How do you keep a High Chair clean in a healthy way?
Updated: Jan 16, 2021
As our child got old enough to sit in a High Chair and experiment with self feeding, we quickly discovered what an incredible mess she made after each meal. Looking at the amount of food that ended up on the High Chair and the floor, left us wondering if she managed to put any food in her mouth at all. Luckily there’s always some evidence on her cute little face that food ends up where it should.
However, as cute and funny as it might look, there is no way around the problem that the High Chair looks like there was a food fight. For your child’s health and safety it is good practice to keep the High Chair clean and sanitized at all times, but how do you do this without spending hours of cleaning each day?
The best and easiest way to keep a High Chair clean is to make a daily routine for normal cleaning like vacuuming the padding and wiping surfaces, and to plan in a regular interval for deep cleaning of parts that build up dirt, such as the padding, the straps and hard to reach crevices.
In this article we will have a look at all the tips and tricks that make your life as parent easier when it comes to High Chair cleaning. We will also dive into the importance of having a clean and sanitized High Chair and we’ll have a look at some of the easiest to clean High Chairs on the market.
All the tips and tricks to keep your baby’s High Chair clean.
Allowing your child to self feed is the best way for him or her to discover the world of food and develop essential motor skills. Unfortunately this often results in crumbs in the padding, stains that are practically everywhere and clumps of food in places you’d thought they would never reach.
Below we will guide you through a steps by step strategy that helps you to keep your child’s High Chair healthy and clean without losing hours and hours each day.
1. Covering up the High Chair.
This first step is by far the easiest and most effective way to keep a High Chair clean. If done in a right way, your baby can juggle with food as much as she or he likes, the food will never reach the High Chair. The only High Chair maintenance you will be doing is taking off dust from time to time. Easy peasy!
Before you go to your garage to pull out large plastic sheets and duct tape, first have a look at the following simple, yet effective solution that has been designed for this particular problem.
It is called a feeding saucer/All-in-one bib and it completely covers up your baby as well as the High Chair. Because of its large feeding surface, it will also protect the floor underneath, that’s two birds with one stone!
If you are not a fan of a feeding saucer or your High Chair is not compatible with this type of cover, you can also opt to place an old towel over the seating area and arm rests. Once your child is done feeding, you can just shake out the crumbs in your garden, toss the towel in the laundry and replace it with a spare one.
Although the towels are not a completely storm proof solution, it can really help you to save some time after each meal, especially when your little one is having fruits or sauce based foods like spaghetti. We find this to be an awesome solution for High Chairs with soft textile padding, as the padding absorbs juices and starts to develop odors really fast.
2. Look at the user manual of your High Chair
We have to admit that we don’t always read the user manual every time we purchase a product. Often we just start using it and learn on the go. However, when it comes to cleaning your High Chair, it is good practice to familiarize yourself with the maintenance part of it.
It will help you to understand if there are any features that should be kept safe from water or detergents. All too often we hear of parents who cleaned their High Chair the incorrect way and lost their warranty because of that.
In other words, reading the user manual can save you stress and money down the road! In case you bought a used High Chair, you can always look for the user manual online or ask the manufacturer for a copy.
Below are some general cleaning rules for the different materials you can find in a High Chair:
Plastic: you have little to worry about with this material as it is waterproof and chemically resistant to most of the household detergents. You can just hose it down or submerge it in water as long as the water can find its way out so it can thoroughly dry. If you are planning to place certain parts in the dishwasher, please make sure that they are dishwasher safe as warping or discoloration can occur due to the heat. Safety harness straps are made of plastic as well (nylon-PP- Polyester) and are therefore machine washable. Due to the mesh structure, they take a bit more time to dry than hard plastic.
Metal: Avoid submerging blank metal in water or using aggressive detergents. Spring loaded mechanisms, hinges or screws can rust and start to malfunction as a result. Rusty parts are not included in the warranty. Metal parts that are painted (E.g.: legs) can be cleaned using water and detergents.
Fabric: Fabric cushioning can be machine washed, but please read the instructions you can find on the label as too hot or aggressive washing will wear out the cushioning a lot faster.
Wood: Wood and water are a bad marriage. Even though wooden High Chairs have some form of clear coat or paint to protect it from water, you should never soak it or use strong detergents like bleach. A damp cloth and some mild detergent is sufficient to get the job done.
3. Surface Cleaning your High Chair
If you surface clean your High Chair on a regular basis, the need for deep cleaning is a lot less frequent as dirt won’t be able to build up as quickly. Even though you will do most of this on a daily basis, it can save you a lot of time down the road.
3.1. Clean off crumbs
After each meal that involves dry food, you need to do some vacuuming or brushing to get rid of the crumbs that have collected in the seating area. If you leave the crumbs where they are, your child won’t be such a happy camper the next meal and those crumbs will be grind into smaller pieces, making them a lot harder to remove.
For this task we find a hand held vacuum to be the easiest solution as it is light weight, easy to handle and can be stored somewhere nearby in the kitchen. Hard to reach corners are no problem and you can do a quick pass on the kitchen floor as well. A normal vacuum cleaner can work too, it is just a bit more of a hassle to pull it out of the closet a couple of times a day.
As an alternative you can also use a small brush. You won’t be able to get into all the corners that well but it is sufficient to get most of the crumbs out of the High Chair.
3.2 Wiping the surfaces
There is just no way around this, after every meal there will be some form of food sticking to the surfaces of the High Chair. To get rid of this, we recommend to wipe down the surfaces directly after each meal, using a damp cloth with some mild detergent.
Because food is getting everywhere, it is best to quickly go over the complete High Chair so you don’t miss any spots. If you skip over some parts to get the job done more quickly, you will likely end up spending lots of time scraping off dried up clumps of food later on.
As for the feeding tray, we recommend to opt for the following cleaning methods in order of priority:
Dishwasher (if the plastic is dishwasher safe and there are no metal parts!)
Soaked in the kitchen sink (if there are no metal parts!)
Thorough wipe with a mild detergent. (if wood or plastic with metal parts)
A tray should always be sanitized with a food grade sanitizer after surface cleaning it!
4. Deep Cleaning your High Chair
If you have done a good job at surface cleaning, the need to deep clean your child’s High Chair will only occur about once a month, unless your child had a little accident. Since most High Chairs have nooks and crannies, a safety harness and some form of padding, dirt will build up over time making a deep clean unavoidable. However, if done correctly, this can be an easy job.
To deep clean a High Chair, it is best to take off all the separate parts and treat them individually. Remove the cushions and straps and check the labels. If they are machine washable, lucky you! Just follow the guidelines and the machine will do the rest.
If not, you can also wash them by hand in the sink. In case they are really dirty, you can leave them to soak for half an hour before washing manually. For both items it is best to air dry as the heat of a tumble dryer can damage the plastic and the padding.
In case it is easy to separate the plastic from the metal parts, you can do so and soak the plastic in a bath tub with some detergent. This way all the dirt that got trapped inside the nooks and crannies will be easy to remove.
For the parts that can’t be submerged in water, you can just mildly moisturize them and use a stiff brush, a tooth brush or some tooth picks to get rid of any dirt without damaging the High Chair.
We find the best time to deep clean a High Chair is when your child is staying over at the grandparents as this gives you some extra time to get the job done and have everything dried up for the next battle.
The dangers of a dirty High Chair
We all know that living in a sterile environment does not promote a strong natural resistance. On the other hand, living and eating in a dirty environment does entail a number of health associated risks that should be avoided at all costs. This is especially true for children aged 6-72 months as they still use their hands to put food in their mouth.
In the world of restaurant High Chairs, studies have been conducted to detect and identify what type of microorganisms could be found on surfaces like the feeding tray and the arm rests. The results where worrying as many High Chairs contained more bacteria than toilet seats. In some cases these bacteria are linked to food poisoning.
This is not to say that you should never use a restaurant High Chair anymore, it just clearly indicates what the risks are of poor High Chair maintenance.
Further more, cleaning a High Chair the wrong way can also cause some health related hazards. If you submerge parts under water that cannot dry quick enough, you run the risk of getting mold inside these parts. Mold can lead to respiratory symptoms in upper and lower airways, cause infections and skin conditions.
So in short, it is in your best interest to be mindful about your cleaning strategies and to inspect the High Chair regularly for any signs of bad hygiene.
What type of cleaning products should you use to clean a High Chair?
When you are about to clean a High Chair it is important that you know what type of cleaning products that you can use and which ones you should avoid. Especially when it comes to surfaces that come into contact with food, like the tray, or surfaces that your child can reach with its mouth, like the arm rests.
When you are looking for cleaning agents you will notice that there are detergents and sanitizers to choose from. In short, detergents are used to get rid of dirt, grease and stains whereas sanitizers are used kill of germs and bacteria.
So, if you are cleaning a High Chair, the order to tackle this is to start with the detergent to clean off any grease, stains or dirt. When all the dirt has been washed away, you should rinse it with some clean water or a rinsed out cloth to get rid of any residues.
For this job we personally prefer to work with bio-based and bio degradable cleaners like Ecover, Biokleen all purpose cleaner or Veo Active-probiotics multi surface cleaner. Not only do they perform an excellent cleaning job, it is also a long term investment into the future of our children.
Once the High Chair is visually clean, it is time to sanitize the tray and all other parts your child can get its hands and mouth on. By doing so you make sure that the surfaces that come into contact with food have no pathogenic microbes on them that could multiply and become hazardous. Please leave the sanitizer on the surfaces for a couple of minutes as this improves its sanitizing effect.
When looking for a sanitizer, look specifically for a food grade sanitizer like Purell Foodservice Surface Sanitizer. Sanitizers that are non-food grade (E.g.: bleach), are based on chemicals that are toxic when consumed and should be avoided. Disinfectant wipes are also an option, as long as they are food grade like Dreumex food contact disinfectant wipes.
A natural disinfectant like white vinegar can do the job as well, although it takes up to 30 minutes to have a good sanitizing effect. For this reason, we prefer to stick to the commercial variants that can kill germs in as little as 2 minutes.
When you are working in the kitchen while your baby is watching you while sitting in its High Chair, always thoroughly wash and sanitize your hands before interacting with him or her. This is often a moment where cross contamination occurs and it can be very dangerous when working with raw poultry meat.
To clean the High Chair, we just use a kitchen cloth but make sure to use a clean one that came out of the laundry. Never use one that you have been using to clean the kitchen for the last few days as this will increase the risk of cross contamination. To sanitize the tray and the arm rests, it is best to use another clean cloth or a kitchen towel to wipe off the sanitizer.
Padding or towels that you use to cover up the seat can be washed with about any laundry detergent, we use an Ecover one. Always check the label and go for the highest allowed temperature, this way you can be sure that all the germs are gone.
What is the easiest High Chair to clean?
When you’ve read all the way through this article, you are probably wondering what High Chair is easiest to clean. However, when you purchase a High Chair, it is not just about easy cleaning. You need to think about safety, ergonomics for both you and your child, price and the setting it will be used in. Otherwise you’ll end up with a High Chair that is very easy to clean but disappoints you in a lot of other areas.
So, regardless the category of High Chairs you will be picking from, we have a rule of thumb that should help you to look for easy to clean High Chairs. That is: The simpler the shape, the easier it is to clean.
High Chairs that are very complex in shape and functionality will have many surfaces, nooks and crannies that are hard to reach and where dirt can build up over time. The easiest is to go for a minimalist design with large surfaces that are seamlessly connected. Like for example the Ikea Antilop High Chair or the Stokke Tripp Trapp wooden High Chair.
Also look for accessories that are easy to remove and reattach. For padding, we prefer to have a closed/waterproof surface structure that you can easily wipe clean. This will save you many hours of laundry and drying as an accident is never far away with a child.
Some parents swear by Hook-on High Chairs as they are so compact and portable and they allow you to easily clean the floor underneath. You can find out if a Hook-on High Chair is for you in this illustrated article we wrote.
For those of you who like to buy a wooden High Chair but are afraid it will be a cleaning nightmare, we have good news. Wooden High Chairs are often easier to clean than their plastic counterparts as they have less nooks and crannies.
For any wooden surface we recommend to keep a good cleaning regime so food rests come off easy as soaking is not an option. If you are still doubting what is best for you, this article will help you decide between wooden and plastic High Chairs.
We hope this article has provided you with some useful insights that will make your job as a parent easier. If so, please share this article and help us spread the love! Thanks for reading!!
BBC, Laura May McMullan, 2019, Restaurant highchairs 'dirtier than tables', accessed 10/10/2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-50137760
Food Safety News, Alexa Nameth, 2010, Restaurant Highchairs Dirtier Than Toilet Seats?, accessed 10/10/2020, https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/10/study-high-chairs-contain-more-bacteria-than-toilet-seats/
Mary T. Johnson, PhD, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Terre Haute Center for Medical Education., Terre Haute, IA 47809, 812-2373096, firstname.lastname@example.org and Shaiw-Fen Ferng, PhD, Health and Safety, Indiana State University, HHP B79, Terre Haute, IN 47809, 2001, Surveillance of microrganisms in restaurant High Chairs/Booster chairs, accessed 10/10/2020, https://aphanew.confex.com/apha/129am/techprogram/paper_28337.htm
Environmental Health Perspectives 107:suppl 3 CID, R Rylander, and R Etzel, 1999, Introduction and summary: workshop on children's health and indoor mold exposure. Accessed 10/10/2020, https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.99107s3465
USDA, 2020, Allowed Detergents and Sanitizers for Food Contact Surfaces and Equipment in Organic Operations, accessed 12/10/2020, https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/8%20Cleaners%20and%20Sanitizers%20FINAL%20RGK%20V2.pdf