No matter how many parenting books, words of warning, or adorable videos you consume, it's entirely possible that nothing will prepare you for the torrential food-flinging abilities of your self-feeding child. Try as you might, it’s all but futile to attempt to prevent the aftermath of mealtime.
As cute and comical as this can be, it's a fact of parenthood that your high chair will get messy—sooner rather than later. Learning how to clean your high chair safely and effectively will help shield your child from harmful germs and bacteria that could build up without proper care.
If you don’t have one already, easy-to-clean high chairs designed for simple maintenance that users can carry out themselves will make life much easier down the road. But regardless of the make and model, your high chair will be on the receiving end of spilled baby food, yogurt, smeared avocado, and even bodily fluids. Below, we cover our tips and tricks on how to clean a high chair properly, from a recommended regimen to step-by-step instructions that make your high chair sparkle and put your mind at ease.
Whether you're cleaning a car seat or a high chair, you don't have to deep clean it after every single use. For high chairs, a quick once-over after each meal is sufficient for regular maintenance. Then, every month, deep clean your high chair from top to bottom to remove every crumb from its cracks and seams. Frequent and consistent wipedowns will help prevent the buildup of dirt and bacteria, so you don't have to apply as much elbow grease when it comes time to do a deep clean.
Cleaning your high chair after feeding time doesn't amount to much more than a basic wipedown. Target visible food residue after each use—brushing off loose crumbs and wiping down the high chair to dislodge and remove chunks. Once free of bits and spatter, go over the high chair with a damp cloth, paying close attention to stubborn cracks, crevices, and high touch areas like the straps and release button.
Pro Tip: If you have the time, keep bacteria at bay by sanitizing the serving tray at the end of the day. It's easy to do by wiping clean with a damp cloth and mild detergent.
Despite your best efforts every day, you'll eventually want to deep clean your high chair. If you're consistently in the rhythm of wiping it down after each use, once monthly is a good cadence for more thorough cleaning sessions.
You'll disassemble the high chair, clean its cushions and straps, and banish stuck-on food from every nook and cranny during this process. It's more involved than the daily high chair cleaning process, but don't worry—it's still a breeze with our five-step process below.
Of course, you'll need cleaners to clean your high chair, but not just any will do. Because your tot touches (and maybe tastes) your high chair daily, it's important to clean it with something safe for them and easy on the environment.
As part of our Sustainable Parenting Initiative, we recommend mixing up an eco-friendly and baby-safe cleaning solution that you can feel good about spraying on surfaces that come into frequent contact with your baby's skin. While many store-bought options work well enough, they can be pricey and don't offer much that simple home ingredients don't. Here's how to make green high chair cleaners at home that won’t introduce potentially harmful chemicals to your baby’s environment.
For washing, use a basic solution of water and a few drops of mild detergent mixed well in a spray bottle. When selecting the right soap for you and your baby, consider a natural, non-toxic, and biodegradable option made without animal fats or synthetic ingredients for worry-free high chair cleaning. Just note that oils can break down pad inks, causing them to smear.
For disinfecting, you can choose to use a store-bought cleaner or mix up your own. Either way, always check your high chair’s product manual for cleaning restrictions on various components. For example, never use bleach to clean the serving tray, tray inserts, or other plastic parts on Chicco high chairs.
Before we get started, let's get some housekeeping out of the way. An essential item on your supplies list is, once again, your high chair manual. In it, you'll find helpful information on cleaning and maintaining your model that may diverge from the process we give below. In those instances, follow the manufacturer's advice.
Supplies you’ll need:
- Your high chair
- Your high chair's instruction manual
- Mild detergent
- Microfiber or terry cloths
- Silicone-bristle brush
- Vacuum cleaner or broom
- Large towels (optional)
With that in mind, let's begin.
Step 1: Prep the Area
When it comes to cleaning a high chair, preparation is key. Depending on your accuracy with a spray bottle, this job tends to get messy, so it helps to lay down a couple of large bath towels underneath your spritzing zone to contain wayward droplets. Gobs of food will also transition from the chair to the floor, so this can help catch the bulk of the debris. Towel or not, have your vacuum cleaner powered up and at the ready.
Step 2: Disassemble the High Chair
To disassemble the high chair as much as possible, check your manual to determine which pieces are removable. Don't force anything. Depending on your high chair model, you might be able to remove the serving tray, tray inserts, straps, and seat pad. If so, do that now and set them aside.
Step 3: Wash the Frame
With the tray and straps out of the way, spray down the entire frame with your spray bottle of water and mild soap (or your favorite high chair cleaner). Allow it to sit for several minutes, breaking down dirt and reconstituting dried, stuck-on food for easier removal.
Thoroughly scrub down the entire high chair with a soft sponge to wipe away loosened debris—and for especially stubborn areas, a silicone-bristle brush or unused toothbrush can provide added muscle. But be wary of the tool you use, as some brushes and sponges may scratch the plastic construction of your high chair. If you're unsure, test an inconspicuous area first to ensure no scuffing will occur.
Once food and debris release their hold on your high chair frame, use a soft, damp cloth—like microfiber or terry—to rub it away. This effectively "rinses" soap residue from the high chair without causing a mess that rivals mealtime with your baby!
Step 4: Wash the Tray, Straps, and Seat Pad
Serving tray inserts are safe for washing in your dishwasher on some high chair models, like the Chicco Polly platforms. If that's the case with your model, count it as a win and pop them in with your next load of dishes. However, the tray and straps often aren't dishwashable (but check your manual to be sure).
How to Clean High Chair Straps and Cushion
If you detached the straps in step two, lay them on a towel, wet them with your mild detergent mixture, and agitate the suds with your toothbrush or a similar tool. Easy. Cleaning high chair straps that aren’t removable is trickier. Dampen your terry cloth with soapy water and run it up and down the straps with medium pressure. Follow the same process for the seat cushion if your high chair has one.
How to Clean a High Chair Tray
The serving tray, or the landing zone for everything your tot drops, drools, and flings, follows a different protocol. If it's incredibly messy, let it soak in a tub or sink of water to loosen up the debris. Next, place it on your bath towel and spray it with your store-bought or DIY cleaning solution. Give it a few minutes, scrub with your sponge, and wipe with a damp cloth to rinse away any suds.
Step 5: Dry and Assemble
Using a dry cloth, take a final pass over the entire high chair, serving tray, and tray inserts to dry the high chair completely. Drying with a towel is faster, making it less likely for bacteria to find a habitable home in your high chair's nooks and crannies. It also brushes away any lingering crumbs you missed during the washing process.
At the same time, allow the straps and cushion to air dry. Once everything is dry, re-assemble the high chair in the reverse order of how you took it apart. But don't force it if you don't remember what steps you took or something isn't fitting correctly. Check your manual for the proper assembly methods instead.
All that's left is to sweep or vacuum the crumbs that found their way to the floor and admire your handiwork—until your child's next meal.
The good news is that if you employ the tips and tricks above to clean your high chair, there isn't much else you need to do to keep it in perfect condition. There are just a few basic maintenance procedures to keep in mind.
Check the wheels for signs of wear, and keep them free of dust or grime that may build up over time. Only when necessary, lubricate joints with a dry silicon-based lubricant. And remember, prolonged exposure to the sun will cause the fabric to fade.
If something does fail on your high chair, don't worry! Before you rush out to buy a replacement before mealtime, know that replacement parts are likely available for your make and model. Check your manufacturer's website for a list of harnesses, seat covers, tray liners, and other components that are affordable and easy to install without professional help. If the part you need isn’t listed online, consider calling customer service. Often, the available library of replacement parts is larger than what shows up on manufacturer websites.
Cleaning high chairs isn't the most glamorous or rewarding part of parenthood, but it is important nonetheless. It allows your child to eat in a clean and sanitized environment, and it isn't that challenging to do when you know what to do. Whether it's your first or fourth child, we hope you picked up some valuable tips (like how to clean high chair straps) from our five-step process above.
And if you are expecting or recently welcomed your first child, we have a myriad of new parent FAQs to take the overwhelm out of planning for the most exciting chapter of your life.