Why Do Baby (Cranial) Helmets Smell? + the Magic Cleaning Routine

Curious about baby helmets and why they smell so bad? Here’s how to get rid of that funky odor, plus a few tips on cleaning your baby’s helmet!

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Why Do Baby Helmets Smell

Baby helmets sure do a lot of good for our babies’ heads, but they also get a bad rap for smelling terrible. This is in fact the number one complaint parents have about them! So why do baby helmets smell so terrible?

If your baby’s helmet smells like a foot, it’s because of all the sweat and body oils that get trapped inside the helmet. The padding in the helmet absorbs these oils and sweat, and over time, they break down and start to smell. The smell is most noticeable in the warmer months when babies are sweating more but it also depends on the brand of your baby’s helmet. Helmets with a more open design (like doc bands) tend to smell less than those with a closed design.

The good news (other than you are doing a great job helping your baby in the best way you can!) is that there are things you can do to help prevent or reduce the helmet smell. And it starts with nailing down your helmet cleaning routine using the right products and the right technique.

The Magic Baby Helmet Cleaning Routine

When you get a cranial helmet for your baby, your cranial tech will usually give you a protocol for cleaning your helmet. Each brand of helmets is different and you should always follow the specific instructions for your helmet regarding the dos and don’ts.

In general, you should be cleaning your baby’s helmet every day during the one-hour window when your baby is not wearing it. The best time to do that is while your little one takes a bath, that’s what works best for most parents, and this way you can incorporate the helmet cleaning into your already existing bedtime routine.

Typical instructions for helmet cleaning include never getting the helmet wet to preserve the integrity of the foam inside, and not using any powders or lotions on the helmet, as they could affect the functionality of the helmet.

That being said, here is a step-by-step tried and approved cleaning routine that will get your baby helmet clean and smelling fresh:

  1. Start by wiping the inside of your cranial helmet with a dry paper towel.
  2. Put some baking soda on a soft-bristled brush and scrub with the brush in circular motions so that it helps break down more effectively the oils trapped in the helmet. Baking soda is the magic ingredient that makes a lot of difference in getting rid of the helmet smell.
  3. Blow dry the inside of the helmet before moving to the next step.
  4. Put some rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. 70% rubbing alcohol generally works, but you can try 90% alcohol for better results.
  5. Spray the inside of the helmet with the alcohol, making sure to cover all surfaces.
  6. The next magic step that is a game changer in helmet cleaning is using Norwex washcloths to scrub the inside of your baby’s helmet. These cloths work like magic and make the cleaning process so much easier.
  7. An optional step (that you can add to your routine after getting the OK from your cranial tech) is to spray some Fresh Wave Odor Eliminator on your helmet and scrub some more with your washcloth. It has a citrusy smell that really gets the helmet smell fresh and clean.
  8. The final step is to let the helmet air out in front of a fan. You can also dry the helmet with a hair dryer on the cool setting if you’re in a hurry and want to get the helmet back on your baby’s head as soon as possible or if you’re taking two half-hour breaks instead of a once-in-the-day hour break.

Pro Tips for Keeping Your Baby’s Helmet (and Head) Always Smelling Fresh

In addition to the magic cleaning routine, there are a few pro tips I will share with you to get rid of the baby helmet smell for good:

Dry the Helmet in The Sun (Whenever Possible)

Putting the helmet in the sun once in a while for a half hour is the best way to kill the smell. Sunshine rays are natural and strong disinfectants that you should take advantage of whenever possible.

Request Air Holes in Your Baby Helmet

If your cranial helmet is too closed off on your baby’s head, you can ask your orthotist at your next visit to drill some air holes in it to help with the airflow and prevent smells. Air holes won’t impact your helmet’s functionality, but they will help tremendously with the smell and your baby’s level of comfort while wearing the helmet.

Wash Your Baby’s Hair with A Scented Shampoo

To counter the smell of the helmet, use a scented shampoo like the California baby shampoo to wash your baby’s hair. This shampoo is organic and made of all-natural ingredients but still has a very strong fragrance from the botanical extracts.

Let Your Baby’s Head Breathe

Make the most out of your daily one-hour break from the helmet and give your baby’s head a chance to breathe. It’s also a good idea to let your baby play out in the sun without the helmet for a few minutes to get some vitamin D and fresh air.

Final Thoughts

The first weeks of helmet-wearing are always the hardest, and also the stinkiest according to most parents. It takes some adjustment for you and your baby to get used to these new routines, but eventually, this will become second nature.

Just remember that the cranial helmet is only a temporary treatment! Soon you will be done with it, and you will be able to look back at this time as a challenging but ultimately rewarding experience.

In the meantime, keep up the good work, and don’t forget to keep that helmet clean!

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The purpose of this article is informative and educational only. It’s not a substitute for medical consultation or medical care. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babycious may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content.

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