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5 Mostly Asked Questions on Baby Bottle Hygiene

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

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Hey there! So, let's talk about keeping those baby milk bottles squeaky clean – it's a real concern for us parents! You won't believe how many of my buddies are into all these different ways to "sanitize" and "sterilize" their baby bottles. At first, I was like, "Do I need all that? I've got a dishwasher!" But once I dug deeper, I realized this stuff can get pretty tricky. So, here's the scoop – I'm breaking down the top 5 questions that had me scratching my head (and other parents, too!) when it comes to our baby bottles' hygiene.

Spoiler alert: I bought a Papablic sterilizer (and dryer) that's separate from my dishwasher, for good reasons, which I will explain below.

By the way, before we dive in, here's the other article I wrote to review Dr. Brown's anti-colic baby bottles if you are interested.

#1 What's the deal with sanitizing/sterilizing baby bottles?

First things first, let's hear what the experts have to say!

I checked out the website of the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and found some awesome info on cleaning, sanitizing, and storing baby-feeding stuff. So here's the 411:

Cleaning: You gotta clean those bottles after every feed, and don't forget to toss any leftover formula within 2 hours. No grime allowed! You can either use a dishwasher with a hot drying cycle or be old school like me and scrub with warm, soapy water.

Sanitizing: Now, this is crucial, especially for tiny babies (under 2 months old), preemies, or those with weaker immune systems. Sanitizing kills off the bad germs. You can do it by boiling, steaming, or using a bleach solution – just follow the instructions.

Storage: After all that cleaning and sanitizing, just let those bottles chill and air-dry on a clean towel before storing them in a clean, protected area.

Hold on – it's pretty interesting! The CDC talks about "sanitizing" baby bottles, but all those fancy machines you see on the market claim to "sterilize" them. What's the deal with that? Is there a difference? Let's find out!

#2 What's the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting, and sterilizing?

To answer this question, I had to cross-check a couple of different references, such as the CDC and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). I summarized the following definitions and compared them in a table.

Cleaning: Cleaning removes dirt, dust, and other visible particles from a surface. This does not necessarily kill germs, but it does remove some of them, making it less likely that they will spread. Cleaning can be done with soap and water, or with a cleaning solution.

Sanitizing: Sanitizing kills or inactivates harmful germs on a surface. Sanitizing does not remove all germs, but it reduces the number to a safe level. Note that the EPA-regulated sanitizing products kill only bacteria, not viruses. Sanitization can be done with a sanitizing solution, or by using heat (such as boiling or steaming).

Disinfecting: Disinfecting kills all germs on a surface. Disinfecting is more effective than sanitizing, but it can also be more harmful to surfaces. Disinfecting should only be used when necessary, such as when cleaning surfaces that are likely to come into contact with food or medical equipment.

Sterilizing: Sterilizing removes all germs from a surface, including spores. Sterilization is the most effective way to clean a surface, but it can also be the most time-consuming and expensive. Sterilization is typically used in medical settings, where it is important to prevent the spread of disease.






Dirt, dust, and other visible particles


Soap and water, cleaning solution


Harmful germs

Yes (only bacteria, not viruses)

Sanitizing solution, heat


All germs


Disinfectant (chemicals)


All germs, including spores


Heat, chemicals, radiation

As you can see, sterilizing is usually done in medical settings and performed by professionals. I started wondering if the fancy "sterilizers" for home use are actual sterilizers like the pros use in hospitals.

I stumbled upon this CDC article that talks about the real deal with sterilization. They said the proper steam-sterilizing temperatures are around 121°C (250°F) and 132°C (270°F). That's super hot steam, even hotter than boiling water. And here's the kicker – the user manual of the Papabolic Baby Bottle Sterilizer and Dryer Pro, which everyone's raving about (and the one I ended up getting), says it only reaches boiling temperatures, around 100°C or 212°F. That's not quite up to the CDC standard!

Technically, those fancy gadgets we buy and use at home should be called "sanitizing machines" instead of "sterilizers."

And that's probably why the CDC says "sanitizing" in the first place!

Even though these machines are not hitting the official sterilization mark, everyone's still calling them "sterilizers." Guess it's just easier (or sexier) that way! So, I'll stop being a nerd and go with the flow. In the sections below, I'll stick to the lingo and call them sterilizers like everyone else. After all, they do a pretty good job keeping those bottles safe and clean!

#3 Do I need a bottle sterilizer?

Okay, let's get real about this bottle sterilizer thing. We know they're not true sterilizers, but they still do a bang-up job at sanitizing baby bottles, just like the CDC wants for newborns. So, even though they play pretend with their name, I'm still giving a thumbs up to getting one. And here's why!

First off, the one I bought is a total champ – it's got sanitizing, drying, and even storage functions all in one! Talk about a stress-free way to keep those bottles clean and germ-free.

Second, the alternatives just take to much more time and energy. Boiling and bleaching? No thanks. Manual labor is not on my agenda as a new parent. Dishwashers are cool, but even if they have a sanitizing option, it's an extra hour on top of an already long cycle (and trust me, even normal cycles are not short!). With my trusty model, it sterilizes in just 12 minutes and dries up in a max of 60 minutes. That's a game-changer when a hungry baby is waiting for their next meal!

Oh, and don't even get me started on finding a clean place to store all those squeaky-clean bottles. My machine's got my back on that one!

#4 So, what kind of sterilizer should I go for?

Choices, choices! Aside from the cool separate machine I picked, there are some other options you might wanna consider.

First up, we got the microwave steam sterilizer – quick and budget-friendly, but it's on the smaller side (can't hold a ton of stuff) and takes longer to air-dry.

Next, the UV sterilizers – they're trendy, but not as reliable as steam. The UV light can't penetrate too deep, especially glass bottles, so some nooks and crannies might miss the party. Plus, some folks say it could mess with the bottle material. Steam, though, has no problem getting everywhere, inside and out, like a boss. It's the trusty sidekick we need!

#5 Extra Tips for Baby Bottle Hygiene

Here are some bonus tips for ultimate baby bottle cleanliness:

  • Wash your hands before and after handling those precious bottles – we're talking serious hand hygiene, folks!

  • Keep a separate wash basin and bottle brush for cleaning only baby stuff – let's keep those germs in their place!

  • And last but not least, store those clean bottles like a pro – in a clean, dry spot, free from any unwanted icky stuff!

With these tips in your arsenal, you'll be a baby bottle hygiene guru, ready to tackle any baby mess with confidence!



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