Before I had children – and a spouse for that matter – keeping my home and car clean was easy. When I was living the single life in London, UK, I resided in shared accommodation and split the cost of a cleaner with my flatmates.
This eliminated any arguments over whose turn it was to clean the bathroom or vacuum the floors. It also meant that my free time could be allocated to other endeavors such as exercise and cultivating my social life.
After meeting and moving in with my future husband, the cleaning duties were divided equitably between the two of us. Who am I kidding? It was closer to an 80-20 split, but I digress! The point is that it was still easy to find time to clean the flat and take care of other domestic chores.
Flash forward a year later, after my daughter’s birth, I could barely keep up with the laundry, much less the household chores. And the new car that we had acquired a few months before our daughter’s birth? Although that was technically my soon-to-be- husband’s domain, ensuring the car remained mess-free quickly fell to me.
Being a first-time mum, I constantly received solicited and unsolicited advice from friends, family members and complete strangers. One such tip was to make sure that I protected the back seat of the car with a ‘seat protector’.
I have got to be honest. I ignored this tip at first. I figured that the two seat swaddles I had been gifted would provide enough protection from any baby related messes that might occur. Plus, I reasoned, how messy could a baby/toddler restrained in a car seat make?
As it turns out, this was a gross (literally) misconception on my part. On our first road trip to France, my husband and I were roughly halfway through the five-hour drive when our daughter’s tummy began to rumble. She did not seem to be the least bit bothered so we opted to keep driving for a few miles until we reached the next rest area.
That is when the trouble began! The minute I lifted my daughter from the infant seat, I could tell that her diaper had leaked. The ensuing tidal wave of poo had soaked through her onesie, the thick fleecy swaddle and was making its way into the crevices of our fabric seats! Ugh! I guess I should have heeded the well-meaning advice that had been sent my way after all.
We cleaned both our daughter and the back seat up as best as we could with baby wipes and continued on our way. The minute we arrived at my in-law’s, I did three things:
- Sent the husband to the nearest car wash to have the backseat detailed.
- Went online and ordered a car seat protector for the backseat on Amazon.
- Asked the mother-in-law for a towel to double as a car seat protector for the backseat until my order would arrive.
Thankfully, we managed to avoid any further ‘poo-namis’ until the actual car seat protector arrived. For this reason, I cannot comment on whether the bath towel would have been entirely effective against a mess of epic proportions.
The car seat protector, however, was worth its weight in gold. Once it was installed, it remained in the back seat for the next five years -apart from regular cleanings. During this time, it did a superb job of shielding the fabric from the daily assaults of two children under five. Upset tummies, spilled drinks and snacks were no longer a costly and time-consuming threat.
In addition to safeguarding the back seat from the general mess that accompanies small children, the protector also reduced the impact of sun damage over the years we owned the car. Moreover, the back seat was not marked with unsightly indentations from the car seats with the added barrier of the protector.
When we went to sell the car prior to our move back to the United States, the buyer was so impressed with the condition of the car that she did not even bother to haggle the price.
Although my children are now 9 and 7 and make slightly less mess now than they did five years ago, I remain an advocate for seat protectors and still use them to this day.
A quick Internet search reveals that there are a myriad of choices out there. Your options will vary depending on the type of seats you have and the needs of your family. Remember…one size does not fit all!
There are bucket style seat protectors designed to fit the driver and passenger seats and captain chairs like those seen in modern minivans and larger SUVs. These cover the back and bottom of the seat and are fastened to the headrest.
Then there are bench seat protectors which cover the entire back seat, making them an ideal choice for sedan-style vehicles. This specific style is also secured to the headrest, but has the necessary openings for seat belts so that safety is not compromised.
Another style of seat protector is the kick mat. As the name denotes, the kick mat is intended to protect the backs of front seats from the not so gentle pitter-patter of dirty feet. As a bonus, this style of mat will sometimes include storage pockets for snacks, drinks, toys and more which makes it an optimal choice for families who are always on the go.
Other considerations include material and durability, two factors which often go hand-in-hand. The top-rated car seat protectors are typically made from either vinyl or neoprene as these materials are water-resistant and hold up well to the general wear and tear of a busy family. The mats are also easily wiped down in the event of any spills or leaks, bodily or otherwise.
Once you have determined an overall style and material that will best suit the needs of your family it is time to take a closer look at individual models of car seat protectors.
Best Car Seat Protectors
Prince Lionheart Seat Protector
Known as the ‘seat saver’ this unique patented two-piece design has been gracing the seats of cars since 1980! This car seat protector is both LATCH and ISOFIX compatible and can be used with rear and forward-facing car seats, making it an economical choice. You can change cars and/or transition your child from one car seat to the next without needing to replace the car seat protector.
The high-density foam composition makes it sturdy and easy to clean and the raised edge on the base will catch the inevitable spills and leaks. There are even three colors to choose from should you want to maintain the overall aesthetics of your car’s interior.
Munchkin Brica Elite Seat Guardian Car Seat Protector
Not only is this ‘crash test approved’ but it can fit both a bucket seat or a single section of a bench seat. The raised edge of the base acts as a ‘crumb catcher’ and also prevents liquids from spilling onto the seat of the car underneath. The back panel is extra-long, giving added protection from rear-facing baby and toddler seats as well as the high backs of modern forward-facing car and booster seats. The durable dark gray vinyl ‘grime guard’ material makes cleaning a breeze and also camouflages lingering stains.
Summer ELITE DuoMat Car Seat Protector
This model has been crash-tested with three specific models of car seats – the Graco SnugRide, Chicco KeyFit, and the Evenflo Tribute. It may be used with any car seat that fastens with a latch anchor or seat belt, but is not compatible with ISOFIX bases. Available in two shades of black, this seat protector is made from an easy to clean non-skid vinyl. It also features a handy mesh pocket attached to the base to accommodate drinks, snacks and toys making it a practical option if you have toddlers or small children.
Happy Healthy Parent Mess Manager
This is another two-part model featuring a car seat protector and a kick mat and is backed with a lifetime guarantee! Compatible with both rear and forward-facing car seats, both pieces are designed to be secured around a headrest.
Are you a family on the go? The mesh pockets on both pieces provide a perfect storage solution for drinks, snacks, toys, books and more. If you are frequent travellers and/or constantly moving between cars, it is worth noting that both sections fold down making them easy to transport.
BABYSEATER Car Seat Protector with Trash Can
This is a universal car seat protector with an integrated 10-gallon bin that can be used as either a trash can or a storage compartment for drinks, snacks and toys.
Although the bin is fixed and cannot be removed, it does fold down should you need the extra leg room. Made from a hardy 600D waterproof polyester, this model is designed to withstand the wear-and-tear of car seats and their occupants. It is compatible with both rear and forward-facing car seats which utilize either a LATCH or seat belt fastening system. Touted as ‘installation free’ by the manufacturer, this car seat protector can be secured in place by two straps – one which attaches around a headrest and a second which wraps around bucket style seats.
Glangels Car Seat Protector
This is great for super-sized vehicles or car seats. Made from a blend of 600D waterproof polyester and thick padded PVC leather, this oversized seat protector will keep your seats looking and feeling great. Two generous sized mesh storage compartments will keep your child’s mess contained. This seat protector does triple duty. Not only is it designed to be used under a child safety seat, but it can also be used to protect your car’s seats from the mess of any furry guests. It is also a perfect post-beach or gym accessory that helps protect your seats from wet, sandy or sweaty backsides.
Lusso Gear Car Seat Protector
This is another viable option for families with oversized vehicles or child car seats. Available in a range of two-tone colors, this seat protector is made from a blend of PVC leather and 600D polyester fabric. It is both LATCH and seatbelt compatible and its extra thick 8-layer non-slip, waterproof design makes it stylish and comfortable. The base also features a heat-resistant backing that is guaranteed to grab the seat without compromising its look and integrity. There are three built-in storage pockets making it easy to separate drinks and snacks from your child’s toys.
Helteko Car Seat Protector and Organizer
If you are looking for both oversized seat protection and multiple storage options then be sure to check this one out. Both pieces are secured to the headrest with extra-long adjustable straps and can be used with a range of rear and forward-facing child car seats. The two storage pockets on the seat protector are larger than average, perfect for books or cuddly toys. The kick mat features a handy iPad/tablet pocket in addition to two mesh bottle pockets and an extra-large compartment for additional snacks and toys. The durable wipe clean 600D polyester fabric makes cleaning up a breeze and the lifetime warranty has you covered in the event of any damages or repairs.
Omotor 4PCS Car Seat Protector Set Tablet Holder Kick Mat Cover Car Backseat Organizer for Kid & Toddlers Baby Carseat Cover
Looking for multiple seat protectors with tons of storage? Check out this car seat protector. This kit includes two complete two-piece sets both including a full coverage car seat protector and a nine-compartment backseat organizer. This kit is compatible with both LATCH and ISOFIX rear and forward-facing car seat systems. The material is water-resistant and machine washable, making clean up a no brainer. Between the car seat protector and the kick mat there are a total of eleven storage pockets, making it easy to keep the kids organized and entertained on car rides.
Munchkin Seat Protector
Finally, if you are looking for a budget friendly option then check out this car seat protector. Made from a durable wipe clean black vinyl, this car seat protector has a roomy base, but a shorter back panel which makes it more suitable for forward-facing car seat models. This car seat protector is compatible for use with child safety seats using a LATCH system or seat belt. There is one mesh storage pocket large enough to store a drink and a snack or a small toy or activity. This seat protector can be easily installed or removed as there are no buckles. Simply lay it on the seat, secure the car seat on top and you are ready to go!
Whether you have one child or three, a brand-new set of wheels or an ancient clunker like mine, these car seat protectors will save you both time and money in the long run. So channel your inner Marie Kondo and make this the year that your car stays clean and clutter free!