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A guide to stroller cleaning and maintenance: How to quickly & effectively take care of your stroller

Apr 2021 | Eli writes & you read in 12 min

TL;DR:

-Clean and lubricate your stroller's wheels on a monthly/once-per-two-months basis to keep them in good condition.

-Watch out for silicone sprays versus the foam tire profile.

-Lubricate joints and plastics at least sometimes, and help squeaky plastics with a teflon spray.

-Don't machine-wash your fabrics - only when absolutely necessary (rather, use a wet wipe or a wet-cleaning spray and gentle brushing).

-Mold and rust are MUCH better to prevent than put away, so never store your pram or pushchair somewhere cold (or temperature-changing) and humid (like in a cellar). And never leave it outside!

Let's be honest - most of us don't care about their pram, pushchair, or buggy as much as it's (maybe) needed.

I mean, which of us moms has the extra time with their (first, second, third) little one to think and remember something like a stroller's maintenance? The most frequent maintenance 'cases' are these emergency sessions when something went south and either broke or doesn't function properly anymore... And when that happens (but hopefully sooner, to prevent it!) - how to do it? What (not) to do? Where to start? What to check? What works best, cleaning-wise?... Here are some of our (as well as other mommies') pieces of advice, tips, and tricks to help you with stroller's maintenance and cleaning.

==THE WHEELS

I'll start with the wheels because they need your attention the most (often). If you check a few negative stroller reviews, moms very often complain about some kind of a problem with wheels the most often. It can be rattling/squeaking/another kind of noisy/loosening/wobbly, crazy turning wheels...

I mean, wheels are such a vital "organ" of a stroller, getting you through everything and very much impacting the whole feel of the ride that any of these problems you will be aware of A LOT.

It's annoying, sometimes even shameful, to walk through the street while making a racket heard even a block away. To keep them as well-functioning as possible is, because of that, worth a bit of your time, and I heartily recommend putting a note in your calendar to remember (if necessary).

The first thing to do on a regular basis is cleaning then lubricating your wheels. Take each wheel out, check for dirt, hair, and other visible chunks that may slow your wheel down or worsen its spinning. It is possible to shower the wheel, then leave to dry, and then lubricate - but this strains the materials more as well as removes too much of its internal lubrication. I advise you to do this only if you don't see another option of cleaning it - like if the wheel is very dirty, without the possibility to wipe-clean it.

The clean wheel axle should be oiled by spraying or any other application of a lubricant.

GOOD TO KNOW: Watch out not to spray/oil the foam/tire parts of the wheels if using a silicone-based spray. Some EVA or plastic wheel tires may start to squeak if reacting badly with the silicone lubrication. Also, an oily tire is not the best to drive with (and makes the surfaces you stroll on greasy = dirty, meaning slippery floors at your house). So - avoid spraying the foam/tire part. Only spray the axle, bearings, and moving parts should be lubricated.

You may hear different opinions about which sprays and agents are the best to lubricate stroller wheels (or other parts like joints) with. For me, the "classic" - WD-40 spray - worked the best most of the time, not clogging (some say it may clog joints a bit, but I never had this experience) or damaging any part of the stroller through the years I went over different strollers. If an 'originally made for military purposes' invention is not "hard-wearing," nothing is, I say ;-) And - it helps conserve the metals, acting against rust. Also, this spray is available in almost every country and in most medium- to large stores (even in many supermarkets). Also, you'll find it on gas stations or in car accessory shops.

Another lubrication agent to consider is a 'White grease' spray (white lithium grease). It's a lubricant for in-line skates or car door hinges, so why not stroller wheels.

A silicone spray for lubricating stroller wheels is an agent that halves people into two camps - those who recommend just that and those who don't recommend silicone-based sprays at all. I must say, I am not the biggest fan, even if I see their benefit. Yes, it does lubricate, and yes, it doesn't clog, but it may damage the tire (or the joint of the tire and the plastic wheel rim), as I said earlier. Some manufacturers even don't recommend lubricating their strollers with a silicone spray in their manuals(!). On the other hand, to lubricate plastic joints that squeak, a silicone spray is simply the better option.

If possible, always check the stroller manual to see what the manufacturer states (and forbids).

THE CHASSIS

This is also important to know - you can't lubricate only the wheels through the years. The plastic and metal joints get older, and yes, they can start getting stuck and/or being noisy because of dirt, friction caused by the setting materials, and so on... so, even if less often than wheels, clean joints and all the moving parts as well as the brake surroundings - with a wipe cloth or even with a little brush. Then lubricate in order to not have a brake or a folding mechanism that gets stuck. Lubricate carefully, slowly, not too much - watch out for textiles and fabrics to not get greasy (hard to clean after)... you can even cover (or take off) the fabrics if possible. Noteworthy are also the spaces connected with plastic parts.

A TIP: if your plastics already squeak, try a Teflon dry film spray (like a DuPont Teflon Non-Stick Dry-Film Lubricant). If not even a Teflon dry spray helps, it may be your plastics are already damaged or old beyond help (or just badly made).

THE FABRICS, UPHOLSTERY and their (machine) washability

The fabrics. Yes, there are some stroller brands making it easy to remove the fabric covers from the whole stroller and just throw them in the washing machine. This is, however, rather rare - even if sometimes able to remove them all, they, in most cases, should not be machine-washed! If you check your manual, there's a high chance that the textile parts are not going to be machine-washable (except for the lining in the carrycot/bassinet, or maybe some seat liner insert).

The manufacturers know why - they want to avoid the fading or the straining then thinning of the stroller upholstery materials. Because they are rather different - sturdier to hold a little person's body every day (as well as the dirt the child can produce) - and so they also act differently when exposed to sun and machine wash.

Also, since more rigid than a t-shirt, for example, they might get ripped or get holes torn after such a wash, and it's not worth the risk, from my point of view. I think so since most stroller fabrics are made to be quite easy to clean - with a wet cloth or a brush (again, brush gently rather than harshly). And if you really need to machine-wash your covers, FIRSTLY vacuum-clean them, then use the gentlest program your washing machine offers. I mean it. (But please don't wash them if not absolutely necessary).

An important thing to remember (if you decided to wash them anyway) would be the hand-wash programme of your machine and COLD temperature only.

The higher the temp is going to be - as well as the higher the spin speed - the more damage, fading, or weakening of the stroller fabrics is possible to happen. The washing gel or powder should also be the gentlest possible - and don't use much of it. I usually go for the sensitive - baby-friendly powders or gels.

An important TIP: Never use fabric softener - it acts against the fabric waterproof ability and may cause discoloration. On the other hand, a baby-mild disinfectant - laundry sanitizer can be used in small quantities instead of a softener - and is rather advisable, thinking about the dirty feet in the stroller seat.

On the other hand, the padding parts like harness pads or removable (fabric) bumper bar covers can be machine-washed pretty much always. At least, mine never got damaged like that. It may be they are too small to rip somehow - or simply made differently, taking the baby may chew on them.

For manual cleaning/washing your stroller fabrics (which I highly recommend, if there's not a brutal-dirt emergency situation), I got very fond of upholstery cleaner sprays from DM drogerie or Lidl. It's these pressurized sprays that shoot out foam, which you spray onto a wet fabric, leave to "work its magic," then brush, wipe with a dry cloth as much as you can, and when dried at least partially, vacuum out. Maximum two repetitions of this process even for the worst dirt - and it was gone. These can also be used for the canopy (hood) of the stroller, which is a part that often can't be removed to machine- (or hand-) washing.

If you don't have these stores around you, an alternative to those would be a "carpet and upholstery cleaner" spray from Gunk, Sprayway, Frost... or look at any brand that does a pressurized upholstery spray for seats in the car.

The eco-alternatives and pro-tips

If you are one of those moms that try to live as ecologically as possible, a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and vinegar acts like a strong cleaning agent. Of course, the smell is rather pungent at first, BUT don't worry, because after wiping it with water at the end then leaving the fabrics to dry out - the smell WILL evaporate. If still afraid - just put a few drops of a nicely-smelling skin-friendly dishwashing liquid in the mixture as well.

A tip to "brush" your upholstery more gently: instead of a brush, which can be rather invasive for the textiles, try to rub them with a rolled-up towel. It's soft enough, while the "sticking" fibers and the absorbent material can work wonders on some stains. You can also clean a foam-covered handlebar with it afterward or wipe up the plastic parts.

Another big help - and I believe yours, already, too - are wet wipes (normally meant for wiping the baby ^
_^ 👶 ). To wipe up joints, curves of the frame, or overall polishing up the chassis (or a leg rest) - or just __
a first aid when, e.g., ice cream just dropped onto the seat, there's nothing better than wet wipes__. I'm sure you'll agree with me - and that is why we all have them in any near pocket of our stroller or in the parent tray (anywhere at hand).

I usually keep them in handy places around my house, too - to wipe something quickly, even if not related to a child or my stroller (like a kitchen cabinet's bends and creases). And there are even those skin- or ecologically-friendly options of Water wipes, Happy Planet 100% biodegradable wipes, or Bamboo wet wipes.

This is maybe a bit more or a tryhard for those sensitive about the cleanliness of your stroller - even concerning those little grooves. For those little creases, use a pin to scratch the dirt out. Watch out, however, and be gentle not to scratch the frame outside of the groove. For larger grooves or bends, use an old wet toothbrush with a bit of soap on it.

The shopping basket part of your stroller will also need cleaning, in my experience. It often is the dirtiest place because of something spilling inside as well as the dirt from the road getting in...

Some do wash it in the washing machine - but be careful because baskets are one of the places most prone to fading on a stroller.

Also, the weaker ones or mesh ones do get holes inside quite easily, so I would (again) recommend hand-cleaning. Firstly, vacuum the basket, then wipe clean it with a cloth, wet wipe, or a brush if necessary. The basket being black, you CAN push a bit more with your brush - it's usually a less soft fabric, so it shouldn't create little lumps.

I will also talk about one of the ways some mums approach the whole stroller cleaning - and by that, I mean - cleaning the whole stroller in one extreme-ish way. It is possible to shower/hose the whole pushchair - in the shower as well as under a hose, and it is rather quick and effective, dirt-removing-wise.

On the other hand, I can't say I recommend it because of a higher chance of the stroller getting rusty if not dried properly.

And it's not about just wiping it dry (yes, do that, please - watch out mainly for the bottom part that people often forget to dry). The water can get under the plastic joints or covers and rust your stroller where you don't even see it. Again, it can be prevented by drying your stroller well (with a towel), then leaving it to dry in a non-humid, non-cold place... But don't forget then to lubricate all the moving parts and joints. The same procedure should take place after a walk in heavy rain or on snow (here, focus mainly on the bottom parts). Salt can make your stroller rusty quickly, so think about that in winter, and clean your stroller regularly at least then.

PRO TIP: When drying your pram or pushchair, don't let them dry out in the direct sun, ok? It would help immensely with a thorough drying out, BUT it may cause the canopy color to fade. The easier drying process and no lubrication are not worth an uglier (color-faded) stroller.

What to look out for

The last part of "at-least-sometimes" done maintenance of your stroller should be a visual check. Easy enough, isn't it? Just look out for damages on the wheels, cracks, missing screws, bent bars... so you don't end up with a stroller breaking in the middle of a crosswalk. From another point of view, small stones inside the wheel foam are NOT a problem; this happens a lot with EVA wheels, and is just esthetic.

While visual-checking, you can find:A damaged/cracked foam/rubber on the handlebar - which can't be repaired just so, but can either be swapped for new foam part (check eBay or ask the seller for a possibility to order a spare part); changed for the bike tapes; or - BEST CASE - be made better by buying or having a fabric or (eco) leather cover made, hiding the small damage. Aliexpress offers quite a lot of cheap covers, but of course, a hand-made leather cover made for your dimensions/diameter of the handle is the best (and most expensive) option.

Fading: A faded canopy can either be ordered new from the seller/manufacturer (as a spare part) or sprayed over (this takes some work, look up Upholstery Spray from the Simply Spray brand). A faded internal part of the seat can be made better with some stylish seat liner/seat insert.

Moldy upholstery is quite a problem - I would first suggest changing your way of storing the stroller. It probably was somewhere humid. I, personally, would probably rather go for a new stroller than tried to deal with extensive mold, but if necessary, chlorine-based sprays or liquid agents can help (but might fade the fabrics considerably). Always wash the fabrics after de-molding them again with a gentle powder or gel. An option would also be to throw away the moldy fabrics then look out at cheap second-hand strollers that are sold for parts (if there's your exact model, you might use the fabrics).

Rust is very hard to get rid of once really inside of the chassis - mainly when in joints (i.e., in the wheels or in the central joints, as I once had the unluck with a used Britax Go) where the access is often almost impossible. I strongly advise AGAINST getting a pre-loved stroller if there are (even small) hints of rust. There are rust removers available, but you need to try and put it on, then scrub away, and lastly, put some coat/lacquer over the place to cover (therefore protect) it. It still won't mean the rust will not come back.

And here I come to a last small tip of mine I have for you: nail polish ;-) For small scratches, scuffed places, and abrasion marks on a chassis, you can nail polish over to repair the bad first impression - and if done gently, it is almost invisible, mainly on a black chassis.

Btw... don't think too much of the scratches. They are a natural occurrence on a thing you use daily, often in rough conditions. They mean the stroller does its job while rolling your baby around, being folded and put in and out of the car, unfolded again, and bumping into places while holding it all together ;-) They don't mean something bad; they're just "battle scars" necessary to prove how the stroller was handled (and how long).