Written by Molli Carlson. Reviewed by cleaning expert Sean Busch.
Whether it's house keys, cereal, bottles, or toys, babies are always putting things in their mouths. And while “mouthing” is an important method for little ones to explore the shapes and textures of the world around them, many of these items have been in less-than-clean places.
Exposure to dirt is inevitable (and possibly beneficial for developing immune systems), but it’s also critical to keep pathogenic viruses under check. While it’s important to clean all of those adorable bottles and toys on a regular basis, it’s important to take caution when doing so: Many cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that can affect infants.
That’s why we’ve developed a guide on how to sanitize baby bottles and toys naturally and effectively.
After washing your hands, fill a small container with hot water and add enough natural baby dish soap to make a thick foam. Milk can get caught in every part of the bottle, so separate each component (e.g. nipples, caps, rings). Fill the bottles with soapy water and use a brush (we recommend the OXO "SteeL") to scrub the insides until they’re thoroughly clean.
Use a designated, nylon-bristle nipple brush to wash the nipples. Since they’re notoriously hard to get clean, it’s often helpful to squeeze water through them. Allow them to air dry, preferably on a designated bottle drying rack, before using again.
If your baby bottles are made of glass or dishwasher-safe plastic, then they can be run in the dishwasher instead. Use the basket inside the dishwasher to clip the nipples upright during the full cycle. We recommend a hot water cycle, heated drying cycle, and natural dishwasher detergent packs. These contain special enzymes that break down milk and formula proteins without using any synthetic fragrance or dyes.
Using our dishwasher detergent and placing all remaining bottle parts on the top rack is the quickest way to ensure everything gets clean.
Parent pro tip: After having twins, our company’s co-founder found that the Philips Avent Natural Glass Baby Bottles are particularly durable and easy-to-clean.
Once you’ve rinsed the soap off of your baby bottles (or taken them out of the dishwasher), shake out any loose water droplets. Next, lay them to dry on a clean towel or bottle drying rack that’s in an area protected from dirt and dust.
Many parents reassemble and store baby bottles when moisture is still inside the bottle. Don’t make this classic mistake! Ensure they’re totally dry to avoid mildew and mold growth.
It’s totally normal for bottles to have a residual smell, and there are a few natural remedies that work. Shake hot water and vinegar (or hot water and baking soda) in the bottles before your normal cleaning process. Ensure that they’re totally rinsed and then wash them with a gentle dish soap afterward.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises washing baby bottles after each feeding. It’s best to clean them immediately to prevent caked-on residue and unnecessary scrubbing.
While you should rinse your soapy container and brush out (letting them air dry each time they’re used), it’s a good idea to run them through a dishwashing cycle every few days. If you have an infant under three months old, a premature baby, or a baby with a weakened immune system, the CDC recommends washing cleaning tools after each and every use.
If you have an infant, premature baby, or a child with a weakened immune system, you may want to consider sanitizing bottles every day. We recommend the same before using new bottles. All you need to do is boil the bottles in a clean pot of water for 5 minutes, remove with a clean pair of tongs, and lay them out to dry (following manufacturer's instructions).
If you’re traveling with your baby, you can follow the same cleaning instructions above. Just make sure you have a clean container, dish soap, and a bottle brush.
To wash baby toys by hand, you'll need gentle dishwashing liquid, a microfiber cloth, and hot water. In a large bowl, mix hot water and 10-15 drops of natural dish soap. Dip the microfiber cloth in this cleaning solution and scrub the toys completely with the microfiber cloth. Rinse each toy well with hot water, taking care to remove any soapy residue. Let the toys air dry, or dry with a clean towel.
If you’re thinking about running toys through the dishwasher, always double-check the toy's label. If the manufacturer has deemed that the product is dishwasher safe, then it can likely be run in the top rack. For extra security, prevent toys from falling by placing them in the silverware basket or a colander.
Some plastic melts and warps when exposed to a combination of hot water and heated drying cycles. Avoid this messy fate by sticking with a regular or gentle cleaning setting (not extra hot) and letting toys air dry.
That yellow ducky may need a bath of its own. The rubbery material commonly used in bath toys is prone to mold (not exactly the safest thing for your baby to put in their mouth).
Every week, soak bath toys in a mixture of equal parts hot water and distilled white vinegar for at least an hour (or overnight) and rinse with hot water. If there's any leftover vinegar residue, run toys through the dishwasher and let them air dry before returning them to the tub area. Weekly cleaning should prevent or zap buildup.
A child who takes their stuffed teddy bear everywhere is adorable, but the germs its fuzzy surfaces tend to harbor definitely aren’t.
Though you should check the label first, most stuffed animals can be popped directly in the washing machine. Make sure that you repair any tears or loose ends first: You wouldn't want Mr. Teddy to lose an eye (or an arm) in the process!
Pre-treat any tough stains with a natural stain remover, and run a hot cycle using a gentle laundry detergent. Placing the toy in the dryer will help to eliminate any lingering germs, but you can also stick the toy in the freezer overnight.
Pro tip: If you have multiple soft toys that need washing, a mesh undergarment bag will prevent them from snagging.
Wooden toys are tried-and-true ways to introduce babies to natural materials – and they're miraculously easy to clean. Avoid soaking wood in water or putting it in the dishwasher, since it's such a porous material.
Instead, spot clean using a microfiber towel and a gentle cleanser. This can either be a 10:1 mixture of water to vinegar, a diluted combo of water and mild dish soap, or a family-friendly natural multi-purpose cleaner. When you’re done, simply allow wood toys to air dry.
That depends on the toy material. For instance, plastic and wooden toys can usually go up to a month between washes. Bath toys should be washed weekly (especially if they're susceptible to mold growth). Plush toys should be washed on an as-needed basis, like after spills or long airplane trips.
The easiest way to prevent germs from spreading is to keep your baby's hands clean. Wash them with a sanitized washcloth and gentle baby soap before and after eating, visiting the bathroom, or exposure to another child who's sick. If your child (or one of their play dates) has a contagious cold, be sure to wash toys before returning them to the toy bin.
Little ones thrive by learning about the shapes and sounds (and tastes) of bottles and toys. Keeping these objects clean and ready-to-use will ensure plenty of happy, healthy days ahead.
From natural cleaning products to organic baby lotion, discover more about Puracy’s line of baby-safe products.