It’s pretty common to see parents of kids who vomit frequently in the car armed with a bottle or canister of scent removal spray. After all, we spend so much time cleaning everything else it’s sometimes tough to justify spending a whole lot of time cleaning one of the places we spend the least amount of time. You spray the right product and the smell goes away. Everyone’s happy!
Every once in a while, it’s good to get in there and really clean up all of the things that didn’t quite get clean when you wiped them down with a rag right after the vomit episode. There are also ways to protect your vehicle and make it so most of the mess can be drug out of the car and banished with a hose. Let’s talk about those first because, frankly, preventing a tough mess in the first place is really the only way things are going to stay somewhat clean.
- Auto Seat Protector – This handy device will sit under the car seat and make sure any vomit which overflows from the car seat’s undercarriage won’t lie around and keep the seat underneath wet. Yes, some of them will claim to completely protect your car’s interior. For most children this is probably true. Our son overflows ours from time to time.
- Rubber Floor Mats – These are a must have for many, many situations. We have the heavy-duty grooved rubber mats which cover a wider area than your traditional cloth mats. We use them to pile soiled clothes, diapers, and rags until we can get home. This keeps the soiled cloth from seeping out into the vehicle’s upholstery.
- Car Seat with a Machine Washable Liner – Not all car seats have this feature. I consider it a must have since children make messes regardless of whether or not there are medical reasons involved. Our He machine does an excellent job of scrubbing our seat’s liner as long as it’s pressed down into the bottom so the water will cover it. You’ll need to wash after you’re in for the day. I’ve yet to find a car seat liner which permits machine drying.
With those tools available, I first pull out the car seat and set it down on the garage floor. Then, I pull out the seat protector and rubber mats spreading them out on the driveway. Stripping the liner out of the car seat comes next. Don’t machine wash the belts. Next, I take the plastic undercarriage of the car seat out to the driveway and lay it beside the seat protector and rubber mats. I grab the hose, place my thumb over the nozzle to increase the pressure, and spray them all down. Turn the car seat over and hang the seat protector to dry. If your rubber mats are grooved you’ll want to turn them upside down as well.
I then machine wash the car seat liner with detergent and an additional cleaner which helps to reduce smells. If you’re choosing between vinegar and baking soda use baking soda. Vomit is acidic so the baking soda will neutralize it more effectively than vinegar. You’ll want to add an extra rinse cycle to make sure the baking soda comes out of the liner. If you prefer a heavier duty store bought cleaner Oxyclean and similar are effective. Once the wash cycle finishes, hang the liner to dry.
The seats are trickier and more time consuming to clean. Make sure you test any cleaning method in an inconspicuous place before using it liberally on your interior. If you like the smell of coffee, sprinkle some right after the vomiting episode to absorb some of the moisture and improve the smell. Baking soda can also serve the same purpose but will cake to the seat. You’ll need to come back with vinegar later to remove the baking soda completely. Leather tends to be significantly more wipeable so you’ll probably be able to clean it with cloth rags. If you’re dealing with fabric, you might consider getting your hands on a good scrub brush which can reach down into the fibers and pull out stubborn pieces of “dirt.”
For help getting through between cleanings, there are multiple odor neutralizing air fresheners and sprays on the market. If you haven’t already tried them, consider giving them a chance. At first, I resisted because I’d rather have my vehicle be clean than cover up the smell but I’ve found over time that approach simply isn’t practical under all circumstances.