How to safely clean baby bottles

Bottle feeding? Green Living expert, Aida Garcia, shares her advice on how to safely wash and sterilize baby bottles.


Cleaning your baby’s bottles might seem like one of the easiest and most straight forward parts of being a new parent, however, you need to be mindful about what heat level, brushes and drying rack you’re using. It’s also wise to consider what could potentially be lurking in the soap and water you use.

In this article, I will discuss:

  • How often to clean your baby’s bottles
  • What products you need to safely clean your baby bottles
  • The dangers of using conventional hand soap and untested water
  • The best options for baby bottle sterilizers
  • My favorite baby bottle picks from The Tot


How often should I wash my baby’s bottles?

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. This is particularly important for bottles and nipples that have any silicone or rubber rings that liquid can get stuck in.


What is the safest way to wash my baby’s bottle?

The safest way to clean your baby bottles will depend on what type of bottle you’re using. I always recommend glass, but if you choose plastic, the main thing is: never expose these to high heat. This means avoid placing them in the dishwasher, boiling or sterilizing in the microwave.


#1 Find a Non-Toxic Dish Soap


Not all dish soaps are made with the same ingredients. Due to the fact that dish soap is not regulated by any governing body in the USA, many 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.

Dish Soap Ingredients To Avoid:

  • 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

Because the list of chemicals in any dish soap can be long, you can always cross reference any ingredient you have questions about with the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, which will rate all ingredients from 1 (least toxic) to 5 (avoid).



#2 Ensure your water is safe


Even though water supply is heavily regulated in the US, there can still be contaminates that don’t agree with the human body. These include bacteria, nitrates, heavy metals, radioactive particles and disinfectant chemicals. Thinking you should just opt for bottled water? Think again.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains “that bottled water (which is usually just bottled tap water) also may contain undesirable chemicals that come out of the plastic and into the water; and using bottled water generates a lot of plastic waste.” The AAP also recommends checking the water quality by contacting the county health department, the state environment agency, or the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791).



#3 Find the right bottle brushes


Purchase a silicone bottle brush (nylon brushes can scratch plastic) 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 to reduce mold and mildew buildup.



#4 Get a designated 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.



#5 Wash, Rinse, Dry!


Now for the actual cleaning part! As mentioned before, if you’re using plastic, you’ll want to avoid excessively high heats. I like washing my bottles in warm soapy water for at least five minutes. Depending on how caked on the milk is, you’ll need to scrub every nook and cranny. RINSE, RINSE, RINSE to ensure no soap residue is left on the bottle or any accessories. Once satisfied, place items on the drying rack – not touching.



Sterilizing Baby Bottles: How & When

Regardless of if you’re feeding your baby breast milk or formula, pediatricians recommend sterilizing baby bottles before each use until one year of age. This is particularly important if they’re new, handed down, washed with well water and when traveling. It’s also recommended to make sure you’re cleaning all accessories such as bottle warmers, nipples and accessories.

When it comes to the sterilization method, you have a few options:

  1. Boiling water
  2. Steam – microwave or electric
  3. UV rays

There are also chemical tablets you can dissolve in cold water, but it’s not something I recommend.


Sterilizing Bottles in Boiling Water


Step 1: Check that your bottles and accessories are designed to withstand this type of heat. As mentioned above, I do not recommend using plastic in high temperatures.

Step 2: Get a large pot of water and place your bottles, nipples, rings and other heat-safe accessories inside – fully submerged.

Step 3: Turn the burner on and bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, set a timer for 10 minutes.

Step 4: Using clean tongs (that have been washed in hot, soapy water and rinsed thoroughly), retrieve the bottle and parts and place onto your designated drying rack



Sterilizing Bottles with Steam


While there are plenty of containers designed to sterilize bottles in the microwave, you can also use a glass bowl. To sterilize, fill the bottle and/ or bowl with water. Microwave on HIGH for 90 seconds. Be mindful that when you’re taking it out, there may be a lot of steam so let them cool down adequately. Using clean tongs, remove the items and place them on your designated drying rack.

There are also steam machines that can make this a little bit safer and easier!



Sterilizing Bottles with UV Rays


A sterilizer option Tot Moms love is the Upang. Instead of using steam or extremely hot water to kill germs, it uses UV rays and infrared drying. Registered with the FDA as a medical device, this machine can sterilize more than just bottles! With this all-in-one sterilizer, you can dry, sterilize, and remove odors from just about anything at the touch of a button.

Upang Sterilizer Functions:

  • Automatic (40 mins): Low-temperature drying and UV sterilization (ideal for plastic bottles and rubber/silicone nipples.)
  • Sterilization (13 mins): When drying is not required. Use this cycle to sterilize dry objects such as remotes, cellphones, toys, etc.
  • Ventilation (10 mins): Ventilate odors unique to breast milk or powder milk



Upang Sterlizer

Upang Plus UV Baby Bottle Sterilizer



Available in more colors




Still trying to find the perfect bottle?

Scroll down to see the best baby bottle options from The Tot.

Natursutten glass baby bottles


Natursutten Glass Baby Bottle – 2 Pack


Ranging from $30 – $34




Olababy Gentle Bottle


Olababy Gentle Bottle – 2 Pack



Available in more colors





Hevea Glass Bottle 2 pack


Hevea Glass Bottles – 2 Pack







ThinkBaby All In One


ThinkBaby All in One






Comotomo Natural Feel Baby Bottle


Comotomo Natural Feel Baby Bottle – 2 Pack



Available in more colors




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