Man giving an infant a clean bottle during a feeding

How To Clean A Baby Bottle Correctly In 5 Steps

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

On an especially busy or exhausting day, you might be tempted to forgo cleaning your baby's bottle properly. But skipping this process may lead to bacteria buildup in their mouth and other risks. Use this step-by-step guide to learn how to clean a baby bottle effectively and keep your little one safe.

Risks of an Unsanitary Bottle

As Cleveland Clinic notes, babies younger than 3 months old are still developing their immune systems and are more vulnerable to viruses and bacteria. The South Australian Women's and Children's Health Network also stresses the importance of sterilizing bottles to prevent sickness in infants up to the age of 6 months — or even up to a year. Unwashed or poorly washed bottles may expose your baby to certain risks, including:

Tooth Decay

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics states that tooth decay in babies can occur as the result of exposure to liquids for an extended amount of time, such as if you let them sleep with a bottle that contains juice. This allows acid-producing bacteria to build up in their mouth and cause decay. Additionally, according to the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency, formula milk may contain bacteria — which can multiply if a bottle is left at room temperature.


Cronobacter Infections

  • The CDC notes that Cronobacter germs can contaminate dry, powdered foods, such as infant formula and, subsequently, baby bottles. This type of bacteria can cause a very rare but potentially life-threatening blood infection called sepsis, particularly in infants.

How to Clean a Baby Bottle Correctly

To avoid these risks, here are five simple steps to get your baby's bottle squeaky clean and ready for use. Remember to clean the bottle immediately after every feeding to prevent any bacterial contamination.

  1. Properly Wash Your Own Hands

    You might be surprised that many people forget this crucial first step. In fact, 97% of people aren't washing their hands correctly, according to a study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This opens up the potential for cross-contamination. If you're out and about, a squeeze of sanitizer or finding the nearest restroom to wash your own hands thoroughly with soapy water can save you from transmitting germs onto the bottle or nipple.

  2. Take Apart Bottle Parts

    No matter the type of bottle you're using, the CDC recommends separating all the components to ensure you clean each part properly.

  3. Rinse Under Running Water

    The CDC notes that you can rinse your bottle parts under cold or warm water, whichever you prefer. The key step here is to keep them under running water and not let them sit in the sink.

  4. Scrub in Soapy Water

    After rinsing the bottle parts under running water, the CDC recommends filling a separate basin with hot water and soap. This should be a dedicated container you use to clean the baby bottle. Scrub each part individually with a dedicated brush only used on bottles. Then, rinse the parts under running water again.

  5. Dry on a Rack or Clean Space

    Place all the bottle parts on a clean paper towel or dish towel, and store them in a dust-free, clean space. Allow them to air dry rather than patting them dry, as the CDC explains that patting them dry can transfer germs from the towel to the newly cleaned bottle.

How to Sanitize a Baby Bottle

The CDC recommends fully sterilizing all feeding items at least once a day to rid them of all microorganisms that can spread disease. Sterilizing is especially important for babies under 3 months old, those who were born prematurely or those with weakened immune systems. Here are three sterilization methods you might use:

  • Wash by hand: The CDC recommends placing all feeding components in boiling water for five minutes.
  • Use a dishwasher: If your baby bottle is labeled as dishwasher-safe, the CDC advises choosing a hot-water cycle and heated dry or a sanitizing setting to kill more germs.
  • Use a microwave tool: You might also be interested in using a steaming tool with your microwave. Follow the instructions on your individual product and be sure to clean the steamer after each use, as recommended by the Women's and Children's Health Network. Glass bottles should not be put in a microwave steamer.

Now that you know how to wash a baby bottle correctly, follow these tips every day to ensure your child stays healthy and happy.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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