Baby Bottle Basics: How to Properly Clean and Store

When you have a child for the first time, it comes with a steep learning curve. Newborns rely on their parents for every little thing, so you have to do it right. They are also more susceptible to bacteria and germs because their immune systems are still developing. One way to help keep germs at bay is to properly clean a baby bottle and store it. This prevents them from ingesting anything harmful and saves you the stress of a sick child. Keep reading to know what the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend when cleaning and storing baby bottles.

How to Properly Clean a Baby Bottle

The first part we need to cover is how to properly clean a bottle. Once your infant has had their breast milk or formula, the bottle becomes the perfect place for bacteria to grow. It is absolutely crucial that you do not reuse bottles without first washing them. If your child did not finish their bottle, throw out any remaining milk if it has sat for two hours. After that, your child is susceptible to germs, and the whole point of this is to help your child not to get sick. Depending on the kind of baby bottle you use, there will be different care instructions involved. You can wash some bottles in the dishwasher, but you may need to wash others by hand. Both ways keep the baby bottle clean and ready for the next feeding. Here is how to approach washing a bottle both by dishwasher and by hand.

For Dishwasher-Safe Bottles

The first thing you need to do before washing a baby bottle is to fully disassemble it. Separate the bottle from the nipple, cap, ring, or any valves. Next, rinse them under a steady stream of water in the sink. It does not matter if the water is hot or cold, it is purely up to you. Place all the bottle parts on the top rack, and make sure all the small parts go in a basket or a mesh laundry bag. This will keep the small pieces from getting trapped in the dishwasher filter. If your dishwasher has a setting that uses hot water and a heated drying cycle, choose that one because it will sanitize the bottles as well.

Before you remove each baby bottle from the dishwasher, wash your hands first to prevent contamination. If they are not entirely dry, place each piece of the bottle on an unused dish towel and allow them to dry entirely.

When Cleaning Bottles By Hand

Before you even touch the baby bottles to clean them, wash your hands first. This prevents the spread of any additional germs. Then, similarly to the dishwasher option, you will need to take apart each baby bottle and rinse them. Do not place each piece in the sink though. Instead, put them in a clean basin or container that you only use for washing baby bottles. Fill the container with water, add soap, and scrub them clean. Be sure to use a bottle brush instead of a sponge because sponges can spread more bacteria. Also, squeeze water through the nipple holes to make sure those parts are clean as well.

After washing each part of the bottle, rinse them in a constant stream of water again. Place each piece on an unused towel and allow them to completely dry. Do not use a dish towel to rub or pat dry the bottles to ensure germs do not spread. Be sure to rinse your bottle brush and washing container thoroughly after each use, and clean them every few days. If your infant has a weakened immune system or is less than three months old, wash these items after every use.

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Make Sure to Sanitize

If you use the sanitizing option on your dishwasher, you can skip this section.

Once each baby bottle is clean, the next step is to sanitize. This further eliminates any harmful bacteria that may have clung to the bottles. For infants that are younger than three months old, were born prematurely, or have a weakened immune system, it is especially important that you sanitize baby bottles. Once your babies are older and healthier, these items after every use because their immune systems are stronger. You may only need to sanitize them every so often. 

After washing, you will need to sanitize each part of the baby bottle, the bottle brush, and the washing container. Depending on the manufacturer’s instructions, you can choose from three methods of sanitizing: boiling, steaming, and bleaching.


Place your disassembled bottle in a pot and cover it with water. Next, turn on the burner and bring the water to a boil. Allow the water to boil for five minutes, then remove each piece with tongs to prevent burning yourself. Just like after washing, you will need to place the pieces on an unused dish towel and allow them to completely dry.


You can also sterilize your baby bottles, bottle brush, and washing container by exposing them to steam. You can either do this in the microwave or with a plug-in steam system. If using the latter, make sure your washing container fits inside of it completely to make sure the whole item is sterilized.


If you are uncomfortable using bleach with your baby bottles and other items, you do not need to use this option. The CDC states that this method is completely safe and will not harm your baby, so there is no need to worry. Add two teaspoons of unscented bleach to a basin filled with one gallon of water, and submerge each item fully. Make sure there are not any air bubbles so the solution touches every part of the item. You should even squeeze the solution through the nipple holes. After letting them soak for two minutes, remove each part with clean hands or tongs. Do not rinse them because this can spread more germs.

After each method of sanitizing, place each part of the baby bottle on an unused dish towel and allow them to completely dry.

How to Properly Store a Baby Bottle

Once your baby bottles are completely clean, sanitized, and dry, it is time to properly store them. It is absolutely crucial that each piece is completely dry because putting together a damp bottle creates an environment where microbes can thrive. Before you even touch the dry pieces, make sure you wash your hands yet again. You want to keep each baby bottle as clean and bacteria-free as possible. After that, put each bottle together and store them in a clean place. Ideally, you should have a cabinet in the kitchen specifically for your clean baby bottles, bottle brush, and washing container. Do not store them in a place where they may become damp or come in contact with other contaminated items.


The cleaning and storing process for each baby bottle may seem tedious, but it does make a difference. Following these cleaning recommendations will help to keep your infant from getting sick and allow them to eat in peace. It will also give you peace of mind knowing that you have done all you can to keep your child safe.

Related Article: ​The Best Organic Baby Formula to Feed Your Infant

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Lacey Jolley

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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