Removing Vomit & Spit-up Smells

Parent Q&A

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  • My toddler vomited on a king-sized bed spread and I am having trouble getting it clean in my top load washer. Any recommendations for where to send it? I'm feeling self-conscious about the vomit / not wanting to spread the stomach bug!

    You didn't mention what the comforter is made of, as it will make some difference. We have a super puffy king size down comforter, and the cat has taken a liking to pee and poop on it, so I would say I have some experience! Next time it happens, make sure you wipe up and soak up what you can, and treat the spot with some kind of enzymatic cleaner that they sell for pets, the type that says it naturally takes care of smells (we use "Nature's Miracle"). Then drive that thing over to a laundromat, stick it in the biggest washer and dryer that you can. Make sure it is fully dry, especially if it is down. After it is clean, setting it in the sun helps take care of any residue smells. Don't try to wash it at home because you can't dry it properly in your home dryer, and it is disgusting to lug a wet and dripping comforter to a commercial laundromat (I've tried it, don't recommend it). Some laundromats do wash and dry if you don't want to wait for it.

    I also have a king size bed and had my dog get sick all over it.  I took it to the nearest laundromat and put in one of the larger washing machines with plenty of Tide.  It got is very clean.  Takes time, but it does work.

    Laundromats will have large-capacity washers and dryers.

    Laundromats often have large-capacity washers. Try using the largest washing machine available at a laundromat.

    You can send it out to be dry-cleaned, but somehow that seems less sanitary and then you have dry-cleaning fumes and residual chemicals.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

How to clean up barf

Sept 2005

My daughter recently threw up and my husband just grabbed her comforter and put in the washing machine. Shouldn't you try to wipe most of it off into the toilet or the garbage? I mean putting partially digested food in the washing machine doesn't seem right! But anyways, we have been lucky so far our child hasn't ever gotten sick before, so this was our first experience. So we were wondering, how do you clean up throw-up effectively? The smell still seems to be lingering in her room on the rug..... and oh my gosh how would you get the smell out of a car? Julie

Kid barf is way grosser than adult barf, as kid's bile is more concentrated and smellier than adults! Sorry if that offends anyone, but it is the truth. Actually, who has time and presence of mind to start spraying and washing at 2 in the morning when your child is ill? Wad up the whole mess of sheets and blankets and leave it outside or someplace where the smell won't bother anyone and come back to it the next day if you can't get to it then. The only thing, don't let is get hot by baking in the sun, then you will have a problem. Yes, when you can stomach it, put your gloves on and scrape the solid parts into the trash or toilet. The important part is wetting the stains and soaking them. I wet them with water, squirt on some Spray and Wash, and come back in an hour or longer. Then, I rinse the stained area in cold water, and rub the area with a soap bar (not a natural or glycerin type, just good old white soap- Ivory or Dove will work too.) Scrub the stained parts of the cloth together and let the soap lather, rinse in cold water, if it still looks bad, repeat with the soap, let it sit longer, then more rinsing and scrubbing. When is just a faint outline or less, then throw it in the washer for a washer cleaning with detergent. I have been able to even get blueberry barf stains out of a pale white 100% cotton sheet this way. As for barf on carpet, I know how to deal with that from our dog, who was a professional barfer. There is an enzyme cleaner targeted for kids, I forget the name of it if you buy it a Babies R us store, but if you buy it in the pet stores it is called Nature's Miracle. They are the same products, probably the one for kids costs more though. It is a clear liquid that you squirt on the stain and it breaks down the smelly enzymes in barf. The directions are on the bottle.

One last thing, I used to have a cartoon posted on the fridge that made me laugh everytime I looked at it: it showed a toddler, a dog and a cat standing in front of a wheel with a spinner on it. The title of the spinning wheel was ''Who will Barf Today.'' Best wishes! barf veteran

I don't know if it was the proper way, but we dealt with a middle-of-the-night, all-over-the-bed barf by just throwing everything in the washer with lots of soap and hot water. As for barf in the car, we tried a number of things and the only one that worked was a full detailing at Touchless Car Wash (I think that's the name) on Oxford in downtown Berkeley, across from the Cal campus. They cleaned the whole car thoroughly (a much better job than the first car wash we tried), then sprayed on some orange scent to cover up anything that was left. breathing free

Smelly apartment - sour milk smell from spit-ups

April 2005

Help! We have 6 month old twins and our apartment has acquired the distinct smell of sour milk which I notice upon entering the apartment from the outside. I'm guessing it's from multiple spit ups on our old loveseat and the carpet. We try to clean this up as it happens, but that's not always possible and/or not solving the problem. We also keep windows open as much as possible, but that is not a permanent solution. We're renters and relatively broke, so ripping up the carpet/buying a new loveseat are not the best options. Any ideas? kk

Hi. The best things for cleaning your couch and carpet would be to rent a steam cleaner from Albertson's or Safeway (like rug doctor - it comes with attachments for furniture cleaning). Perhaps that alone will do the trick. Then I would suggest buying a product (for pets) called Eliminodor, the general purpose one. Eliminodor is expensive ($17 per bottle @ PetVet on Potrero Ave in El Cerrito, but it's worth it!). It has worked wonders on pet and kid odors for us! Good luck. anon

First of all, as your babies get older and their digestive systems mature, they should spit up less. For the moment, invest in lots of burp cloths (they're cheap), and keep them handy in every room (in every hand?) to clean up spills immediately. Also, make sure to burp your babies often as they are feeding. (Every 5 min. nursing or every ounce from a bottle) Lots of milk on top of an air bubble will send the whole thing up and out. Cover the loveseat with a sheet or blanket, and lay a blanket on the floor where you put the babies. You can toss these in the wash when they get dirty. You can use upolstery cleaner on the love seat, and before you move out, have the carpets steam-cleaned in order to get your cleaning deposit reimbursed. Good luck, anon

Chuck the sofa. Get a cheap one second hand and cover it with a cheapo plastic tablecloth ( they have a bunch of 'em at Longs) until your kids are older. JM

When I had this problem in my car, the only thing that worked was soaking the whole area in Febreze. And I do mean soaking - the car reeked of Febreze for a day and a half! But then . . . it smelled as though nothing had ever happened. The smell has never recurred. Good luck! milk happens

Have you tried ''Bac-Out''? It is a great product which you can buy online or perhaps at Whole Foods. You apply it directly to spit-up and ''good'' bacteria do their thing to get rid of as much of the spill/stain as possible. --Mom of the spit up queen

Candles can do wonders. Get some secure candle holders or candle plates and light a couple of candles for an hour or so a day. Sometimes just having strongly scented candles out unlit can make a difference. We are finding they're a great help with the pervasive baby poop smell in our apartment. Illume is a great brand, a bit pricey, but without the ''fake'' smell of many candles. As for spit-up, can you put an old blanket on the floor for them to play on? Then just toss it in the wash whenever it looks too grimy. Good luck! another smelly-apt renter

There are several inexpensive solutions. You can try them 1 by 1 or try a combination of these things. There's febreeze that you can spray on carpet & sofas. Carpet fresh is another. Just sprinkle on the carpet then vaccuum. Glade plug ins. In each room, put a plug-in in. It lasts for about a month. To you the smell will only last for a week or so, but when people come over they will still smell it. I usually put them in outlets that are hidden behind a piece of furniture so that no one else can see it. Next, there's some great new candles at bath & body works. I just bought one called raisin cookies. Oh my goodness, you can just leave the cap off & the room will smell good always. When you light it, it just gives an extra umph! Lastly, I have also bought some oils. You buy the container that they burn in (forgot the name of it) & you put a tealight candle underneath it & it puts off a nice smell. I purchased the oils at the body shop. I passed by their store one day & I could smell the scent outside. I had to o inside & ask about it, & I got the exact same scent that they were burning. Well good luck! I seem to like the last 2 best because it's less labor, makes the house seem nice & cozy, & the scents are strong but still delicate for senitive noses & babies.

Removing vomit smell in car seat

April 2004

Help! My 12 month old daughter threw up in her car seat and I am having the hardest time removing the smell. Does anyone know of any product or home remedy to remove the odor of vomit? We have a Britax Roundabout, and removed and hand-washed the car seat cover (the instructions advised against machine washing), but it still smells. Also, she managed to completely soak the harness straps, which are not removeable. The foam underneath the cover smells too. Should I dry clean the car seat cover? But then what about the straps and foam? Any adivse would be appreciated! Felicia

I have successfully used baking soda to remove vomit smell and many other odors. You could try sprinkling it onto anything that isn't easily washable. You can dissolve it in water - I would use about a teaspoon full per cup of water - and wash the object. My favorite use - I have a little long haired dog that likes to eat grass and vomit. I mix some baking soda in a cup, dip a washcloth in it. put a corner in her mouth and leave it there for a moment, and use the rest of rag to wipe her face. All traces of the smell are gone immediately. I'm sure it would work on kids too. karen

Try BacOut. You can get it at WholeFoods and sometimes Safeway, etc. It is a natural enzyme eater and has a pleasant clean smell. It will remove the smell from the foam and the straps (it's goiod for pee too)! My son vomited in the carseat a few months ago and we used BacOut on the straps, ect. FYI, I did remove the carseat cover and I washed it in the washing machine on a gentle cycle and hung dry it without any problems. I know of at least two other moms who have washed their Britax car seat covers in the washer successfully as well!! Just wash it, it beats the stink and if you think it's bad for you, imagine your poor child sitting right in it!! LogicalMama

We've used ''Nature's Miracle'' (liquid form) for many years now. It's worked for us on all manner of infant and childhood bodily fluids/solids. First clean the area as well as possible, then douse/soak with Nature's Miracle. It has natural enzymes in it and is available at pet stores (we go to Pet Food Express). Good luck! Family of Vomitters

I'm sorry, but I have no good advice for this problem. I had to laugh, though, because it reminded me of my old car. I bought it from a family with two young kids. These kids must have puked on not just their car seat, but also the car's seats, too (maybe this also happend to you?). I took the car to a detailer. He ended up cleaning the interior three times. When I asked him why, he said ''I couldn't get rid of that funky smell''. Over time (i.e. years, not days) the smell diminished, except when it rained. The moisture in the air must have activated the old, dried vomit. A single guy at the time, I can't tell you how much grief my friends gave me for driving a car that smelled like baby puke. So my advice is wash it the best you can, keep it out of the rain, and live with it as the smell will fade with time. Either that, or get a new seat. Bob

I machine washed a Britex Roundabout seat cover with no problem. I didnt put it in the dryer though... You can also order a new cover for the roundabout on, or whatever the company website is. They are about $50. Also, I forget how I did it, but I also removed the straps and washed those by hand as well.... aud

You can totally run the Roundabout seat cover through the washing machine. I had this exact problem with extreme amounts of vomit and I just removed it and ran it through the washer. It takes a long time to dry so you should plan for that. For the straps I used baking soda mixed with water and it worked for the most part. Also, a salesperson at Rockridge Kids suggested using Mother's Little Helper if it happens again. -No more smelly seat!