How to Clean a Pack 'N Play

baby standing in pack 'n play

Raul Rodriguez / iStockphoto

Whether you are a first-time parent or have multiple children, chances are high you own a pack 'n play, travel crib, or play yard. While they are a very convenient, portable, and safe place for your baby to nap or play, these handy little inventions can get a little dirty, especially if they are used frequently or have gone through multiple children.

To make matters worse, they are not always the easiest things to clean, especially because the majority of them are not machine washable. For this reason, we have put together a guide on how to effectively clean your pack 'n play, travel crib, or play yard in order to not only keep it looking nice and smelling good, but most importantly keep it as germ-free as possible for your little one.

Why Cleaning Is Important

Aside from keeping your pack 'n play looking nice, cleaning helps you remove the dirt, grime, and germs. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends regular cleaning as a way to keep your family healthy.

While there is no hard and fast rule for how often you clean your baby's things, it's a good idea to keep on top of it before it turns into a bigger mess. Plus, if your baby regularly spills things, likes to make messes, or spits up quite a bit, there is a chance for the moisture from these things to turn into mold and mildew.

Likewise, stains can become permanent if they are not treated right away. So the best plan of attack is to spot clean your pack 'n play on a regular basis.

Check Your Owner's Manual

Before you clean your travel crib, play yard, or pack 'n play, you should check your owner's manual to determine what cleaners are recommended, in addition to any specific instructions. For instance, the Graco website says to use household soap and warm water and avoid bleach.

Graco also suggests allowing the pack 'n play to drip dry but indicates that the carrying bag is machine washable. Wash the bag in lukewarm water without detergent and hang it up to dry.

If your pack 'n play has sand in it from a day at the beach, be very careful when removing it. Sand can easily scratch the top rail and lock. And, if you have lost or misplaced your specific pack 'n play's instruction manual, you can go to the company's website for cleaning instructions or search for a downloadable copy.

It's also important to note that most of the mattresses in pack 'n plays, travel cribs, and play yards are not waterproof, so you want to avoid submerging them in water. You can wipe them clean or purchase waterproof mattress covers specifically designed for your make and model.

Spot Cleaning Your Pack 'N Play

Some parts of your child's pack 'n play will get dirtier than others, like the mat that your baby sits or sleeps on as well as the rails. The most effective way to keep the mattress or mat clean is to use a waterproof mattress cover specifically designed for your pack 'n play. Then, all you have to do is remove the cover and wash it.

As for the rails or sides, you will want to use a baby-safe cleaner. Avoid grabbing a bottle of disinfectant or commercial cleaner because these solutions can be harmful to your baby.

In fact, the AAP suggests using a homemade cleaner made of vinegar and water, as well as a little elbow grease. Baking soda or baby-safe soap also work well.

How to Scrub Your Pack 'N Play

To effectively clean your pack 'n play or play yard, you should pick a nice day and take it outside if possible. This way, you won't get soapy water on your floors indoors.

If you don't have a space outside in order to clean your play yard, put down some heavy towels or drop cloths to protect your floors.

To scrub your pack 'n play, remove the mattress or mat and put it aside. Then, grab a bucket of warm water mixed with a 1/2 cup of baby-safe laundry detergent and a soft-bristled brush.

Scrub the entire pack 'n play but be careful not to soak the material or the mesh. Then, take a warm, wet rag and wipe off the excess soap and water. Again, be careful not to soak the material or the mesh.

Once you're finished, allow the pack 'n play to air dry completely before using again. If you are able to, leave it outside in the sun to dry. If you don’t have a place to do that, a sunny spot in your home will work as well. It just may take a little longer to air dry.

Deep Cleaning Your Pack 'N Play

If you have had your pack 'n play for awhile or it is particularly messy—like smeared in peanut butter and jelly messy—you can deep clean it. But keep in mind, this type of cleaning is generally not listed in the manufacturer's instructions. So, you will need to weigh the pros and cons of this method.

Be especially mindful after using this cleaning method to not only allow it adequate time to dry, but to also inspect all the moving parts and locking mechanisms to be sure they are all working order.

Follow these steps if you want to deep clean your pack 'n play:

Remove the mattress pad and put the play yard in the folded position. Then, fill your bathtub with warm water and the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup baby-safe laundry detergent
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup baking soda

Once your tub is full and the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, carefully place your folded pack 'n play, travel crib, or play yard in the water and let it soak for one hour. Make sure not to submerge the mat or mattress. This piece will always need to be spot cleaned. Submerging it in water will ruin it and make it unsafe for your baby.

After you remove your back in play from the water, rinse it off with a warm, wet rag and then towel dry it to remove as much excess water as you can. Pay close attention to the hinges and locks, getting them as dry as you can. Then, take the pack 'n play outside and set it up to dry in the sun.

Again, if you don't have an area where you can dry it in the sun, find a sunny place in your home to let it air dry completely. Before using your pack 'n play again, be sure to check all the locks and hinges to ensure they are all still in working order.

A Word From Verywell

Regardless of whether your pack 'n play is brand new or has been through a few kids, regular spot cleaning can help it stay looking nice and fresh as well as keep germs at a minimum. If, for some reason, your play yard gets more soiled than a once-a-week spot cleaning can handle, you can scrub it down or even use the deep cleaning method.

Just be sure that you allow plenty of time for it to dry and that you check all the locks and hinges to be sure they are still working properly. With regular care and cleaning, you should be able to get a lot of use out of your pack 'n play.

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3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Cleaners, sanitizers, and disinfectants. Updated February 8, 2021.

  2. Graco. Frequently asked questions.

  3. Graco. Pack 'n Play Owner's Manual.