How to Sterilize Baby Bottles and Pacifiers

Cleaning baby bottles and pacifiers consistently will help to keep your baby safer and healthier. A simple weekly sterilization can also cut down on odor that can sometimes build up in bottles and nipples.

Sterilize Baby Bottles / Pacifiers

Baby Bottles

While weekly sterilization is recommended, the regular cleaning of baby bottles and nipples is critical. After each use:

  • Wash bottles, nipples and rings in hot water using a mild dish-washing liquid.
  • Clean bottles with a bottle brush cleaner to remove all formula and milk residue.
  • ​Clean nipples with a nipple brush and force water through the nipple to clear away trapped milk.
  • ​Rinse everything thoroughly with running water, again forcing fresh water through the nipple.
  • Allow everything to dry completely in the dish drainer.

If your bottles are dishwasher safe and your dishwasher offers a hot drying cycle, this is a safe method of cleaning bottles. Nipples will still need to be cleared to remove any milk or soap.


Unless your little one has been sick, you don't need to sterilize bottles more than once a week. If your baby has an infection of any sort, it's a good idea to sterilize every day until your baby is feeling better. Be prepared to sterilize once a week until your baby is one year old. It's during the first year of life that your baby is most at risk for illness. New bottles should be sterilized before the first use.

Types Of Bottles

There continue to be health concerns around plastic bottles. While manufacturing regulations have forced a change from using BPA (bisphenol A) in baby bottles and sippy cups, the risk of exposing even BPA free plastic to the extreme heat of sterilization can still be worrisome.

BPA was utilized by the plastics industry because it was clear and tough. BPA is still used in some plastics production because it provides a durable coating for plastic food containers, waste water pipes, and the insides of metal food cans. When BPA was removed from circulation, other polycarbonate components were included in the formation of plastics to try to mimic the function of BPA.

Studies are currently underway to determine if other plastic additives could be seeping into foods and creating an estrogen-like response as BPA does. Heating plastic in the microwave may increase the rate of seepage. For consistent and safe heat tolerance, glass containers can always be microwaved.


There are many methods for sterilizing baby bottles, from steam to a cold water chemical treatment. Depending on your budget and your storage capacities, you may want to invest in a fre​​e-standing baby bottle sterilizer. These units are free-standing on your counter and can sterilize many bottles at once.

Baby bottles can also be sterilized in the microwave. There are bottle steamers that can be filled with bottles and the necessary water, then loaded into the microwave, or you can microwave individual bottles and nipples with hot water in a bowl. Simply fill the bottles halfway and run the microwave from one to two minutes.

Cold water sterilization tablets such as those offered by Milton can be used to sterilize all bottles, nipples, and breast-pump fixtures. Be aware that you may need to weight things down to keep them submerged; be sure to use a food grade item for this weight.

Once the bottles and nipples have been sterilized, your goal is to keep things sterile. The best way to do this is to:

  • Allow everything to dry completely.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly
  • ​Attach nipples back to bottles, touching only the outer ring of the nipple.
  • ​Cap the sealed bottle
  • Store bottles in a clean place where they won't get handled until you're ready to load them with formula or breast milk.


Once an empty plastic bottle has been sealed and capped, it's top heavy. This may well lead to everything toppling out of the cupboard every time you open the door. Glass bottles will be more stable. A clear plastic bin, just tall enough for your bottles, may be just the size you need in which to store newly sterilized bottles until you need them. This can be kept on a counter top or a pantry shelf.

​If open storage will work, PRK Products, designed by a mother of triplets, offer you the chance to store bottles on their sides. These clever storage racks are also expandable from side to side, so if you need to store short sippy cups, you can just compress the storage piece. For longer bottles, expand the storage piece.


Pacifiers come in two different sizes, 0 to 6 months and 6 months and up. It's important to monitor the size your child is using, as a child older than six months can choke on a small pacifier. You can even buy pacifiers designed for breastfed babies.


If your baby has a favorite pacifier, stock up! Pacifiers are easy to drop or lose in strollers and bedding. Once they hit the ground, they'll need to be cleaned before they go back in your baby's mouth.


From birth to six months, clean pacifiers with boiling water. Not only is this hygienic, but you can get a good idea of the durability of different brands of pacifiers by subjecting them to boiling.

  • Fill a small pot at least half-full with water and set on medium-high heat.
  • Once the water boils, drop in the pacifiers one at a time and allow them to boil for at least five minutes.
  • ​Drain the water and let the pacifiers dry and cool on a towel.
  • Inspect the pacifiers for any cracking of the plastic or rubber breakdown.

If the pacifier is deemed dishwasher safe, run it through the dishwasher. Monitor the condition of the rubber on the nipple. If the rubber remains sticky or tacky after washing, it's breaking down and the pacifier needs to be replaced.

For children older than six months, the pacifier can be washed with soap and water. Again, pacifiers should be cleaned whenever they land on the floor. As your child ages and gets more mobile, this may be a challenge. Keep a stock of clean pacifiers ready to hand out to save your child from being upset.


Once pacifiers have been cleaned and allowed to dry completely, keep them in an airtight container such as a small food storage container for easy access. Carrying an empty container for dirty pacifiers may also be a good idea when you're out and about.

Time For A Replacement

Monitor the condition of the pacifiers each time you clean them. If your child sucks strongly on the pacifier, give the nipple a tug. If your child is teething, take a good look at the rubber nipple for any signs of wear. Your child would have to chew pretty hard with their new teeth to get through a pacifier nipple, but there's no point in taking risks. Discard any pacifiers showing signs of nipple looseness or damage from little teeth.

Proper cleaning, sterilizing and storage of bottles, nipples, rings, breast-pump equipment and pacifiers can give your baby a safe start in the world. Bacterial build-up can lead to food poisoning and other infections, so a weekly routine of supply sterilization is a great habit to build during the first twelve months of your baby's life.