating surface sanitized since that is what comes into contact with your child’s food. Sanitize the eating surface by doing one of the following:
- Spray with white vinegar; allow to sit for five minutes and then wipe with a damp cloth.
- Spray with hydrogen peroxide; allow to sit for five minutes and then wipe with a damp cloth.
- Spray or wipe with a diluted bleach solution (2 teaspoons of bleach to 1 gallon of water); allow to air dry.
- Wipe with a disinfectant wipe – widely available in retail stores.
4. Wipe The Seat Below The High Chair (Weekly)
If you have a space-saving high chair, remove it once a week and wipe down the chair below it with a damp cloth. It’s amazing how many food particles find their way underneath the high chair.
5. Clean The Exterior, Legs, and Underside (Weekly)
Also weekly, clean and disinfect the parts of the high chair that only get wiped down the rest of the week. Use the disinfecting recommendations from Step 3. If there is stuck-on food that is difficult to remove, use the scrubber side of a sponge or Magic Eraser to remove it.
6. Remove and Wash Cushions and Straps (Monthly)
Once a month, deep clean your high chair. Remove the cushion and safety straps. Check the labels on the back of the high chair to confirm, but most can simply be thrown in the washing machine. If you choose this method, allow to air dry; do not put them in the dryer.
If your accessories are not permitted to go in the washer, wipe down the plastic cushion and soak the straps in a tub of soapy dish detergent to remove the grime. After soaking, scrub the straps and rinse them in warm water. Allow to air dry.
7. Remove Crumbs from Crevices (Monthly)
Also monthly, work to remove caked-on food from the nooks and crannies of your high chair – just as if you would detail your car.
The most common places food will get stuck are:
- Where the strap comes up through the seat
- The release button
- The clamping mechanism or other moving parts
- Seams of the plastic
Remove the food by using small tools, such as:
- Dental Floss
8. Eliminate Stuck-On Food (As Needed)
If you have stubborn spots of dried food that need more help to come off, you will need a little elbow grease and use one of the following methods.
- Spray your high chair liberally with a solution of half water and half vinegar so it is very wet. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes so the food particles will soften. Scrub the stubborn food spots and wipe the whole high chair down with a damp cloth.
- Soak the pieces in a tub of soapy dish water to soften the food particles for easier removal. If you don’t have a sink or container large enough to hold your high chair, use a bath tub.
- Spray your high chair down with the hose outside.
Cleaning a High Chair Doesn’t Need To Be Difficult
To summarize, here’s how to clean your child’s high chair:
- Brush off all loose crumbs after every use.
- Wipe it down with a damp cloth after every use.
- Disinfect the tray after every use.
- Remove and wipe the seat below the high chair once a week.
- Clean the exterior, legs, and underside of the tray once a week.
- Remove and wash the cushions and straps monthly
- Remove crumbs from the crevices with a monthly deep clean.
- Soak to eliminate stuck-on food when needed.
Despite the regular messes that get made at mealtimes by babies and toddlers, cleaning your child’s high chair doesn’t have to be such a difficult process. Regular wipe-downs, weekly cleaning maintenance, and monthly deep-cleans will keep gross food build-up at bay and result in a healthier eating environment and happier mama.
Do you have a high chair cleaning horror story? Tell us in the comments – and share this with another mom who might need these cleaning tips.