How to safely clean baby bottles

Green Living expert, Aida Garcia shares her top tips on washing and sterilizing baby bottles.

Photo by Syrie Wongkaew

Cleaning a baby’s bottle might seem to be one of the easiest and most straight forward parts of being a new parent, however just as you should be careful about what type of baby bottle you use for you child (ideally you should opt for glass or stainless steel. If you opt for plastic, make sure you choose safer plastics free of BPA) you should also be careful about how you clean them.

What you need:

Safer dish soap

Not all dish soap are made with the same ingredients.  Dish soap is not regulated by any governing body in the USA, and the result is that some common ingredients in conventional dish soap are linked to cancer, asthma, neurological problems, skin irritation and other health problems…. none of which you want near your baby’s bottles.

To complicate matters, some products that claim to be ‘natural’,  ‘green’ or even ‘safe for baby’ can still contain worrisome chemicals. While it is true that you will wash off most of the dish soap you use, the reality is that some can linger and later on be ingested.

Among the most common ingredients to avoid are: fragrance (note: unscented is not the same as fragrance free.  Look for fragrance free), dyes or color, antibacterial agents like triclosan, surfactants like SLS and SLES (SLS is not as bad as SLES) sulfuric acid and preservatives like Methylisothiazolinone.  Since the list of chemicals in any dish soap can be long, you can always cross reference any ingredient you have questions about with the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning which will rate all ingredients from 1 (least toxic) to 5 (avoid).

Always try to choose a dish soap that truly is all natural and non-toxic.

We love Better Life’s Unscented Dish Soap.

Bottle Brush

You will want to purchase a good bottle brush in order to properly wash the inside and little creases of the bottle and nipples.  Look for one that has both a large sized brush for the inside of the bottle and a smaller/thinner sized brush for nipple. This will be helpful to avoid bacteria from growing.  Ideally, when drying the brush, keep  it upright when drying out to reduce mold and mildew buildup.

Drying Rack

It’s always a good idea to have a specific area in the kitchen were you can air-dry your baby bottles and accessories on their own. This is ideal to avoid cross contamination with other items in the kitchen.  Look for a model that allows your bottles to dry with the opening facing down, that can collect dripping water (and can be easily cleaned to avoid mildew) and that is free from BPA, phthalates and PVC.


Hand Washing vs Sterilizing vs Dishwashing

It is important to thoroughly wash baby bottles and their accessories after each feeding, since leftover milk and liquids can lead to the growth of bacteria and mold.  The safest way to clean your baby bottles will depend on your particular situation.

Safer plastic baby bottles: I always recommend glass, but if you choose plastic (for traveling or other reasons) never expose these to high heat. Avoid placing them in the dishwasher, boiling or sterilizing in the microwave. Instead, hand wash with a non-toxic dish soap, consider using a silicone bottle brush (nylon brushes can scratch the plastic) and air dry.

Glass BottlesGlass bottles can be washed by hand, in the washing machine or sterilized.  Make sure you are using a non-toxic dish soap  and dishwashing detergent.


Many parents choose to sterilize baby bottle daily (if their water supply is not safe) or weekly, or when baby is sick.  Always avoid exposing plastic to high temperatures – since this can cause leaching of harmful chemicals.  Glass bottles and silicon nipples are safe to sterilize.

Bottle recommendations 


Safer Plastic