How to Clean a Stroller | Reviews by Wirecutter – The New York Times

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Where small children go, messes follow. A well-used stroller is likely to be stained by spilled drinks, smeared sunscreen, and muddy shoes. Crumbs, dirt, and sand will have found their way into every crevice. A particularly unlucky day might have even seen a diaper blowout, a potty-training accident, or projectile vomit.
All that is to say that cleaning a stroller is one of those unpleasant yet necessary parenting tasks. How often you clean it depends on the level of mess and your personal tolerance for griminess. Diligent cleaners advocate for vacuuming and wiping down a stroller every week or even after every use, but in many circumstances, one deep clean every season is plenty—or even once a year if the stroller isn’t used regularly.
The exception, as with car seats, is bodily fluids, which should be dealt with as soon as possible before the smell becomes unbearable.
For tips on cleaning strollers, we spoke with Sarah Huff, senior manager for customer and community at nationwide baby-gear rental service BabyQuip, and Lauren Siclare, founder of the New Jersey–based car seat and stroller-cleaning company BuckleBath. They recommend using natural, unscented cleaning products whenever possible, as children can be particularly sensitive to strong smells or chemicals on their skin. Another important thing to keep in mind: If you wash the fabric separately, make sure to put it back on the frame before it dries. Otherwise it could warp or shrink.
Your stroller’s manual: This should have advice on how to clean your particular stroller, including whether or not the seat fabric and various other features can be machine-washed. It also includes instructions on removing the seat, basket, canopy, wheels, and other parts.
Vacuum: A handheld vacuum likely maneuvers best, but an upright with a crevice attachment works as well.
Baby-friendly stain remover spray or dish soap: For spot-cleaning, Siclare recommends Babyganics stain & odor remover, which did a great job of removing stains quickly and easily during our trials. If you’re tackling tough stains, Huff recommends Grandma's Secret Spot Remover. If you don’t want to invest in a spray, dish soap worked almost as well in our testing. (We used Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dish Soap.)
Disinfectant wipes or all-purpose spray: Wipes (we used Clorox) are great for cleaning the frame and wheels of your stroller. An all-purpose spray like Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear All-Purpose Cleaner works well too.
Laundry detergent (if applicable): If your seat upholstery can go in the wash, we recommend a gentle detergent like Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear Liquid Laundry Detergent.
Toothbrush or sponge: A toothbrush is helpful for scrubbing out stains and getting into nooks; for larger areas, a sponge can be handy.
Paper towels or rags: Use these to wipe off any excess cleaning spray or soap after you’re done scrubbing.
A place for the stroller to dry: If you’re machine-washing your seat fabric, put it back on the stroller frame to dry so that it doesn’t shrink or warp.
A relatively light clean—with spot-cleaning and vacuuming—should take 20 to 30 minutes. A deeper clean—if you’re removing the seat and basket and scrubbing the wheels—may take an hour or two. And if you run the seat fabric through a washing machine, you need to let that air-dry on the frame, which can take up to a day.
Before you begin, check your stroller’s manual. If the fabric on your stroller seat can be machine-washed, you may want to start with that step. Removing the seat fabric from some frames can be tedious, but letting the machine do the work saves time.
Many manufacturers also have online videos detailing how to disassemble and clean strollers, which can be helpful.
You need to let the upholstery air-dry on the stroller frame since most seat fabrics cannot be put in the dryer. This could take your stroller out of commission for up to a day.
Remove the seat fabric per the manual’s instructions, which may require removing inner boards, frames, harnesses, buckles, or other parts. Wash with a mild detergent in cold water on the recommended cycle.
Immediately remove the seat fabric from the washing machine and place it back on the stroller frame to dry. If possible, put it in the sun. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a day to fully dry.
If you’re not machine-washing your seat fabric, the first step is to vacuum it. Try to get in and around any grooves around the seat. (I found that the crevice attachment on my handheld vacuum worked best.) If you have time, remove the basket underneath and vacuum that, too.
To tackle stains, the Babyganics cleaning spray did the best and easiest job of removing sunscreen and other spots. Dish soap also worked but required more time to remove excess soap at the end. Spray or squirt some cleaner on, then scrub with a toothbrush until foamy. Wipe off excess with a paper towel.
If you find that a spot isn’t coming off, Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover works very well. Apply a few drops to the stain, wait for five to 10 minutes, then scrub off with the toothbrush as above.
If you removed the basket for vacuuming, spot-clean there as well.
Disinfectant wipes are the easiest, most efficient option to get rid of the dust and grime on the stroller’s frame and wheels. If you don’t have wipes, an all-purpose spray and paper towels or rags work almost as well.
Wipe down the handles and frame, including the underside of the stroller.
Remove the wheels from the stroller and wipe down the inside and outside. Make sure the parts are fully dry before reassembling.
Let everything air-dry fully before using or storing your stroller. Put all the upholstery back on while it’s still damp so that it doesn’t warp or shrink while drying. Never use artificial heat like a hair dryer, which could burn, melt, or warp the fabric.
Bodily fluids may be your cue to call in a pro. Vomit tends to get everywhere, and the smell lingers.
Professionals can also help when taking a stroller out of long-term storage, especially if mildew and mold have begun to grow. (Again, letting the stroller dry completely before folding can prevent this. If you’re storing the stroller somewhere damp, cover it with either a stroller bag or a plastic garbage bag.)
Look for a professional who has experience with your specific stroller brand, and inquire in advance about what types of cleaning products they’ll be using.
This article was edited by Amy Koplin, Brittney Ho, and Sofia Sokolove.
Elise Czajkowski
Elise Czajkowski is a freelance writer and editor covering strollers for Wirecutter.
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