I Love Car Seats, but They Are the Worst

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I’ve had kids in car seats for 7.5 years, with many years to go, and while I love the safety and comfort they give my kids, I absolutely hate dealing with car seats. I mean, really hate it. They are simply not easy to install, adjust, carry around, and they are absolutely not easy to clean when toddler car sickness strikes at the least opportune time. This happened to us on a road trip last weekend, and while we did triage cleaning to the best of our ability while on the road, yesterday it was time to really address the situation and take apart the car seat to put what we could in the washing machine, and seriously scrub the remaining nooks and crannies…which I can assure you is no easy task.


More than one bad word came out as I tried to take apart our Britax Boulevard G4 Convertible Car Seat that our first daughter had passed down to our second daughter after just a couple years of use.

Let’s just say we made lots of errors in trying to rectify car seat puke-pocalypse that ended with us basically breaking the $250+ car seat. I’m sure many of you are way smarter than me and don’t need to read this post to avoid making the same mistakes, but for the rest of you who hate the complexities of car seats as much as I do, read on so you don’t break yours while trying to save it from toddler disaster.

Here is a rundown of mistakes I made while trying to save our Britax car seat from toddler disaster:

We waited a few days to really clean it thoroughly. So this one wasn’t really our fault since we were on the road all weekend, but waiting several days to thoroughly clean the seat obviously isn’t ideal. The washable parts may not be too impacted by that delay, but the foam and such which has had things soak into it for days probably won’t ever be the same. After several days it really. didn’t. smell. good.

We put it outside before cleaning it. The second mistake we made was to put it outside on the driveway for a few hours before we got to cleaning it. It was stinking up the car, so I pulled it out before I was really ready to tackle the project. Let’s just say the ants got to it faster than we could, and that made the whole cleaning process that much more exciting.

Don’t try to clean a car seat angry. Let me paint you a picture, the kids are home for summer break, we are both trying to work from home, the car seat stinks to high heaven, the ants have gotten to it, we have limited time to work on this unwanted project, and now we are trying to pretend we are NASA engineers in figuring how to take the whole thing apart. I was pretty much just ripping at the whole thing, and then I gave up and called in Daddy-Back-Up. He didn’t enjoy the process any more than I did, and while he was successful in getting the washable pieces off, something else happened in the process.

Car seats can break…easily. In taking off the washable outer layer, the foam head protection broke in half. I don’t know if this was because we were ripping at the dang thing, or because it was a few years old and it just happened. Probably the former, but either way, in trying to clean and save our $250 car seat we broke it. Don’t be like us.

I’ll admit that within 5 seconds of realizing it was broken, I went from frustration we had broken the seat to relief we didn’t have to mess around with trying to save it any more. Then when I started pricing car seats online a few hours later, I quickly went back to frustration as I recalled just how expensive they were.

It seems we are far from the only ones to break this shocking fragile piece of the car seat, and in fact Britax’s website says you can just tape the foam together. Again, I am clearly not a NASA engineer, but taping together the head protection on the car seat for my daughter seems….strange. It also seems you can request replacement foam, so I have put in an inquiry with Britax to see what we should do. However, the odds of me properly installing new foam and reassembling the whole thing with all the slots, straps, etc. seem low.

Car seats are going to get dirty, sometimes disgustingly so, and as a result they really should be easier to take apart and clean. In doing a little research in case we are replacing this seat, the Chicco NextFit Zip car seat appears to be much easier to clean with a cover that unzips to go in the washing machine. I’ve also heard good things about the simple looking Clek car seat.

Really I just want a car seat that is safe, comfortable for the toddler, and easy enough to use and clean that even a stressed out parent can do it. If this exists and you have found it, please share! I can’t tell you how much I miss our Doona infant seat right about now!

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  1. I have the Britax g4 marathon, and I may be wrong, but I think they say the seat cover isn’t machine washable. I had the exact same thing with the soft foam padding, and after a lot of cleaning and airing out, it doesn’t smell anymore.

    • Sam, well I would love for the manufacturers to come and see (and smell) our seat and then tell me not to wash it. That would be truly insane and make it a no-buy for me ever again.

  2. I have the Chicco NextFit Zip and love it! Thankfully I haven’t had to clean up kid puke out of it yet but I love that I can easily zip the inside out.

  3. I agree they’re the worst. I’m no help, we had to toss a car seat in a dumpster after it got puked on in Colorado, I wasn’t even going to attempt to clean it out at our condo. The Britax with the ClickOnce was the easiest ever to install even though it weighed a ton.

  4. We had puke in ours several times. In fact, we took to taking 2 carseats on road trips in case it happened so we could throw the puke covered one in a giant garbage bag and replace it with a clean one. (Now we bring an extra blow up booster just in case). I always machine washed everything on delicate and didn’t have any issues. I also broke the headrest just as you did. I was bummed, but it wasn’t as bad as yours so I taped it up as suggested. It was my understanding that the foam is for sleeping or resting comfort and not for safety. I admit yours does look a bit broken beyond taping though! Good luck! I’m glad my carsick kiddo is 7 now and “usually” warns us before she gets sick.

  5. We have the Evenflo Sureride DLX and we love it. We have tall and heavy kids and my youngest is off the charts so we needed to get something with a high weight and height limit or else she would have already outgrown her seat at 2.5.

    It’s maybe not quite as comfortable as some of the more expensive seats but it’s lightweight so it’s great for travel and the seat fabric is incredibly easy to remove and replace when it needs to be cleaned.

    It also costs under $100 so if something really really horrible does happen, it’s easier to be willing to replace it.

  6. We make a lot of road trips so I lost count how many times the car seat got puked on! Since it went from baby Z. to baby G. the numbers do add up quickly! Our car seat is a Britax like yours but not the same model. I just remove all the covers, straps etc, and throw them in the washing machine (never even checked if they could go, I’m always in “try first, regret later” mode) and wash the rest on the bathtub or hose it down outside. I find the foam, being rigid, doesn’t really absorb anything, so I use dish soap to get rid of everything and no smell! I have broken a couple of (small) foam parts but they are really just for comfort so tape works perfectly. The important part is that they are comfortable for the rest of the journey!

  7. How old is this seat? We had Britax seats for Big Sis and handed them down to Little Sis but I believe I read somewhere or saw a video saying they should be ditched after about 4-5 years??? Can’t remember exactly and even saw a YouTube video showing how brittle they are and not safe in the event of a crash. We live in a hot climate like you as well. Sorry this happened. We had a huge blowout one time to deal with…..blech!!

    • I believe the car seat lady says 6 years, so we actually did already get rid of the first one C had. This was one C used from 2014 – 2016, so it’s only three years old. I was hoping to use it until my youngest was about 5, but….that may not work out. Ha!

  8. Did you by chance check the expiration date? It’s usually on the exterior side…hope things work out with the “tape”

    • I haven’t on this one recently, but we just got it in 2014 so I’m confident it has a few years left…or would have. Ha! It is a good reminder though that seats do have a shelf life.

  9. I’m glad we are long past the car seat stage. (Our son is 14 and finishing Middle School in two days.)

    I suggest keeping some Nok-Out around. I discovered it through the Everyday Cheapskate blog. It is quite good at deodorizing, but it requires contact with the offending aromatic material. It might take more than one soaking.

    I’m an MIT-trained engineer and former NASA engineer. I found some car seats difficult to install and remove. Car seats are much improved over ones from my brother’s childhood in the 1970s (my car seat years were in Japan in the 1960s), but it seems to come with a cost. That cost is complexity.

    Hang in there! Your kids will be out of car seats soon and asking for the car keys. That’s a frightening experience I’ll be having very shortly.

    • I love this – okay, if an actual MIT-trained former NASA engineer finds car seat installs difficult as well, then maybe I’m doing okay. I do think there HAS TO BE serious room for improvement in simplicity without giving up safety. But then again, I’m not an engineer. Ha! Thanks for the tips and info!

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