Are you wondering what the best, most efficient way to clean your pack-and-play is?
These portable baby items are also known as play yards (also spelled as “playards”), playpens, travel cribs, or portable cribs.
Pack-and-plays get dirty often and easily, and can be more challenging to clean than wooden cribs because their surfaces are made of soft materials such as fabric, mesh, and polyester.
How can you deep clean your pack-and-play while ensuring your baby’s safety? Are there safe and non-toxic ways to remove dirt, stubborn stains, and unwanted smells? How can you sanitize your playards?
Let’s discuss more about these below.
Top Reasons Why It’s Important To Regularly Clean Your Pack-and-Play
If not cleaned immediately, spills from different liquids can lead to mildew or mold growth.
Which can pose a serious health threat to your kiddos and family.
Your little one’s immune system is still developing, making them more prone to becoming sick. That’s why keeping their pack-and-play a clean and safe place for them to play or sleep in is essential.
How Often Should You Clean Your Pack-and-Play?
There isn’t a specific guideline or rule to follow for cleaning your pack-and-play. Here’s a rough schedule you can follow:
- Always immediately clean up liquid spills (e.g., spit-ups or vomit, spilled milk, urine, poop).
- It’s ideal to do regular spot cleaning at least once a week.
- If possible, try to deep clean once every couple of months at most (unless the manufacturer prohibits this under the cleaning instructions).
Is There A Way To Wash A Pack-And-Play?
Yes. There are several ways to clean your pack-and-play: spot cleaning, scrubbing down, or deep cleaning.
We’ll discuss each method in detail below.
Reminder: Don’t Forget To Read Your Owner’s Manual
Always check the owner’s manual before cleaning your playard. It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines or watch the brand’s tutorials, if any, to ensure it isn’t damaged during cleaning.
For example, you can clean a Graco Pack-n-Play using warm water and household soap, but you must avoid bleach.
Other brands can have similar instructions or might suggest using laundry detergent or other cleaning solutions.
We recommend using baby-safe detergent or other natural cleaning products (e.g., baking soda and white vinegar) that can be safer for your little ones. These cleaner, greener products are gentler on your baby’s skin and lungs. They also avoid potentially harmful chemicals.
Also, check for safety cautions or warnings about parts that shouldn’t be submerged in water, bleached, etc., to avoid warping or damage.
If you lost the instruction manual, some brands feature the manual for download on their site, or you can contact the company’s customer service to get a copy.
Cleaning The Interiors Of Your Pack-and-Play
The interiors are likely dirtier than the exteriors. Here are some cleaning tips:
Can You Wash A Pack-And-Play Mat?
This actually depends on the material the pack-n-play mattress or mat is made of:
Cleaning Plastic Mats
If they’re made of plastic, you can probably submerge them in water for a deeper clean. However, be sure to read the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.
Cleaning Cardboard & Fabric Mats
Never submerge mats made of cardboard in water. That can warp or damage the material inside. (see below for cleaning methods)
Check The Nooks & Crannies
Here’s a cleaning hack: If you aren’t giving the playard a scrub or deep cleaning, you can vacuum these dirty areas to remove accumulated dust and other particles.
Don’t Forget The Mesh Screens
These screens might be among the dirtiest portions of the pack ‘n play, especially when your toddler discovers how “fun” it can be to squirt their drink or snacks through the gaps.
Since the fabric on this part is soft, however, be sure to handle it delicately when washing. Don’t use a hard brush to clean these parts.
Cleaning The Exteriors Of Your Pack-and-Play
Use a rag dipped in soapy warm water to spot-clean your playard’s exteriors.
Always make sure to clean the pack-and-play’s exterior before folding and packing it, especially when you use it outdoors.
Also, very important, let it dry thoroughly to avoid mildew.
Sand can get stuck inside the movable mechanisms, making the playard unsafe because the locks can be affected, causing the pack-n-play to collapse without warning.
You can hose down sand, mud, or even snow off the exteriors, but be sure to dry them well before packing or taking them back indoors.
How Do You Clean And Disinfect A Playpen?
1. Spot Cleaning
Dip a piece of cloth or rag in a bucket of water with baby-safe soap.
Wring off the excess water, then use the damp cloth to dab on the dirty parts and clean the playpen.
Repeat the process until the pack-and-play is clean, but make sure the mesh or other materials aren’t soaked. Air dry all the damp or wet parts before putting the playpen’s mat or mattress in.
Always make sure to immediately spot-clean any area with spilled milk, poop or pee, water, etc.
You can use a spray bottle containing a cleaning solution made of 1 part water with 1 part white vinegar to clean up small messes or spots. (Bonus points for adding 5-7 drops of antimicrobial essential oils like lemon, tea tree, rosemary, or other cleaning oils)
We also suggest using a mattress cover or protector so you can manage spills and clean-ups more easily.
After checking your owner’s manual for cleaning instructions, be sure to take out sections that shouldn’t be soaked with water.
Place the pack-and-play outdoors, in your bathroom, or in any area that can get wet.
Add baby-safe detergent (about ½ cup) into a bucket of warm water. Dip a soft-bristled brush and use it to scrub the dirty playpen.
Be careful not to scrub too hard on the soft parts, including the mesh, to avoid damaging the material.
Also include the wheels, poles, and plastic parts (if any) when scrubbing.
Use soapy water to clean up the rest of the travel crib. Prepare another bucket if the first one isn’t enough.
A hose, showerhead, or water dipper can be useful for rinsing.
Rinse the playpen thoroughly and let dry before reassembling and adding the mattress again.
3. How Do You Deep Clean A Pack-And-Play Pad?
Sometimes, a deep clean might be the only solution for stubborn grime and dirt. Consider whether this is the best option for your pack-and-play, even if the manufacturer might not suggest it.
Keep in mind that deep cleaning can make the playard cleaner and fresher but might damage or warp some parts. So, always double-check if these areas can be submerged in water before doing a deep clean.
Here are the steps to follow:
Fill your bathtub or a large basin with hot water. Check the temperature limits on the instruction manual (some manufacturers might have a temperature requirement or limit for cleaning).
Mix in ½ cup of baby-safe detergent, ¼ cup of vinegar, and ¼ cup of baking soda. Stir well until the detergent and baking soda dissolve.
Caution: The water in the tub can be hot! Use a spatula to stir the solution, and be sure to keep your children away.
Remove any material that can’t be submerged in water and set it aside.
Fold the pack-and-play, then submerge it in the tub or basin. Let soak for at least one hour.
You can soak it longer if you want to because the longer the playpen soaks, the easier it is to clean up and remove grime.
If you can’t fully submerge it, let it soak on one side for at least 30 minutes, then turn it over and soak the other for another 30+ minutes.
If the changing table, mat, and other parts can be wet (check the manual), you can also add them to the tub. Clean these smaller parts before tackling the playard.
You might still need to scrub dirt off some portions of the playpen.
Check for stains or other spots with stubborn dirt. Spray soapy water and scrub these areas.
Once clean, use the showerhead or a dipper to rinse soapy water off of it. You can use cold water.
Squeeze out excess water from the soft, foamy parts. Rinse well until bubbles no longer come out when you squeeze.
Air dry or place under the sun until the entire pack-n-play is completely dry.
Cleaning tip: Dry the pack-and-play and the other parts on top of stools or backless chairs or anything that helps elevate them off the ground. This can help improve air circulation around the playpen and make the baby item dry faster.
Cleaning Materials & Ingredients You Need
- DIY cleaning solution (½ cup of baby-safe detergent + ¼ cup of vinegar, + ¼ cup of baking soda)
- Baby-safe detergents such as Molly’s Suds Liquid Laundry Detergent
- Aunt Fannie’s Distilled White Vinegar (for quick surface wiping)
- Spray bottle
- Damp cloth
- Soft-bristled scrub
- Bathtub or large basin
Do’s & Don’ts To Remember When Cleaning Your Pack-and-Play
- Do choose baby-safe cleaning products.
- Do include all the locking parts, plastic and metal sections, and nook and crannies when cleaning your playpen.
- Do choose high-quality mattress covers that can handle regular washing so you don’t need to constantly scrub your pack-and-play.
- Do wash the covers at least once a week.
- Do unfold the pack-and-play before drying. This will shorten the drying time.
- Do air dry for at least a day before using it again.
- Do check the foam parts and poles for wetness or remaining water content before returning the playpen to your baby’s nursery.
- Avoid using harsh chemicals, such as bleach, when cleaning your pack-and-play. Though some parents might say that these make cleaning and disinfecting easier, they can be too harsh and even harmful to your baby. Bleach can also discolor spots on your playpen’s fabric, making them look unsightly.
- Don’t machine-wash the pack-and-play mattress or mat. It can deform these parts.
- Avoid scrubbing or deep cleaning methods when cleaning on a rainy day because the product might not dry as easily as on a warm sunny day. If there are areas to clean, try spot cleaning first until the weather clears up.
- Don’t let your baby use the pack-and-play when it hasn’t dried out completely.
How Do I Remove Spit-Up From My Pack-and-Play?
Use paper towel or a damp cloth to wipe off the spit-up as soon as possible.
Dip another cloth in soapy water and clean off the area. You can use a spray bottle for rinsing off the spot with water and a few drops of liquid soap.
Dab the area with a dry rag or another cloth to remove excess water.
If possible, leave it out and let it dry under the sun to kill off the germs.
How Can I Remove Bad Smells From My Pack-and-Play?
Vinegar is a mild disinfectant that can also be useful in removing bad smells from your pack-and-play. We recommend Aunt Fannie’s All Purpose Cleaning Vinegar spray.
Baking soda is also another effective option.
Cleaning with soapy water can also help remove the bad smells.
If these persist, it might be best to deep-clean your pack-and-play.
Consider getting a new pack-and-play mat or mattress if all else fails. After all, bad smells can also mean the area is thriving with bacteria or other pathogens.
How To Remove Mold From My Pack-and-Play?
Mold can be dangerous if inhaled by your baby.
Using a spray bottle with a solution made of vinegar with water or isopropyl alcohol and a few drops of organic lemon, thyme, rosemary, and tea tree essential oils.
Put the pack-and-play or the affected section (such as the mat) outside and leave it under sunlight for a few hours to kill off the spores.
How Can I Get Rid Of Any Stubborn Stains From My Pack-and-Play?
Spot-cleaning right after a mess can help you avoid unwanted stains.
However, repeated spot cleaning with a higher concentration of vinegar solution (more parts vinegar than parts water) can do magic for stubborn stains.
If that doesn’t work, deep cleaning might be the only way to remove these stains.
How To Avoid Warping When Cleaning My Pack-and-Play?
Don’t submerge parts that can’t be wet because these are likely made of cardboard that can be destroyed by water and other liquids.
Also, when letting these parts dry after spot cleaning, try to lay them flat so they can retain their shape.
Are There Pack-and-Plays With Removable Covers?
You can purchase removable covers for your playard, but some products (e.g., Graco Pack ‘n Play LiteTraveler LX Playard) also have these extra features.
Cleaning Other Nursery Equipment & Baby Items
We also recommend reading and following the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions when you clean nursery equipment and other baby items, such as:
Our Recommendations For The Best Pack ‘n Plays
- Newton Baby Travel Crib & Play Yard
- Nuna SENA Aire Play Yard with Zip-Off Bassinet
- Graco Pack and Play Crib
- Baby Jogger City Suite Multi-Level Playard
- Joovy Room-Playard & Nursery Center